After quick success in getting Optus to dump Alan Jones, Crikey is now targeting Qantas, NRMA and the Commonwealth Bank in our quest to rid Australia of that disgraceful practice known as cash for comment.

This was a good thing because it reduces the parrot’s annual take by up to $500,000 a year and it saves me the ignominy of, yet again, announcing plans to stand for something and then not qualifying.

You see Optus required the signature of 50 shareholders by July 4 and this, despite some generous support, was always going to be difficult to muster, especially whilst overseas.

I still got to the Cable and Wireless PLC AGM in London on Friday July 7 and the threat of this was, I suspect, a key factor in getting Optus to dump Jones.

Crikey can now genuinely add to its spoof flyers: “ bringing down cash for comment since June 2000”

But the job is nowhere near finished. We intend organising anti-cash for comment candidates for upcoming NRMA, Qantas and Commonwealth Bank AGMs. I’m the candidate of last resort so if you know of anyone willing to stand and who hates cash for comment we’d love to hear from you.

Qantas are the biggest offenders left. They pay both Alan Jones and John Laws up to $500,000 a year – and is it any wonder the Parrot takes the same position as Qantas on the question of airport facilities in Sydney.

I for one will not be flying Qantas again as long as they keep these payments up to the disgraced 2UE shock jocks.

Jones has been on the Qantas payroll since July 1997 and gets ferried about in their first class birdcage for free. Laws has a similar deal.

I’ve had a few dealings with new Qantas chairman Margaret Jackson over the years and even wrote the press release for former Vic Treasurer Alan Stockdale announcing her appointment as chairman of the $4 billion Transport Accident Commission back in 1993.

Margaret, please take the Optus route and dump Jones and Laws immediately. It will be a lot less painful than having a notice of meeting going out to all of your shareholders which contains a director nomination with a platform that dumps on cash for comment.

I’ve also had quite a few dealings with Commonwealth Bank CEO David Murray over the years. David, I know you have inherited the Colonial State Bank cash for comment deal from Colonial, but please terminate it before nominations close for your board in September. I’ll be at the AGM regardless, but will only stand for your board if you remain in bed with The Parrot to the tune of between $100,000 and $500,000 a year.

The most disturbing thing about the Colonial deal with The Parrot is that the latest contract came into effect on December 24 last year, many months after the cash for comment scandal broke. Who in their right mind decided to do that? The Australian Bankers’ Association disgraced itself with its deal with John Laws, yet one of its members re-signed with his soiled stablemate Jones after the ABA tore up its contract.

The NRMA is the last on our target list. The Nick Whitlam-chaired demutualised insurer is paying Laws between $100,000 and $500,000 a year. Surprise, surprise, Lawsy had no objections to last year’s controversial demutualisation which was backed by old Laws mate and NRMA director Anne Keating.

Now that you’re achieved your goals Nick, dump Laws immediately to save yourself one extra hassle at what will probably be a pretty fiery AGM in any case.

So there you have it. Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank and the NRMA have about eight weeks to do the decent thing or face a Crikey campaign for their boards on an anti-cash for comment platform.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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