It’s the kind of scenario that makes shareholders drool. A government decides to entrench legal protection over a highly profitable industry, and simultaneously remove most other limits on investment in that industry — just like a highly combustible test tube experiment. That’s what happened to free-to-air TV in October, when the federal government introduced its still-to-be-proclaimed media law reforms. And the result was immediate: share prices of media stocks soared and billions of dollars of huge windfall profits were reaped by a handful of the richest families in Australia — the Packers, Stokes and Fairfaxes. Has Australia ever seen wealth redistribution on this scale? As for justification for the government’s law changes, we’re all still waiting. This was one of the great rorts of this, or any, year.

2005 winner: Failed mining house Sons of Gwalia whose creditors’ claims could now end up exceeding $1.1 billion.

Peter Fray

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