An Open Letter to Bernie Brookes

Celebrities Attend Golden Slipper DayDear Bernie

I’m sure you can guess why I’m writing you this letter. You’ve no doubt had many similar complaints this week surrounding your comments about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the effect this policy will have on Myer consumer spending. So here’s another one to add to the pile. Even if you don’t have time to read it, please do me the favour of handing it around your mates, fellow CEOs of big companies who think they’re entitled to an opinion about political policy. These words are for all of you.

First off, let me just say that I am a very grateful person. I am grateful that I live in a society where a brand like Myer exists. But I don’t wake up in the morning and curse that Myer isn’t open yet. I, like all other Australians, don’t need Myer. We don’t rely on Myer providing us with products. This is because nothing your store provides could ever, in anyone’s warped sense of reality constitute a ‘necessity’. Necessities, things needed to live, for lucky Australians like me, include shelter, food, water and healthcare. Everything else is lifestyle. That’s what your store sells isn’t it? Lifestyle choices. As an Australian, I get to enjoy a whole raft of lifestyle choices, Myer being one of them. I get to enjoy so much more than just bare necessities, and that’s why I’m so grateful.

I am also grateful that my life has not been touched by the difficulties of disability. Yet, if I was to find in my future that, for instance, I had a child with a disability, I don’t think my first concern would be that this child might cost me more money, and reduce the amount of cash that I could spend at Myer. Thousands of Australians have been looking after themselves or loved ones who have a disability, buying all the expensive healthcare and equipment needed to give them a life that’s nowhere near as privileged as most of your customers, without the government offering them the support that it has always been able to afford. Hence why Gillard’s Labor Government has introduced the National Disability Insurance scheme. But rather than applaud this social policy, you whinge to your investment banker crowd that the policy is going to hurt your shareholders. How pathetic a human being you are. When I think of your shareholders, somehow I don’t manage to conjure the sort of pity that I have for people who are prisoners in their home due to a disability, or for their carers who have been by their sides their entire lives. Giving up trips to Myer. Giving up everything for their loved one.

It’s clear that you have a predictable view of government spending on social welfare. You don’t like it. You don’t seem to think the government can afford to do anything. Although I didn’t hear you complaining when Rudd’s Labor government stimulated the economy during the early stages of the Global Financial Crisis by giving your consumers money to spend in your stores. Are you grateful at all for that Bernie? That this country didn’t plunge into recession like the US and most of Europe?

When you found your statements about the NDIS had made their way out of your investment banker echo-chamber and into the general populace (your consumers) and you realised your words might affect your shareholders’ income, you issued the most cowardly format for an apology – a press release. And in this release, you stuck by your criticism of the funding model for the NDIS – a minor increase in the Medicare Levy. You said you would prefer the NDIS was funded using ‘existing revenue streams’. Well thanks Bernie. Thanks for this insightful advice. Have you not heard that government revenue isn’t doing so well lately? You are constantly complaining that your retail sector isn’t performing well but do you ever put two and two together? While you and your CEO mates might find the economic conditions difficult, might it also be so that government taxation revenue is also dropping due to large companies like your own not contributing as much in tax revenue? Or is the government meant to be responsible for this as well? Last time I checked, Australia is doing incredibly well economically compared to other developed nations – would you prefer to run a group of department stores in Greece? And while you and your mates are constantly backing Tony Abbott’s catch-phrase that the government MUST be in surplus, how do you expect that government to afford the NDIS, which you now seem to agree we need, without an increase in taxation? What’s this magic pudding you seem to know about that the government doesn’t? Please enlighten us.

Speaking of your buddy Tony Abbott, what are your thoughts on his plans to fund his inequitable-middle-and-upper-class-welfare-election-bribe paid parental leave with a 1.5% increase in the company tax rate? Myer will be paying that I would think. I totally understand big business. I know the cost of this tax increase will be passed onto Myer consumers. Aren’t you concerned that if you charge us more for your lifestyle choices, we might not be able to afford as many lifestyle choices? Or we might give up on your lifestyle choices altogether? Heard of the internet? I’ve only got a rudimentary understanding of economics and supply and demand, but that’s how it works doesn’t it? Prices go up, demand goes down. I would personally agree with you if you were to come out and criticize Abbott’s paid maternity leave policy. I don’t want your prices to go up so Abbott can ensure women who earn way more than the average wage, get paid more than an average salary when they go on maternity leave. I don’t want to see every company in Australia put their prices up so women can pay for expensive lifestyle choices whilst being full-time mums. If the company tax rate was increased for an equitable policy like the NDIS, I would have no complaint.

I guess it all comes down to priorities, doesn’t it Bernie. My priority is the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to contribute from my taxable income, to ensure disabled Australians are better supported with their challenges in life. Your priority is your shareholders. How’s that working out for you this week Bernie? Are your shareholders impressed with your public relations disaster?


  1. I gave Myer’s the big shift years ago. They had lost the plot many years ago as far as quality and price. Not like the old days when I first took out a Myer Card at the age of 16 years so I could buy nice clothes at affordable prices. Many of our children were dressed by Myer and out good old double bed also came from Myer. Not anymore too expensive and only selling imported cheap Chinese Junk.

    By the way another good article beats those morons from News Limited and those stupid live morning shows where those gurus from wonderland who wouldn’t have a clue on what is happening to Australian politics.

  2. Good article Victoria. I was more offended by his apology than his original stupid remarks. Saying sorry (sort of) to anyone who “may have been offended” by his remarks does not equate with saying sorry that he actually made the remarks. This reveals more about his character defects than the original remarks.
    On another topic. I would love to see you write a column about the standard of blog posters on News Ltd commentator sites. Particularly in The Australian. I love reading The Australian on line each day and am always interested in the musings of the likes of Janet Albrechtsen, Niki Savva, Dennis Shannahan & Chris “Whats his name”. These folk are the front line troops in the News Ltd war in support of Tony Abbott. Their bias is breathtaking but I still love to read it.
    Less enlightening is the daily litany of “Posters” the same names every day (& my goodness when do these people sleep, the most active ones start at midnight & go flat out through the early hours of the morning when most sensible people are asleep)
    Their constant repetitive bile about the failures of the Labor government & Gillard in particular are rude, crude & disgusting as well as being completely wrong on many factors but why would News Ltd let the facts get in the way of a good round of Labor bashing each day?

    What disturbs me is that if a Poster of another political persuasion or perhaps just one offering an alternate & balanced view of the days bille fest should dare to comment, that person is invariably attacked by the same tired LNP boosters & called all sorts of vile names etc. There is never any attempt by the blog editors to stop these attacks & never any attempt by the editors to bring any sense of balance to the posts by their regular attack dogs.
    No pretence at balance there!

    As a blogger, I thought perhaps you would consider looking into this & giving us your thoughts on ways to improve the quality of on line debate in this country. (Incidentally, if any readers are looking for amusement, log onto the USA Tea Party website to read a funny but very sad litany of right wing hate)

    • Thanks John, I fall asleep each night reading Andrew Bolt’s blog and saying thanks that the crazies who live there are the minority,so will give US Tea Party site a try. It would be interesting to know who is commenting on the Australian right wing blogs and the degree of crossover and repetition under various names etc. In the end though, apart from cynics like us, they’re only talking to each other.

  3. Brilliant. As a Psychology Honours student who has worked in mental health and is now employed within the disability sector for the last 12 months as a support worker, it’s safe to say that spending ANYTHING at Myer is the last of most people’s concerns, lest of all people suffering from mental illness, disability, or both – this is where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs really comes into play.

    That the whingers at Myer can really expect people to give up needs such as physiological satiety (hunger, thirst, sleep), social and emotional wellbeing, etc, to buy some overpriced shit, in a time when budget cuts in the sector are ruthless (especially in QLD, thanks Campbell Newman), is inhumane and atrocious.

    I don’t think a lot of the corporate bigwigs even realise how fantastically lucky we have been to weather the global economic storm geographically and economically separating us in Australia.

    Next time a service user misses out on assistive communication devices or funding for a house, maybe I’ll suggest to them or their carers that they buy a fucking Mossimo shirt.

  4. Reblogged this on austriaal and commented:
    Thank you Victoria. Very insightful post about the NDIS and how ‘socially responsible’ corporations of today really view social responsibility.

  5. Thank you Victoria. You’re spot on with your observations. How sad that Myers has stooped so low as to decry the support given to the most vulverable Australians with disabilities, because they perceive consumers will have less to spend at Myers. It’s gobsmackingly unnnerving to think Myers has become so self-serving and self-centered. Could this be a re- flection on how we as Australians have become more selfish under twelve years of Howard? How has it all come down to this? Lifestyle versus life! How corrupted we have become to be unable to distinguish real need from life-style choices!

  6. What a condisending self rightious piece of vitriol! I just started reading this stuff from delusional people like you. Keep your head on Victoria Rollison it is only through intelligent debate that we as a Country can make the best decisions for all. The day people become worried that their questions and thoughts may be hijacked by emotive irrational people like you is the day we start going backwards. So pull your head in and learn to express your opinions and thoughts in a more rational manner. We all agree NDIS is important and needed. Thats not the debate. The challenge is finding a sustainable funding program. Thats the debate Not the need but the funding!

  7. I agree with Shenal and further you are opportunistically exploiting this for your own purposes, and please spare me “my aim is to look after the disadvantaged etc. You are not alone there.

  8. I know one thing based on facts regarding International Law of the sea, is that Abbott will never be able to tow the boats back to Indonesia.

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