Sometimes when I feel really strongly about someone or an organisation I have to temper what I really want to say. Strong words usually come to the fore. Words like idiot, stupid, moron, pathetic and so on. In the end, depending on the context, I usually settle for three. These three words are … NOT VERY BRIGHT. When I use this term it is no slur on intelligence or the lack of … It is just my way of saying, in the kindest way possible way, someone is being extremely stupid.
So I will say it. Paul McClintock, Chairman of Myer, is NOT VERY BRIGHT. McClintock was interviewed by Damon Kitney of the Australian. The interview was printed on Saturday, 16th November. To recap; in May Myer CEO, Bernie Brookes, made the astounding statement that the NDIS would mean that Myer would suffer. According to Brookes the levy that was legislated to pay for the NDIS though Medicare would mean that less people would spend money at Myer. Brookes thought that this was unfair.
Disability advocates around Australia were rightfully outraged. They were outraged because Brookes clearly showed that he had no understanding whatsoever of the potential that is the NDIS. This is particularly baffling because Brookes is a business man. The NDIS, potentially, is going to create employment. It’s going to mean people with a disability all over Australia can get out and spend their money where as before many were confined largely to their own homes. It possibly will give greater capacity to many to obtain employment. Carers, who previously spent a large chunk of their time looking after their disabled children (many now adults), could be supported better. These carers would have more time and more money to spend. So the loss created by the levy potentially was offset by the gains. These are the economic arguments.
Brookes was having none of this. In his simplistic and black and white world the NDIS levy is a bad thing. Myer and other traders will be the losers. What is more Brookes failed to even acknowledge the enormous social reform that the NDIS would bring with it. Instead he chose to paint the disabled as burdens that were going to cost Myer and Australia money.
The disability sector got angry, and rightly so. For years people with a disability have been, and continue to be, undervalued. Brookes’ comments were not just narrow-minded but they were a slur on every single person with a disability in Australia. It is well documented that Disability Commissioner, Graeme Innes, made a public call for Myer to right the wrong by increasing the number of people with a disability in their workforce.
It’s an old story and the controversy has long since died down. But Mr McClintock, for reasons known only to himself, decided to resurrect it. Not only did Mr McClintock resurrect the story and the controversy but he defended Mr Brookes. What is worse he all but retracted the apology that Myer made for the offence that Mr Brookes caused. I am sorry Mr McClintock but that was NOT VERY BRIGHT.
Said McClintock, ” …in retrospect I regret the second statement. Because it implied that we were in the wrong, and we weren’t. There was absolutely no reason for us to apologise,” I am sorry Mr. McClintock, but there was. Your CEO labeled people with a disability as a drain on Australia. Your CEO labeled people with a disability as a burden. Your CEO basically told Australia that people with a disability had no value. Understandably, this caused anger and distress.
For his ill informed comments Mr. Brookes got immense backlash. I am sure he got a lot of personal attacks which would have been very distressing. But at the end of the day his comments were ill thought out and in many ways even callous. People with a disability are knocked down and discriminated against everyday. For the CEO of such a large and iconic company like Myer to publically imply that the NDIS and people with a disability were not worth the money was just, well, NOT VERY BRIGHT.
Instead of leaving an issue that had long since petered out it well alone McClintock decided to boast. He boasted that he took the people on who had attacked Myer and won. He then went on to say the attacks on Myer and its CEO were unjustified. Well the Australians with a disability, their families and their supporters would beg to differ.
Apparently the attack on Myer, largely through the social media, damaged the Myer brand. Said McClintock, “Yes, lots of people pressed the button, signed up the petition, but was there any real evidence people had thought through and understood the issues?” So now we are all sheep. We are simply followers that press a button cos its fun to do so. We don’t understand the issues. We don’t understand what the NDIS can potentially bring nor do we understand what people with a disability need. Is Mr McClintock for real?
Let’s be clear Mr. McClintock, the damage to the Myer brand was not done by people with a disability, their associates or supporters. It was done solely by the leaders of Myer. Firstly by CEO Mr. Brookes with his ill thought out comments and secondly by the subsequent response of the Myer Board that first apologised half heartedly then apologised fully. This damage has been further compounded by the NOT VERY BRIGHT Mr. McClintock who resurrected the issue and claimed the apology was an error.
The apology was the only thing that Myer did right in the whole fiasco. The fish rots from the head Mr. McClintock. It is time for the leaders of Myer to accept responsibility for the damage that they have done. Not so much to Myer, but to all people with a disability.