atw: Re: Un PC language? and Market Testing

  • From: "Tony Cusack" <tony@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 07:05:14 +1000

Hi Brian, all,
First, a confession: the incident never occurred. I thought that an unlikely
name like "Glum Australia" would have been sufficient tip-off that I was
kidding. Still, it was a bit off colour and I apologise to those who
responded in earnest.
At the risk of making things worse ;-o
A remark of yours (BC) on the market testing thread was, in a convoluted
way, at the back of my ruse. You said:
"Market testing activity falls under two rubrics in the public service, viz,
Value for Money, and Equity. Unfortunately, most people applying these
rubrics don't understand that they are contradictory.
Value for Money is meant to achieve economic rationalism, ie, maximum output
for minimum outlay.
Equity is meant to achieve a spreading around of the jam, so that anyone who
applies has an equal chance of getting the job, provided they meet certain
minimum criteria."
I think you overstate the case when you say they are contradictory. At most
there is a tension between them which means that one has to be prioritised
over the other in the making of some decisions. But isn't equity served by
the mere  conduct of the exercise, i.e. throwing the positions open
periodically? (I'm talking "in principle" here - as some of the APS people
have pointed out, nothing happens in practice.) Market testing is designed
to alleviate some of the ill effects of long term contracting, such as too
cosy/costly relationships between contractors and APS managers, and locking
up work in de facto permanency. Such ventilation spreads the opportunity
more evenly through the population (again, 'in theory').
In defence of agents: a few days ago a Canberra agent called me about a
position that I had expressed interest in. She volunteered that "it could be
market testing cause there's quite a lot of that going on at the moment".
This was the first I'd heard of it. She said that an agent would not
necessarily know whether a particular position was being tested. The APS
person placing the brief may spill the beans, but generally they are obliged
to avoid doing that because to do so would be to undermine the exercise.
The idea of inconsistent "rubrics" rubbing up against each other reminded me
of a noteworthy instance in the context of the gender wars, and from that
flowed my UnPC post. Several years ago a bus shelter advertisement for
Chivas Regal was widely condemned for being sexist. It was. The image
captured a very elegant Lorenesque leg poised 'just so' as its owner
disembarked from the passenger's side of a Ferrari open top (or similar).
Underneath was the text "God is a man". The thing that nobody seemed to
click to - at least in the letters to editor that I read - was that the ad
contained what I thought was a very witty reference to Michelangelo's "God
creating Adam". The 'just so' positioning of the leg with the big toe
pointing straight down closely mimicked God's arm and forefinger in the
So I guess the moral is "if you're going to be rude at least try to be
funny". Elizabeth Fullerton adverted to this when she said: 
"I don't think it's sexist or racist, just plain rude! (also funny, but
still rude)."
Spot on. For the record I too doubt that it would have been sexist or racist
- owing to the incidental way in which the remark was made.

From: austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Clarke, Brian
Sent: Wednesday, 17 May 2006 5:18 PM
To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: atw: Re: Un PC language?

Hi Tony,

Interesting problem.

I can feel your frustration - but I suspect that has to do with her
interpersonal skills - or the lack thereof - rather than her appearance.
Nowadays, criticising people for their appearance is non-PC. So, your
appellation may have been directed at an unrelated part of her baggage - and
confused your audience. Perhaps you could have used a more directed
metaphor? Eg, interpersonal skills of a cobra? A viper in diapers?



Tony asked:


there is a somewhat unpopular senior female and ethnically Indian manager
here at Glum Australia. The other day in a meeting I momentarily forgot her
name and referred to her as "the eyesore from Mysore". There was a mixed but
muted reaction at the time. But now I'm worried that I might have been
sexist or racist. Perhaps I'm just being alarmist. What do you think?

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