Sacked NSW bureaucrats, David Murray, cranky Rupert, our churches too wealthy?

July 28, 2008

Here are Stephen Mayne's 4 stories from the Crikey edition on Monday, 7 November, 2005.

10. Another 10 sacked NSW bureaucrats – grand total 30

By Stephen Mayne

We thought 30 would be about it, but we've easily reached that milestone and the names of ousted top NSW bureaucrats just keep pouring in. Surely no government in Australian history has churned through as many chairs, CEOs and departmental secretaries as the 11 years of Labor administration in our biggest state. Here are today's 10 new names and don't you love the amount of times Michael Costa features:

Jeffrey Allen:
sacked without compensation as CEO of Intregral Energy in 1999 but failed in a $1 million unfair dismissal case.

John Cowling: sacked as CEO of the Rail Infrastructure Corporation with a $355,000 payout when Michael Costa became Minister for Transport in 2003.

Ken Cripps: departed as Commissioner of the Public Employment Office in 1996 after allegations in court that he showed inappropriate videos to two teenagers.

Michael Deegan: sacked as Director General of Transport when Michael Costa became Minister of Transport in 2003.

Jeff Jarratt: sacked as a police deputy commissioner by his boss Peter Ryan in 2001.

Carmel Niland:
sacked as Director General of the Department of Community Services (DOCS) in 2002.

Greg Robinson: sacked in 2004 after less than a year as CEO of Sydney Water after a vote of no confidence by the board, which was backed by the then Minister responsible, Frank Sartor.

Peter Ryan:
departed as NSW Police Commissioner early after Michael Costa became police minister in 2002.

John Stott: removed as CEO of State Transit Authority in 2004 by Michael Costa but simultaneously appointed to chair new smartcard board.

Bill Watson: sacked as chief of Sydney Ferries by Transport Minister Michael Costa after his brother-in-law was awarded a contract.

To check out the 20 other names on our list go here and keep the suggestions coming to We've had numerous other names submitted but sometimes it is difficult getting confirmation they were sacked or resigned under pressure and we're only running what can be proven.

20. David Murray lands the Future Fund gig

By Stephen Mayne

Peter Costello yesterday confirmed that cranky David Murray, the recently retired CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, will be installed as chairman of the Future Fund, whenever the Treasurer finally gets the structure settled and legislation through the Parliament.

The powers of the Future Fund board are a vital issue as, over time, there will be no bigger or more influential investor in the Australian share market. David Murray has already enjoyed that position as CBA's $9 billion purchase of Colonial, something he later publicly regretted, did make him responsible for the largest pool of investment funds in Australia.

However, that $100 billion pool was spread around the world, in different asset classes and for millions of investors. Murray was too busy running his financial conglomerate to worry about how Colonial First State voted its stock at various AGMs.

Things will be very different at the Future Fund where Murray will be the single most powerful figure, especially if he decides to create an in-house funds management team, something that would save taxpayers billions of dollars in fees, but could lead to lower investment returns.

Murray will be guided by the legislation but don't expect current and past federal public servants, whose superannuation savings will comprise the Future Fund, to be given any say whatsoever over the investment mandates or individual voting on major issues. The Government is even preventing the Future Fund from controlling investments or appointing directors, so it sounds like they will have their hands tied.

Murray's own record on corporate governance and disclosure isn't that great. Remember that $7 million bonus for ten years of good performance which wasn't disclosed until the very end. And what about personally doing that debt forgiveness deal with Paul Keating over the piggery when Keating had personally intervened to get him appointed CEO ahead of Macquarie Bank's Tony Berg?

The Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee, most notably Democrat senator Andrew Murray, had a detailed session with Finance Minister Nick Minchin on the Future Fund last Monday and Tuesday which is well worth a read.

21. Cranky Rupert vs the BSkyB minorities

By Stephen Mayne

If Rupert Murdoch thought he could deceive News Corporation's shareholders over the poison pill and then just carry on as if nothing had happened, he was sadly mistaken after receiving yet another wake-up call at the BSkyB annual meeting on Friday in London.

Rupert somehow controls BSkyB as chairman and has installed second son James as CEO, even though the Murdoch family only has a 5% economic interest, reflecting the wonders of gerrymanders, non-voting shares and a minority controlled company (News Corp) having minority control over another company (BSkyB).

However, the proposal to approve another BSkyB buyback that would give News Corp more "creeping control" was almost defeated with 56% of the shares in favour and 46% against. Just as with the celebrated defeat of News Corp's executive options in 2003, Rupert couldn't vote the 37% News Corp stake that he controls. He has undoubted control of both News Corp and BSkyB on key resolutions when he can votes his shares, which is most of the time.

Add to that a 5% slump in the BSkyB share price on a disappointing September quarter result, albeit a 14% profit increase to 215 million pounds, and it was a shocking day for Rupert, which fed through into a 29c drop in the News Corp share price to $20.46 this morning.

Check out the coverage of events in The Guardian, The Independent and even The Times. The Observer produced this interesting comment piece yesterday on the continuing enemy count that Rupert is notching up, whilst his friends and supporters dwindle. The key voting results and Rupert's address to the AGM is available here.

Rupert headed back to New York after his eight independent BSkyB directors issued a statement attacking the institutions who Rupert himself directly attacked at the BSkyB meeting. His next public engagement will be News Corp's September quarter earnings release on November 10, then he comes to Australia for the first time since the funeral of his sister Helen Handbury last November.

In what might be his last ever visit to Adelaide, Rupert, his mum and SA Premier Mike Rann will attend a black-tie dinner in Adelaide on November 15 celebrating the first-ever News Ltd newspaper awards, which a cynic might suggest is being established as an alternative to the Walkleys, in which News traditionally struggles against Fairfax and the ABC.

Let's hope he comprehensively works the room. A total of 94 finalists from 29 of the company's titles and website have been short-listed, so New Ltd will be spending hundreds of thousands on the night. The next morning Rupert will face shareholders, including Crikey, at the much-anticipated "shareholder information meeting." There will be much to talk about.

31. Are our churches too wealthy?

By Stephen Mayne

The email has been running hot with suggestions of what to talk about with John Safran on Wednesday for his new religious chat show, Speaking in Tongues, which debuts on SBS tonight at 9pm.

Our broad topic is the church and business, but we're looking to go beyond the simple stuff such as raising the quandary about the Catholic church's wealth. That said, go here for an emotive attack on the Vatican's wealth, including the following:

Jesus, the founder of Christianity, was the poorest of the poor. Roman Catholicism, which claims to be His church, is the richest of the rich, the wealthiest institution on earth. How come, that such an institution, ruling in the name of this same itinerant preacher, whose want was such that he had not even a pillow upon which to rest his head, is now so top-heavy with riches that she can rival – indeed, that she can put to shame – the combined might of the most redoubtable financial trusts, of the most potent industrial super-giants, and of the most prosperous global corporation of the world?

Clearly, there is no chance that Hillsong or any other latter day Church will ever challenge the wealth of the Vatican, but there are certainly plenty of large asset piles spread across the religious spectrum, although nothing in Australia beats the estimated $100 billion-plus that the Catholics are sitting on.

BRW's Adele Ferguson has been a woman on a mission in relation to this, she has written several articles highly critical of the commercial dealings of the churches and their tax status, and is favoured to win the business Walkley this year for her cracking cover story which kicked off as follows:

Australia 's $70 billion not-for-profit sector is out of control. Despite being almost 10% of the economy and employing more than 600,000 people, it is dangerously unaccountable, lacks transparency and is inefficient. It is the black hole of Australia 's economic system, and it is getting bigger every day. Even the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has no idea what the sector is worth, how the organisations spend their money, or even how many there are. Nor does it have a complete list of which organisations have a tax exemption – organisations that take billions of dollars of tax revenue.

She then trained her guns directly on the churches:

Religious groups are the hidden giants of the economy. In an era of corporate regulation they are virtually unaccountable.The big five churches had revenue of more than $21.7 billion in 2004. They do not have to file income tax returns and, unlike in most other countries, they do not have to pay tax on commercial businesses or capital gains tax on the sale of assets.This has prompted some religions to expand outside the charitable sector.

In other surprising revelations, it appears that the Mormons are Australia's biggest corn producers. We all know that the Seventh Day Adventists turn over $330 million a year through Sanitarium, but there are plenty of other vast commercial enterprises out there which are run by the churches.

I should correct one thing from Friday. Hillsong doesn't run Gloria Jeans. Nabi Saleh, one of the owners and manager of Gloria Jeans, is on Hillsong's board and Gloria Jeans promotes a "coffee cart" franchise product to churches through Hillsong.

Keep the emails coming to