As the Sunday morning political shows prepared for a return yesterday, an 80-year-old expat Australian sitting in New York sent the following two tweets to his 169,000 followers:
“Gillard once good education minister, now prisoner of minority greenies. Rudd still delusional who nobody could work with. Nobody else?”
“Don’t understand Aussie politics. Can Kevin Rudd really come back and knife Gillard? Weird place mucking up great future.”
The fact that Rupert Murdoch has board approval to tweet away is surprising, if only because it is amazing that he still holds a leadership position at News Corp. Indeed, no News Corp director or member of the Murdoch family appears to have suffered any explicit sanction, demotion or penalty for the phone-hacking scandal.
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Bizarrely, as Britain stripped former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Fred Goodwin of his knighthood, we went the other way and lauded News Corp’s lead independent director, Sir Rod Eddington, with an AO on Australia Day. The citation reads:
“For distinguished service to business and commerce through roles with a range of national and international economic, trade, infrastructure development and transport organisations.”
Among the many references to his titles and positions is a mention of the Government Business Advisory Council — amusing because former federal finance minister Lindsay Tanner revealed in his 2011 book Sideshow that the committee didn’t actually exist and Sir Rod was the only member ever appointed.
”No one ever worked out that it was a chimera,” Tanner wrote. ”A potentially highly embarrassing story was never written.”
The correct time to gong Sir Rod would be after he had stepped up to the plate and driven through some long overdue board and governance reforms at News Corp.
Instead, it has been seven long months since The Guardian broke the Milly Dowler story. It has also been more than 100 days since 75%-plus of the independent shares voted at the News Corp AGM opposed the re-election of James and Lachlan Murdoch, along with long-serving former executives turned directors Andrew Knight and Arthur Siskind.
It is a disgrace that Knight and Siskind, both Rupert loyalists who have served as directors for a combined 40-plus years, have not yet resigned. What is Sir Rod doing?
Rather than gonging him, shouldn’t we be having a debate about whether the stripping of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood has any implications for Sir Rod’s?
As the Brits will never forget, Sir Rod was one of the Rio Tinto directors who thought it was a brilliant idea to pay $US44 billion in cash for Alcan back in 2007. That play alone cost this British establishment company about $20 billion.
RBS, now 82% owned by the British taxpayer, also lost plenty in the Allco Finance Group collapse where investors and lenders ended up dropping more than $3 billion. Sir Rod was an independent director of Allco for the final three years of its life as a listed company.
ANZ also suffered losses in the Allco collapse, which made the proposed appointment of Sir Rod as chairman in 2010 all the more farcical, as Michael Pascoe explained at the time.
The sorry sagas of Allco, News Corp and Alcan don’t appear to worry the gongs committee. Indeed, the Australia Day citation contained more information about Allco than anything else, so the committee was clearly made aware of it.
Perhaps Rupert should give his accommodating lead independent director a congratulatory tweet for his Aussie gong, as the coverage in the Murdoch press was surprisingly low key at the time.