It was Gareth Evans who first coined the phrase “relevance deprivation syndrome” and it seems that our nuclear energy trio, Ron Walker, Hugh Morgan and Robert de Crespigny, have caught a pretty bad case of it.
How else to explain their decision to register a company called Australian Nuclear Energy Pty Ltd and boast about it to Premiers and Prime Ministers alike?
Morgan, 66, has been something of a lost soul since retiring from WMC in 2002 after a chequered 16 years as CEO. His beloved company was swallowed by rival BHP-Billiton in 2005, which is now booming in part because it picked up WMC’s world-leading Olympic Dam uranium deposit on the cheap.
The same applies to Robert de Crespigny, who sold his Normandy Mining to US giant Newmont in 2002, studiously building Australia’s biggest specialist gold company over a 17 year period only to sell out on the cusp of the greatest resources boom in recent history.
Morgan, Walker and de Crespigny have a few things in common. First, they’ve all picked up the coveted AC from the Howard Government over the past five years. Second, each has been known to play the political game and they’ve all enjoyed plenty of media attention over the years.
However, the last five years have hardly been a spectacular commercial successes for any of them. Walker and de Crespigny erred in taking on Ted Sent’s Primelife can of worms and Morgan hasn’t exactly been welcomed into the professional director’s club.
De Crespigny is mentioned regularly in terms of new mining ventures and was touting himself as an alternative to run MIM when Xstrata bought it in 2002-03.
Walker’s involvement almost looks like a challenge. The political fixer and “can do” major events merchant wants to climb one last mountain. Clearly, it wasn’t enough to put the world’s biggest casino in the middle of Melbourne or a grand prix in a public park.
Walker, 67, has an appetite for controversy and conflicts that knows no bounds and Margaret Simons was absolutely right yesterday to criticise his involvement when he’s the chairman of Fairfax Media.
Ron accepted that he had to resign his Liberal Party membership on joining the Fairfax board in 2002 – but he hasn’t accepted that he should adopt a policy of minimising his personal controversies.
While nuclear power is inevitable in Australia, it’s not certain that any of these ageing corporate warhorses will be alive when the first plant fires up some time after 2020. So why bother registering this company when the only guaranteed outcome was truckloads of publicity?