What's real iron-man food? Pure heavy mettle

I'm amazed at the tenacity of media owners and operators.

I'm amazed at the tenacity of media owners and operators. This occurred to me last weekend as Melbourne hosted the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championship, which was made all the more famous by our prime minister-in-waiting, Tony Abbott, rising to the challenge to go an extra few miles, or kilometres to be precise: 3.6 kilometres in the sea, 180 kilometres on a pushbike and a 42.3 kilometre marathon on shanks' pony. It makes my daily walk in the park look like a walk in the park.

But the iron men of the media world are the media owners.

I remember having a phone call one Sunday afternoon with James Packer when he sat atop the Nine Network. Business out of the way, I couldn't help asking: "James, where are you?" "Russia," he replied. Silly me, I should have known. Even though it was early in the morning in Russia, he was still working.

I know Kerry Stokes won't mind me saying that he has a video link set up that connects him to his businesses whether he is on land, sea or in the air - and he uses it constantly so he is never out of touch.

And talking of being connected, Kerry Packer was on the phone at 20,000 feet when he famously told the then chief executive of Nine, David Leckie, that his time was up. Leckie went on to prove that Kerry might have called that one a bit early because he then steered Seven to a decade of greatness.

But being an iron person, as Louise prompts, doesn't mean you have to be an athlete or a media boss. You just have

to turn up at work and forget about the clock, the smokos and the bank holidays.

I was in the UK recently, where the economy is in serious trouble like much of Europe. Part of the reason has to be that half of the office seems to be on leave much of the time and you're lucky to get a call answered if you ring Europe in summer.

Our researcher, Charlie, has pulled up some amazing facts about annual leave entitlements around the world.

In the UK, the minimum is five weeks and if you add royal and religious observance days, plus public holidays, we're talking about nearly seven weeks on the Costa Brava. That's no good for England - and it hasn't saved Spain.

No wonder no one wants the UK banks to fail, they'd lose 10 per cent of their holidays. Bank holidays? Now there's a euphemistic redundancy for you.

Our four weeks' annual leave seems reasonable by comparison, but there's no forgetting that we are operating in a highly competitive world.

We talk about the China miracle, but the real miracle in HR terms is that they get away with five working-day holidays for the first 10 years on the job. And it's the same in Japan.

It seems to me that many of us were real iron persons on the job a generation ago. When I was a kid, most of the people our family knew had two or three jobs. My maths teacher at Stawell High, Mr Potter, would do some prep in summer but most of the time he was working on a wheat truck.

In last week's column we talked about the value of the diversity of cultures in our nation.

Perhaps this is not what the more prejudiced want to hear, but I reckon many migrants work a lot harder than people who think they can coast along by birthright.

Anthony Bourdain, the iconoclastic cook, television host and author of the bestseller Kitchen Confidential, got it right when he said: "No one understands the American dream of hard work leading to great rewards better than a non-American." Hard work always pays off and we know it.

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