Old Crikey favourite Ross Greenwood resurfaced on Business Sunday yesterday to trot out the line run by Crikey a few weeks back that cranky David Murray, a man who has made almost $50 million out of Australia’s most lucrative cartel, was the leading contender for the Telstra CEO job.
Greenwood, who also broke the story of Fairfax’s dream to merge with Sensis last year, made some interesting claims, including the one that former Commonwealth Bank chairman and current Telstra deputy chairman John Ralph is Murray’s chief sponsor.
Ralph has long been close to the Liberals. He chaired the review of business taxation five years ago and was also slated to chair John Hewson’s infrastructure task force, but for Paul Keating’s surprise victory in 1993.
Greenwood reported that John Howard paid Murray a visit last week, which suggests that his appointment to replace Ziggy Switkowski is still very much on the cards. He also claimed the Commonwealth Bank knows they will be losing their CEO and have already appointed head hunters to find a replacement.
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Crikey has previously warned the Howard government that appointing Murray would be a disaster because of his record of gouging customers and slashing banking services in the bush.
Such an appointment would cause two bonfires the government doesn’t want. The first would be an apparent government endorsement of everything the bank cartel has done to Australian consumers over the past decade. The second would be enormous fears that the same thing would happen under Murray at Telstra.
If John Howard’s cabinet colleagues have any sense, they will get together and stop the impending appointing of the humourless Murray to the top job at Telstra. From Crikey’s point of view it will be manner from heaven as we’ve been looking for an issue that will finally put the outrageous behaviour of the banking cartel front and centre in the political debate.
This will certainly do it and Peter Costello will be the person most under the gun as he has enormous powers under the Banking Act to rein in the cartel, but for nine years has done diddly squat. Truth be known, the bank cartel’s profits have been the biggest driver in the growth of company tax receipts over the past decade.
In other words, the government has turned a blind eye to a cartel and then shared in 30% of their ill-gotten gains. This has boosted the budget bottom line by about $3 billion a year as Australians have handed over almost $10 billion a year in extra profits to the bank cartel since John Howard became prime minister.