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Daily Archives: May 25th, 2009

25 May 2009 8:25am

HR managers are increasingly embracing social networking sites to identify and act on employee and customer gripes, but many employers still aren’t doing enough to deal with “more insidious” online reputation attacks, such as logo infringements and false links.

Employers across the globe have spent billions of dollars in recent years building a “perimeter defence” – consisting of firewalls and user-authentication systems – to protect their revenue and data, says BrandProtect senior vice president, Michael Kiefer, in a recent whitepaper.

Yet more than 90 per cent of employers, Kiefer estimates, do little to manage their online reputations, and as little as 10 per cent of “security budgets”, on average, are allocated to external threats.

An employer needs to do more than “reactively protect its data”, he says. “It must also proactively safeguard its reputation online, where references to its corporate name alone can number in the millions.”

Kiefer says that criminals and competitors often target the “weakest link” – the customer. Online customers, he says, are easily compromised and used to either attack organisations or “harvest” online accounts.

“While threats come in a variety of forms, most represent some form of ‘unauthorised linking’,” he says – through the improper use of a corporate logo or trademark.

The logo might be used to link a customer to a competitor’s website, or divert consumer traffic to illegal or offensive material.

“The threats are varied and often escape detection,” Kiefer says. “In each case, a major institution’s reputation is compromised and a customer is misled or defrauded.”

Clean-up costs can be huge, he says, and damage to the brand immeasurable.

Employers, therefore, should:

identify competing URLs, or those with similar names that might be used to falsely represent the company;

engage with their internet service provider and law enforcement agencies to identify risk mitigation activities and block unauthorised links;

establish priorities, determining which risks are critical and which are moderate or can be dealt with later; and

create an “abuse box” where business partners, employees and customers can report web infractions.
Kiefer notes that although online security appears, on the surface, to be an IT function, “mitigating reputational risk is everybody’s business”.

Employers, he says, must “socialise reputational risk” at all levels and departments across an organisation, from HR and management to IT.

Leading employers keep tabs on online content
Some 95 per cent of employers that proactively protect their online-brand reputation experience year-over-year performance improvements, says HR researcher Jeff Zabin in an Aberdeen Group report.

Leading organisations, he says, keep “close tabs on consumer-generated content to identify and act upon potential brand-devaluation issues at the earliest possible moment”.

Online-brand protection is still in its infancy, but employers must act now with the “explosion of social media” making it particularly critical – and challenging – for a company to protect its name, Zabin says.

He recommends that employers:
hire or appoint an online-brand-protection director, whose responsibilities would include the day-to-day analysis of consumer-generated online content, monitoring other online brand issues, and tracking and measuring outcomes;

define best practices for using social media to “derive actionable insights”;

develop time-sensitive performance metrics, aimed at reducing the time between the identification of a potential online threat and the delivery of the information to the relevant decision maker;

adopt media-monitoring technologies, such as “text-mining” software;

train selected employees to engage in online conversations, ensuring they have the requisite level of experience and diplomacy skills;

track positive-to-negative consumer sentiment, looking for deviations in “normal sentiment patterns” and determining the cause; and

measure actual cost savings and revenue outcomes to justify brand-protection expenses and ensure future executive buy-in.

By Michael Edwards for AM

Big ask: Unions say telling manual workers to toil past the age of 65 is not on (ABC News: Giulio Saggin, file photo)

The Federal Government is facing a protest from two of the country’s biggest blue-collar unions against its plans to raise the pension age to 67 by 2023.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) say it is unpalatable to expect people in arduous jobs to work to that age.

The pension age increase was announced in the Federal Budget and unions say they will fight the decision.

They say it is not only bad for workers but it also represents a false economy, as the age increase will only lead to more compensation claims from older workers.

John Byrnes, a 62-year-old Sydney construction worker, says his line of work is tough at that age.

“The last five years of my life, five to seven years, I’ve had more things go wrong with me,” he said.

“Honestly, six weeks ago I just had both my knees operated on; I got a crook back and bad shoulder, arthritis. These are age things but a lot of it is work-related. Just doing heavy work for a long period of time. You just break down, the body breaks down.”

Mr Byrnes says while he is looking forward to his retirement in a few years’ time, the increase in the pension age range has alarmed many of his younger colleagues.

He says the Government is taking a free kick at vulnerable people.

“I was scandalised, honestly,” he said.

“I didn’t like it at all. I was in the smoker’s shed at work. There’s about 30 of us sort of sitting in the same shed at smoko and it was a big subject. It was me and a couple of guys around about the same age as me and it was a bit of black humour. We said, ‘Oh well, we’re lucky, we’re escaping that’.

“But the guys running about in their early-50s, mid-50s, well it sort of sunk in. They weren’t happy, you know? And I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them at all.”

Mr Byrnes says blue-collar jobs such as construction are hard enough at the best of times and he says it is ridiculous to think someone over the age of 65 could manage them.

It is an issue which the CFMEU and AMWU intend to fight the Government about.

The unions have written to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd relating their concerns about raising the retirement age.

The national secretary of the CFMEU, John Sutton, says he is astonished by the policy.

“Many of our members of course left school at age 15 or 16,” he said.

“They’ve been working with their bodies in heavy industry of one sort or another for many years. By the time you reach 65 you’ve basically done about 50 years in hard physical labour.

“To be turning around and saying to people that ‘I’m sorry, they’re not going to be getting the aged pension, they’ve got to work on to age 67′, is a pretty big ask.

“A lot of our building workers’ bodies are not in very good shape by the age of 50, let alone 67, so we think that this decision needs a serious rethink in relation to workers doing heavy manual work.”

Mr Sutton says if the change is about saving money then it is a false economy.

“If they really are going to be telling people at 65 and 66 they’ve got to work on in manual industries then I anticipate a hell of a lot of injuries and a hell of a lot of downtime,” he said.

“And I don’t see where that would actually make money for employers or the Commonwealth.”

The Federal Government says increasing the pension age is a responsible reform to meet the challenge of an ageing population and the economic impact it will have for all Australians.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister says Australia’s shift in pension age is in line with what is happening in other countries such as the USA, Germany and Denmark.

Posted 9 hours 3 minutes ago

The Climate Institute has released a report showing the Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme and other environmental policies will create tens of thousands of jobs.

Both sides of the debate are intensifying their lobbying effort ahead of this fortnight’s parliamentary debate.

The Minerals Council released a report last week showing the emissions trading scheme would cost 23,500 mining jobs.

But the Climate Institute’s John Connor says the scheme will create other opportunities.

“This report looks particularly just at the renewable energy jobs that are there with real jobs, real plans, real projects,” he said.

“That’s up to 30,000 jobs and over $30 billion worth of investment – much of that in regional Australia.”

Mr Connor says the debate is intensifying now that the legislation has been tabled in Parliament.

“We’re keen to put forward the good news the polluters don’t want you to hear,” he said.

“There are jobs that are growing already in these sectors and they’ll grow a lot more as we take the policies that will clean up economy.”

Katharine Murphy
May 25, 2009

A SENIOR left-wing cabinet minister says the Federal Government will not cop an “old-fashioned” protectionist policy, but remains focused on preserving and creating Australian jobs.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has called for a sensible approach ahead of an embarrassing brawl at the ALP’s national conference over a push by right and left-wing unions to impose a Buy Australian policy.

Unions want the Government to give preference to Australian-made goods in big contracts and purchasing and in its huge infrastructure program.

But Mr Albanese says the Government can’t breach its international trade obligations by insisting explicitly that only Australian-produced materials be used in projects.

He says the Government is using its “nation-building” program to create jobs and projects that where possible will use Australian materials, such as the concrete sleepers now being used on rail upgrades around the country.

“No one is advocating a return to old-fashioned protectionism,” he told The Age.

“There are limits imposed by our international obligations and they need to be recognised.

“But this has to be balanced with support for Australian job creation. Australian job creation has been at the forefront of the Government’s thinking.”

Mr Albanese’s nuanced comments reflect the Government’s desire for a compromise to head off the union push.

The preconference campaign is proving a headache for the Government because it enjoys cross-factional support, and pits the party’s industrial base against the political wing.

In a wide-ranging interview about the Government’s infrastructure program, Mr Albanese predicted private investment would begin to flow, including from superannuation funds, now that the Government had established its priorities.

He said the Government did not need to guarantee private borrowing, or assume more risk; a combination of economic recovery and clear process would mean private funds would flow to infrastructure projects.

“We’ve had a considered approach. By doing that, we’ve created the certainty which is an important component of economic confidence,” he said.

Mr Albanese conceded that the Government did not slavishly follow Infrastructure Australia’s advice in the projects it unveiled at the May budget.

Two projects recommended for immediate funding — a road upgrade in the ACT and a rail freight project in South Australia — were rejected in favour of port upgrades and metropolitan public transport projects in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane.

He said the Government was not obliged to always follow the recommendations of its policy adviser.

“It was always the case that Infrastructure Australia would give us the advice and we would make our determinations,” Mr Albanese said.

Clancy Yeates
May 25, 2009

A SURPRISE surge in Chinese demand for high-quality coal used in steel making has raised hopes that Asia’s growth engine could offset the slump engulfing Australia’s biggest export.

Queensland’s coal terminals at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay last month posted their strongest results since November, shipping 7.2 million tonnes from the region’s coking coal mines.

Producers say the turnaround was driven by heavy Chinese buying on the spot market – in stark contrast to the country’s traditional role as a net coal exporter.

After slashing production when recession hit last year, miners are meeting the extra demand by running down stockpiles. If the surge continues, it could help revitalise demand for the type of coal that fetched $US300 a tonne last year, compared with about $US125 ($161) a tonne in recent contract negotiations.

The chief executive of Felix Resources, Brian Flannery, said after making one shipment to China in four years, the company was likely to sell 10 shipments this year, possibly more. “We’ve had a cutback in the Japanese off-take, which has probably been picked up by our Chinese off-take,” he said.

The executive general manager of corporate development at Macarthur Coal, Ian McAleese, said the Chinese buying had prompted “quite a significant turnaround” in demand but the longevity of the surge remained uncertain. “Because they historically have not been in this market, it’s very difficult to get a read,” he said.

Producers say it has suddenly become cheaper for Chinese companies to buy coal from Australia because of difficulties setting domestic prices. China’s Government has closed several mines because of safety concerns, further limiting supply.

A spokeswoman for the world’s biggest private coal producer, US-based Peabody Energy, said the extra demand was equivalent to 10 million tonnes a year of coal being sent to China. Although it had not offset the global slump in world production, she said the company was confident the market was picking up.

While the trend is promising for the industry, coal is unlikely to test the record contract prices of last year while the world’s biggest buyer – Japan – remains in recession.

An analyst at Patersons, Andrew Harrington, said demand growth in India and China was the most likely reason behind any improvement in the coking coal market in the next six months.

But hopes of a fast recovery were hit last week by news that Japan was shrinking by 15.7 per cent a year, the fastest rate of decline since the Second World War. “There will be too much uncertainty, even in the first quarter of next year, to be confident of a price increase,” he said.

Josh Gordon and Michelle Grattan
May 23, 2009

The Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme could trigger an investment surge worth more than $6 billion a year, according to secret economic modelling revealed as Parliament gears up to determine the fate of controversial climate change laws.

An internal report by the National Australia Bank obtained by The Sunday Age suggests the emissions trading debate has focused on short-term costs and ignored new investment opportunities.

“The average year-on-year investment created by the (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) could be up to 60 per cent greater than that committed for infrastructure in this year’s budget,” the report says.

It says there has been “little consideration of the investment stimulus” that would be created as the economy becomes less greenhouse intensive.

The report comes as a national poll conducted on behalf of the Climate Institute has found more than three out of four Australians believe the Liberal Party should support the Government’s emissions trading scheme legislation.

The sharply divided Coalition will go the party room within the next week to consider the legislation before the House of Representatives debates it next week. The legislation will go to the Senate next month.

The Coalition, which is considering a bipartisan position on targets for the world climate conference in Copenhagen in December, wants the legislation delayed until after that conference.

But an Auspoll survey of 1120 people has found 77 per cent believe the Liberals should back the legislation now. Only 23 per cent think they should oppose it.

The online poll taken from May 15 to 19 found women were more likely than men to say the Liberals should support it (83-71 per cent), and younger people more likely than those older (82 per cent of 18-29 year olds compared with 71 per cent of those 50 and over).

Greens sources said yesterday that while they were opposed to the legislation they were “not inclined” to vote for delay. So the Opposition would probably need the votes of Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon if it wanted to defer the legislation until after the December conference.

But Senator Xenophon told The Sunday Age yesterday: “My strong inclination is that we need to deal with this legislation, in terms of the architecture and design of the scheme, before Copenhagen.”

Certainly the NAB report will give the Government added traction to argue for the legislation to be passed. The modelling work traces the impact of the three possible emissions reduction targets announced by Government. It assumes that the price of emissions will rise from $20 a tonne of carbon dioxide to $100 a tonne as the Government cuts the number of permits. It also assumes that 30 per cent of Australia’s investment efforts to cut emissions will leak to foreign countries.

Under the least onerous scenario — a cut of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 — investment would soar by $5.8 billion a year by 2020 and by $10.8 billion by 2050, or an average of $6.2 billion a year.

A 25 per cent cut will become Government policy if there is a strong agreement at Copenhagen.

The Age

Jesse Riseborough
May 25, 2009
OZ Minerals, the debt-laden zinc mining company selling $1.2 billion of assets, is boosting exploration work to accelerate expansion plans at its only remaining mine.

“We will recommence our exploration that we have had to defer and we will complete our studies into future underground and expanded pit production,” Chairman Barry Cusack said yesterday at the official opening of OZ Minerals’ $1.2 billion Prominent Hill mine in South Australia.

China Minmetals Group, the nation’s biggest metals trader, is seeking to complete the purchase of OZ Minerals assets next month, giving it control of the world’s second-biggest zinc mine and supplies of copper, gold and nickel.

Prominent Hill, the company’s only source of revenue should the Minmetals sale be approved, will be profitable “within days” once it receives payment for the first shipment of copper concentrate to India, chief executive Andrew Michelmore said.

The company is drilling mineral targets as it seeks to discover sufficient resources to allow for an underground expansion of the mine, Mr Michelmore said.

“We have to do a lot more drilling to be able to come to that assessment, so that will take some time and is why the cash we will have on hand will be very important,” he said, referring to the company’s cash balance of about $700 million after the Minmetals sale.

Melbourne-based OZ Minerals fell 4.3 per cent to close at 78.5¢ on May 22. The stock has risen 43 per cent this year and has a market value of $2.5 billion.

Output from Prominent Hill started in February and the company has forecast production of as much as 100,000 metric tonnes of copper and 70,000 ounces of gold this year. The open-pit mine is estimated to operate for 10 years, OZ Minerals has said.

“I’m looking forward to phase two of Prominent Hill and phase three, which will I’m sure include a major underground mine as well as more open-cut,” South Australian Premier Mike Rann said. “What we are seeing here is the start of a series of developments.”

Mr Michelmore, 56, and other senior executives will join Minmetals once the sale is completed.

Mr Michelmore, who will be CEO of the Chinese company’s Australian unit, declined to comment on the role or Minmetals’ future strategy in Australia.

Mr Michelmore last month agreed to sell almost all OZ Minerals’ assets to Minmetals to repay $1.1 billion debt after a rout in commodity prices.

OZ Minerals is seeking to complete the sale by June 18, leaving Prominent Hill as its main asset.

State-owned Minmetals was blocked from buying Prominent Hill by Treasurer Wayne Swan in March on security grounds because of its proximity to the Woomera Protected Area (WPA) — a 20 per cent chunk of SA controlled by the Defence Department.

Woomera is the largest landlocked missile-testing range in the world.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, may be prepared to pay $2.75 billion to buy Prominent Hill to secure copper and uranium for its nearby Olympic Dam operation, JPMorgan Chase & Co said last month. The Olympic Dam plant, about 130 kilometres from Prominent Hill, has excess annual capacity equivalent to about 50 per cent of Prominent Hill’s copper concentrate output, JPMorgan said.

BHP has previously bought concentrate from the mine to treat at Olympic Dam.