Way back in mid-1994, the Kennett Government announced that conservative Melbourne lawyer Michael Robinson would be the inaugural chairman of Tabcorp.

Robinson was a former managing partner of blueblood law firm Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks, which was doing most of the legal work on the Tabcorp prospectus.

He remains a consultant, complete with an office, to the now named Allens Arthur Robinson and it was in their Collins Street offices on Tuesday that Tabcorp CEO Matthew Slatter was delivered the bad news.

Robinson went on to become President of the right wing think tank, the Institute for Public Affairs (see comment below), during the final three years of the Kennett Government. And the man who appointed Robinson to Tabcorp, former Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale, is the current President of the IPA.

As a well-known Liberal Party man, it is clear that Robinson has stayed on way too long at Tabcorp now that Tabcorp is dealing exclusively with Labor state governments in Queensland, NSW and Tasmania.

As Terry McCrann writes today:

Slatter’s single biggest failure was the inability to get NSW to agree to Tabcorp merging the Victorian and NSW tote pools…Somehow I doubt that Packer would have failed to “persuade” the NSW authorities.

Robinson has also been conflicted by his ongoing gig at Arthur Robs because his firm has done the lion’s share of the legal work on the various Tabcorp takeovers, as this press release shows.

This is where other Tabcorp directors should have stepped in, but there aren’t many left and most are over-committed.

Since Dick Warburton retired at the last AGM, Brisbane lawyer John Storey has arguably been the most senior Tabcorp director but as chairman of Suncorp, he’s flat out dealing with the Promina takeover.

Similarly, it’s hard to imagine Tabcorp’s newest director Ziggy Switkowski providing great value for money given all the time and effort he’s devoted to uranium issues in recent months.

Tony Hodgson is the other longstanding director, but he’s on the front page of The Australian today, revealed as being the Coles director who held private meetings with executives attempting to blow the whistle on overblown profit forecasts.

Hodgson and Robinson are both going so we now have the ridiculous situation of three Suncorp directors (Storey, Paula Dwyer and Ziggy) plus one American (Phillip Satre) determining board and CEO succession planning for Tabcorp.

The first thing they should do is get some Labor pedigree on the board. They could do far worse than Bob Carr or Wayne Goss. Seriously.


John Roskam, Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs writes: Stephen Mayne, my erstwhile colleague yesterday describes the Institute of Public Affairs as “right wing”. We are many things – but “right wing” is not one of them. Any combination of free market, liberal, conservative (on some issues), liberal/conservative, (even) libertarian (on occasion), would be an appropriate description of the IPA – but not right wing. Since when has being in favour of small government, lower taxes, and less government been “right wing”?

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