“In a nation rich in resources, our richest resource is to be found in the most fragile of a thing. In who we are. In what binds us together. In our sense of belonging to this great country. In our being Australian. Our identity is a resource unique to our nation. Our identity can’t be traded. It can’t be dug up or exported. Our identity is uniquely ours.”
On 22 November 1999, Steve Vizard delivered the fifth Andrew Olle Memorial Lecture at NSW Parliament House in Sydney. As he spoke these fine-sounding words about our identity – what it meant to be Australian, the need for a strong National broadcaster, rules on local content and a broadcaster committed to Australian culture – we now know he was nutting out ways to profit from his position as a director of Australia’s biggest company.
Just 18 days later, on 10 December, he set up Creative Technology Investments to start trading shares in companies in which Telstra had an interest. That trading didn’t begin for three months.
And while worrying about foreign influence on our culture and the need for a strong Australian identity, Vizard was also the beneficiary of deals totalling $4.2 million from dealings with Foxtel while a director of Telstra. These involved $3.7 million Artist Services made in licensing fees with Foxtel and a further $500,000 for a cable distribution.
It’s a pattern of dealing and moralising that with the benefit of hindsight you can also detect in his Olle dinner speech.