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Ground Hog Day

10 July 2013

Well, I do. I was in Canberra for some important Ruby activity. We had a function on at The Hyatt Hotel down the hill from Parliament House. I was meeting with colleagues, customers and government officials to network and share information around workplace issues, including flexibility, child care and getting the work/life balance right.

Suddenly, there was this notable scuttle and flurry of activity. Political and media figures were rushing everywhere. The word was out there would be a leadership spill in the Australian Labor Party.

Not much later, we knew that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had withdrawn his candidacy and resigned as Labor Party Leader, leaving Julia Gillard to assume the leadership unopposed.

We were about to get our first female Prime Minister.

Three years and two days later I was back in Canberra at The Hyatt Hotel. This time I was attending a lunch where Westpac CEO Gail Kelly was the guest of honour, and I was again networking with colleagues, customers and government.

That was June 26, 2013, and it goes down as my Groundhog Day. The talk around the room was another Labor leadership spill. I couldn’t believe it. The candidates - in reverse this time - were Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her rival, the dropped Kevin Rudd. It was surreal. Here I was in Canberra reliving a single day all over again. Acquaintances and friends joked that I must be an ill-omen for the Labor Party and as the day drew to a close I knew by the scurry and flurry that it was all on, again.

The outcome that night is now another chapter in our democratic history. For me, I am still not sure what to do with it – should I buy a lottery ticket or quietly walk away and let it be.

Lunch with Gail in Canberra was an outstanding success and when the Watoto Children’s Choirs from Uganda performed, it was a reminder that sometimes there are even bigger issues at hand than leadership spills.

280 people in the room were captivated by what Gail had to say – the icing on the cake was the wonderful choir. Part of a group of choirs that travel internationally as advocates for the estimated 50 million children in Africa, orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS, war, poverty and disease, the Watoto choirs present their stories through music and dance to raise awareness about the plight of the orphaned and vulnerable children of Africa. 

What a glorious surprise it was to see them as part of their Australian tour. It was an even greater surprise for Gail when some of the younger performers broke rank at the end of the performance for a hug from her.

Following a pretty ordinary week for women and politics, it was really wonderful to be again involved in the launch of the Westpac and AFR 100 Women of Influence Awards for 2013 on July 5. This is our second year partnering with the AFR to develop this significant program recognising women of influence.

These awards are far reaching and wide ranging. They’re not just about celebrating women’s business success or standing in the community. They are about celebrating women as agents of change at every level and in every part of our nation. They bequeath to us each year another 100 bold women doing their very best to influence for the better the way we are as a nation.

One of our 2012 winners, Sam Mostyn spoke at the awards launch breakfast pointing out that by their very nature the inclusiveness inherent in these awards creates fantastic diversity.

“If you look at the final 100 Women of Influence for 2012,” noted Sam, “there are a significant number of indigenous women in the line-up, as well as other cultural groups. That’s something that has been sadly lacking in women’s awards in the past.”

I wonder if that is because of the “business” concentration. It’s why both organisations are so firm about finding and developing a new, more inclusive and diverse platform to showcase the talent Australian women have to offer.

Nominations for the 2013 awards, and there are 10 categories, opened on July 8. I would encourage you all to nominate someone and of course, that someone can be yourself. Be bold. Start a conversation. We’re here to listen.

The other day I was filming for Channel Ten’s new weekly series The Living Room and being very bold. I’ve been telling everybody who’ll listen to me about STDs and why prevention is better than cure. Sexually Transmitted Debt can be easier to contract than you might think and a great deal easier to prevent if we all keep our heads when it comes to relationships and money. If you don’t want to be left swallowing the bitter pills, I have some top tips:

Work out what bills, living expenses, etc. should be covered as a couple. No matter your age or stage in life, if you’ve moved out of a relationship and the home you once shared, ensure the utilities are terminated because if your name is on the bills, you’ll be paying them.

If the utility accounts are in your name and they’re not paid, even if you do eventually settle them, the default will go on your credit report as a black mark against you. That’s STD.

Keep your own account into which your income and personal savings go.
Monitor joint accounts, especially loans and mortgages with redraw facilities.
If you have joint accounts, monitor them and close them down if you split up. Ensure your income and any personal savings are in a separate account. Get legal advice about existing wills or powers of attorney.

Read everything before you sign.

Don’t become a secondary holder on anything to do with credit. If the primary holder defaults, you’ll be up for the debt. Whether you’re 20 or 60, if your name’s on a loan as the guarantor, or you take out a contract or loan for a mobile phone or car for your partner, or you’re co-borrowing and your partner defaults (stops paying the loan or paying you for a loan in your name), then the financial institution will chase you for the payments.

You don’t owe half the loan you’re liable for the lot.

Yes – it’s an STD.

If you’ve authorised someone else to use your credit card, you’re liable for what’s spent – even if you didn’t spend it.

Get advice from a third party such as an accountant or lawyer if the financial decision is major.

Don’t finance your partner’s life. If you want them to do the things you like but they don’t always have the cash, discuss the idea first. For your sake and theirs, be clear about whether it’s a gift or a loan, or if it should happen at all.

When in doubt, seek the guidance of an expert.


For more on 100 Women of influence see: /westpac-afr-100-women-of-influence-awards-2013.aspx

On STDs, read more here... /articles/2013/july/how-to-cure-sexually-transmitted-debt-(std).aspx