The more the pollies preen over last week’s glowing annual
report card from the International Monetary Fund, the greater the journalistic
temptation to hunt for the dirty bits, says Ross Gittins in the SMH. And if you examine the report closely, it looks like the IMF thinks Honest
John can’t be trusted with taxpayers’ money.

As for Australia’s export capacity, says the Financial Review (not online), it’s good
news that it’s expanding – with physical tonnage of coal, iron ore, crude oil
and LNG exports set to rise as much in 18 months as in the past five years –
but federal and state governments’ can’t take the credit. The
big commitment has come from business, which is ploughing money into expansion
and carrying the load in spite of government, not because of it.

Meanwhile, energy sector mainstay AGL
is yet again being pressured into spinning off its NSW gas networks, says
Anthony Hughes in the Fin‘s Due
Diligence. And from New York, the Fin‘s Sean Aylmer reports that the US
Federal Reserve faces its toughest interest rate decision in more than 15
months, knowing that – after Hurricane Katrina – a rise in the official rate
could send growth into a tailspin, but without one, inflationary pressure might
swamp the economy.

But don’t be too worried about the continuing world oil crisis that’s been
exacerbated by Katrina, says Bloomberg‘s Mark Gilbert in The Age – in years to come,
technology will replace oil in the way it was used to replace salt.

Locally, Patrick Corp’s Chris Corrigan has stepped up his
war against Toll Holdings and Virgin Blue’s Richard Branson – the duo behind the $4.6 billion
scrip-based bid for Patrick – after venting his spleen on two television
programs at the weekend, says Carolyn Cummins in the SMH.
Corrigan told the Nine Network’s Business
Sunday
his opinion of Toll’s Paul Little was “very poor” and that he no
longer trusted his former business partner. And on Virgin Group’s Sir
Richard Branson, Corrigan told the ABC’s Inside
Business
:
“Well, Richard always is a colourful sort of sideshow, isn’t he …”

Corrigan also accused Toll Holdings of a conflict of
interest over their jointly-owned rail business, Pacific National, says Blair
Speedy

in The Australian, where key executives remained on the Toll payroll while
negotiating deals with the company.

And another business cat-and-mouse game – between
funds management, health and retirement services group Australian Unity and Macquarie
Bank, sparked late last year by Macquarie’s $29.3 million bid
for NSW’s Grand United Friendly Society, launched just as Grand United was poised to
merge with the Victorian AU – could be shut down, says Malcolm Maiden in the Smage, if AU members respond
to the call to amend the company’s constitution.

Peter Fray

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