I
suppose there’s corporate governance, and there’s corporate government, judging by the 2005 Howarth Corporate
Governance report conducted by researchers at Newcastle University’s Business School in NSW.

Telstra
was awarded equal top ranking in a report rating the corporate governance
practices of Australia’s top 250 companies by
market capitalisation. It tied for first with AMP,
Commonwealth Bank and Crane Group.

The quartet were among the 33
companies also awarded a five-star rating, meaning they were found to have met
all best practice standards and could not be faulted.

Only 17 companies received the top rating
in 2004. Telstra liked the results so much
(desperate as it is for some good news) it issued a statement in which company secretary Douglas Gration said the
company was pleased to have received top ranking again after it achieved the
feat, and a five star rating, in 2004.

He said the latest result comes after
New York-based
Governance Metrics International found Telstra’s corporate governance was among
the best in the world for companies with a majority share
holder.

“Telstra places great weight on corporate
governance,” he said.

“The board aims to maintain best practice
in corporate governance by regularly evaluating and tuning out process and
procedures.

“The Horwath
Report is further recognition of Telstra’s sound governance and management
practices.”

All well and good, but isn’t this the same
company whose board has leaked like a sieve in the past two years? Remember
the bid to buy Fairfax was leaked to Ross Greenwood at the Nine Network, and saw
the departure of then chairman, Bob Mansfield and the installation of Donald
McGauchie, the Prime Minister’s friend.

And then there were those leaks, again to
Greenwood and
others designed to force CEO Ziggy Switkowski’s departure.

Is that the stuff of a five star performer
in corporate governance?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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