Apart from a few overly cynical media types like Andrew Bolt and some spurned summit wannabes such as the IPA’s John Roskam, Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit has been overwhelmingly welcomed – as it should be.

Sledging the concept before it actually happened was pretty unfair and even the harshest critics should now acknowledge it was a worthwhile exercise.

In a nation of citizens with increasingly brief attention spans, led by politicians driven by electoral cycles and investment markets marred by short-termism, what happened over the weekend was a hugely refreshing change. It was hard not to feel inspired.

Whilst the AMA, the gambling industry and a few other special interest groups were complaining about not being invited, it was also interesting to note that CEOs and billionaires were given a far bigger role than the people who traditionally represent big business: non-executive directors.

Luminaries from the directors’ club were notably absent, especially the four ageing chairmen most associated with the Howard years.

The Australian’s Adele Ferguson has today called on ANZ chairman Charles Goode to give up the ghost after 13 years in charge. We ran a similar argument in this video last year.

Charles is a major Liberal Party fundraiser, who was very close to both John Howard and Peter Costello. Without any political protection and given the Opes Prime fiasco, Charles will be lucky to still be ANZ chairman by the time he turns 70 on August 26.

For too long, success in Australian business has relied on some sort of oligopoly, excessive market power or government concession. The likes of Kerry Stokes, former Westpac CEO David Morgan and Lachlan Murdoch are classic examples of beneficiaries from banking and media policies.

Whilst those three business insiders clearly remain inside the tent, John Howard’s defeat will trigger a substantial changing of the guard in Australian business and it is Charles Goode who is likely to be the first to go.

The other three chairs who weren’t in Canberra over the weekend and should be considering their positions for age, political, tenure and performance reasons are as follows:

Maurice Newman: Close buddy of John Howard, chairman of ASX Ltd since 1994, but retiring in October. Turned 70 yesterday and has four years to go as ABC chairman.

Ron Walker: Former Liberal Party Treasurer, inappropriate chairman of Fairfax Media, chairman of the financially bleeding Grand Prix Corporation. Turns 70 on September 20 next year but deputy John B Fairfax is reportedly pushing for an early transition given the chaos at The Age.

Don Argus: BHP chairman who is over-reaching with Rio Tinto tilt. Has chaired BHP for almost a decade and been a director since the Howard years began in 1996. Was the business community spokesman who urged John Howard to stay on. The plunge in Brambles shares on Friday capped off a disappointing decade leading that company.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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