The Liberal who said Mark Latham did a great job at Liverpool Council is not exactly setting the world on through the little known listed company that he chairs.

Mark Latham and the ALP haven’t responded to the Liberal scare campaign over Liverpool Council but the original Sunday program examination of the wannabe Prime Minister included a key defence from John Walker, the former general manager at Liverpool and current Liberal on Woollahra Council.

Check out this transcript for the Walker quotes which were as follows:

JOHN WALKER: I like Mark and I call him a friend, but I have respect for him most of all for what I think was an outstanding job he did when he was Mayor of Liverpool and I had the pleasure of working with him.

ROSS COULTHART: But you were a Lib.

JOHN WALKER: Yes I am. And I always have been. Yes I am and I always have been but if you judge somebody by the person rather than their politics, then Latham deserves credit.

ROSS COULTHART: What do you like about him?

JOHN WALKER: I like the fact he’s very straightforward. I think he’s strategically brilliant. The agenda that he created down there was the best I’d seen in my career in local government. We had no doubt that we were spending money more than had been done in the past. We had no doubt that the borrowings were higher but we believe they were responsible at the time, and in hindsight I believe they were as well.

ROSS COULTHART: Walker does acknowledge one weakness in Latham – a tribal sense that the people of Liverpool were so unfairly deprived of amenities that he was impatient to do things too quickly.

JOHN WALKER: Perhaps he’s a bit tribal; I think his view of the haves and have-nots is perhaps a weakness in analysing life.

ROSS COULTHART: But do you think perhaps he made the mistake of trying to do too much too quickly?

JOHN WALKER: Oh probably. And he certainly kicked some heads on the way through and busted down some egos and some doors and – and in an orderly way perhaps, a – a longer period may have been so, but you only get four-year cycles in politics and you know you need to get the runs on the board.

ROSS COULTHART: So if Mark Latham does become Prime Minister, it’s going to be a very exciting time in Canberra, do you predict?

JOHN WALKER: Oh it’d be different. I mean I’m very much a Liberal and I’ll be working hard for the election of John Howard and his government but if Mark does get into Canberra, I don’t think people should be as concerned, perhaps, about his business policies as they – they may be.

CRIKEY: So, who is this apologist for Mark Latham and what is his record in business? Not too good if you scroll through the 400 annual reports that were lodged with the ASX yesterday by companies with June 30 balance dates who waited until the last possible day to reveal their figures.

John Walker is the current managing director of Thrifty Car Rental but since 2001 he’s also been non-executive chairman of a company called Multiemedia, which dropped its annual report to the ASX at 7.44pm last night as you can see from this link.

So how is this little outfit going? Well, in 2003-04 it lost another $10.24 million, lifting accumulated losses to a whopping $69 million. The cash burn was $12.28 million last year but Walker was paid $75,000 for his services and was also issued 25 million options during the year with a nominal value of $298,500.

The company’s shares have fallen from 11c to 0.23c since Walker became chairman but with a whopping 1.14 billion shares on issue, that still gives it a market capitalisation of $30 million.

Would Walker also say that the Multiemedia management team have done a great job?

Well, his five paragraph chairman’s statement was quite bullish given the financials. The satellite business has an “excellent base”, “net assets have improved”, there is a reference to “high growth” and the CEO was thanked for “continuing development of our focused business units”.

Maybe Prime Minister Latham can bring his old buddy John Walker in to put a positive spin on Medicare Gold in a few years time when it blows out by billions of dollars.

Finally, check out the Liberal Party dossier on Mark Latham’s Liverpool record here.

Peter Fray

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