The ripples of the Gerard affair are spreading.

In 1999, John Howard appointed Robert Gerard to the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership. The aim of this body
is to promote corporate social responsibility, advocating that
businesses operate in a manner that “meets or exceeds the ethical,
legal, commercial and public expectations that society has of business.”

Gerard hasn’t attended any meetings of the body for at least 18 months, according to a report by the Fin Review‘s Steven Scott and Laura Tingle today (the SMH also reported that Gerard had the worst RBA board attendance record last financial year).

In
fact, Elizabeth Cham, executive director of Philanthropy Australia and
a member of the PM’s CBP, thinks that Gerard is becoming more of a
liability than an asset. “There’s already a perception in the community
that philanthropy is only about tax breaks for the rich. We’ve tried
very hard over the last decade to dispel that myth,” she says. “I would
hate for all that hard work to now be undermined.” But whether Gerard
stays or goes is up the PM as board members aren’t able to vote anyone
off – that’s the prime minister’s prerogative.

So how are other bodies affected – and are they going into damage control?

The Australia Business Arts Foundation,
of which Gerard is a councillor, is not reassessing his position.
“Nobody’s suggested we do that at this stage,” says ABAF manager of
marketing Merryn Carter, who says councillors are invited to join the
ABAF because they’re “role models for supporting the arts” and “he’s
done that in South Australia strongly.” She lists his support of the
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the State Opera, State Theatre Company and
choral ensemble Tutti. As for his attendance record, councillors only meet nationally once a year and Gerard’s generally there, says Carter.

More problematic perhaps is Gerard’s position as chairman of the Australian Made
campaign. With the body set up to help promote “job creation and
industry development in Australia,” Gerard’s overseas tax havens appear
to be a conflict of interest. Although Australian Made chief executive
Ian Harrison wouldn’t comment on this matter, he told Crikey that
Gerard’s position was safe, noting that he’s “been a magnificent
ambassador for the Australian Made campaign.”

Gerard is also a trustee of the Pickard Foundation,
whose aim is to “encourage philanthropy in the building industry and
related businesses with the aim of building a better community in South
Australia through helping those in need to help themselves.”