Terry McCrann is “Australia’s leading business commentator”, according to the Herald Sun . But do they actually mean “Australia’s leading business contradictor”? Decide for yourself:

Published today:

The set up: Hardie is committing to pay over up to 35% of its net operating cash flow, each year, every year, pretty much effectively forever, to asbestos victims … Two things are truly extraordinary about this. That a company would commit potentially a third of its cash-flows forever like this; and that doing so is the basis for building a thriving, growing future.

The fall: The commitment is for 40 years.

On James Packer’s interest in Fairfax:

The set up: I for one believe Packer when he says he is not interested in Fairfax. Apart from anything else that’s also the rational conclusion. – 22.11.06

(Packer) does not want to buy Fairfax. Not then and not even now, in 2006-07. – 27.10.06

The fall: If James Packer doesn’t nab Fairfax after pocketing Helen Coonan’s billions – and being allowed to when the media law changes – then Kerry Stokes will with the same package. – 22.11.06

On the parts of Fairfax that Packer wants to buy (even though he’s not interested in Fairfax):

…(The) only bit of Fairfax that Packer would really want is the only bit that he specifically can’t have – the online advertising sites. – 21.10.06

That does not mean though he would not get into a battle over Fairfax and for some specific assets – most obviously the Financial Review  – were it to erupt. – 22.11.06

On the media ownership laws:

The setup: It is entirely coincidental that (the Packer deal with CVC) surfaced just after Coonan finally got the changes through a “family first” Senate. That was a deadline set in August and had nothing to do with politics or parliamentary sittings. – 21.10.06

The fall: You might get only one Helen Coonan in your lifetime…In October we discovered that James Packer’s PBL was able to trouser a cool $4.5 billion from selling only half the Nine Network, and a few other bits and pieces…And who said governments can’t create value? – 21.11.06

Keep them coming Tez.


 

Terry McCrann responds: So, it appears one can get two Stephen Maynes in a lifetime. Your Thomas Hunter has picked up where Mayne left off. Writing about me maliciously, with deliberate deceit, and just plain wrongly. He purports to “ping” me on four contradictions.

1) I wrote that James Hardie has committed to pay some of its profit to asbestos victims “pretty much effectively forever”. He was able to triumphantly announce that the commitment is for 40 years. Gotcha! Actually, that was my immediately following sentence, and I quote. “The commitment is for 40 years. But is clearly going to continue as long as there is a victim alive”. Funny but not surprising, how my sentence noting the 40 years “went missing” in the quote from Hunter purporting to describe what I wrote. “Missing”, in some dots used by Hunter to signify missing text. Deliberately deceptive? The broader point which I’m sure Hunter doesn’t comprehend is that a financial commitment running for 40 years is “effectively forever”.

2) I wrote that Packer was not interested in Fairfax, Then I supposedly directly contradict myself with “If James Packer doesn’t nab Fairfax after pocketing Helen Coonan’s billions – and being allowed to when the media law changes… then Kerry Stokes will with the same package”. This is a classic combination of deliberate deceit by Hunter and a lesson for me for not appreciating that some like Hunter are, how shall we put it? Reading challenged? The reference to Packer and/or Stokes buying Fairfax was a description of the frenzy of rumours in the market. In this case my immediately preceding sentence was, and I quote: “With the rumor mill ablaze yesterday”. Again funny but not surprising, that this sentence didn’t make it into Hunter’s quote. Further, that my supposed contradiction in writing that Packer was not interested in Fairfax was a later sentence in the same comment, specifically rejecting the market rumours.

3) I have previously written that the bit of Fairfax that Packer would really want is the only bit he specifically can’t have – the online advertising sites. Now I’ve supposedly contradicted myself by saying he could get into a battle over Fairfax for some specific asset – most obviously the Financial Review. Let me explain to Hunter. Packer would want the online advertising sites. Competition law prohibits him getting them. So if he is going to chase a Fairfax asset, it, err, can’t be them. If Fairfax came into play, he might chase an asset. The obvious one left is the Fin. NOT the two main broadsheets.

4) I wrote that it was entirely coincidental that the Packer deal with the private equity group surfaced just after Coonan got the media law changes through the Senate. The supposed contradiction is writing he pocketed $4.5 billion from the deal thanks to her. As I’ve explained on a number of occasions, including again in this comment, what made the deal possible was what Coonan did NOT do – dismantle the free-to-air oligopoly. Not from what she did do – remove the ownership restrictions. Packer was going to pocket $4.5 billion, courtesy of Coonan whether or not the law changed. As a number of commentators have written, the timing of the deal was set completely independently of the media law changes passing through the Senate. So the contradiction is what exactly?

At least one thing can be said for Crikey. Its consistency is maintained.

Peter Fray

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