Dick Pratt, the federal election, AGM season, taking on Rupert Murdoch in New York. Talk about bedlam.

Sitting here at the Qantas Club in Melbourne Airport, it’s nice to finally draw breath ahead of the News Corp AGM on Friday. And with Dick Pratt now humbled and humiliated after the likes of Today Tonight tore him to shreds, it’s worth reflecting on what other abuses of market power are being tolerated in Australia’s highly concentrated economy.

What happens at our unregulated airports is a case in point. The latte this morning cost $3.80 and when ANZ was given $A100 to be exchanged for greenbacks, only $US79 came back, despite the dollar trading at almost US90c. I asked the lady how much would came back to exchange the $US79 and she cheerily said $A74, pointing to the 8% commission. Ahhh yes, a tilt against Peter Costello in Higgins is tempting, if only to run on a platform of reigning in the $250 billion big five bank cartel.

Speaking of market abusers, the lovely Qantas have been at their best in recent days. I’ve been forced to stay four nights in New York (meaning $900 in accommodation costs and six nights away from the family) because the $2300 ticket suddenly goes up to $3300 if you want a shorter stay.

Qantas have also quite outrageously rejected all six Transport Workers Union shareholder resolutions (see YouTube video) for their AGM in Melbourne on 14 November. It just goes to show what a joke corporate democracy is in Australia.

The Qantas board disgraces itself during the attempted private equity takeover, shareholders gather 100 signatures to put up six resolutions that propose much better corporate governance practices in the event of another bid and the Qantas board simply refuses to put them to the vote, knowing full well they would probably have received majority support. Outgoing chairman Margaret Jackson should hang her head in shame. She knows the TWU is in no position to take the moral high ground given the controversy over its slush fund for ALP candidates and has once again brazenly treated shareholders with contempt.

Whilst flying over the Pacific, there will be plenty of time to come up with questions for News Corp on Friday. I’ve given formal notice of one: when was Rupert last elected?

In 2005 Rupert professed to not know. There should be nine opportunities to get up, although Rupert will probably run the 5 director elections as an omnibus. News Corp is such an issues-rich company that you just have to prioritise. The most sensitive area would be to pursue this story about Rupert diddling his mother and request that he lift the dividend to make it up to her.

If you’ve got a suggested question for Rupert, drop us a line to [email protected] and we’ll tell you all about it in Monday’s edition. Alternatively, listen to the webcast of the AGM on the News Corp website. Bounce down is 10am New York time.

Meet the long suffering Paula Piccinini as we explain the carpet fiasco in today’s Mayne Report video.

Peter Fray

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