For someone who passionately believes the bloodshed and expense of the
Iraq campaign has been worth it in the name of beginning the
democratisation process in the Middle East, Rupert Murdoch is
remarkably uninformed about his own record when it comes to corporate
democracy.

Asked when he was last elected as a director, if
ever, during his 53 years at the top of News Ltd and News Corp, Rupert
couldn’t remember and then claimed it is normal for Australian
executive chairs to not face election. That’s completely wrong.
Frank Lowy, David Clarke, Gerry Harvey, Kerry Stokes and James Packer
are the most prominent executive chairmen in Australia and every one of
them faces an election.

All directors get three year terms in Australia, although you are allowed an exemption for the managing director. Rupert
then suggested I calm down because he was facing an election “next
year.” Wrong again, Rupert won’t be up until 2007 and for all we know
that might be the first time in history.

Asked
whether the decision that he could wait until 2007 was done by ballot
or unilateral decree, Rupert said “I don’t know.” Viet
Dinh, the youngest and newest director who has already assumed the
chairmanship of the nomination and corporate governance committee, was
active in the press conference and also took on my question about the
nomination process for new directors.

Asked if supporting the
poison pill was a prerequisite for the two new independent directors
being sought, he was non-committal, although he did say that all
directors, including Rupert, would be consulted. We all know that
Rupert completely controls the News Corp boardroom and there isn’t any
sign of that changing.

Peter Fray

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