Alan Jones is no longer just Gloria, but Gloriana, the reigning queen of radio and Crikey is keeping an ear on what Australia’s most powerful shock jock has to say. This week, we’ve made another remarkable discovery in the urban jungle, the Parrot is king of the beasts

Bird watchers are eagle eyed so last weekend the Crikey Bird Watching Team quickly spotted the quarter page ad in the Fin Macquarie Bank took after exec Nicholas Moore bagged the Parrot for his squawks on the sale of Sydney Airport.

Moore was on a high after the $5.6 billion deal and forgot just how high the Parrot sits in the urban jungle when he had spoken to the Fin earlier in the week. The final item then made interesting reading:

” ‘I don’t think anyone really cares what he thinks,’ Moore says. The fact Jones has the ear of prime ministers and premiers, not to mention 16 per cent of Sydney’s breakfast audience, is of little concern to the new overlord of Sydney Airport.

“He says Jones is running a campaign on behalf of [rival bidder] Gateway and its backer, AMP, which ‘were sending out their hate file to everyone they could think of’.

“And Jones is ‘famous for his impartial comments’, says Moore, in reference to the radio ‘cash for comment’ controversy.

” ‘Maybe we’re naive to believe that he has no credibility, but in ‘cash for comment’ one of the people who was paying for him was AMP,’ Moore says.”

Moore’s bosses realised the damage done, and were quick to tell the world that his comments “were not the Bank’s” and apologise unreservedly “for any inference that Mr Jones’ views were other than his own.”

How did the Parrot react? Let’s just say there musn’t’ve been much left of his cuttlefish when he finished sharpening his beak and his claws. He went for Moore and Macquarie:

“Well I said last week in relation to the Macquarie Bank Consortium’s purchase of Sydney Airport that $5.6 billion paid for by Macquarie Bank was going to be difficult to fund and pay for unless something was done about increasing charges at Sydney Airport.

“They paid more than $600 million above the price offered by the next highest bidder.

“Most of the price is in the form of debt.

“So the Macquarie Consortium, Southern Cross, will have to find at least $250 million a year in interest payments alone and, of course, their fees on top of that.

“Macquarie Bank fees are a matter of very significant debate.

“I mentioned yesterday that price controls on airport charges were ended by the Government on June 30.

“Coincidence, do you think!

“Virgin Blue is now saying that increases in airport charges around the country are unsustainable, so airfares will have to go up”

You get the drift.

Back in the bad old days of Seed for Squawks, the Parrot made a lot of money by talking or not talking about various projects. And, as he bagged Macquarie and Moore, he raised projects other than the airport:

“Now Macquarie have three important deals in the offing, which I will be letting you know about shortly.

“The $1.2 billion Western Sydney Orbital Project, which will complete a series of toll roads through Sydney.

“Macquarie is one of two bidders.

“Now the Macquarie Infrastructure Group already own and operate the Eastern Distributor, the M2 Motorway, the M4 Motorway and the M5 Motorway.

“More about that later.

But the other deal they are promoting is the $1 billion Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group float, which they hope to list on the stock exchange soon.

“They paid $200 million more than the next bidder, Telstra, for the assets, 578 broadcast towers which carry, amongst other things, SBS and ABC programs.

“My advice is that Macquarie is getting the cold shoulder from institutional investors who are saying that Macquarie’s fees are too high, and it hasn’t made clear what acquisitions it has in mind to grow that business.

“And my information is that because of ‘negative publicity regarding the large management and performance fees payable’ by the Trust to the bank, that float will be scrapped

“There is also speculation that Macquarie Bank fees will have to be lowered.

“The fees the bank charges to both the Macquarie Infrastructure Group and the Macquarie Airports Trust.

“Well, someone is at long last waking up

“There is a lot at stake.

“I will be talking about the Western Sydney Orbital Project when I get some more facts.

“Nicholas Moore has had too much to say.

“Perhaps he can now explain to the bank the consequence of his stupidity.”

That was Wednesday and the Parrot had more indeed to say later in the week:

“I spoke yesterday about Macquarie Bank and the Macquarie Infrastructure Group.

“Well they are bidders for the $1.2 billion Western Sydney Orbital Project, to complete a series of road tolls throughout Sydney.

“A decision will be made by the New South Wales Government.

“It’s due in the next couple of months.

“Now the Macquarie Infrastructure Group already own and operate the Eastern Distributor, the M2 Motorway, the M4 Motorway and the M5 Motorway.

“The issue is, if they were to win, would they hold a monopoly over toll roads around Sydney.

“And Macquarie owning these projects would mean that potential competitors could affectively be kept from bidding from future toll road projects because of the scale of Macquarie’s toll road holdings.

“I was interested to learn that the outfit providing political lobbying advice to the Macquarie Orbital bid happened to be a company made up of one man, Bruce Hawker, who was the Chief of Staff to Bob Carr in Opposition, and during his first term in office, and David Britton, who was a senior political adviser to Mr Carr in Government.

“Now there is nothing wrong with that.

“Just so long as everybody gets an equal hearing.

“But the issue of the Western Sydney Orbital is not going to go away.

“And nor is Sydney Airport.

“Already we have the Managing Director of Sydney Airport saying when asked about providing for new larger aircraft, ‘we won’t be building anything the airlines don’t pay for’.

“Now surely all the bidders were aware that they would need to find money to widen the runways.

“Surely these necessary improvements were budgeted for in Macquarie’s sale price.

“It has been no secret that new large aircraft are an important development in the aviation industry.

“Now, if the airlines have to pay for these improvements to an asset owned by Macquarie, then the airlines will have to pass on the costs to you and me, the traveller.

“This, on top of demands for changes to the duty free rules.

“And concerns that taxi drivers are going to have to pay a charge just for picking up at the airport.

“It has only been a week since this outfit won the bid for Sydney Airport.

“And I warned a week ago that this would happen.

“With respect, not far off the mark!”

Yes, it seems certain. In the urban jungle, the Parrot is king of the beasts.

From all of us at the bottom of the cage, until next time, goodbye.

The Crikey Bird Watching Team can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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