The golf and the Olympics are over so Terry Television had a full field to review in this week’s look at the Sunday morning business shows.
All three Sunday morning Business type programs were back under starters orders yesterday morning and at the end of the race it was a dead heat gold to Michael Pascoe on Seven’s Sunday Sunrise and Alan Kohler’s Inside Business. Third was Nine’s Business Sunday with a stock standard program, but again without any oomph.
Pascoe did a good job for picking up what every other journalist had missed: that serious questions need for be asked and answered about John Pascoe, the recently appointed Chief Federal Magistrate. Those questions flow from the ACCC case against George Weston Foods which saw the company fined $1.5 million earlier this year. Check out the transcript here.
Michael Pascoe raised questions about corporate blackmail and wondered why Pascoe, who was chairman of George Weston, did not tell the ACCC of the price fixing case when he first knew of it and allowed the executive involved to be retrenched and then employed as a consultant.
Pascoe(no relation) also asked why John Pascoe had not told the ACCC of a ‘corporate blackmail’ incident involving Dick Honan, the head of the privately-owned Manildra group. If you go here to this good report of Mr Justice Gyles judgement in The Australian, you will find some of the questions.
A good feature in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald by Liz Sexton also raises the questions. And this is from yesterday morning’s Sunday Sunrise interview with Prime Minister Howard by Seven’s Mark Riley.
Mark Riley: Prime Minister, in the news this week, the George Weston case, which I am sure you are aware of – the ACCC – a $1.5 million fine, Justice Roger Giles Saw price-fixing, he Saw all sorts of anti-competitive practices at play there between George Weston and the Manildra Group. The chairman of George Weston, John Pascoe, has been appointed by your Government as Chief Magistrate. Do you have any concerns about his position now, knowing the result of that ACCC prosecution?
John Howard: No, not of itself, because the court dealt with an issue, and they fined the company and the law took its course. I don’t know whether the company is considering an appeal. I am not sure, and I don’t really want to get into the detail. Mr Pascoe, I know. He is a person of impeccable character, to my knowledge, and he was checked out as you normally check these people out when these appointments are made, and we saw no reason not to appoint him.
Because somebody has held in a position in a company that has been fined, unless there is some wrongdoing or criminality on his behalf, should not for all time bar him from some kind of public office. In the parry and thrust of commercial activity, companies often get penalised or fined, and sometimes they appeal and sometimes they don’t. That should not forever bar somebody who had office in that company from doing other things.
The Prime Minister forgot, or didn’t know that John Pascoe was with George Weston for 15 years or so as CEO, then chairman. Four times the company was pinched for a breach of the Trade Practices Act. And in the latest case, Mr Pascoe not only knew about the price fixing situation but also the approach from Mr Honan. And Mr Pascoe, not George Weston, did nothing.
In fact, as Michael Pascoe pointed out, George Weston fought the latest case until the former executive involved involved rolled over.
Elsewhere Alan Kohler’s Inside Business did a good report on the outrageous collapse of Sons of Gwalia. In fact it was better than that. It was a stock standard, competent look at a evolving business story that has ‘legs’. Kohler’s nicely phrased editorial after the report by Andrew Geogahan gave added ooomph to the program, especially the mention of JB Were Goldman Sacks getting all ‘misty eyed’ over the fees it was getting from Sons of Gwalia and possibly missing the problems.
Sounds a bit like the way the House of Were has looked at News Corp over the years!
It was the sort of report that Business Sunday would have done, but now it’s in its short is sweet and colourful phrase once more, it just doesn’t have the nous to attempt.
Business Sunday had competent interviews with Dick Turner of Brambles (the missing pallets are home, repeat the missing pallets have been found, we hope!), Gerry Harvey was his normal outgoing self, but you wonder whether Roger Corbett and Dick Smith are starting to pressure him.
Business Sunday has a short interview with the Federal Opposition’s Treasury spokesman Simon (remember him) Crean. It was constricted, too short and not very relevant except it gave Business Sunday some involvement in the election. Even Simon Crean deserved better. Will Treasurer Costello appear on Business Sunday during the campaign? Nope, he was elsewhere on Meet The Press this yesterday. A bigger game than Business Sunday awaits Cozzie.
Business Sunday also had a nice story about a new port operator in Melbourne who made a very good point about all the railways that Pacific National (Toll and Patrick) now own or lease. These rail line are a bit like Telstra’s copper wires and phone networks, especially the terrestrial ones. They are important infrastructure and the ACCC had better be working on a reasonably price access regime for these pretty quick.
Private monopolies are harder to shift than public ones like Telstra. It is a huge gap in regulation of competition in this country.