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Not as happy as Larry

The news is out. Finally, finally, we’ve discovered who Larry is.

You know Larry, he’s that bloke we’re all ‘as happy as’.

While we’ve never really understood who the hell Larry is, Aussies and Kiwis have been as happy as Larry for years.

We do know that he’s been around since about 1875 when New Zealand writer GL Meredith cited “we would be as happy as Larry if it were not for the rats”. But despite a couple of theories floating around, we’ve never quite managed to nail him down. The more popular one surrounds Aussie boxer Larry Foley, who never lost a fight and retired a wealthy, and no doubt very happy, Larry at age 32 in 1879. Another fancy emerged from the word ‘larrikin’, a harmless prankster. Boxer or prankster, we don’t really care, as long as we’re as happy as Larry.

But Larry has been found, right in the heart of Sydney at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Yep, right there among the budget cuts, staff redundancies, dismal ratings, and news-writing workshops to try and improve them, the indomitable happy Larry has materialised to cheer everyone up.

You see, good doobies at the ABC are being rewarded with ‘Well done!’ cards for various achievements, including a People Focused Larry card, an Open & Transparent Larry card, a Straight Talker Larry card or an Accountable Larry card. Apparently, you have to be an awesome employee to receive one, all of which feature the man himself, a clean-cut goody two shoes, beaming at you and shouting encouragement for whatever awesome thing you did.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Those who are lauded by Larry also get to attend industry events, go behind the scene at different ABC productions, attend a celebratory event in Sydney, or receive great stuff like Google headphones.


Managing Director Michelle Guthrie has introduced Larry’s encouragement awards to express her pride in her team and improve morale.

That’s nice.

Staff, however, have not reacted so nicely. The secretary of the ABC section of the Community and Public Sector Union, Sinddy Ealy, said Larry’s morale booster had “evoked great derision and anger from staff who felt they were being treated like toddlers”.

Rather than a Larry lift, they’d prefer a pay rise, or a set of working headphones. Some colleagues would also be nice, considering the recent SOS to news directors across the country asking for available staff to fly in and fill “significant gaps in the production roster” for Sydney’s 7pm bulletin. This was necessitated after too many journalists accepted redundancy and ran. Just like happy Larrys.

Morale is low after the government announced a funding freeze over three years amounting to cuts of around A$84 million. Guthrie’s response was to email staff with some smashing advice. Her plan to “improve the way we do things at the ABC” was to be people focused; straight-talking; accountable; open and transparent.

Apparently, she experienced this epiphany after consulting widely. I presume in the next office where executives have been spouted exactly those guidelines since, well, last century.

Who knows how much it has cost the ABC to produce its Larry cards, let alone pay the genius who conjured up the inspiring concept. It’s a moot point really, after all, you and I, the taxpayers are funding it.

Hang on, shouldn’t that make me eligible for some sort of Larry leg up?

I’m going to opt for the Straight Talker Larry card with a hot tip for Ms Guthrie.

This is not playschool. Your staff are not preschoolers. They do not need a paltry little card to tell them they’re working hard, or working well. They need a little respect. Start with the headphones. That’ll make them as happy as Larry.

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