By Benjamin Haslem
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the inaugural journey on the Adelaide to Darwin railway.
In my past role at Jackson Wells, I worked with a team that provided public relations support to the project, from financial close up to the first journey and beyond.
I provided on-the-ground PR support during the inaugural trip, which left Adelaide on 15 January 2004 and arrived in the Northern Territory (NT) capital of Darwin two days later.
Wells Haslem Chairman, John Wells also worked on the project.
Former Deputy Prime Minister (and railway enthusiast), Tim Fischer, was appointed ambassador on that first journey, riding aboard two passenger carriages coupled behind the locomotives (pictured above).
Tim provided regular media updates throughout the journey via satellite phone.
He was an instant hit. When the train passed through an NT one-horse town at 2am, a family was standing trackside holding a large 'Welcome Tim' banner.
A small group of journalists joined the train in Alice Springs. I flew to Alice Springs for the train's arrival and departure and then again by plane to Darwin, where the train was greeted by then Prime Minister John Howard and a large crowd at the Port of Darwin (below right).
A railway line linking Australia's 'northern capital' Darwin with Adelaide had long been mooted.
A line from Adelaide to Alice Springs in the nation's heart was completed in 1929 but no track had extended further south from Darwin than to the tiny hamlet of Larrimah (pop. 11), 182km drive south-east of Katherine.
The Darwin to Larrimah line was completed in 1929 and closed in 1976.
The Adelaide to Darwin railway line was not without its controversies.
In 2000 the AustralAsia Rail Corporation (owned by the South Australia and Northern Territory governments) awarded the contract to build the line to the Asia Pacific Transport Consortium, which included Kellogg Brown & Root, John Holland Group and Macmahon Holdings.
The Federal Government also invested heavily in the project.
The FreightLink consortium was contracted to build and operate the line under a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) scheme, with ownership eventually transferring back to public hands after 50 years.
The line runs from Tarcoola (at the junction with the Adelaide to Perth railway line) to Darwin.
Critics of the project said it was destined to be a white elephant, with insufficient demand for domestic and export rail freight to cover operating expenses. It was more cost effective to send freight into South-East Asia by ship from southern ports than by rail through the Port of Darwin, which was upgraded as part of the project.
FreightLink argued the railway line would generate strong economic growth, particularly by making previously uneconomic mining projects feasible because it was less expensive to send minerals by rail than road.
The challenge for FreightLink was explaining to a sceptical media that it would take several years for freight volumes to grow sufficiently for the project to return a profit.
FreightLink agreed to sell its ownership of the rail link in May 2008, after failing to make a profit, later being placed in voluntary administration.
The line is now owned by the US railroad company Genesee & Wyoming Inc, which purchased it for A$334 million.
The critics will argue they had the last laugh but the bottom line is a railway line exists, carrying both freight and the famous Ghan passenger train through Australia's heart from south to north.
As the graphic above shows clearly, younger people are turning their backs on Facebook, while the oldies are signing up to the social media platform in droves.
As the 13 to 24s head over to Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine, Facebook is losing its image as being just for teenagers (I'd argue anyone who ever thought that didn't get Facebook).
This has significant relevance for B2B marketers who until now may have focussed much of their efforts on the likes of LinkedIn (or "Facebook for grown ups" as a LinkedIn connection once described it to me)
As socialmediatoday.com's Mark Lerner argues: "We are seeing more and more professionals becoming active on Facebook".
"As a result, Facebook has become fertile ground for B2B marketers to generate leads, and establish potentially beneficial professional relationships," Lerner says.
Until now, Facebook was seen as a platform for one's personal life and less their professional lives (that was for LinkedIn).
But with more and more older professionals (read managers and decision makers) joining Facebook it provides opportunities to develop business networks.
Using both personal and company Facebook profiles to distribute original content is an excellent marketing strategy.
Paid advertisements on Facebook are also targeted at people likely to be interested in your products and Facebook also has groups similar to those on LinkedIn, where people with similar interests congregate.
By Benjamin Haslem
A crucial element of any media conference performance is ensuring you are properly prepared and have practised.
In our media training we stress that clients ensure they are across all the facts and issues; have prepared their key messages and asked colleagues or their communications manager to simulate a few mock press conferences.
Another important thing to remember is that if you have limited time, tell the journalists before hand.
Reporters don't like being told by you when the media conference is over, especially during a crisis. They think that's their call.
Calling time after only a few minutes looks like you're scared, have something to hide and are running away.
Unfortunately, from the video below, Gary Southern, the president of Freedom Industries, wasn't aware of this.
Go to around 5:15 minutes into the video and watch as he tries to duck away, only for a TV Reporter to call him back.
By way of background, Freedom Industries is the company responsible for the West Virginia chemical leak in the United States that contaminated water used by 300,000 local residents.
Expect Gary to be appearing soon in media training programs, along side the hapless Jaymes Diaz and Rick Perry.
By Alexandra Mayhew
Twitter has announced Twitter Alerts – a feature that helps emergency services, government organisations, and charities share critical information as quickly as possible. Think Rural Fire Services and letting locals threatened by fire know to evacuate.
Users can subscribe to an account’s Twitter Alerts and will receive notifications to their phones whenever an alert is sent. Tweets are sent via SMS and push notifications. Alerts will also be highlighted on subscribers’ Twitter feeds.
Since December several Australian organisations/departments/etc have signed on including:
I find it interesting to watch how Twitter, along with other social media sites, are changing our lives in very real ways (such as LinkedIn altering the job market); and with a Dad living in a rural, fire-prone region I for one am a big supporter of this one.
By Benjamin Haslem
For any student of both politics and public relations, the brouhaha enveloping New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is captivating.
For those readers here in Australia who may have missed the story, Gov Christie has been caught up in a crisis centering on the closure of several lanes on the double-decker George Washington Bridge, which connects the famous New Jersey Turnpike with uptown Manhattan in New York City.
The September 9 closure caused gridlock on the first day of the school year. Doesn't sound like much, until you discover the clandestine politics behind the closure and the way the entire issue has been handled by the Governor and his office.
You may recall Gov Christie sprung to international prominence in the aftermath of the Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of his state. His performance made him a favourite for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination.
It has now emerged the closure of the bridge lanes was orchestrated by the Governor's deputy chief of staff, as political payback against Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who declined to endorse Gov Christie in his re-election bid. The incumbent won the November poll in a landslide, bucking tradition in what is historically a safe Democratic Party State
Later that month, the State Assembly's Transportation Committee, chaired by Democrat John Wisniewski, heard evidence from Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni who said the lane closures were part of a traffic study ordered by the Authority's Interstate Capital Projects Director David Wildstein, a high-school friend of the Governor's.
Gov Christie was first asked about the lane closures on 2 December, denying any involvement. He made this sarcastic remark: "I worked the [traffic] cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones".
Four days later Wildstein resigned, saying the whole affair was a distraction and he was "moving on".
On 9 December, Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye told the Transportation Committee that he was unaware of any traffic safety study being conducted on the bridge.
The Inspector General of the Port Authority then launched an investigation.
On 13 December the Governor announced Baroni had resigned and that his staffer, Deborah Gramiccioni, would fill the vacancy. He again claimed he had nothing to do with the lane closures.
Six days later, Wisniewski announced he had received documents subpoenaed from five Port Authority officials. Gov Christie again dismisses questions about the closure.
On Wednesday this week the New Jersey newspaper, The Bergen Record, obtained a 13 August email from Gov Christie's deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly's personal email account to Wildstein.
Kelly: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee".
Wildstein: "Got it".
The Governor held a 107-minute news conference on Thursday at which he accepted full responsibility for Kelly's actions. He also fired her.
"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here, regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover," he said.
"This was handled in a callous and indifferent way and it's not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four."
It's too early to say how this will affect Gov Christie's presidential aspirations. His ability to connect with traditional blue-collar Democrat voters was seen as a perfect foil for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
He has done the right thing in the past 48 hours. He has accepted responsibility and apologised. He has made a commitment to ensure nothing like 'bridgegate' happens again on his watch. He has punished the staffer responsible.
He even visited Fort Lee and apologised to people affected directly and to the mayor.
But this has a way to run. His political opponents will leave no stone unturned in an attempt to connect Gov Christie to the original decision by Kelly to punish Mayor Sokolich. A federal inquiry has been launched.
The fact Kelly felt authorised to behave in such a way calls into question Gov Christie's management and leadership skills. It also raised questions about the culture in his office and his influence on it.
But let's leave the last word to New Jersey native, Jon Stewart.
By Julie Sibraa
It never ceases to amaze me how old problems, ideas and stories get dusted off, polished up and sold as new around this time of the year. Today we've discovered that superannuation funds, as the custodian of Australian workers’ retirement funds, would be the ideal owners of former public assets like ports, electricity and water utilities.
The reasoning is that if governments can divest themselves of assets they do not need to own or operate they can use the sale proceeds to fund new investment to plug the gaping infrastructure shortfall and meet the needs of our growing population. And if those same assets are owned by Australian superannuation funds then effectively they would be still be owned by the Australian public.
For superannuation funds, ports and other utilities including airports, which exhibit monopoly-like characteristics, represent good investments on the basis they provide earnings stability and long term maturity, that is, a reliable steady revenue stream likely to increase over time.
So it’s a great idea! It’s a wonder no one has thought of it before.
Well they have. And some people have been advocating it for a long time.
I seem to recall back in 2010 when I worked for the peak infrastructure group, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) it was also discovered that there was this massive, lazy pool of superannuation savings lying around that could be used to buy well established infrastructure assets and fund new infrastructure. There was the Cooper superannuation enquiry which amongst many other issues looked at this and reported favourably. IPA, amongst many others at the time, produced a thoughtful research policy paper on the issue, exploring not just the upside of such investment but the barriers as well, with some suggestions for government intended to assist overcome these obstacles.
But aside from the NSW Government’s successful 99-year lease of Ports Botany and Kembla to superannuation company Industry Funds Management last year, it still doesn’t seem to happen.
According to a Deloitte report released last September (Dynamics of the Australian Superannuation System: The next 20 years: 2011-2033) there are approximately $1.6 trillion in total assets currently in the Australian superannuation system, with the pool projected to grow to $4 trillion in the next decade and to $7.6 trillion by 2033.
So why doesn’t it happen?
It all comes down to the ability and courage of our political leaders to properly explain to Australians why this is a good and necessary thing to do. With the costs of health, education and social security – surely the very bedrocks of government responsibility – rising steeply and inexorably year by year, eating up more and more of every government’s revenue stream, there is a need for governments to divest themselves of things they don’t need to own or operate.
When political leaders find it within themselves to honestly and factually explain the need for measures like the sale of public assets, they may find Australian people willing to listen and provide permission.
And that is definitely not a new idea.
By Benjamin Haslem
Global job-search site, CareerCast.com, has released its annual list of the 10 most stressful jobs.
And coming in at #6, up from #7 in 2013, is PR Executive.
Maybe I'm just lucky. Or maybe having worked in the rough and tumble world of three newsrooms at a major national daily newspaper (not to mention an intense and uber-competitive Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery) I've developed a tough skin.
But to quote John McEnroe: "You cannot be serious!?"
According the CareerCast.com, "Jobs that require you to face unpredictable conditions, immediate dangers and high-stakes situations rank amongst the most stressful of 2014".
PR Executive? Don't get me wrong. This job can be stressful. Clients rightly expect you to provide bang for their buck and Wells Haslem will always strive to add value.
But how can this be more stressful than a police officer #9; and a taxi driver #10?
And missing from the list is nurse, school teacher, doctor, surgeon, paramedic, futures trader; stock broker, politician, air traffic controller (airline pilots are #4) and so on.
Number one, is 'enlisted military personnel'. Newspaper reporter is #8.
What do you think?
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?