The PM must think that there is at least some concern over petrol prices amongst his MPs – I guess that’s why his security detail were standing outside the Party room during their regular meeting this morning!

After repeated rumours of big changes at the top of Fairfax, the starting gun appears to have been fired to commence the boardroom battle. Chairman Ron Walker, the former federal Liberal treasurer, has reached his use-by date (it was probably a date he never achieved during his sojourn with the media company) and is to be replaced by John B Fairfax. This will bring the founding family back into the centre of the business after 20 years. Fairfax, who built Rural Press into a wealthy regional newspaper conglomerate and then merged with Fairfax Holdings last year, wants his own man as CEO – Brian McCarthy. This means the days appear to be numbered for current CEO David Kirk, the New Zealander who has steered the company since the departure of the unfathomable business and tax nerd, Professor Fred Hilmer. Not for the first time in its 175-year history, Fairfax is, as the cliche writers say, at the crossroads.

NAB is kind of interested in St George. Every member of their internal strategic investment group was at 500 Bourke on Saturday and Sunday, and they weren’t looking at Citibank this time around…

NSW Treasurer Michael Costa was a guest lecturer for first-year Australian government students at Sydney University on Monday afternoon. They were entertained by the volcanic Labor MP and former boss of the NSW Labor Council for about 40 minutes and a further half an hour answering questions. Highlights were his scepticism of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s planned reformation of federal-state relations (“I wish I could say that we (COAG) will be successful – it’s promising, but ultimately we will hit the wall, economically” and “I’d be the last person to say that he (Rudd) has come up with any solutions”). He said he wanted to sell the State’s power generators but Premier Morris Iemma “won’t let me” so they would be leased for 99 years. He said he opposed Iemma’s plan to ban political donations saying his colleagues had simply taken “the popular option”. In fact, he was highly critical of the calibre of politicians saying there should be a system of recruiting corporate executives for two years or more and paying them top salaries to run departments. And he suggested that too many ministers were controlled by their advisers and bureaucrats, a strategy destined to get them into trouble. He warned that ministers were in danger of falling into “focus group politics” instead of leading. The fresh-faced students enjoyed his racy approach and gave him a round of applause.

Interesting to note that Opes Prime investigation at ANZ may have claimed its first major scalp. Chris Cooper, Managing Director, Working Capital, ANZ resigned on Friday. “After much consideration I’ve taken a decision to leave ANZ to enable me to pursue some personal aspirations. I will be finishing up with ANZ today…”

I hear that the University of Melbourne has intervened in a State Government process to prevent a homeless shelter being built near the University’s Parkville campus. Apparently, the Elizabeth Tower Hotel site (cnr Grattan St and Royal Pde) was earmarked for the new HomeGround/Daniel Grollo/Dick Wynne 120 bed homeless shelter (based on a New York model) was planned for this site.

Have you guys seen the latest from Wind Hydrogen – the wind farm company that had Neville Wran onboard for the IPO last year (he promptly bailed after the money was raised). The latest plan is to plough at least $US2.5 million into an oil and gas prospecting project in Kentucky. What next – uranium mining?

All is quiet from Defence and the media in regard to last week’s alleged fraternisation with troops in Afghanistan. Could this be because they are discovering that the waters are becoming increasingly murky the further they delve in to the history of female Australian performers and our brave lads overseas?

Peter Fray

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