Labor leaders have had a mixed record with picking the business leaders with whom they form close associations.

Paul Keating had his Warren Anderson connection, Bob Hawke his close relationship with Sir Peter Abeles. Brian Burke nurtured Alan Bond and Laurie Connell. John Bannon went down with Tim Marcus Clark and the SA State Bank. John Cain paid a price for believing in the wisdom of his State Bank and the fellows at its merchant banking arm Tricontinental. Now Kevin Rudd has hitched his fortunes to Rod Eddington. That a supposedly egalitarian Labor Leader would choose an Australian who copped a British knighthood in 2005 is interesting in itself.

A man who brought home an imperial honour is an unlikely associate of a party with a pronounced republican tinge, yet Kevin Rudd as Opposition Leader chose Sir Rod in February 2007 to head a new business advisory council to reconnect business and Federal Labor. Yesterday, Rudd appointed his favourite knight to become chairman of Infrastructure Australia, the Federal body charged with compiling an infrastructure priority list within 12 months and with determining which major projects will be publicly and privately funded. Meanwhile, over at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission the regulators are presumably poring over the documents relating to the Allco Finance Group of which Sir Rod is an independent director.

A wiser Prime Minister might well have waited until the Allco saga reached a conclusion.

Peter Fray

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