From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Who’s who at Sydney Institute dinner. Apart from contributing feisty comments to Crikey stories, former FAI Insurance CEO and jailbird Rodney Adler is clearly keeping busy mingling with old mates.
As a long-time backer of Gerard Henderson, it was no surprise Adler found himself mingling with the glitterati at The Star gambling den on Thursday night along with 899 other guests at the Sydney Institute’s annual dinner.
The Australian’s Margin Call column did a good job writing up the soiree in today’s paper and scored a pearler of a picture of embattled Seven West Media legal boss Bruce McWilliam with his arm around a grumpy-looking Henderson, who had Rodney Adler and his wife, Lyndi, on the other side.
So why would Bruce McWilliam, the Prime Minister’s best mate and chief strategist in the Amber Harrison fiasco, be happy to pictured alongside someone like Adler?
Well, as Joe Aston has reported in the AFR, Bruce McWilliam met his wife, Kristy, at the Adler wedding.
The ALP recently attempted to smear Malcolm Turnbull for his role advising Rodney Adler’s FAI when it was taken over by HIH Insurance — an acquisition that contributed meaningfully to the HIH collapse.
And given the PM also recently took steps to avoid being photographed with Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner at a Swans game, the beaming Bruce McWilliam is not exactly being discreet about all these colourful connections in Sydney.
Leckie doesn’t hold back on Worner. Speaking of Seven and the current court case, the Wentworth Courier — the paper the smart people peruse at hairdressers and nail salons in Sydney’s east — has a front-page story on Skye Leckie and her Order of Australia gong, in which she unloads on her Tim Worner, her husband David Leckie’s successor:
“She even gets stuck into Tim Worner, who replaced her husband as chief executive of Seven in 2011 and has become embroiled in a media firestorm for his affair with ex-employee, Amber Harrison. She has sympathy for Harrison and heaps scorn on Worner. ‘Did you see the ratings for the Hoges film? 800[,000].'”
Slip of the tongue. There were raised eyebrows at Melbourne’s St Kilda Town Hall last night when local identity Julian Burnside QC took the microphone to ask a question of the night’s celebrity speaker, philosophy Professor AC Grayling, at a Wheeler Centre event. Grayling had made a few disparaging references to US President Donald Trump during his speech, which perhaps explains why Burnside inadvertently addressed the visiting humanist philosopher as “Professor Trump”. We’ll let that one slide, after Burnside got a dressing down from Justice John Sackar after the QC referred to Seven West Media as “one of the country’s biggest boys’ clubs” in the case between his client Amber Harrison and the network.
Diversity in the country’s top boardroom. What to do with a former CEO is always a problem for a company board and his mates in the Business Council of Australia.
Take the current BCA head Grant King — long-time (and first) CEO of Origin Energy, which is a BCA member. He lasted many years, despite billions of dollars in asset write-downs and other losses.
So with Catherine Livingstone’s term as BCA president coming to an end last year, Grant King ended up in the role — a soft landing from his gig at Origin.
Now long-time Wesfarmers CEO Richard Goyder is in a similar position of retiring after a long time at the top of a major company. Goyder is stepping down later this year and is a similar headache for corporate Australia — what to do with him? The BCA push swung into action and hey presto, Goyder was named as a director of Qantas yesterday. And guess who sits at the same table as Goyder in the BCA boardroom — why, it is Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
The Qantas gig is Goydor’s second — he has already been found a home on the board of Woodside (Perth’s No. 2 blue chip after Wesfarmers). And guess who chairs Woodside? Wesfarmers’ chair, Michael Chaney, who was also a former president of the BCA a decade ago (2005-2007).
Goyder will leave Wesfarmers when he retires later this year, but the BCA connections won’t end there, with Chaney at the head of the board table, and BCA executive director Jennifer Westacott a few seats away.
Now just imagine the outrage if a senior trade union or ALP figure were to move to the board of a leading industry fund or another organisation allied to that side of politics. The faux rage would nauseating from the BCA, the Turnbull government and the shills at the various News Corp papers. Business is different, though.
APS stress. In the lead-up to the federal budget, a tipster tells us the mood is sombre among public servants, who fear they will yet again be targeted in a bid to save money:
“Word going around the public service is the government is about to start slashing jobs again. It will cost us money in the end, because the public service won’t be able to properly monitor and implement its programs. Madness.”
Where are those promises? Is WA Labor trying to hide the promises it made before the election, now it has gained government and worked out how hard it will be to actually deliver them? If you visit the WA Labor website, you will find it free of anything relating to election commitments. Perhaps Labor would rather people couldn’t easily remind themselves exactly what those promises were.
Yesterday, the crumbling scenery of Western Australia’s budget situation– new Premier Mark McGowan called them “the worst since the great depression” — seemed to have caught everyone in WA Labor unawares. We knew it was bad, but not this bad was the general line — indeed, Labor’s prediction of a $43 billion net debt by 2020 is worse than the $41.1 billion predicted by Treasury back in February.
The homepage offers standard options, like “about WA Labor” and “find your local Labor MP” — almost as if an election never happened at all.
The “about” section offers the opportunity to view WA Labor’s platform, which contains only the 2015 platform document, and stresses it “outlines WA Labor’s core beliefs and policy priorities” and that it “does not contain specific election policies or commitments”. We are directed to visit party leader (and now Premier) Mark McGowan’s website for “election information” — indeed, that’s where one would find the “200 fresh ideas for WA” Labor claimed to have had during the campaign.
However, visitors to markmcgowan.com.au are greeted by the following message:
“Thank you Western Australian! For putting your trust in a McGowan Labor Government.”
Down the page it says:
“We’re getting to work — and we’ll have a new site live soon. In the meantime, please sign up for updates by clicking on the link below.”
Ms Tips signed up and will keep an eye whether those email updates will contain any change to Labor’s approach to, say, the $2.5 billion first stage of the Metronet project (which Labor has committed to delivering by 2023), the tough new drug laws, which would result in life sentences imposed on meth traffickers (perhaps at odds with their recent declaration that prison populations had to be thinned), or more modest policies like “medihotels“, or the freeze on TAFE fees.