A short look at the Business Sunday (Nine), Sunday Sunrise (Seven) and
Inside Business (ABC) efforts today. The ANZ and its CEO, John
McFarlane featured heavily on all three programs.
On Nine Ali Moore managed to wring the confirmation from the charming
Scot that the NAB had come a callin’ back in the late 90s. Don Argus,
for CEO making the suggestion, as did Alan Kohler on Inside Business.

Big Don must have been a busy lad, offering a penny here, a pound there
for the AMP or the ANZ. A case if you don’t succeed, try again and damn
the four pillars policy which prevents the Big Four Australian banks
consolidating.

Why, Big Don could have suggested a dual listing, just like the great
success story of Brambles, or a merger just like the unbalanced one he
drove between BHP and Billiton.

McFarlane didn’t say much more, but given the NAB’s fate since, there
are two major Australian institutions no doubt glad today ‘no’ was the
answer to Don Argus’ s blandishments and arrogance. Remember how the
AMP said no to an indication of $21 a share? No doubt some shareholders
are sorry that happened, but given what has happened to the AMP since,
the NAB shareholders were no doubt just as happy.

Now the AMP shareholders, still a bit sullen, are pleased to have avoided the NAB.

McFarlane was then fed a Dorothy Dixer by Ali Moore about ending the
four pillars policy and he responded by rabbiting on about the need for
growth and an “an Australian icon” in banking. A great name for a new
reality show in business?

But still it was the highlight of both the Seven and Nine offerings
this morning. Seven’s Michael Pascoe also talked to the ANZ chief.

Apart from the glowing ad for the house and artworks of John Schaeffer,
the Tempo cleaning group’s major shareholder, Nine talked to Maurice
Newman of the ASX, who expressed his confidence in director Cathy
Walters and wouldn’t say any more. Business Sunday also had a rail
story which was pictures and comments from Toll’s Paul Little. Ali
Moore also did a yarn on the problems confronting Cochlear.

And Business Sunday was notable for yet more glitches. A graphic was
promoted by host Ali Moore for a web question and didn’t appear. It was
later successfully shown, and the end of the McFarlane interview looked
like it was edited with an axe.

The ABC’s Inside Business returned after the Anzac Day break and John
McFarlane was the feature with Alan Kohler have a nice line asking what
it was doing wrong to be rated with the NAB. After all the ANZ has a
united board and stable management and yet the market isn’t happy.

Kohler talked about the ANZ-NAB story and McFarlane said he “was aware
of a soft approach” from the NAB, but it didn’t go any further.

McFarlane then went on to repeat the comments about ‘bulking up’ and an
“Australian icon” he made to Ali Moore earlier in the morning.

He did however confirm the Crikey comments made at the start of the
week about the succession issue at the ANZ saying that the executives
running major parts of the bank were in the running. He said Steve
Targett was one, in answer to a question from Kohler on succession. But
didn’t mention the big winner from the recent reshuffle, Brian Hartzer,
now in charge of all personal and consumer banking including the
problematic ING joint venture.

Inside Business also did a story on that great standby of personal finance, small superannuation payments and how to find them.

And Kohler had a nice comment piece on the Telstra line charge ripoff
this week and linked it to the board rumblings and changes, especially
Crikey’s old friend, the heavily-conflicted Samuel Hewlings Chisholm,
who is also chairman of Macquarie Radio Network which employees Alan
Jones and has him as a shareholder.

Kohler rightly described the ‘cash for comment’ deals as “tawdry” and
urged Telstra to end them, now that Chairman Bob Mansfield, who
invented the idea at Optus, has gone.

And seeing how this was the biggest story in Australian media and
business this week, Crikey was a little surprised to note the absence
of any comment on Business Sunday (Sunday covered the issue). Then, of
course, Business Sunday is part of the Business Unit run which supplies
daily business news to both 2UE and 2GB in Sydney. Who’s conflicted now?

And, by the way, Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski is still there and after
pushing up line rentals by more than 13 per cent, and making us pay for
paying on time using a credit card, he doesn’t seem to be leaving soon,
despite the recent urgings of Business Sunday’s Ross Greenwood.

Next Sunday watch for Westpac CEO, David Morgan to be the star turn, with the bank’s interim due Thursday.

Peter Fray

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