Crikey’s Terry Television has long been a critic of Nine’s finance editor Ross Greenwood but even he agrees the program was much better this week and the major reason was Greenwood’s three different contributions.
It was a much better effort by the Nine Network’s Business Sunday program today, while the ABC’s Inside Business also did well with its half hour.
But both would have been cleaned up by the Seven Network’s broadcasting of the rugby test against France from Paris. Australia lost, and with the second half of the game co-inciding with Business Sunday, the Nine program could have got some benefit from the poor Wallaby finish.
That live broadcast pre-empted Seven’s Sunday Sunrise, giving Michael Pascoe a day off. It also meant Seven didn’t have a political interview to go against Sunday, Meet the Press and Insiders on the ABC.
But Business Sunday did well with the time and most items in a busy program were at right weight, although there was a little too much ‘boys club’ approach to Ross Greenwood’s interview with David Morgan of Westpac.
Fancy talking to a rich banker about acquisitions and hinting about the NAB. Rabbiting on about four pillars with rich bankers (David Morgan salary, more than $8 million, options profit, more than $20 million), somehow seems to be a bit light on for ideas.
Cleary there are NO votes in it for the Government and Peter Costello has already rejected a business push for a cut in company tax from the present 30%, what hope have the banks got in winning approval for another round of mergers that will only alienate customers of all shapes and sizes.
Clearly the banks are doing very well with the Big Five earning around $11 billion in the past year. And that tired old national champions approach doesn’t win any brownie points any more. Nor does David Morgan’s plea to be allowed to be vetted by the ACCC.
That’s just a half smart way of getting a proposal knocked back by the ACCC and then pushing it through the Australian Competition tribunal which, after the green light given to the Qantas-Air New Zealand deal, is legalistic and has no idea about what happens in the real world of business, even though it has a business member.
No, David Morgan would have been best asked about the continuing problems in New Zealand. There’s a tax bill coming, there’s the pressure to incorporate and the problems with back office processing. The Reserve Bank of NZ is driving some of these changes (the tax is being driven by the NZ Tax officials). And while they apply to all the big four Aussie Banks, Westpac remains the most exposed.
But there was no pressing of Morgan on this issue.
The John Stewart interviews by Ali Moore on Business Sunday and Alan Kohler on Inside Business, were very different. Ali Moore was obsessive about pinning the blame on former CEO Frank Cicutto (what about the Don Argus legacy and Homeside?) to the point where she lost sight of other areas of interest, such as the future of the bank’s UK and Irish Banks.
Kohler dealt quickly with former CEO Cicutto and the blame game and in a more focused fashion, and then moved on to the fate of the Irish and UK banks and whether they were for sale – Stewart hopped around a bit so their fate is still not clear – and then managed to extract from Stewart that the bank had enough capital, but if there was any sales the capital would be brought home to Australia.
Kohler then got Stewart to point out that there was no mention of ‘acquisitions’ in any of the NAB’s presentations this past week. That was in answer to the possibility of acquisitions, such as the AMP.
That is something Business Sunday should have pushed on.
Both programs approached the GPT takeover situations from different angles. Ali Moore did a solid interview with Lend Lease CEO, Greg Clarke who is clearly unhappy with the appearance of Westfield as a 4.8% shareholder.
The lead independent director of GPT, Peter Joseph was also unimpressed with that and the way the trust’s share registry, run by Computershare, failed to let GPT know of the Westfield buying (‘someone has already lost their job over it’ was the line and we’ll look at the relationship later, if there is a relationship) .
He also revealed that the first attempt to track down the mystery buying by Deutsche Bank (for Westfield, as it turned out) led to a another nominee company after the Deutsche nominee. The second attempt at tracing led to Westfield.
Now if it was just a straight deal to buy a seat at the table, then what was the point of hiding behind nominee walls by Westfield?
So much for disclosure.
That’s why another Business Sunday interview, with Steven Lowy, co-CEO of the Westfield group and son of Frank, was like watching a leading business pitch rubbish at the viewers.
No question about the misleading campaigns Westfield has engaged in in the past when Stephen Lowy was rabbiting on about ‘illegal’ competition and poor zoning decisions.
It was a line pushed at Friday’s Westfield annual meeting by Dear Daddy, which was not mentioned by Business Sunday.
Equally as curious was the lack of any mention of GPT. The interview was clearly done before news of the Westfield stake broke late Friday. But surely questions were asked, and surely a question or two was asked of Steven Lowy by Greenwood as to whether Westfield was interested, or had any interest?
Even sticking in non answers would have shown the two-sided nature of the Lowy approach to disclosure. So, why no questions, they certainly had news value.
And finally Greenwood (who is always busy but is now seemingly being more busy for Business Sunday) did any interview with David Gonski (yet another Westfield director), who was was talking about corporate responsibility and the need for companies to balance that with their approach to profits and shareholders.
All fine and good. But the interview was short on examples. And yet, Business Sunday, indeed Greenwood had talked to a man whose company has fully embraced, with a lot of success, the concept of corporate responsibility. I refer, of course, to Westpac’s David Morgan.
Do you think either Greenwood or Gonski had the whit to mention what is a very interesting example of a major Australian company that has so far, successfully linked shareholder returns and corporate responsibility (triple bottom line) and achieved very good outcomes for all stakeholders?
Nope, nary a mention with Gonski and the segment with Morgan was run just before the Gonksi interview. Sometimes you have to wonder.