Feb 15, 2018

Mayne: Kennett should also say ‘time’s up’, and retire on his 70th birthday

The former Victorian premier is failing on many metrics but his views on gender prove the times have outgrown the man, writes Stephen Mayne.

Stephen Mayne — Journalist and Founder

Stephen Mayne

Journalist and Founder

Jeff Kennett

Crikey turned 18 yesterday. And on March 2, Jeff Kennett, the man who inspired Crikey’s launch, will turn 70.

As a mark of respect to our history via the whistleblower website Jeffed during the 1999 Victorian election, it is sadly once again our solemn duty to call on Jeff Kennett to resign — from all public positions.

There have been many governance and foot-in-mouth snafus during the Kennett career, but his latest efforts on gender signal that it is time he bowed out of public life.

Some people just won’t give up. Hawthorn Football Club thought it was rid of Kennett when he retired after a lively six-year stint as chair that finished in 2011, most noteworthy for the poisonous relations he developed with super-coach Alastair Clarkson.

Alas, he returned as chair of the most pokies-dependent AFL club in Australia late last year and is out there once again pushing his beloved gambling industry and opposing any moves to tackle Australia’s world record gambling losses.

Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.

Even worse, Kennett’s old-school views on gender are emerging again, this time with a controversial claim yesterday that he’s pleased Hawthorn doesn’t have an AFLW side.

But that wasn’t nearly as bad as his intervention on the Melbourne Town Hall saga when he bagged Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy for even setting up an inquiry into the Liberal Lord Mayor’s alleged under-the-table groping at a Melbourne Health dinner.

Anyone who listened to the harrowing account of the evening given by “Carla” to ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine would surely beg to differ.

Even Jeff’s old mate Neil Mitchell, another dedicated Doyle supporter and sponsor, was trying to put some distance between himself and Kennett’s extreme views on the Doyle matter during this lively debate with Guardian Australia’s Gay Alcorn on 3AW yesterday morning.

Someone needs to explain to Mitchell that it’s not all about him, and just because he told the staff at The Herald in 1985 to stop chasing the female cadet journalists, doesn’t mean he should team up with Jeff Kennett to back Robert Doyle, attack the investigative process and undermine the credibility of complainants.

Doyle and Kennett were on opposite sides of the factional divide when in the Victorian Parliament together but developed a better relationship during Doyle’s time as lord mayor. This may well be in part because Doyle used the blokey Kennett playbook of governing through 3AW and the Herald Sun.

However, Doyle doesn’t know Kennett that well. I remember discussing Kennett with Doyle at Town Hall one night and he was praising the former premier for his great pro bono work at the likes of Beyondblue.

The lord mayor was astounded when I told him that those 17 years as chairman of Beyondblue had generated well over $1 million in director’s fees for the chairman, none of which was explicitly disclosed as the latest Beyondblue annual report demonstrates. And don’t forget that policy of all Beyondblue directors flying business class.

Jeffrey has been earning close to $2 million per annum in recent years and is always looking to maximise his earnings.

That’s certainly how things look at Seven West Media where he double dips as a non-executive director on $145,000, but then gets paid an additional $200,000 a year for political commentary, a related-party transaction that means he’s not an independent director.

And given the Amber Harrison saga, Seven West Media is an outfit that needs strong independent directors, but instead Kennett chose to do the bidding of Stokes and his protégé Tim Worner by launching public attacks on Harrison. Seven West will release its half-year results next Tuesday where it should become apparent if the Seven directors are planning to further extend Tim Worner’s contract when it expires on June 30. After five years in the job, Worner should be out, but he’s hanging on just like Barnaby Joyce — only because people like Jeff Kennett think that’s fine.

With shares in Seven West Media having more than halved to 48c since Kennett joined the board in June 2015, the former Victorian premier has overseen a destruction of shareholder value.

It has been a similar story at a number of other public company boards he has sat on such as DCL, Sofcom, National Telecom Group, Primary Opinion and Jumbuck Entertainment Group, as was outlined in this 2015 Crikey piece when he joined the Seven West Media board.

As the current chairman of six organisations — Hawthorn Football Club, listed company Equity Trustees, CT Management Group, cyber security firm Open Windows Australia, The Torch, pokies company Amtek Corp and LEDified Lighting Corp — it is hard to see how Kennett possibly has time to be one of Australia’s highest paid political commentators, a Herald Sun columnist plus a director of Seven West Media.

Yet, just five months ago, he assumed the role of chairman at Equity Trustees, a venerable public company capitalised at $400 million.

Kennett has backward views on gender, a poor record on governance and underwhelming financial performance. Surely in this era of #MeToo it is time that he retired from all public positions on his 70th birthday in two weeks’ time.


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20 thoughts on “Mayne: Kennett should also say ‘time’s up’, and retire on his 70th birthday

  1. Justin

    Excellent work Stephen. This gathering together of the public record is rare but important work in an era where too often the serious failings and gaffs of public figures blow over quickly, swamped by the news cycle. Forgetting is a terrible impediment to good judgement and critique. We need more of this.

  2. Evil Garry

    Stephen – While I’m hardly a fan of the walking Easter Island Statue, I don’t think you can really blame Jeff for “a destruction of shareholder value” at Seven West. It’s largely an old school media company specialising in a daily newspaper and a legacy FTA TV network, two businesses going down the gurgler worldwide.

  3. Judy Hardy-Holden

    I have always wondered why an organisation like BeyondBlue would even consider engaging Jeff Kennett. My ‘appreciation’ of BeyondBlue is totally coloured by having Jeff Kennett at the helm and I don’t know how long it will be before I can consider this organisation and the potentially essential work it could do, in a favourable light.

    1. Karen Hutchinson

      Perhaps the redemptive benefits of Julia Gillard now being at the helm might encourage renewed faith. I know it has mine.

  4. Bob the builder

    This story itself doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me, but this type of reporting is what we need more of again in Crikey.
    Less fluff from the inner-Melbourne Commentariat please, and more bread and butter news, with a good dose of cheek thrown in!

  5. Bob the builder

    This story itself doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me, but this type of reporting is what we need more of again in Crikey.
    Less fluff from the inner-Melbourne Commentariat please, and more bread and butter news, with a good dose of cheek thrown in!

  6. DF

    So Kennett was with Beyond Blue which, among other problems, deals with gambling-related depression, while at the same time working with a pokies company.
    In the simian world, you would say this is eating the banana from both ends.

  7. Dan

    Beyond Blue rakes in millions and offers nothing on top of existing mental health services. They employ no doctors or therapists, none. They just run “education” programs for bosses and workers. Do they work? Nobody knows.

    1. geofreason

      Dont remember much sympathy for the mentally ill when he was premier, turning them out on the street from halfway houses and the Victorian police shooting them

  8. old greybearded one

    In 1996 I was in Perth at the National Junior Archery Championships, with my daughter who was competing. I was sitting with some parents from the Victorian squad, talking about the ever present ticks in Whiteman Park, and out state pests in general eg funnel webs, dugites, tiger snakes and the like. I asked, “so what can you expect to crawl out from under a rock in Melbourne?” Twp parents simultaneously said “You mean besides Jeff Kennet?” Hmm. An over paid over rated blowhard. Thank you Stephen. His use by date was about June 1995.

  9. klewso

    It’s always all about Jeff.
    How many Premiers did more to instil angst, anxiety and misgiving, picking on those least able to defend themselves in society, than this arrogant, self-centred, pompous twat?

    1. Peter Wileman

      How many politicians fall out of the category of “arrogant, self-centred, pompous twat”?

  10. Draco Houston

    Why in the heck does the insider mail still link me here if I click comment on blue articles? Why does this keep happening? Do I have to write in to the tips and tell you there are rumours that a certain news site can’t work out hyperlinks?

    1. AR

      I stopped clicking Blue articles coz they went into the wild, blue(sic!) yonder, weeks ago.

    2. Dog's Breakfast

      Beats me Draco, I think this is the third time I have been misdirected to this article. Somebody wants me to read it, clearly.

      Chris Lilley on netflix, that’s one I won’t be watching.

      1. AR

        Right, that’s IT!
        I will no longer click on blue articles.
        And I love Mayne!

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