Ron Walker’s great mate James Packer
quoted the Australian Shareholders’ Association guidelines when
defending his position on four public company boards at the Seek AGM in
Melbourne a couple of weeks back. The only problem was that this
maximum of four applies to professional non-executive directors, not a
full-time executive chairman, which James is at PBL.

As James
prepares for eight straight days in the witness box in the One-Tel case
next week, it will become pretty clear that the lad has been way too
busy for many years and was unable to keep across all of the detail
about One-Tel, despite the large flow of information to him and his PBL
executives leading up to the collapse of the business.

The same
can be said for Ron Walker. Will there be a busier Australian in the
coming seven months? As the new hands-on chairman of John Fairfax at a
time when it faces key strategic issues and possible merger
negotiations, Walker should be clearing the decks to spend as much as
half his time getting up to speed on what is a huge brief.

But
how on earth will he find the time when he is chairman of Melbourne
2006 and next March will be ultimately responsible for the biggest
event in Melbourne since the 1956 Olympics?

In listing Walker’s
commitments yesterday, I forgot to mention that he is also a
Commissioner of the Football Federation of Australia, something he was
gloating about at the Fairfax AGM last Friday. Crikey hears that Big
Ron has only ever turned up to a couple of FFA board meetings since he
joined, although he is big on ringing in, which gets him a tick in the
attendance book when it comes to the annual report.

Then you
have Ron’s commitment as chairman of the Australian Grand Prix
Corporation, a body which continually delivers bigger taxpayer funded
losses than it promises and only managed to produce its annual report
for 2004-05 last week, just as Australia was playing Uruguay. A record
$13.6 million loss is nothing for Walker to be proud of and The Age’s Alan Attwood produced this strong attack on the Grand Prix on Saturday.

If
you added a forthcoming position on the Reserve Bank board to all of
this, Ron would be ridiculously over-committed. For instance, check out
the 2004-05 Primelife annual report here
and you’ll note that Ron only managed to attend ten of the 15 board
meetings in 2004-05. A deputy chairman should do better, even if it’s
only over the phone. Hopefully a shareholder will raise Ron’s
attendance record with him at next Monday’s Primelife AGM in Sydney –
if he has the time to attend.

Then there’s his post on the
Buka Minerals boards, where he managed to attend 7 of the 8 board
meetings last year. All up, Ron is chairman of three institutions and
on three other boards. Surely the government can’t add the Reserve Bank
to this workload, especially given the political sensitivities.