As Qantas continues to mull over how to deal with five shareholder resolutions put up the Transport Workers Unions for the AGM in Melbourne on 14 November, the board would have been delighted by yesterday’s massive attack on the union by Channel Nine’s Sunday program.
The poor TWU official put up to front Ross Coulthart on camera was one Scott Connolly – the man who is running the shareholder resolutions campaign against Qantas. But the real target is national secretary Tony Sheldon – who is slated to speak at the Qantas AGM but refused to front Sunday’s cameras.
The basic allegation was that Sheldon has been building up a secret fund with donations from employers – and his critics reckon these donors get a softer run from the union.
Whilst the allegations are serious – as Laurie Oakes highlighted when interviewing Julia Gillard yesterday – it would be interesting to know whether Qantas used its extensive connections with PBL in any way to try and damage the TWU.
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After all, James Packer has only just resigned from the Qantas board on 31 August and Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon still sits on the PBL board. We all know that the ties between Qantas and PBL are very tight – PBL even does the Qantas magazine and provides the in-flight news.
The TWU ran a big campaign against the private equity takeover of Qantas and a different group of private equiteers are now in charge of PBL’s old media assets – albeit with James Packer and Geoff Dixon’s great mate John Alexander still sitting on the board as non-executive directors.
Ross Coulthart is a terrific journalist who’ll probably make the point that this story was actually driven by some disaffected former AWU insiders.
However, the connections are still deeply ironic. And would Sunday have done over Bill Shorten’s Australian Workers Union given he’s chummy with James Packer and ACP publishes its union magazine.
Shareholder resolutions are all too rare in Australia, but the TWU cannily landed a potentially big blow on Qantas by proposing some perfectly reasonable resolutions which could receive majority support, especially if the powerful proxy advisory firms back them.
How can the board recommend shareholders vote against a resolution which simply calls for the company to release a full financial update within 30 days of takeover bid being lodged?
And how can they complain about appropriate conflict of interest protocols being established, something that didn’t happen when Airline Partners Australia offered a low ball $11 billion or $5.45 a share for Qantas last year and received unwavering board backing despite strong shareholder opposition.
Qantas will be hoping the TWU has been soiled sufficiently that they are in no position to lecture anyone on good corporate governance.
Today’s Mayne Report videoblog looks at the success prospects of the TWU’s Qantas shareholder resolutions.