John Fraser is a prick. He really is.
These are his words — not mine.
The former Treasury chief now AMP director has been in the news this week for an atrocious interview where he describes how he “guards against sexual harassment”.
Not how he guards female staff against sexual harassment, but how he guards himself against accusations by bringing along a couple of “mature” women to stand beside him as his personal praetorian guard.
He told the AFR’s Chanticleer column: “They’d always come with me to the social functions and just stay within about a metre — because things happen. You know, you can be accused of stuff. So that was a bit sad.”
A bit sad? What’s sad is that an ageing, balding, portly, pasty, pompous man thinks he needs help to ward off the hordes of nubile young women conniving to get their hands on him.
Unfortunately there are probably others in politics and business who think the same but just don’t say it out loud.
Lest you think he was taken out of context or that it was an uncharacteristic lapse of judgement, I refer to a lengthy profile with the AFR’s Geoff Kitney in 2015 in which Fraser proudly declared: “I am a prick. I really am.”
You don’t need to read the full excruciating piece to agree with him. Just ask his many critics from his time at UBS investment bank to his more recent stint as head of Treasury in Canberra.
‘Loosen them up with a couple of bottles of wine’
Fast-forward five years to the same paper and he managed to double down with even more ludicrous comments — like how he would take potential senior employees to dinner to loosen them up with a couple of bottles of wine.
Some of these revelations first popped up in a podcast in May, and given the opportunity to explain his bizarre management philosophy Fraser did not “resile” from any of it.
The outrage at his comments was matched only by the incredulity that they came from the director of a disgraced company desperately trying cultural change.
Fraser seems to be about as adept at handling media interviews as Prince Andrew. Or US Vice President Mike Pence who has admitted he will not go to social occasions without his wife.
Those who read my column last week might be interested to know that Fraser has never been a member of Male Champions of Change, not even when he took over Treasury from Martin Parkinson who had been.
Fraser’s own goal came as he attempted to explain why AMP promoted Boe Pahari to the top job at AMP Capital despite fining him a reported half a million dollars three years ago for sexual harassment infringements. (He made them “a lot of money” was the answer.)
All that Chief Executive Women president Sue Morphet could come up with for Crikey when asked to comment on Fraser was this PR pap, studiously avoiding his comments: “It is beholden on all executives, male and female, to build a harassment-free workplace and it starts with us all today.”
She didn’t address Fraser’s weird comments though.
Her predecessor and prominent board director Diane Smith-Gander was more outspoken, saying today that Pahari should have been “sidelined or demoted” for a number of years over the incident.
And reflecting the impact of the whole PR disaster, even Chairman David Murray finally broke his silence this morning becoming the latest AMP dinosaur to defend Pahari.