Debbie climbed the corporate ladder quickly with the help of a good Sherpa to guide her
Dreamworld’s Callously Egregious Ombre (CEO), Deborah ‘Debbie’ Thomas of Woman’s Weekly fame, may have spent half a lifetime – 5/6th of victim Kate Goodchild’s – working in PR and what she calls’brand management’ in the junk-gloss media, but its obvious that the aloof and arrogant now boss of Ardent
Leisure Displeasure hasn’t learnt an Edgar Britt about the art of problem solving, perhaps because she’s never had an issue to deal with that didn’t involve a whole lot of arm waving, coked-up raving, shouting, pouting claws and ‘oh darling, are you sure?’s.
You can see from watching her when she’s under the pump that while the toffee-nosed former model and budding artist is probably a gun at the Eddy from Ab-Fab style leadership, she has’t got a goddamn clue what to do when she’s backed up against a wall and finds that she’s still got her clothes on. You can see it the dismissive ‘please I’m a busy woman and the AGM’s on Thursday’ way she has dealt with the Dreamworld tragedy, and you only need to watch her claws-out cat style reaction to criticism to know that she’s never had to do it hard to get to the top, except when Kerry Packer was randy and a few of his other shags were out of town.
So those of us in the know aren’t as surprised about the events of the past 24 hours as most of the media is, but then again we don’t read dime trash magazines or watch TV, so we’ve never been sold the cool-botch Debbie and are calling it from the cold. Which of course gives us the advantage of perspective, so while her single-minded focus on the company AGM and her $800 000 ‘performance’ bonus at a time when 4 of the company’s customers have been crushed like sardine cans in one of her family-friendly rides might be raising outrage all over the wide brown land, we’re not in the least bit surprised.
You see its one thing being a protected Packer-whacker princess held in awe by the type of airheads who view shagging your way to the top akin to finding the holy grail, and its quite another to find yourself dealing with ordinary people with ordinary emotions who are caught in an extraordinarily nightmare, and if you’re wise then you put ice on your usual automatic reaction, take a deep breath and think quick before you open your mouth when an instant answer’s required.
Like when 4 people die on one of your theme park’s most popular rides for example.
Debbie ain’t wise though, and so when the shit hit she slipped straight into auto mode and from the get go has dealt with the tragedy in exactly the same way that in her former life she’d deal with a wannabe Pulitzer winner telling her she didn’t want to write a 1000 word puff-piece about Cher.
What that means is that she slipped into haughty Ice Queen mode and it’s been ‘I’m the boss here bitch and I’m busy so f*ck off and do what you’re told’ attitude to all and sundry, and when you mix that in with the ‘protect the dough at all bloody costs’ mantra that Packer grilled into her it becomes a volatile mix.
The product of course is Debbie’s ‘limit the potential fiscal damage, deny liability, blame the workers and look after yourself’ strategy that’s landed her so deep in the mire that she now finds herself stuck up to her neck in the wet brown sh*t and about to go under, and there’s not a thing in the world that she can do to save herself drowning.
This is where Debbie Thomas and the Ardent Leisure Directors spent their Thursday
For 3 days she’s been oblivious to the fact all of Australia is starting to hate her, and her heightened sense of inflated self worth has prevented her from seeing and understanding just how much damage she’s been doing to the NightmareWorld brand. The instinctive strategy she’s adopted is not just from a human perspective callous in the extreme, bit equally from a corporate point of view absolutely mad.
Any idiot can see that the deaths happened because the company f*cked up,so what a skilled crisis management specialist would have advised Debbie to do was to front up, cop the fact it’s gunna you plenty on the chin, knowing you’ll get it all back provided you protect the brand, leave the details to the experts and just focus on the here and now.
From the outset they would have had Deb do what she should have done and say we’re sorry but we’re here to do everything we can to to ease your pain, and we’ll make sure this never, ever happens again, I promise. She may not mean it – based on what we’ve seen this week I’m not sure empathy’s her thing – but as long as she looked grimly but firmly into the camera she the world other than Archie would believe that she and the company were good people who cared.
This is where four good Australians spent theirs
Instead of seeking advice though Deb just decided to go down her own road, and now the company has no option but to sack her or NightmareWorld’s cactus too. They need to do it quick too because every single day that Deb remains in charge of the ship millions are peeling off the bottom line as customers rip up their tickets and turn away from the once-much-loved theme park in droves.
I blame the board as much as Debbie personally, because it’s not as if she didn’t have experienced shoulders to lean on and give her advice; in fact she has not one but two of Australia’s most experienced and respected media professionals on her board in Don Morris, the founder of MOJO advertising and creator of a squillion icon Aussie ads; and David Haslingden, who knows a wee bit about how to steer the media, having been in the game forever, owning a few TV stations and presently being the head of Channel Nine.
These blokes know the spin and counter-spin game as well as anyone, and what they do’t know personally they can call on an array of experts to find out. So why did they just sit back and watch Deb – who a mate of mine met when they shared a corporate box at the Prince concert a few years ago and reports is actually a nice person, although at the moments its hard to believe – self-destruct? Why have they watched silently as she has ballsed things up so badly that in the process she’s flipped science on its head by turn diamonds back into big fat lumps of coal and pearls into clams?I-
Is it because they have faith in Deb and like her? Or is it perhaps because they don’t
Either way they haven’t done themselves or the company any favors by letting Deb run her own race, and all too late they now realise it too. After all, what sort of morons would press ahead with an AGM at which they intend to all pat themselves on the back and pass around congratulatory envelopes stuffed with cash when 1000 km away the bodies of four customers who passed through the Nightmare World gates just days ago when it was all still a dream now lie frozen and expressionless on a steel slab on sliders in a slot in the mortuary wall?
Do they truly believe that shareholders would have been protesting if they had delayed the AGM for a fortnight as a mark of respect for the victims and their families? Does any punter at the Geebung RSL not get to their their feet and solemnly recite the ode rather than blow up when the 20 to 1 shot they’ve got going for a kotza in the quaddie’s a length in front with 200m to go and suddenly the clock strike six and the screens go blank and the bugle sounds?
Of course they bloody don’t – what’s a small and insignificant slice of inconvenience when weighed up against the lives of four good Australians to lying cold and dead under six feet of soil in a far too soon dug grave?
A damn good reason to postpone an AGM, that’s what it is, and anyone who doesn’t think so is nothing but a bum and that’s being damn kind about it too. The board’s decision to proceed with the meeting anyway makes callous indifference look like the top shelf prize in a fairground knock ’em down game.
And then, just when you think the company’s reached the absolute nadir of c*ntish corporate behavior, the ground at the bottom of the sinkhole falls away and further down it and Deb slide, and where their plummeting descent into the vortex of disgraceful corporate conduct’s going to end nobody knows. My estimation is that they’re so deep into the depths of depravity that surely hell is but a frazzled gutless sledge at the grieving families away, and after today’s edition of Debbie Does Malice you’d take plenty of even money about them getting there too.
For f*ck sake, ‘I would’ve called but I didn’t have your phone number’ is the sort of facile answer a girl gives when she runs into the bloke she bonked when blind drunk and slipped away from while sleeping after he came in three strokes, rolled over and starting snoring.
It’s not the answer you give to a broken-hearted Mum whose two kids are dead because of your company f*cked up and accidentally killed them, that’s for sure.
And we all knew after the ‘we’re going ahead with the AGM’ that just because Deb had a platinum-plated corporate climb through the woman’s magazine world courtesy of her courtesan Kerry Packer doesn’t mean that she’s not useless and doesn’t have a bloody clue about managing a crisis, but for f*ck sake who would ever have believed that she doesn’t know how to use a damn phone directory?
Of course she knows how to look up a number, and anyway she knew that Kim Dorsett, the mother of 2 of the victims, was talking to the media so all she had to do was ask and any of the journos would have passed her Mrs Dorsett’s number.
But she told the reporters that she didn’t contact this poor, grief-stricken mother because she didn’t have her number.
There are 2 ways you can look at this, and while both are bloody ugly and leave her public image standing in the dark, as bad as it is when 4 Australian men and women are lying dead and their families are awash with pain, you’d have to prefer to believe that under the pressure of the tragedy and the intense glare of the media she simply cracked and told a lie.
It would be a terrible thing to do and leave your reputation blackened, but with some appreciation of how wrong you were and a brand new attitude and a few top-shelf spin doctors it’s something that you can come back from, because at one time or another most people have slipped up under pressure and told a lie, and even if for most of us it was when we were kids and we quickly learnt our lesson, slipping out a lie when you’re under the pump is something we can empathyse with, even if we find it abhorrent.
But there aren’t too many of us who are able to empathise with a person who knows 4 folk are dead and their mothers bereft and simply doesn’t care.
Few of us have ever not felt massive sympathy for a grieving mother, or wished that we could do something to ease her pain.
There’rehardly any who would not take 20 seconds to Google up a number and place a call to the Mum if we thought that it may ease even the tiniest bit of her suffering.
And I know only one person who would willfully ignore the mother and turn her back on the women’s dead children and expectantly travel 1000km away to accept a bonus and a pat on the back as the whole country watches in horror with their wide mouths agape.
That person is Deb Thomas, and that’s exactly what she did today.
She didn’t lie.
She just didn’t care.
It’s callous and it’s cruel and it will leave her reputation forever trashed and she deserves it too, not just for her self-focused indifference to the victims families, but for sticking a knife in their guts too.
For sending a spokesperson out to tell the media that the family have her and the company’s unwavering support, when she and the directors that run the company are locked in a swish heritage-listed meeting room voting each other pay rises as they nibble foie gras and quail over lunch and wash it down with New Zealand wine.
There is no way back from that, no way at all, even though the company has finally called in the crisis management team to strategise with Deb behind those closed doors. She’s a terminal case, and not even I could save her now.
But I’ll tell you something for free – I wouldn’t make it worse. Not on your life.
There is no way on hell or earth that I would advise Deb to donate $167 500 – the cash portion of the massive bonus that she turned her back on the family and their grief to ensure she received – when the whole nation knows that this means she’s trousered more than $600 000 in shares.
I’d tell her to give the lot, which is what she should have done on day 1 before the bushfire sparked by the bonus ever got so far out of hand. Deb wouldn’t like it, but I’d explain that if you only hand over a portion of the 800k you’re going to look like a greedy, even more heartless b*tch who’s trying to put a price on 4 lives and pay her way out of the corner.
I’d tell her to admit she’d f*cked it all up, to say sorry and make no excuses but vow to make amends. I’d have her on the first plane leaving to meet with Mrs Dorsett with the cash and the cheques in her pocket and regret in her hand.
I’d instruct the board not to attempt to defend the payment of the bonus but to admit that it was wrong. To say they f*cked up too, and to stand before the victims families and hold out their hands, and ask for their forgiveness.
We’re a pretty decent and fair-minded bunch of people we Aussies, and we can usually forgive a person for their mistakes no matter how bad they are, as long as their regret is fair dinkum and their desire for redemption true blue.
But we can’t forgive bullsh*t artists, not when four of our own are soon to be covered with golden brown soil in their graves. No f*cking way.
And so we’ll never forgive Deborah Thomas, not for as long as we can see the Southern Cross shining above us in the sky.
Some people simply deserve everything they get.
And some people don’t.
May they rest in peace, although we wish they were alive and here with us today.
To their families I speak on behalf of all of our readers when I say that there is a wide and yawning crevice that spans the breadth of our wide brown land today, a fracture that remains forever in your souls.
Peace to you, comfort and peace.
Comfort and peace, however distant a star it now seems.