Australia Council

The race for the CEO role at Australia Council, two titans of the intellectual dark web meet, and the Commonwealth Bank are not struggling in the way you might think. 

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

What’s the OzCo down-low? What’s going on at the Australia Council? We hear Creative Partnerships Australia CEO Fiona Menzies is the frontrunner for the CEO role after Tony Grybowski steps down in October. Grybowski was appointed by former arts minister Tony Burke in 2013. A tipster tells us Menzies is among four people who are being interviewed with final interviews for the role (widely considered something of a poison chalice) tomorrow. Menzies is a former Coalition adviser and chief of staff — having worked with Howard government ministers Richard Alston and Peter McGauran. 

Creative Partnerships describe their role as providing “artists and arts organisations with the tools, skills and resources to flourish. From fundraising programs and opportunities for business partnerships, to practical campaigning tips and capacity building workshops”. However, our tipster tells us Menzies plans, if she is successful to merge Creative Partnerships into the Australia Council to boost “Creative Partnerships’ poor performance”. We asked Creative Partnerships about this, but they didn’t get back to us before deadline. Watch this space — or, if you know more, let us know.

Laughing all the way to the Commbank. Admist the bleating media commentary, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Commonwealth Bank has been sorely damaged by the royal commission and the Austrac money laundering case. Yes, its return on equity fell 160 points to 14.1%. But that is still extremely high (especially for a bank — rival regional Suncorp has a major ambition to get its return to 10%!). And yes, there was an outflow of funds from parts of its funds management arm. But as Crikey has pointed out, the CBA’s 2017-18 result underlined its immense strength and resilience. 

Revenue rose 2.6%, but operating profit rose (yes rose) to $10.547 billion from $10.229 billion in 2016-17. And of the $851 million rise in revenue for the year to June (which is a pretty sizeable sum), $318 million dropped straight into operating profit. And look at the gross profit margin operating profit is as a share of revenue: in 2016-2017 it was 41.4%, in 2017-18 it was 41%. 

41% gross profit margins is still far less than the 55% to 60% the big iron ore miners get or the 70% plus for the ASX or the 80% Transurban arranges for its Sydney and Melbourne toll roads, but it is still nice and juicy. And of course the CBA lifted dividend to a record $4.31 a share. The share price is rising, so rather than feel the pain, many loyal shareholders have stuck with the CBA and feel the gain.

And also remember that the CBA has absorbed the impact of a full year’s extra tax payment to the government under the one-off tax announced in the 2017-18 budget in May 2017. That was supposed to be a way for the Turnbull government to punish the bank. Some punishment. It left barely a dent, shareholders are richer for it and customers are paying the tax. 

International drink web. New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss is headed to Australia for reasons none of us quite understand. The phrase “intolerant left” dribbles listlessly from her pen with dreary regularity, so a list of her plans should surprise noone. She wants cocktails with none other than Quillette editor and founder, and contributor to Rebel Media, Claire Lehmann — a woman awarded the dubious honour of being a leading figure in the “intellectual dark web”. 

The writer who thinks the real fascists are students trying to shut down debate (eliding her own campaigns against Arab professors at Columbia) meets the founder of a website that publishes lengthy defences of decades old and thoroughly discredited race theory? Ms Tips wishes she were available to meet up with the gals, but sadly is busy that night putting her face in a deep fryer. 

Drying up. Ever the parochial contrarians, Western Australia. While everyone else is facing a drought, WA today has flood warnings for rivers and streams in the southwest, central west and lower west regions of the state, and thanks to generous rains, it’s looking at a near record wheat harvest. 

The West Australian reports:

WA’s grain farmers could pump a record-breaking $6 billion into the economy this harvest thanks to a combination of high prices and good rains. Some farmers could end up with gross incomes 40% to 70% above expectations because of soaring grain prices and ideal growing conditions, according to MarketAg director Richard Vincent. ‘It has been at least 10 years since seasonal and pricing factors worked in farmers’ favour’, he said. 

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