Are Australian’s boardrooms a closed shop? A new study by Proxy Australia suggests that some top 200 companies may be “flouting” ASX corporate governance guidelines by preferring to appoint non-executive directors over independent directors, reports the SMH. In contrast, The Australian coverage attributes the high level of cross-directorships to “corporate governance ‘box-ticking’,” noting that appointments should be based on performance. Robert Gottliebsen says there are some surprises in Proxy’s results.

The unpredictable Sir Richard Branson has a new scheme for Australians – Virgin Money, a new superannuation fund (to be managed by Macquarie Funds Management). The Ozreports the proposed investment is three times the size of Virgin’s initial $10 million investment in Virgin Blue, and is the biggest the group has made in Australia.

The West Australianreports that WA farmers are suffering from “rocketing freight and machinery costs” fuelled by soaring oil prices. But according to The Finit’s not all bad news for farmers – especially those suffering from drought. The federal government has proposed that farmers can claim drought assistance by replacing the interest rate subsidies now offered to rural businesses with direct cash grants.

The Finreports the federal treasury is sitting on a even bigger goldmine than predicted, with the latest figures now showing the surplus has reached almost $2 billion for the first eight months of 2004-05. By the end of the financial year, economists predict the surplus may reach $14 billion.

And today’s Bulletinreveals that Donna Hay – “cook, best-selling author, publisher and control freak” – is about to embark on a US book tour to see whether she can crack the US market (subscription required to view full story).

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher for the second day in a row, following another decline in oil pricesand pulled down by Alan Greenspan’s comments that price pressures eventually will be moderated by waning global demand, writes The Street.