Terry O’Dial looks at the latest Sunday morning business TV offerings.

Well, when will Business Sunday learn that as Crikey remarked
last week, it’s quality, not quantity. After sitting through a FAQ
(fair average quality) program yesterday, the highlight was the
appearance of ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, under pressure for the
first time in 11 months, and what does Business Sunday do, cut the
interview short because there’s no time left.

It’s not that the
rest of the program was unforgettable or not droppable. The piece on
Amcor’s share price weakness was a nice commentary from Ross Greenwood,
but the Rex airline story was. The oil price impact story from Ali
Moore will still be around next week. The interview with Tabcorp’s
Matthew Slatter was on the pace but left viewers as ignorant of
Tabcorp’s ambitions for TAB as they were before the Ross Greenwood
‘chat’ started.

Helen McCombie has an interesting look at
the board of trustees of the big inustry fund, the STA, with some
interesting characters and comments. But Graeme Samuel was the star
turn with Boral and the ACCC heading off to court over the ‘no’ to
Boral’s bid for Adelaide Brighton, plus the continuing sniping campaign
against the Commission and Mr Samuel from the takeover industry.

And
just when Samuel was getting into full gallop, Ali Moore jerked the
reins and had to go to a plug for next week’s program and the Sunday
program before a quick goodbye. It’s a pity because Samuel had started
sniping at the takeover industry with a few shots of his own. He told
Moore the ‘bylines’ of most of those making the comments. He said the
same people were the ones who forced the Dawson inquiry into the ACCC
and the Trade Practices Act that was less than underwhelming in its
conclusions and its proposed changes. In fact it was a failure.

“I
could almost name the by lines if you like of that article, the
contributors, they generally tend to be the legal practitioners
advising companies that have run into trouble with their mergers as
they are put before the ACCC.”

Some of the media commentary this
weekend in the Boral Adelaide Brighton case has blamed the Commission
for the five months it took to get to a decision. But Mr Samuel blamed
Boral, saying it took “a long time” to give the ACCC reliable and
accurate information on the market that the Commission had requested.

He
said just before the Commission was due to make a decision, “Boral
requested a delay, confidentially” to present more information to the
Commission.

He said changes he announced on Friday introducing
more transparency and timelines into the process would see all
applications and decisions placed on a public register. This would
include requests for delays from either the Commission, or applicants
like Boral.

“The only parties that have cause to complain about
the ACCC’s processes are those who find that their mergers are simply
not accepted by the ACCC as being anything other than anti-competitive.
Now you can name the ones that we’ve dealt with of recent times, there
has been AGL there has been Boral and there are some others that are
potentially in the pipeline, those advising companies in that areas
will attempt to soften up the ACCC by complaining about our processes.”

But
just when it called for more names, details and examples it was, sorry,
have to go, thanks for joining us. Samuel looked a little surprised as
he was cut off in full flow.

And so he should. He was nowhere
else on Sunday and Business Sunday had a decent chance to explore the
whole area with someone who looked like he had the disclosure bit
between his teeth. And he should have been pressed on the issue of
names (law firms, investment banks etc) or politely told to put up or
shut up. A missed chance that’s unfortunately more the norm than the
exception on Business Sunday this year.

Michael Pascoe returned
on the Seven Network’s Sunday Sunrise with a commentary on oil prices
while the program featured a looonggg studio chat between Prime
Minister Howard and Mark Riley before Howard’s quick jaunt to the US
and other places.

The ABC’s Inside Business had coffee soaring
in price in New York to levels unheard of so far, $US85.55 a lb.No, its
85.5US cents a pound. They rose on news of a cold snap in Brazil. Where
will prices really go when the cooler period hits the coffee-growing
areas of Brazil in July?

Tax was the attraction for Alan Kohler
with an interview with Tax Commissioner, Michael Carmody. The interview
was based on the High Court decision in the Harts case this
week on a split home loan, which Kohler has been the only commentator
to rightly point out that the decision has potentially has much wider
ramifications.

And in contrast to Business Sunday, Inside
Business gave the Carmody-Kohler discussion its right weight. By the
end the Commissioner had run out of seemingly new things to say other
than naming names in the tax lurk game, and he obviously wasn’t about
to do that.

The interview was pacy, revealed that the Harts
decision IS extremely important to tax law and its administration,
which makes you wonder why Business Sunday didn’t cover it seeing it is
a program supposed to be covering Australian business in depth.

Carmody
made it clear to viewers and any corporate advisers why the Tax Office
wanted the Court’s decision to go its way. In short it was a good
interview. The High Court’s decision will no doubt draw its own sniping
from the tax minimisation industry in coming weeks, just as the ACCC
and Graeme Samuel are being ‘slagged’ off by the corporate advice
industry.

In both cases the bad-mouthing is simply being driven
by fee merchants and commission agents scared their carefully
structured and lucative deals will be at risk.

And finally Alan
Kohler interviewed Flight Centre boss, Graham Turner on the battle his
company is having with Jetstar over the airline’s decision not to pay a
commission to travel agents. It was the interview Ross Greenwood should
have had a couple of weeks ago when he lightly brushed the
Jetstar-Virgin Blue battle. Oh well, there’s always next Sunday.

Peter Fray

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