We told you yesterday about Telstra’s outrageous censorship and board election tactics, so it will be interesting to see how Woolworths responds to a board nomination that I sent through on Monday. This is the most contentious part of the requested platform:

Stephen is standing on a platform that Woolworths divests its gambling interests, notably the 6000 poker machines operated by its 75%-owned subsidiary Australian Leisure & Hospitality. In this time of greater corporate social responsibility, Mr Mayne believes a blue-chip company like Woolworths should not be Australia’s largest operator of poker machine venues given the enormous social damage they cause. Mr Mayne previously stood for the Woolworths board in 2000 and received 54.74% of the directed proxies in favour, but was defeated on a show of hands from the floor.

Woolworths chairman James Strong should be extremely sensitive about running a fair election given the scandalous decision by former chairman John Dahlsen not to call a poll in 2000 when I had a majority of the directed proxies in favour thanks to a big donkey vote by foreign institutions.

When pharmaceutical research company Novogen ignored the proxies and recorded a contrary result on a show of hands over its remuneration report vote last year, ASIC named and shamed it into a reversal. Chairman Jeff Lucy explained the problem as follows:

ASIC was concerned that the Chairman of Novogen let the resolution to approve the remuneration report pass on a show of hands without calling a poll when it was clear that the majority of proxy votes submitted were against the resolution.

I’ve also requested that Woolworths hold the meeting in Melbourne this year given we’ve only had one AGM out of the last ten. However, don’t expect them to agree to showcase their burgeoning Victorian pokies empire just days before an election when gambling will be a hot issue. What odds on Brisbane or Perth to make it extra difficult for the outside candidate to attend?

The Victorian election will be the first time in Australian history that a party has incorporated public company board tilts and AGM appearances into a political campaign. Unfortunately, I’ll be speaking at a lunch at Crown Casino on Friday so it won’t be possible to be in Brisbane for the Unitab shareholder vote on the Tattersall’s merger. However, we’ve got until 3.15pm today to get a proxy appointed…

Peter Fray

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