The Liberal Party’s email update this morning trumpeted the appointment of former Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale as the new Federal President.

However, it was a little vague on his current employment, advising that: “Mr Stockdale is chairman or director of a number of listed companies and is Chairman of the Institute of Public Affairs.”

Not since the Liberal Party turned to Ashley Goldsworthy — the man who sent Jennings Industries broke and then became Federal President — has the party of business turned to a leader whose corporate record is so underwhelming.

I was Stockdale’s press secretary during the early years of the Kennett Government and still have enormous admiration for the job he did turning around the state’s finances by shedding almost 100,000 public sector jobs and raising $35 billion through privatisation.

Despite being a somewhat dour character with little political nouse, many assumed Stockdale’s experience fixing Victoria would lead to a glorious corporate career. He joined Macquarie Bank on leaving Parliament in 1999 but after some early involvement in big deals such as the $5.6 billion Sydney Airport purchase, ended up handling government affairs for tollroad giant Macquarie Infrastructure Group.

As an old industrial relations barrister, Stockdale was clearly excited about WorkChoices because he quit Macquarie in 2005 to run the IR practice for boutique Melbourne law firm Mills Oakley.

Alas, that gig seems to have disappeared along with the Howard Government, although his bio on the IPA website hasn’t yet picked up the change.

As a rule, Australian politicians don’t have a great record on corporate boards but the Stockdale score card is one of the worst.

He was appointed to the Senates board as deputy chairman in March 2006 when the stock was trading at 80c. He’s now chairman as the ship goes down with the stock wallowing at just 6.9c, but was putting on a brave face with this presentation to last year’s AGM.

In April 2007 he joined the board of Bill Ireland’s Mariner Financial and since then it has plunged from 90c to 17.5c.

Stockdale has also chaired tallow products and soap group Symex Holdings since it floated at 50c a share in 2009. After peaking at $2 in 2001, it’s now back to 49c.

Even past boards weren’t great. Stockdale chaired biotech company Axon Instruments from 1999 and was chief spruiker when it raised $14 million at 20c in the 2000 float and then a further $50 million in a placement at $1.28 a few months later. Investors took quite a haircut when it was taken over by a US firm for the equivalent of 36.2c a share in 2004.

Few criticise Stockdale’s record as Victorian Treasurer. Indeed, former NSW Labor Treasurer Michael Egan paid the ultimate cross-party compliment by appointing him to the Tcorp board in 2005 to manage the state’s enormous $30 billion debt pile.

But the overall board record is surely an embarrassment for the party of business.

Listen to the chairman and CEO of Timbercorp deal with questions about margin calls on their shareholdings at yesterday’s AGM.

Peter Fray

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