Odd comments from a failed politician – a piece by Peter Strong CEO
In the AFR of 30 May 2015 Mark Latham has a column entitled The God of Small Business. The article is written in Latham’s normal style which in this case is bile infested comments and insults directed at small business people. Should this article be taken seriously or not?
Latham has a reputation for saying bizarre and offensive things and probably only has a column to force responses from suitably aggrieved and offended people (which I am of course doing). His opinions are irrelevant and at worst dangerous.
In the past he has ridiculed mental illness and responses to domestic violence and pretty much enjoys attacking everything and anything and never offering solutions. He has now decided that small business is over rated and not worth the attention that it currently has from the government, the opposition and many others. His column attacks the integrity, the intelligence and the capacity of over 2 million Australian men and women who between them employ over 4.5 million other people. He is, oddly, particularly nasty about kebab shop owners. (Note to ML: If you don’t like Kebab shop owners don’t go to a Kebab shop. End Note)
The good news is hardly any small business person would have read the column and those that did would in the main recognise the column for the nonsense that it is. But others would be offended by such rancour. So do we respond with further rancour? Do we respond in a serious way? Do we respond with satire? Do we ignore this rubbish? I feel we must respond in some way.
I have found a very good and balanced response to Latham’s column from DragonBill CEO Luke Hally who runs a small business focused website, see his response HERE. Thanks Luke.
I can now take a different approach.
Interestingly is Latham an employee of the AFR or a contractor? If he is a contractor then he is a small business and in this case we can only agree with his description of himself, to quote “small businesses are the garden gnomes of the modern economy – purely ornamental and totally dispensable.” In Latham’s case a true statement, but only in Latham’s case.
Furthermore in his rant he names all the big things that are so vital and that we all love so much to justify his ridicule of all things small: the big banana and other big tourist attractions; big and tall athletes; big TVs; big houses and the like.
So what small things do we need and admire? Modern phones are small, does Latham still walk around with a mobile phone from the 1990s stuck to his ear, a brick like instrument?
Does he use an old fashioned typewriter or does he have a computer with microchips? Does he have access to the internet and email or does he send his articles to the AFR by Australia Post? Does his obviously super-sized TV operate with large diodes and valves? If it did it would indeed be very large.
Athletes come in all sizes. Those that are tall and large are often cut down by the little rovers and halfbacks on footy fields across the world. The best soccer players seem to be closer to the ground than the average soccer player, Maradona is 1.65m (5’ 5”), Pele is 1.73m (5’ 8”). Size in cricket doesn’t seem to matter that much, Don Bradman was 1.7m (5’ 7”), Tendulkar is 1.65m, Muralitharan is 1.7m. The best sports teams seem to have a mixture of sizes based on what their sport demands.
It is interesting to note that a Melbourne Cup winner was never ridden by a 2 metre tall giant jockey.
Tourist attractions based on small things abound. Hardly anyone dives on the Great Barrier Reef to look closely at sharks, they go to see coral made up of millions of polyps (tiny things) and they marvel at the small beautiful fish that live on and near the coral. Whales are huge yet the biggest of them cannot live without plankton which is very small indeed.
Politicians come in all sizes. John Howard is 1.76m (5’ 9”) and Mark Latham was much taller but that didn’t stop Howard giving him a good thrashing at the 2004 election. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was 1.6m (5’ 3”) as were Gandhi and Khrushchev, (We assume no one called Kim or Khrushchev ‘shorty’ and lived to tell the tale).
In the modern world we need things big and small and also medium. We need a broad and interesting society where competition between businesses is fair and where the consumer can choose between local kebab shops or a chain.
So if governments want to ignore the intellectually shallow policies espoused by big business and big unions, policies from the 1990s, then good on them, if small business is healthy so is the nation.
Bizarrely Latham talks of people worshiping at shrines for ‘teeny-weeny sized enterprises’. He obviously prefers the shrines of ‘large argy-bargy’ mines, duopolies, banks and multinationals who give their political parties’ money and attention.
Thankfully, Mark Latham never became Prime Minister. If he had Australia would have been a very different country. There would be no small businesses. Mental health would not be discussed and would be hidden from view. Domestic violence would also be hidden and not discussed. All jobs would be in big business or in government agencies. We would live in a fairy land of misconceptions and 1984 type rules and regulations. We would live in a version of that failed economic experiment called the Soviet Union. Thank you John Howard for giving Latham that thrashing.
The small things WE like are those coffee shops that make great coffee or the fashion shops with their quirky clothes and footwear, the independent restaurants that have great food and great choice, pharmacies with staff who know who we are and what we need, bookshops that have the books we value, websites that offer just what we want and delivered when we want it. In particular we love a good self managed, self run kebab shop. More power to them and others (particularly Bruce Billson) and less time for the Angry Garden Gnome.