Crikey argued long and hard that former Commonwealth Bank chief David
Murray shouldn’t be appointed CEO of Telstra and, thankfully, the board
ended up going for American Sol Trujillo.

However, we now have the prospect of Murray being appointed chairman of
the Federal Government’s Future Fund, which is projected to have more
than $100 billion under management within a few years once the full sale of Telstra is
completed.

This will make Murray one of the most powerful forces in Australia when
it comes to upholding good corporate governance and driving a
much-needed culture of shareholder pressure. How Murray votes the
Future Fund’s stock on issues like executive pay will be vital.

But does Murray, who has just retired with a $17 million retirement
payout, believe in shareholders taking an active stand? Crikey
attended a remarkable meeting with Murray in late 1998 during a major
dispute between his bank and The Daily Telegraph. News Ltd heavies at the meeting included current executive chairman John Hartigan, then Daily Telegraph editor Col Allan and current SundayTimes (Perth) editor Brett McCarthy.

Murray had pulled his bank’s advertising because of a campaign the
paper had run to save two branches in Western Sydney, plus a withering
attack on David Murray over his “we should be sent herograms” claim and
my appearance at the 1998 AGM.

During the course of the meeting Murray declared that the debate
shouldn’t be about how AGMs are conducted, but whether they should be
held at all. He warned that people like me would send Australia down
the Japanese path which sees major companies holding their AGMs on the
same day to thin the resources of the notorious Yakuza gangs.

He then, only half-jokingly, said that CBA put fans behind the hot food
to blow the nice smell into the AGM to encourage the elderly sandwich
brigade to wind up proceedings as early as possible.

Is this the sort of man who should be representing the superannuation
entitlements of hundreds of thousands of past and present federal
public servants?