The ASX AGM became an extraordinary affair yesterday when outgoing chairman Maurice Newman let rip with a savage attack on the press for recent coverage of the monopoly exchange’s performance as market supervisor. Read the delusional speech for yourself here.

And didn’t it blow up in his face when you examine today’s media coverage. What on earth did he think would happen. This bloke hasn’t got a clue about PR.

Whilst hearing the chairman of the ABC blasting business journalists across the board was remarkable enough, the most staggering aspect was that the speech ignored the widespread criticism of ASX by the likes of QBE Insurance chairman John Cloney, Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris and the two institutional advisers Risk Metrics and Regnan. (Listen to Newman blaming the press and jousting with Eric Mayne disclosures here.)

I was so stunned by this belligerent shoot the messenger approach that I asked Maurice if the text of the speech had been formally approved by the board and whether new chairman David Gonski endorsed the comments. They did.

Gonski duly stepped up and took ownership of the position (hear it here), meaning that ASX is now on a major collision course with its growing number of critics as it completely dismisses all criticism of its performance. (Listen to Gonski failing to explain his Frank Lowy tax advisory role here.)

ASX will be pleased with the director election outcome as the protest vote recommended by Risk Metrics against incumbent Russell Aboud was contained to 10%.

Whilst this is the biggest protest against an ASX director since it demutualised in 1998, Risk Metrics would have been hoping for more. However, Risk Metrics boss Dean Paatsch went on Inside Business last night and is clearly not backing down for a moment.

The protest against the other incumbent Trevor Rowe, who would have been the better target, was only 2%, suggesting that ASX shareholders don’t give a stuff about his ridiculous workload, various conflicts of interest and the 95% slump in the BrisConnections share price since it listed a few weeks ago.

If former Babcock & Brown audit committee chairman Michael Sharpe had been up for election, the protest would have been much larger. However, we extracted some interesting disclosures from Sharpe, which were picked up by Rebecca Urban in The Australian.

Peter Fray

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