October 7, 2016
Dear Mayne Report readers,
Greetings for the first time since our last bumper email edition on September 18. If you'd rather not receive these occasional email newsletters, click here to unsubscribe.
Council elections in Victoria see City of Melbourne independent at risk
More than 2 million ballot papers are being mailed out to Victorian voters this week and there's plenty of interesting local government action to take in.
We sent this special edition to candidates and other local government players last week and received a truckload of responses.
At City of Melbourne we had our first candidates debate on Monday night hosted by the Carlton Residents Association and will be back with the Docklands Chamber of Commerce tonight.
I told the Carlton Crew that without clever micro-player preference deals, cashed up backers, party branding and a Lord Mayoral running mate, this genuine independent keeping everyone honest is at risk of losing. Check out the full pitch here.
Around the grounds of council elections
Firstly, check out these two fascinating crowd-sourced lists that we've put together on council elections right across Victoria:
Full call of the card of state-wide council elections
List of former councillors attempting a comeback
In terms of specific updates, here some interesting developments which caught our eye:
Bass Coast: our disparaging comments about the Phillip Island secessionists has attracted plenty of attention and we particularly liked this musical performance by one of the candidates supporting staying with the mainlanders.
Monash: The Liberals are putting their biggest effort (more than $100,000) into Monash as they attempt to end the long term control of Labor mayor Geoff Lake. This appears to be the only genuine Liberal vs Labor contest in the state and the numbers could very well finish with 4 Libs and 4 ALP councillors. The Liberal dirt sheet on Geoff Lake was pretty low, re-heating that old Kevin Rudd stuff from 2013 which got slated by the Press Council. For the record, Lake's disendorsement was reviewed by Brumby era Victorian Treasurer John Lenders (a former Victorian ALP state secretary), who concluded that he was harshly treated.
Darebin: If you are a serious candidate, would you really get a how to vote card wrong duplicating number 23? And what are the chances of two candidates in the same Darebin ward making the same mistake? Yes folks, it has happened - click here to see for yourself. (There's another shocker organised by Cr Tim Laurence that is viewable through the @maynereport twitter handle.) Federal Labor MP for Batman, David Feeney, remains actively involved in the Darebin elections supporting ALP Right candidates, which will make his forthcoming Darebin planning application a delicate one to manage if his candidates get up.
Hobsons Bay City Council: Went from dysfunction and conflict in the previous term to a model council for the past 4 years, so not sure the return of Tony Briffa would be a good move. Resigned mid-way through this term, automatically terminating a code of conduct panel which was on foot at the time. Remarkably, he has distributed a flyer throughout the ward this week claiming that "I have been able to achieve much in the last four years on the council by working with local residents". Hang on a minute. He resigned in early 2014. If a candidate can't be straight with their tenure on council, vote for someone else.
Stonnington: IBM executive Melina Sehr has spent over $20,000 and will get back comfortably. Judy Hindle retired in 2012 after topping the vote in 2008 and certainly deserves another term. There are plenty of good female candidates to choose from as business executive Marcia Griffin is also looking good to get over the line after going very close last time. Here's hoping for a rare female majority.
The Age goes live with pioneering donations register
It has received surprisingly little coverage but The Age went live on Monday with its councillor-backed donations register for the City of Melbourne elections, which has proved to be a great success.
All the major candidates, teams and groups have co-operated and the register is raising some interesting issues. Can Phil Cleary's team vote on QVM issues when they have taken $14,000 in donations from commercial traders operating at the Queen Victoria Market? Cleary has been bagging Team Doyle for taking developer donations which have triggered plenty of conflict of interest declarations over the past four years. The Lord Mayor, to his credit, has gone developer free in this campaign.
The register reveals that Team Doyle has already received $93,000 in donations including almost half from candidates on the ticket. It raises some interesting questions. How do they determine who pays what and why haven't the top of the ticket blokes, Kevin Louey and Nicholas Reece, made a contribution yet?
There was quite a public debate about Ken Ong's offer to contribute six figures to the Doyle campaign if he was deputy mayor but so far no-one has reported that Team Doyle number 3, Tessa Sullivan, has made a $25,000 donation. Did that influence her being placed higher on the ticket than incumbent female councillors Beverley Pinder-Mortimer and out-going deputy lord mayor Susan Riley, both of whom are at risk of losing?
Cr Ong, an effective and hard-working planning chair, is now the chief Lord Mayoral challenger to Robert Doyle and has only declared $4000 so far but this number will be much larger when the second version of the register hosted by The Age goes live on October 14.
The Greens are the biggest beneficiary of micro-donations, declaring a total of $17,550 in contributions valued at less than $500 each.
This means the majority of the Greens campaign funding is from undisclosed sources. Maybe the clean Greens could voluntarily reveal a few names in the October 14 version of the list.
So far, the team with the longest group name - Stephen Mayne: Transparency, Independence, Accountability, Experience - has declared $500 in donations and that's just for the two candidate deposits of $250 each. There is unlikely to be any more, hence the risk of defeat as better organised, preferenced and funded teams like The Greens and the Gary Morgan-backed councillor Jackie Watts are more likely to retain their seats on council.
ACCR chalks up a win as NAB goes donation free
The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility was gathering signatures for a shareholder resolution at the upcoming NAB AGM to try and put an end to the bank's political donations. ACCR has been cranking up a major campaign on this issue and NAB was their first target. However, based on this message on Tuesday from ACCR executive director Caroline Le Couteur, they've chalked up a quick win.
ACCR is very pleased that our work on political expenditure by Australian companies has had an impact. NAB is one of the companies we researched and found that, despite its policy saying "Our donations are not to express support for one side over another” three quarters its donations went to the Liberal party.
ACCR had commenced the process of putting a resolution about political expenditure at the NAB AGM in December. However on 20 September NAB changed its website to say that its policy was now to not make any more political donations.
ACCR will not proceed with the NAB resolutions due to the significantly improved policy.
ACCR would like to congratulate the NAB board on the new policy and to thank all fellow NAB shareholders who volunteered to assist us.
However, NAB is not the only company that spends money on Australian politics. In June 2016 ACCR published research on 23 of the top Australian listed companies and their attitudes, transparency and oversight in regards to corporate political expenditure. It is clear that compared to USA and UK there is less oversight of political expenditure by shareholders or the public.
Political expenditure continues to be an issue, including in the current ACT election and its influence on fossil fuel policy. ACCR will continue to press for reform, although given time and resource constraints we will not be lodging more resolutions this year.
Finally, have a look at NAB's old policy and see how if compares with NAB's new policy announced on September 20.
Caroline Le Couteur, Executive Director, ACCR
Well done to Caroline and the team at ACCR. The Australian Shareholders' Association agrees with their position on corporate political donations and gave their solicitation campaign for the 100 NAB signatures a push along in an email missive in September.
It's a shame Fairfax didn't acknowledge the work of ACCR in this front page splash on NAB's backflip in The Age today. The Australian also gave it a run today, pointing out that ANZ may also can donations. ASX is another major corporate that should follow suit, particularly after some recent ASA pressure at its AGM.
Keeping an eye on the Directors' Club
It was an interesting move by the corporate regulator ASIC to seek a banning order against former Vocation Group chairman John Dawkins, the Keating-era Treasurer and former Education Minister in the Hawke government.
ASIC, of course, has been under fire from Bill Shorten's Labor opposition for not doing enough about corporate misbehaviour. Now they've muscled up against a Labor luminary who contributed to the destruction of more than $200 million at Vocation.
As press reports noted at the time, it seemed odd that ASIC didn't take action against the other non-executive directors, including Dawkins' successor as chair, Doug Halley, who just happens to be the chairman of ASX200 company DUET Group. The DUET AGM is coming up on November 16 and long term director Halley is seeking another three year term. Will he attract a protest vote based on the principle that "CVs do matter in corporate Australia"?
It was an interesting take out from Ian Narev's testimony in Canberra this week that no CBA executives lost their job over the CommInsure rip-offs. Some investors just want basic accountability which sees executives getting fired over misconduct and directors with a poor track record being drummed out of the club.
For instance, should Slater and Gordon chairman John Skippen be given another 3 years at the Super Retail AGM on October 24 in Brisbane? Skippen has plenty of retail experience from his long stint as CFO of Harvey Norman, but the optics are not good given the disaster that has been the Slaters purchase of Quindell for $1.3 billion in the UK. A big protest vote may well be on the cards.
Other directors in the spotlight this AGM season include the arguably over-loaded Origin Energy chair Gordon Cairns, long serving BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser, former Woolworths CFO (hello Masters!) turned Stockland chair Tom Pockett and long-serving Southern Cross Media deputy chairman Leo Pasternak, who has copped multiple protests over the years for not being tough enough on the now-exited major shareholder and external manager, Macquarie Group.
Finally, here are links to some interesting lists related to directors:
Surprising lack of protest votes against non-independent executive chairs
ASX-listed chairs rushed into the job from outside
Tracking tenure and gender balance of AFL club boards
Companies which tried to make it harder for outsiders to run for boards
What happens to directors in takeovers
An inside peak at what City of Melbourne tells journalists
The policy goes back beyond this term of council, but us elected reps at City of Melbourne are pretty media obsessed if you consider the volume of emails we get from our media department.
Any journalist who emails council will generate an automatic email to all councillors, no matter how trivial the request.
We then all get copied in on the administration's agreed response, once it is put together, plus sometimes there is a final email alerting us to what was published.
All up, it amounts to close to 1000 emails a year on media matters, which dwarfs every other topic.
It is actually an excellent service for the media and other levels of government would do well to follow suit.
I'm often fascinated by the detail which is disclosed but then disappointed that the said media outlet buries the information or only uses a snippet of what is provided.
So, as the councillor most obsessed about telling the community what is really going on, today we bring you 40 examples of written City of Melbourne statements provided directly to individual journalists. (It won't be online for long as management are uncomfortable with this exercise.)
Read the lot and you'll learn plenty about Melbourne from rats in the city to flooding near Crown Casino, direct flights to Dubbo and why we need to pay our staff so well.
If there are any specific statements which cause problems, I'll be happy to take it down and the lot will be removed from public view after the election, but for now, check out this smorgasbord of interesting material while it is still available.
Murdoch pay levels now totally out of control at Fox and News Corp
When shareholders in 21st Century Fox gather at Fox Studios in Los Angeles on November 10 for the AGM, there will almost certainly be a big protest vote against the latest scandal of excessive Murdoch salaries.
We've seen some big numbers before, but nothing quite like what the family dropped on a Friday night, as the media world was soaking up this Vanity Fair hatchet job on ousted Fox News boss Roger Ailes, which the Murdoch camp quite clearly assisted.
Buried on page 42 of the 21st Century Fox 2015-16 proxy statement were the following annual pay figures for the trio of Murdoch men now jointly running the show.
Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch: US$34.6 million (up from US$27.9 million in 2014-15)
Chief Executive James Murdoch: US$26.4 million (up from US$15.05 million in 2014-15)
Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch: US$23.7 million (up from US$330,000 in 2014-15)
Yes, there's an element of accounting in there with the pension calculations, as this Hollywood Reporter piece outlines, but the figures for one family holding power — courtesy of a gerrymander — are still staggering by any standards.
In Australian dollars, we're talking three Murdochs for the price of about 20 ASX50 CEOs as they've pocketed a whopping $111.5 million in just 12 months — and that's before we see the pay data from the separately listed News Corp.
Despite having helped destroy almost $1 billion of shareholder value at Ten Network Holdings, Rupert Murdoch lured son Lachlan Murdoch back into the executive ranks in March 2014.
This has proven to be a historically expensive peace deal, even by Murdoch standards.
I have assembled the definitive list of executive pay at News Corp and 21st Century Fox since 1998-99, ranking the top five paid executives from each year, including the percentage pocketed by the Murdoch men.
Even before we see the separate News Corp remuneration data for 2015-16, Friday's 21st Century Fox disclosures have dwarfed anything we've seen before in both quantum and Murdoch family share.
For instance, 2007-08 was a fairly typical year at News Corp when the pay cake was carved up as follows:
Peter Chernin: US$28.8 million
Rupert Murdoch: US$27.55 million
Roger Ailes: US$19.9 million
James Murdoch: US$10.97 million
David Devoe: US$9.73 million
Eight years ago before the GFC struck, the top five at News Corp executives pocketed US$96.95 million and the two Murdochs, Rupert and James, received US$39.77 million — or 41% — of that bonanza.
So how does that compare with 2015-16? Chase Carey is on the way out, but he did receive a tasty US$29.2 million from 21st Century Fox in 2015-16, with CFO John Nallen rounding out the top five on US$12.1 million.
This lifted the total top five pay to a record US$126 million but the three Murdoch men grabbed 67.2% of this pie, easily the highest proportion in the history of News Corp and Fox pay disclosure.
Even though Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are supposedly busy running News Corp as co-chairmen in an executive capacity, 21st Century Fox shareholders are paying these part-timers like they are full-time superstar performers at the top of their game.
Instead you have an 85-year-old and his eldest son shovelling cash out of 21st Century Fox courtesy of a gerrymandered capital structure and a hand-picked board that features long-serving lead independent director Sir Rod Eddington, who also sits on the remuneration committee.
If 21st Century Fox were listed in Australia, the Murdochs wouldn't be able to vote in favour of their remuneration report, and there would be strikes and board spills happening on a regular basis.
Go here for the full News Corp pay data since 1998-99, but here is an annual summary of the total pay packages drawn by men called Murdoch from the public companies they have controlled over the past 18 years.
2015-16: US$84.7 million (News Corp data still to come)
2014-15: US$48.1 million (News and Fox combined)
2013-14: US$55.7 million (News and Fox combined)
2012-13: US$45.9 million
2011-12: US$46.8 million
2010-11: US$45.2 million
2009-10: US$33.1 million
2008-09: US$29.1 million
2007-08: US$39.8 million
2006-07: US$32.1 million
2005-06: US$25.9 million
2004-05: US$31.6 million
2003-04: US$26.5 million
2002-03: US$19.3 million
2001-02: US$13.7 million
2000-01: US$13.24 million
1999-2000: US$9.7 million
1998-99: US$6.3 million
That's a grand total of US$606.6 million over the past 18 years, or an average of US$33.7 million a year.
Measured in Australian dollars and using 2016 figures, it would be fair to estimate that the Murdoch family have extracted almost $2 billion in salary payments and bonuses from public companies over the journey since Rupert took over in 1953.
Surely this must be a record in the history of global capitalism.
The Murdoch cash drain has accelerated in 2015-16 now that the men of the family hold the three most senior executive positions in the company, especially seeing as Fox News boss Roger Ailes has now also been eliminated.
We've seen hundreds of billionaires created globally from soaring stock prices based on the value created for all shareholders, but nothing like this Murdoch family pay heist, which has primarily come in cash, not stock (21st Century Fox shares actually declined by 16% in 2015-16.)
And that's before you get onto the related-party transactions, such as the overpriced $2.8 billion News Corp paid for Queensland Press in 2004, plus the $700 million cash purchase of Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group in 2011, which never went to shareholders for approval.
Meanwhile, Murdoch journalists around the world will no doubt continue to pillory elected officials for their miserable salaries while failing to report the ongoing scandal that is family pay inside the world's most powerful media empire.
As you would expect, The Australian and the Murdoch tabloids have failed to print a word on these record Murdoch pay deals.
* This piece ran in Crikey last week.
Fighting the pokies in the Federal Court
A community briefing session was held on Tuesday night on the Federal Court action being run by Maurice Blackburn against Crown Resorts and Aristocrat Leisure alleging one of their pokies products is misleading and deceptive.
The City of Melbourne-backed Alliance for Gambling Reform is not running the case directly, but is certainly looking to maximise the impact and public knowledge about Australia's notoriously slack regulatory regime on high intensity pokies. Fingers crossed the judge orders the dangerously addictive state-approved machines be withdrawn from the market.
We'll keep you posted on developments as they unfold but it is terrific that celebrated QC Ron Merkel has agreed to run the pro bono case on behalf of Shonica Guy, an Adelaide-based victim who was addicted for 14 years and lost most of her life savings to the dreaded machines.
Finally on the pokies, listen to this campaign speech from the 2008 Woolworths AGM for a solid example of straight-talking pokies activism which has seemingly had little impact on our biggest pokies operators.
And try watching this 30 second anti-pokies ad made by Paul Bendat a few years ago featuring our daughter Alice, who was 6 at the time:
ADVERTISMENT: VOTE FOR PAULA PICCININI IN MANNINGHAM'S HEIDE WARD
Here is the statement by this particular Mayne Report advertiser included in the ballot pack sent to voters in the Manningham City Council elections:
STATEMENT IN POSTAL BALLOT PACK BY PAULA PICCININI
I am a practising lawyer who spent nine years on the RACV board and currently chair the $15m RACV Community Foundation. In the community sector, I chair EDVOS, the leading family violence service in Eastern Melbourne with annual funding of $5m and 30 staff.
After 12 years living in Manningham with my husband and three children, I am deeply embedded in our community having served on our childrens' kindergarten committee and as School Council President of their local primary.
My parents (Irish Catholic mother and Italian builder father) arrived in Australia by boat in 1972 with very little when I was 5. I worked hard, completed a double degree in Arts and Law and have practised in law all my working life as a solicitor, barrister and qualified mediator. Currently, I manage a legal team within a state-wide service assisting migrant victims of family violence.
Our family loves community sport but we need better facilities such as a soccer pavilion at Pettys Reserve and support for the long ignored Bulleen Boomers' spiritual home at Sheahans Road.
In terms of preferences, I'm supporting Matthew Agrotis and David Wynne, two terrific community contributors as Presidents of sporting clubs in the Heide ward.
* Disclosure: Paula Piccinini is related to the publisher of this website (a former Manningham councillor), by marriage.
Is it time for some constitutional reform over board nomination rules?
The ACCR's win against NAB on political donations highlights the effectiveness of shareholder resolutions to achieve change.
Over 18 years of shareholder advocacy, I've never been able to muster the 100 signatures required for a shareholder resolution, hence the preferred pathway of board tilts to maximise the pressure.
The prime vehicle used to achieve this long list of governance reform at City of Melbourne has been putting up these 54 notices of motion. All it takes is a single councillor to put up a motion and it must go to the vote.
The Canberra politicians should think about adopting the US system of non-binding shareholder resolutions that can be put up by a single shareholder who has held more than $US2000 worth of shares for 12 months. Why should Australian directors have an effective monopoly on issues which go to the vote?
After all, most Australian corporate constitutions allow a single shareholder to nominate someone for the board, so why should shareholder resolutions be any harder?
Shareholder rights to appoint directors easily are important and whenever this issue has been tested, proxy advisers and institutions have come down on the side of keeping the barrier to entry as low as possible.
Therefore, it shouldn't be too hard to persuade the small number of listed companies (Medibank, South32, TWE) with shareholder unfriendly constitutions in relation to external nominees for the board to change their tune.
David Crawford has been the chief advocate of blocking devices against external nominees, as was explained in this Crikey story last year.
It is too late for actual motions at this year's AGMs but there could well be some debate when the boards of Medibank, Treasury Wine Estates and South32 face shareholders over the next few weeks.
The Mayne Report loves lists and here are a few favourites
We love a good list at The Mayne Report and here are a few favourites we've worked up over the years:
18 years of remuneration excesses by the Murdoch family
150 local govt councillors who made it into Parliament
The great honorary doctorates list
Prominent Australians who have sued for defamation
Claimed assets of companies at time of collapse
The great Australian cheque-book journalism list
The Mayne Report Rich List (needs updating)
From the press room
We had a seven minute burst with Tim Shaw on 2CC earlier this week discussing the Big Four bank CEOs fronting up to the pollies in Canberra.
You can access it from this busy ASA in the media page.
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From the member edition archive
If you're a relatively new Mayne Report reader, here are links to some of the more interesting email editions sent out over the past nine years.
2016 - 13 editions so far
Running in Melbourne, council elections, Eddie McGuire, JB Hi Fi, NAB political donations, Jeff Kennett and plenty more
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Melbourne transparency reforms, council elections, pokies, capital raisings, long serving directors and MenziesSunday, September 4, 2016
Go Malcolm, denting Kevin, AEC goes nuclear and plenty more
Thursday, July 7
Final Menzies email blast
Friday, July 1
Campaign update, more pokies donations, Menzies ignored, ASA leave and council governance reform
Monday, June 27
Kevin's getting worried, campaign update, pokies, News Corp dispute, City of Melbourne and family news
Friday, June 17
Kevin locked in, so Make Menzies Matters campaign hits top gear
Friday, June 10
Menzies update, "Fake Liberal" corflutes, AFL pokies push, gift register and much more
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Menzies update, Westfield rate dodging, The Australian's gossips and candidate betting
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Menzies update, ASA board, pokies and Four Corners
Monday, May 23, 2016
Mayne announces Menzies tilt as Kevin Andrews embroiled in stacking scandal
Saturday, May 7, 2016
Turnbull, Warburton, pokies, AICD, IOOF, Quills, internal audit and much more
Monday, March 22, 2016
Bank royal commission, ASA tilt, Copyright, Piccinini, pokies, Kevin Andrews and Cabcharge
Monday, April 11, 2016
2015 - 8 editions
AGM season, PAITREOs, pokies, MAV, Copyright, Piccinini sisters, ANZ carbon and transcripts
November 5, 2015
Global Integrity Summit, Macquarie, pokies, council update, AGM season and family news
October 12, 2015
Battling Slaters, a Stokes shocker, council, CBA litigation, ASA conference and RACV reforms
April 30, 2015
Tenth anniversary of Crikey sale, Aristocrat AGM, council transparency and then some
March 9, 2015
Why Ministers should support the Liberal leadership spill
Monday, February 9, 2015
2014 - 8 editions focused on back half of the year post ASA gig
Special edition on the Victorian election result
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Vic election, Herald Sun, Rupert votes, Tex, Xenophon and much morey
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Rupert AGMs, Cabcharge, Costello, Bolt, Ten and Victorian election
Sunday, November 16, 2014
CBA tilt, LA visit, Rupert AGMs, Cabcharge and state election
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Cabcharge, donations for Rupert visit and governance reforms at City of Melbourne
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Tilts, Fairfax, CBA, Brickworks, Albert Park, ASX, Woolies, pokies and Crown
Friday, September 20, 2014
We're back: inside a post-ASA election season blitz
Monday, September 15, 2014
2013 - 10 editions with 5 favourites below
Capital raisings, Ansell, IAG, Packer, pokies, Rich List, City of Melbourne and ASA update
Monday, December 23, 2013
Franking robbery, East West trust breach, BHP bonuses, John Gay and plenty more
Sunday, August 25, 2013
ASA policy paper, Kevin Andrews on the pokies, Senate preferences and much more
August 19, 2013
ASA, Billabong, Westfield, Newcrest, Shorten, Turnbull, pokies and then some
Monday, July 22, 2013
Rudd v Gillard, referendum, Labor sleaze, Clive Palmer, ASA, City of Melbourne and plenty more
Monday, June 24, 2013
2012 - only 9 editions given council and ASA commitments
Backing Rudd, Lachlan, Bob Brown media debate, Manningham governance, Gunns and St Kilda AGM
Monday, February 20, 2012
The OZ goes mad, Murdoch piracy, AFR, pokies double rate, Gina, council super, BoQ rip-off and power speech
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Mayne family news
Poor Philip Mayne, 11, was dragged along to the Carlton candidates forum on Monday and given the phone to live tweet the event.
He certainly entertained better than his old man with some pithy critiques of the performances, plus the odd dad joke such as: "Why do fish swim in salt water? Because pepper makes them sneeze!"
As school captain he has introduced joke of the week at assembly and that one went down pretty well last Monday.
Dad is back in the saddle coaching an U15 girls cricket team again this summer but so far only Alice, 13, is fully committed to playing. Laura, 15, will come off the bench as required if we are short and Philip will help out on match days.
All three kids have signed up for another season of basketball with the Bulleen Boomers and with Phil's team lacking a coach, this might end up being a job for his big sisters if no-one else steps forward.
Sister Sally had a cracking fancy dress 50th birthday party last Friday and prospect City of Manningham councillor Paula Piccinini wowed us all as Kim Kardashian.
We then backed it up with a great day at the AFL Grand Final, which finished up in the power-packed September Club where we managed quick chats with the likes of Geelong coach Chris Scott (an old Manningham boy), AFL President Mike Fitzpatrick, Daily Telegraph editor Chris Dore and Defence Minister Marise Payne, just to name drop a few.
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