Sir Rod Eddington is already a ridiculously busy man, but his role advising Kevin Rudd is the third gig he’s accepted from Labor in Australia over the past two years.
Not content with sitting on the main boards of News Corp, Rio Tinto, John Swire and Allco Finance and chairing JP Morgan in Australia, Sir Rod accepted an invitation from Steve Bracks to replace Steve Vizard as chair of Melbourne Major Events and is also doing a review of Melbourne’s transport requirements.
This might seem strange in Australia but Sir Rod spent the last six years in the UK where all sorts of business figures are in bed with the Blair Labor government.
It’s an important coup for Rudd given that Sir Rod is among the 50 most eminent Australian businessmen who’ve made it on the world stage.
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As the political donations figures for 2005-06 show, the Coalition has extended its lead over Labor when it comes to extracting cash from corporates as the likes of Gunns and the tobacco duopoly continue to punish Labor for Mark Latham’s policies and attitude.
But that now seems to be changing. Opposition leaders always remember those who get on board early when it comes to dispensing favours – just look at how John Howard has looked after the Packer family.
Sir Rod is making a calculated gamble, although he doesn’t personally have a lot to lose given his business interests are not concentrated in an area relying on government largesse. However, it wasn’t always like that.
When Eddington took over as executive chairman of Ansett, he successfully lobbied to have his old Cathay Pacific mate Mick Toller installed as chairman of CASA. History shows that CASA did nothing about the creaking Ansett fleet until after News Corp had exited with a tidy $240 million book profit.
Grounding Ansett was arguably the worst thing the Howard Government did to an individual corporate and given the PM is well known for shutting down critics, could Sir Rod himself now find himself grounded?
For starters, the Qantas takeover could be blocked and that would hurt Allco Finance but it would be churlish in the extreme.
JP Morgan hasn’t exactly had a lot of work out of the Feds anyway and there’s isn’t another T3 just around the corner. However, don’t be surprised if Sir Rod (and JP Morgan) becomes the preferred corporate adviser to a future Rudd Government.