David Marr once explained the survival of Alan Jones and John Laws after the cash for comment scandal on the basis that “Sydney has no shame”.

That statement was certainly corroborated at the annual meeting of Macquarie Radio in Sydney this morning when the board that supposedly takes responsibility for things that happen on 2GB showed sod all concern about the activities of Alan Jones.

The Parrot clearly is a law unto himself because it became abundantly clear during the meeting that he applied for the Wallabies coaching job without first seeking board or management approval. Chairman Max Donnelly, the liquidator who sprung to prominence chasing Alan Bond but who is now allowing his reputation to be damaged by association with Alan Jones, said that they would negotiate a lower pay deal if the Parrot was somehow selected for the job.

On the question of the Cronulla riots and the adverse finding from the industry regulator APRA, Donnelly expressed surprise that any young person had listened to the Parrot. I asked Donnelly if he felt ashamed and all he and CEO Angela Clarke did was defend the Parrot, claim he did nothing wrong and claim the young rioters must have been inspired by someone else.

Just like with fund managers, radio announcers are not deemed “executives” under the Corporations Law so the Parrot’s $5 million pay packet was not disclosed in the remuneration report.

Asked to reveal it, Donnelly claimed not to know and Clarke simply refused.

Macquarie Radio’s second biggest shareholder and director, Mark Carnegie, sat right next to me in the back row but that didn’t stop a question about whether the Parrot went soft on the Qantas takeover because Carnegie stood to personally pocket more than $10 million in success fees as the airline’s financial adviser.

Carnegie muttered that he never spoke to the Parrot about Qantas during the bid and Clarke said she listened to the program and denied there was no criticism.

The head in the sand approach of the company was best displayed on the question of the Chris Master’s book, Jonestown. Donnelly claimed me holding it up in the back row was the first time he’d ever set eyes on the best selling book and Clarke said she chosen not to read it.

Surely a 512 page attack on your biggest asset by Australia’s most respected investigative journalist is something any director of manager of Macquarie Radio should read – if nothing else than to at least know what the enemy is saying.

The other interesting debate was over the risks of a Rudd Government. Clarke doubted an inability to ring the PM on his mobile and change policies such as the Snowy float would hurt ratings

She also downplayed the prospect of a tougher regulatory regime, which seems likely under Labor. The Parrot and Singo bitterly attacked ACMA chief Chris Chapman after the adverse findings on Cronulla and without John Howard to protect him, the regulator could yet have the last laugh.

At least the board has now been warned that their biggest asset could yet become a major liability after 24 November.

Interestingly, Kevin Rudd has boycotted Jones during the election campaign, just as Morris Iemma did when he won in a landslide.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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