Why is it that forgetfulness or oversight kicks in on some of the most
sensitively timed share deals? Bluescope Steel CEO Kirby Adams took ten
days to announce his controversial $9 million put options play last
September and now John Anderson “forgot” to reveal he’d quit his AWB
shares last October.

There are a few other interesting examples from the past. Steve Vizard disgraced himself by pocketing $1.1 million through the
exercise and sale of his Multiemedia options in March 2000, yet despite being a director, he conveniently forgot to
advise the ASX for almost six months and eventually made this embarrassing
apology
.

Jeff Kennett was also amazingly prescient in putting the share
allocations that he personally lobbied for (Guangdong and Yates were
the two that attracted controversy) into his wife’s name, so they too
weren’t ever disclosed on his Parliament registry of interests.

The most outrageous example was former One.Tel director Steven
Gilbert, an old associate of George Soros, who pocketed an estimated
$90 million selling shares before the collapse but never told the ASX about any of it.

We now also know that Rene Rivkin and several dozen other Australians
regularly traded ASX shares through Swiss bank accounts and, certainly
in Rivkin’s case, treated the disclosure laws with utter contempt.

So how does John Anderson dumping his AWB shares at $5 a pop on 5
October 2005, compare? Well, the Volcker report blew the whistle on AWB’s
disgraceful $290 million Saddam contribution just three weeks later on
27 October, prompting the PM to announce an inquiry on 30 October.

Peter Costello was strongly defending Anderson as an honourable man
yesterday but it is certainly not a good look, although he announced
his resignation as deputy PM and National Party leader on 23 June
2005.

I can well remember a conversation with an investment banker at the
time the Farm Pride egg business in Victoria was floated on the ASX and
he explained that Coalition governments often handed over these
agriculture marketing bodies to farmer groups for free after pressure
was applied through the National Party.

This got me thinking as to why the Howard Government gave away AWB in
the only privatisation that didn’t actually involve taxpayers receiving
any money for the asset they were selling.

Now that Anderson has come clean with his handsome profit from the
exercise, a more detailed explanation of the privatisation process is
warranted. How many shares did he sell and how much did he specifically benefit from the policy to
effectively gift the AWB to its grower customers? Was he involved in
any lobbying to be extra generous to the farmers?

Glenn Milne ran the Labor line questioning the timing of Anderson’s sale in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday but appeared to be backing away from it when, from the Insiders
couch, he asked: “Mr Anderson, what’s your message to the Labor Party
for pursuing this? Is this fair politics or a sign that they have got
nothing else to run with?”

Glenn, you’re the bloke who wrote the story and of course it is a
legitimate line of questioning. Dumping stock three weeks before a
highly damaging report is released and then breaching the rules by not
declaring it to parliament is a strong story no matter whether it’s
Graham Richardson or John Anderson.

Peter Fray

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