There is a vacancy on the Telstra board for one of the five external candidates so Stephen Mayne has written to the Prime Minister asking that the government abstain from voting on the fifth vanacy to give Telstra’s 1.8 million shareholders a sense of empowerment.

Prime Minister of Australia

Parliament House

Canberra

November 6, 2000

Dear Prime Minister, I’m writing to you as an external candidate for the board of Telstra Corporation at the upcoming annual general meeting of the company in Melbourne on November 17.

Can I say at the outset how pleased I am that the government and the Telstra board have agreed to create a vacancy on the board for one of the five external candidates contesting this year’s board elections.

As a regular board candidate, I have discovered that most boards give outsiders no chance of being elected by limiting the number of vacancies to the number of incumbent directors standing for re-election.

You therefore have the situation as occurred at AGL this year where our candidate won 58 per cent of the vote but fell well short of the 96 per cent won by the two incumbents and therefore was rejected because there were three candidates and only two vacancies.

I wholeheartedly support this notion of popular capitalism that you have fostered but am concerned that some boards unilaterally entrench their own position even when the will of the shareholders is that an external candidate be elected.

Other companies which have followed the AGL lead this year by not creating a vancancy for an external candidate include West Australian Newspapers, NRMA, Westfield Holdings, Commonwealth Bank and ASX Ltd.

Woolworths have not advised their shareholders on how many vacancies are open this year so I’m presuming that a majority vote will suffice.

As a government controlled corporation it is terrific to see you are giving the Telstra shareholders an opportunity to select one of the five external candidates.

I’ve no doubt you will be voting your 50.1 per cent stake in favour of incumbent John Ralph and the three government-backed newcomers in John Fletcher, Catherine Livingstone and Sam Chisholm.

If you planning to vote in favour of a fifth candidate I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or Communications Minister Richard Alston do discuss the suitability of my appointment.

I trust the government would not exercise its control over Telstra and vote against a candidate without giving them sufficient opportunity to explain what they would bring to the board.

You may have noticed that the Australian Shareholders’ Association is advising its members to abstain from voting on the Telstra board because they believe it is irrelevent as long as the government remains the controlling shareholder.

This sense of powerlessness that Telstra shareholders feel would be assuaged if the government committed to abstain from voting on the fifth vacancy.

That way the 1.8 million minority shareholders who control 49.9 per cent of the company could decide for themselves which, if any, of the five external candidates they would like to serve them on the board.

Afterall, having paid almost $30 billion to the government over the past three years, it is only fair that the minority shareholders get to select at least one member of the Telstra board.

I believe that I could work well with the government and have included references from former Liberals and the Walkley judges below. If you would like to contact me I can be reached by email on [email protected]

Yours Sincerely

Stephen Mayne

Telsta board candidate

What The Bosses Have Said About Stephen Mayne

“I actually feel that this is a grievous loss myself. I think he has done a great job. It’s going to be a bit of a worry having someone who knows more about the government than most ministers do located in one media outlet. He could never be replaced.”

– Former Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale, farewell press conference, June 1994.

“In the discussion held in early April I felt I had made clear the views of myself, the Premier and the Treasurer that you had an outstanding future with the government.”

– John Griffin, chief of staff to Premier Jeff Kennett, June 1994.

“TREASURY, FINANCE, WORKCOVER: No one could do this job as well as Stephen Mayne and his effort in putting in outside of hours goes largely unrecognised. Most weekends he is in the office preparing material, maintaining his reference files and the like. All without fanfare. I would like to look at his salary to see if it is adequate.”

Media director Steve Murphy in memo to Premier Jeff Kennett, May 1994.

“The judges felt this piece to be innovative and of public benefit. The AGM is often overlooked as part of corporate governance and Stephen Mayne’s strategy brought a new level of analysis and reporting to AGMs. At a time when there is increasing outside pressure trying to control the press, this provided a very good service to readers. The approach is provocative but a legitimate technique in eliciting news. What Mayne started should be taken up by others.”

– the three judges explaining why Stephen’s ”AGM Season 1998” was awarded the 1999 Walkley award for best business reporting in all media.

Peter Fray

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