The board of Rio Tinto might only have three Australian-based directors these days, but one of them, AFL President Mike Fitzpatrick, is presumably showing off his local connections by hosting the board at tomorrow’s grand final.

That’s the only conclusion you can draw from Rio Tinto’s decision to have its extraordinary general meeting to vote on the $US44 billion Alcan takeover on grand final eve in Melbourne. However, the midday start time clashed with the grand final parade, so they clearly don’t want to maximise numbers.

Today’s meeting approved one of three largest cash bids in corporate history but the deal will see the world’s second biggest mining company become even less Australian.

Rio Tinto is a dual listed company with an Australian and UK listing – but its head office is in London. The company’s Australian assets are worth at least $70 billion but the business is still run from a country where it has no mining operations.

When the dual listed company structure was established in December 1995, the boards of CRA and RTZ reached an agreement with the Keating Government to retain part of its head office in Melbourne, from where the Eastern Hemisphere of the global operation would be run.

This agreement was broken 15 months later under the Howard Government, when 100 jobs were axed in Melbourne and Australia was downgraded to running just three of six global divisions – aluminium out of Brisbane, iron ore out of Perth and energy out of Melbourne. Now we have a further downgrading of Australia’s role with this Alcan deal because the aluminium business will be run out of Montreal rather than Brisbane.

The three Australian based directors – Sir Rod Eddington, Ashton Calvert and Mike Fitzpatrick – will be swamped with the addition of three Alcan representatives on an expanded 16-bloke board.

The Keating government originally requested that RTZ-CRA’s board remain one third Australian-based in perpetuity but backed down after the companies threatened to scuttle the 1995 merger.

Up until the appointment of American Tom Albanese as managing director earlier this year, Rio Tinto also had an Australian CEO in either Leon Davis or Leigh Clifford since the 1995 merger. In 1997, when the CRA name was buried, six of its eight top executives were Australians. These days, only two of the top nine hail from Down Under.

Given that the Australian-listed shares trade at a premium to their London equivalents, it makes sense for Rio Tinto to “do a Brambles” and shift its global headquarters to Australia.

With wall to wall Labor Governments on the horizon, this would make it easier for Rio Tinto to operate in the country which will still deliver close to half of group profits after the Alcan deal. In an era or growing resource nationalism across the world, Rio Tinto needs to treat Australia with a lot more respect.