In this era of climate change, Australia’s biggest consumer of electricity, Alumina Ltd, copped an unusual protest at its annual meeting in Melbourne last week — over its remuneration policies.

Whilst investors don’t seem to care about Alumina’s failure to produce a sustainability report or disclose its direct carbon emissions — both are coming for the first time later this year — this post-box company with just 10 employees and a five-man board has clearly upset institutions by not inserting adequate performance hurdles for CEO John Marlay.

Six days after last Wednesday’s AGM, it still hasn’t been reported anywhere that Alumina suffered an embarrassing 46.2% “against” vote on its remuneration report. The raw figures were 298 million votes in favour, 256 million against, and 111.8 million undirected proxies, the majority of which were held by the chairman but not used in the poll because the resolution was narrowly passed on the show of hands.

This constitutes the third-biggest protest since the non-binding vote on remuneration reports was introduced two years ago. Only Novogen with 72.5% and Oxiana with 46.9% have fared worse, but neither company is of a comparable size with the $8.57 billion market capitalisation of Alumina, which owns a 40% stake in a global aluminum and alumina joint venture with American giant Alcoa.

I tried to engage Alumina on climate change at the AGM, but it only really yielded some interesting off-the-record chats with directors and management over tea and sandwiches after the meeting. Chairman Don Morley and his wife both light-heartedly pointed out the breach of an agreement we struck at the Mark Steyn IPA dinner last year that I wouldn’t front the 2007 Alumina AGM if they voted for me in the Victorian election. I pleaded a lack of confirmation about their votes, but pledged not to front up next year.

Whilst on the subject of climate change, I’m giving a keynote address in Sydney on Thursday morning at the Business Council for Sustainable Energy annual conference in Sydney.

The topic is assessing how Australian business and media have responded to the challenge of climate change and I’m on straight after AGL CEO Paul Anthony. I’ve got a few ideas apart from putting up a big picture of Andrew Bolt and Christian Kerr when discussing media skeptics, but if anyone’s got some strong thoughts on how individual businesses and media outlets are dealing with the debate, drop us a line to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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