One of our semi-regular Hillary contributors has offered up this two-part piece dealing with some Liberal Party advertising deals and a separate piece looking at the up and down career of Peter Costello’s best friend Michael Kroger.

What’s remarkable about the whole campaign is how similar it is to another one from the same team which never quite saw the light of the day.

Back in the early days of the first Howard Government the Prime Miniature made one of his “tough” decisions the gun laws and buyback. This policy for which he does deserve credit was marred somewhat by the tender process by which the advertising team who ran the public campaign got the gig.

The guns campaign was also notable for the PM big on accusing others of not having ticker appearing at a public meeting with a bulletproof vest!

Anyway the guns campaign was the first big contract to be awarded by the new Government and the first big contract controversy. The elegant and intelligent Petro Georgiou was helped on the contract Ministerial Committee by the PM’s then chief political adviser one Grahame Morris.

After a tender process in which the public servants recommended a variety of other tenderers the PM’s men handed the ad contract to a team headed by Horton and staffed by the dream team members. The PR contract also went to a Howard Government mate. For months the Senate Estimates Committee heard just how crude the rort was.

Anyway, the first gun ad the Horton team put up was an ad featuring wait for it white type on a black background with a strong leadership statement bite the bullet.

Sadly for the team the public servants insisted that these great creative concepts get tested. Equally sadly, but hardly surprisingly, they bombed big time.

The team then spent weeks trying various other concepts which all bombed. Meanwhile the States particularly Queensland and Victoria got on with a variety of campaigns which worked extraordinarily well.

So, finally the public is getting to see the concept with a few slight modifications. The question Lib supporters should be asking is: will it play any better than the last time?

Meanwhile it’s fascinating to see that another member of the dream team is Mark Pearson who, after departing his job as an ad agency head, ended up as a consultant to the ATO running the GST and tax reform communication campaigns.

Presumably, after being paid a fortune out of taxpayers funds for that dog of a campaign, he will be now be donating his time free.


All the newspaper speculation and Labor ads about when Howard will go and when Costello might take over leave out one very interesting wrinkle what will Costello pal, Michael Kroger, get out of it all?

A major Victorian Liberal power broker Kroger hasn’t actually done terribly well out of the Howard Government. Admittedly he’s part of the Jonathon Shier team making hell at the ABC but for a man with his cultural sensitivity, intelligence and inimitable business skills, appointments and contracts have been few and far between.

Perhaps some of its has to do with the fact that, as well as being a power broker, young Michael is not one of Australia’s most successful lobbyists and investment bankers.

Michael’s track record is fascinating. He advised Solly Lew on the unsuccessful Country Road takeover bid in which Michael was outwitted by the two Mikes Howell and Tilley. (Although Solly is said to have inflicted some damage on the victor in its home market of South Africa) Solly was left with a minority shareholding in a company making losses and the only visible strategy Michael apparently could offer was to turn up at annual meetings and ask questions – not that Crikey would ever pour scorn on that strategy.

He was also retained as a lobbyist to keep Solly on the Reserve Bank Board another apparent failure.

Then he got a gig with a big success fee attached to get the cross-media laws fixed for Kerry Packer’s PBL another failure.

And the NAB took him on to get a big bank merger up – another failure.

In between times he pursued sophisticated investment strategies such as becoming the Australian agent for Faberge.

As an investment banker there must be some deals he got involved in although few can recall any. However, during the boom everybody with half a brain got at least one big deal and Michael got emitch which floated at 50c, soared to $3.75 and is now trading at 4c.

Michael made most his cash out of the Moldflow restructuring and float a few years back and these days is doing things like bringing former US President Bill Clinton to Australia.

Now just thinking ahead, if Howard does get re-elected and is then succeeded by Costello, will Michael get a reward?

By then the ABC job will be largely completed. Faberge may not be the total fashion in post-September times of serious frugality. One can’t imagine Michael taking the lead on even the smallest of privatisation gigs.

So what’s left? The Reserve Bank Board? The National Gallery? Perhaps we should be told?”

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