Commonwealth
Bank CEO David Murray intrigued many yesterday went he pointedly
refused to comment when asked if he was a contender for the top job at
Telstra. This seemed rather strange given he strongly denied the
rumours at the results briefing in February.

The only conclusion
you can reach is that Murray is one of the top two contenders. Crikey
heard from a reliable source last week that Telstra CFO John Stanhope
was the leading internal candidate, but only finished third. Murray
toyed with taking the Telstra top job back in 1997, but instead
negotiated himself a very tidy pay rise to stay at the CBA.

Crikey
would be amazed if the Howard Government and the Telstra board opted
for Cranky Dave, one of the most humourless CEOs in Australia. Delicate
negotiations with politicians and handling service standard debates in
the bush would not exactly be his strongest suit.

Besides, has
the government considered the potential PR disaster of appointing a
bank cartel CEO to run Telstra when the community already knows how the
big banks have largely abandoned the bush? Lindsay Tanner’s main
argument against the privatisation of Telstra during the last Federal
Parliament was that it would just follow the lead of the banks and
abandon the bush.

Appointing the man who led the privatisation
of the Commonwealth Bank that subsequently led to huge branch closures
in the bush, soaring fees and an unprecedented executive gravy train,
would give Labor just what it needs for a good scare campaign to
frighten a couple of nervous coalition senators.

… and a banking SIGHTING:

Speaking
of windfall gains generated by the bank cartel, Crikey happened to be
strolling past Frank Cicutto’s new $8 million mansion in Melbourne’s
Canterbury on Good Friday and noticed the former NAB CEO doing a spot
of gardening with his wife. At least we think it was Frank – the walls
are pretty high and the block is deep and he was down towards the rear
fence. It certainly is a magnificent house – and all those NAB
customers who reckon the cost of banking is too high now know where
some of their hard-earned has ended up.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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