"In comparison, incoming head Catherine Livingstone has a far superior track record as a corporate leader."Shepherd's other lament was that we "have lost some of our pioneering spirit and become boring and conservative", and we fail to pay proper respect to businessmen (they were all men) like Rupert Murdoch, Andrew Forrest and the Pratts. That's Murdoch of phone-hacking fame, Andrew Forrest, who was found by a court to be an "untruthful witness", and Richard Pratt, the confessed price fixer and part of "the worst cartel to come before the courts in 30-plus years". In fact, Shepherd is exactly the boring, conservative -- with a capital C -- figure that is the problem with contemporary Australia: a business figure instinctively supportive of the Liberal Party regardless of what it does and capable only of pushing a business policy agenda that was written in 1850: cut taxes (mainly cut company taxes and taxes on the wealthy; if you need to increase taxes on ordinary consumers that's OK), deregulate industrial relations regardless of its impact on productivity or equity and cut "red tape" regardless of its impact on good governance, the environment or workplace safety. Worst of all, he's happy to lecture the rest of us on the economic medicine we need to take when his own performance has been less than stellar. Under Shepherd, Transfield posted a year to June net loss of $254.4 million last year, compared to a net profit of $96.4 million from the year before. More than 350 jobs went at the company in its last year, and another 180 are going this financial year. Shareholders and employees suffering for the poor management and weak performance of Shepherd's company might be a little reluctant to cop his advice. In comparison, incoming head Catherine Livingstone has a far superior track record as a corporate leader. She was a successful CEO of Cochlear, one of Australia's rare technology success stories, then chair of CSIRO, the country's premier research organisation now being gutted by the fiscal stringency of the Gillard government (will Shepherd hold them to account for that?). But she cemented her reputation as chair of Telstra, where she's been since 2009, replacing the abrasive Coalition-aligned Donald McGauchie. Livingstone had to pick up the mess at Telstra left behind by McGauchie and his disastrous CEO, Sol Trujillo, which she has done with the current CEO, David Thodey. As a result, Telstra's share price has slowly recovered, topping the $5 mark for the first time in years in 2013. Telstra's earnings, cash flow and now dividend have all improved. And all without a hint of her political allegiances -- if anything, Livingstone gives the impression of being apolitical, if conservative in the traditional, rather than partisan, sense. If anyone can restore the BCA's policy credibility, it will be her.
Tony ‘moral and correct’ Shepherd’s parting shot from BCA
Tony Shepherd has left the Business Council demanding Labor "be held to account" for its fiscal decisions. Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer wonder which decision those might be.