Bumper end of year Mayne Report email edition

July 7, 2012

Dear Mayne Report Readers,

Greetings for the last time in 2011 and the first time since our November 8 email edition after the lengthy appearance before the Independent Media Inquiry.

Today we've got all sorts of interesting material including a review of the year in news, a remarkable Soul Patts AGM, Murdoch, Foster's fat cats, Rich Listers, implosions at Darebin council, a DLP mayor for Moreland, governance issues in Tasmania, ANZ's pokies exposure, free speech issues at Manningham, lively Tweets galore and a defamation settlement. There's also some talk circuit tales of note, a Kookaburra award and we're about about to sign a contract for a memoir which will hopefully get further than the last deal with the News Corp-owned Harper Collins.

Enjoy it all folks, or if you'd rather not receive these monthly email newsletters, click here to unsubscribe.

The Night Life with Rod Quinn

2011 has been a huge year for news with none bigger than the fall of various dictators. Time magazine declared "the protestor" as its person of the year and, with the exception of criminal looting in the UK, it's hard to disagree with that assessment when you consider what happened with the Arab Springs.

For the fourth year straight, Rod Quinn and I spent 55 minutes reviewing the year in news on ABC local radio across the country and the following provides audio links and a brief summary of the issues covered during those discussions.

2011: wide-ranging discussion on December 20 with Rod Quinn covering natural disasters, sovereign debt, the Arab Springs, carbon tax, refugees, Osama Bin Laden and various other topics.

from 10-11pm on ABC local radio across the country on December 16. Territory covered included Kevin Rudd, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, federal and state elections and the other main news events from 2010.

wide-ranging discussion from 10-11pm on ABC local radio across the country on December 21. Territory covered included climate change, various international elections, the GFC, Tiger Woods, Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott.

- wide-ranging discussion from 10-11pm on ABC local radio across the country on December 29. Territory covered included the GFC, sport, Georgia, Iraq, Obama, the Beijing Olympics and the performance of Kevin Rudd.

A classic Soul Patts AGM

It was absolutely worth staying the night in Sydney after our 9-hour ASA board meeting on December 1 because the Soul Patts AGMs the following day was just incredible. First up, here is what we said about it on Twitter throughout the day:

Just left unbelievable Soul Patts AGM after several heavy stoushes with those dictatorial Millner family directors and controlling owners.

Robert Millner is the worst AGM dictator chairman have encountered in 400 AGMs. A billionaire disgrace. Directors are stooges.

@kybusiness I'll have more quotable quotes from Washington Soul Patts AGM at 4PMAEDT. Most colourful AGM I've been to in years

Just landed in Canberra and headed to ANU for speech on favorite AGM battles over the years. Today's battle with Rob Millner is up there.

Heart and Soul in an AGM cracker

It was quite amusing to see the following letter appear in The AFR on Monday, December 5:

Chairman Robert Millner may disagree but the Soul Patts AGM on Friday was the best fun at lunchtime I've had with my clothes on without a beer for a little while.

With the notable exception of (shareholder activist) Stephen Mayne - calling the Soul Patts chairman a "cowboy" must be a first since 1903 - it was intriguing to see some badly behaved older folks haranguing the impeccably mannered young turks, Perpetual's Matt Williams and corporate adviser Robert Fraser.

With stirring speeches from people such as Ian Huntley and David Fairfull (including a fearful dismembering of Mayne which rightly sent him to the exits), complete confusion about who was or wasn't on the nomination committee, a veritable Who's Who of 1980s stockbrokers and 1970s personalities, and a rather larger vote in favour of Fraser from the wider shareholder base than might have been expected, it was as a good old-fashioned AGM should be.

I came away with a tub of vitamin C cream and a couple of bars of soap as well. They'll come in use to wash out young Mayne's mouth. Oh, I was there in a personal rather than a professional capacity.

Andrew Brown
Randwick NSW



I came straight from the David Jones AGM and could only stay at Soul Patts for the first hour courtesy of a commitment to appear on Sky's Business View program at 2pm. There wasn't any particular intention to get involved in a debate as ASA was represented at the AGM.

However, once Robert Millner attempted to delay any debate about Perpetual's board nomination and the notorious Millner family cross-shareholdings between Brickworks and Soul Patts until after the vote on all the resolutions, I just saw red.

How on earth can you vote on a contested resolution before listening to the debate?

This was a classic abuse of process by the chair, so I gave Robert Millner a big serve. Chairman Millner largely ignored the complaint and then ploughed on with the first item of business which he tried to claim could only deal with the accounts.

It was pretty easy to get around this, so I framed a question about the cross-shareholdings detailed in the annual report and asked how having this anachronistic Adsteam-style structure was good corporate governance in 2011.

Once again, Millner refused to engage saying this debate would happen at the end of the meeting.

The Perpetual boys then got to their feet to ask questions about how Millner had tried to rule their proxies ineligible based on the poxy rationale that proxies can only come to the company direct from the shareholders.

Millner had relented on this point at the beginning of the AGM but then refused to reveal which legal firm had provided the dodgy advice in the first place.

We then had an incredible debate about the nomination committee in which there was complete confusion about who was on it, when it met and how it decided to appoint the chairman's son to fill a vacancy.

As the biggest shareholder with 12% of the stock, it is not unreasonable for Perpetual to request a board seat, such that its share of the potential $3 billion in cash to be generated from a possible sale of the New Hope coal business can be properly represented and protected.

After all, Perpetual is Australia's biggest independent specialist fund manager which looks after more than $40 billion courtesy of Australia's paternalistic and complulsory superannuation system.

Therefore, tens of thousands of Australia are invested in Soul Patts through Perpetual and they should not be shafted by a thoroughly undemocratic structure of cross-shareholdings between Brickworks and Soul Patts.

The so-called "fearful dismembering" of your correspondent by independent director David Fairfull was quite entertaining.

When it came to the election of directors, I asked for those who believed themselves to be independent of the Millner family to raise their hands.

Fairfull's hand went up along with a couple of others, at which point I asked why we bothered to pay them at all given they appear to be complete patsies for the Millner family.

Fairfull refused to answer the question and instead aggressively demanded to know what business I'd ever run. I was happy to explain that Crikey.com was launched and built over 5 years, eventually generating a $1 million exit, to which Fairfull responded "so what?"

You don't get too many exchanges like that at AGMs these days and it will be interesting to see how the Perpetual campaign finishes up.

One interesting option might be to become ASA monitor for some of these Millner controlled companies and then seek a meeting with cranky old Robert who is now into his 70s and getting more combative with each passing year.

The Mayne Report Rich List

BRW magazine does a great job with its various Australian Rich Lists but we've broadened their efforts to track any Australian who has ever been worth more than $10 million. We've got more than 1500 names with those who've fallen back below $10 million now italicised. Below are our latest new or updated entries:

John Pollaers: the former Foster's CEO is worth more than $10 million after Foster's shareholders narrowly approved his full incentive payments for 2010-11 and 2011-12 ahead of the $10 billion SAB-Miller takeover.

Peter Trew: Sydney property developer who in 2011 placed his North Curl Curl beachfront mansion on the market expecting $10 million.

Rodney Payne: a Sydney-based former BT trader and founding director of Zurich Capital Markets Australia who in 2011 placed his Seaforth mansion on the market for $8 million.

Linda Stipanicev: a Perth-based company director who in 2011 placed her Peppermint Grove mansion near the Swan River on the market expecting about $10 million.

Stephen Joyce: a high profile member of the Exclusive Brethren and a director of UBT, the Brethren's Universal Business System which offers such services as coaching and computers (with connection only to the internet through the Brethren's own portal). All of the UBT directors are well off and Joyce owns businesses such as Jaybro, Orange Hire and Cambridge Graphics. Stephen is also the grandson of William Leslie Joyce who owned Mastercraft Chocolates before selling it in 1963 to Lifesavers for a tidy sum.

State Library of Victoria lecture: assessing power in Australia

The Baillieu government hasn't been as tribal as some of its predecessors when it comes to cleaning out political rivals from government boards, so it came to pass that former Victorian Labor Premier John Cain did the introductions when I delivered the Stephen Murray-Smith annual lecture at the State Library of Victoria on October 13.

John Cain is now 80 but he was given a 12-month extension as SLV chair by Ted Baillieu earlier this year, although at some point Ted's dear friend Petro Georgiou appears set to take over the unpaid position.

Whilst normally delivering fast-paced discussions off the cuff, this SLV lecture on power and transparency was a different kettle of fish. More than 5000 words of text was prepared and there was only a modest amount of ad libbing.

John Cain delivered a very generous introduction stressing the importance of genuinely independent commentary and we also had some lively questions at the end.

Check out a video of the full box and dice here.

Update from the Australian Shareholders' Association

Like everyone in the market, the Australian Shareholders' Association has been buffeted by volatile markets and investor disinterest in 2011. However, ASA certainly did have its biggest ever AGM season for media coverage, largely courtesy of the efforts of CEO Vas Kolesnikoff.

Companies such as Foster's, Qantas, CBA and Wesfarmers all drew plenty of attention as the "two strikes" legislative very much changed the nature of the public debate.

2012 is shaping up to be another big year for change and development at ASA and it would be great to have your membership support as we continue to stand up for shareholders. Click on the link below if you fancy getting on board to lend a hand.

Why Foster's CEO John Pollaers was let go by SAB-Miller

Foster's CEO John Pollaers was not offered a gig by SAB-Miller when they formally took control of the beer giant on December 16.

And why would they when former Foster's chairman David Crawford outrageously enriched his hand-picked CEO by ramming through his full equity incentive scheme for the last two financial years.

Crawford seemed to think that it didn't matter a jot because SAB-Miller was paying for it and he didn't even seek their approval in doing this. No wonder more than 40% of the vote went against both the 2011 and 2012 equity issues to Pollaers who now features amongst 1500 names on our rich list.

This "who cares if someone else is paying" attitude by Crawford demonstrates a complete disdain for shareholders. What about global index funds like Vangaurd who own both Foster's and SAB-Miller shares and don't want to see millions given away to management without justification.

Foster's insiders have also told me that the Pollaers farewell extravaganza was a little bit excessive.

Leaving these criticisms to one side, I did make Foster's and Axa Asia Pacific Holdings joint winners for sharemarket performance in the 2011 Crikey Business Awards, for the following reasons:

The fastest way to destroy value is overpaying in takeovers, so it is always good to be a shareholder in the company being acquired. Foster's shareholders collected a cool $10 billion from SAB Miller, which was way over the odds. And they have still got Treasury Wines which is worth $2.5 billion. The same goes for Axa Asia Pacific Holdings where minorities exited in March with almost half of the tidy $14 billion takeover valuation. Since then both AMP and AXA's French parent have seen their shares dive. In business, you've got to know when to hold ‘em, and known when to fold ‘em. Shareholders in Foster's and Axa Asia Pacific Holdings should be thanking their boards for extracting lucrative exits.

Apology to Lee Kuan Yew's son at ANZ AGM

Back in 2009, I launched the following spray against Lee Hsieng when he was asking for another 3 year term as a director of ANZ:

Stephen Mayne:
I would just like to clarify a quick point, is the candidate related to Lee Kuan Yew?

Chairman Charles Goode: yes, he happens to be his son.

Stephen Mayne: happens to be his son, okay. Alright, at one level I would like to say, if we are aiming to be a super regional bank, then having a member of Lee Kuan Yew's family on our board is strategically sound, given the great economic success of Singapore in a pretty rough neighbourhood, I think you would say, overall.

However, I would like to make a couple of other points. They go to the candidate's comments about his commitment to corporate governance. Now I would have thought that corporate governance also includes a few basic democratic principals - such as free speech, such as not denying people visas – who are are critics of your father's operation. Such as not launching defamations actions against opposition politicians, and all those authoritarian features that we see in Singapore.

I changed my Optus contract to Telstra when the Singapore Government executed Australian citizen Van Nguyen three or four years ago, which is another example of a very strong cultural difference between Australia and Singapore. And I would simply say to the candidate, that I hope that we don't see any of these unfortunate, undemocratic features in economically successful Singapore, now that you have joined the board of a big bank in a much freer democracy. I do hope that after making these comments I won't be denied a visa the next time I try to travel to Singapore.

Chairman Charles Goode: Mr Lee has addressed you on his own credentials. I think you'll agree, everyone should stand on their own merits. He is standing as a leading Asian businessman. You've made certain accusations against Singapore, and there are answers to all of those, and we could have a lively discussion, and many of us, apart from Mr Lee, could engage in that discussion with you. That is not the purpose of the meeting today. We have an outstanding Asian businessman; he has made his own life. Reached the top, chairman of Fraser and Neave and so on, runs Singtel, standing before you for election.


Fast forward to 2011 and I found himself at the ANZ AGM in Sydney on December 16. Remembering that Charles Goode's wife had castigated me after the 2009 AGM for being "f***ing rude to Mr Lee" and that new chairman John Morschel also said it was over the top, I opened with an apology of sorts and promised not to make any references to democracy in Singapore.

Could ANZ CEO Mike Smith be margin called

The major reason for going to Sydney on December 16 was to catch up with Rod Towl, a great racing mate of my English cousin, Dr Richard Newland.

Seeing as Richard, a doctor turned racing trainer and medical entrepreneur, always shows us a fun time when we catch up, I thought making his mate, a former jockey, stand up at the ANZ AGM would be good for laugh.

In the end, Rod wasn't up for delivering this script pretending to be a sacked English banker looking for a new start Down Under:


Morning chairman and an extra special good morning to one of Britain's finest bankers of all time, Mr Michael Roger Pearson Smith, OBE.

My name is Rod Trow and I'm an unemployed English banker who, unfortunately, got nationalised out of a job during the GFC.

Things got pretty tough at RBS and I will admit to making a few high risk loans that went bad on Australian property developments.

We lost over $1 billion Down Under, sadly, but it wasn't all my fault. My old colleagues even lost a few million more this week selling down loans to Channel Nine to hedge funds. We should have known that when Sydney's finest, James Packer, decided it was time to sell, us mug Pommy bankers shouldn't have banked those big talking private equity boys at CVC.

Anyway, as a proud member of the wandering English bankers club, I'd just like to toast the magnificent job that my English brother Mr Smith has done for ANZ - and himself.

Fancy being able to pocket close to $10 million Aussie a year, whilst soaking up all this magnificent sunshine. Sir, with the pound crashing, you're on a magnificent wicket down here. You've made a 100 before lunch on Boxing Day against the Aussies.

I'm sure the politicians and customers don't notice you're providing the most expensive banking service in the world. $32 billion in pre-tax profits for the Big Four banks Down Under, eh. That's incredible. How do you get away with it?

Mate, us Poms would die to be able to deliver numbers like that whilst staying down the risk curve through focusing on home lending above all else.

Now, my question. Mr Michael Roger Pearson Smith, OBE, chief executive officer of the mighty Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

Seeing as we did go to the same school, any chance you can give this unemployed English banker a job?


After sitting around for about 90 minutes listening to some very tedious debate, Rod eventually got up and asked chairman John Morschel about The AFR's front page story that day claiming APRA had given them a week to stress test how ANZ would shape up with a 30% crash in house prices and 12% unemployment.

Both Morschell and Mike Smith said the story was bunkum and Rod was stoked when this denial got a run on the wires. I even dropped his name a few hours later on Sky's Business View program and he very much enjoyed touring the Sky newsroom.

My first visit to the microphone focused on the $18.4 million loan CEO Mike Smith has from ANZ, which is currently only supported by a shareholding worth about $17 million. Did the bank have adequate security and would their be an Opus Prime style margin call if a stress test turned real and the ANZ share price went into freefall.

Chairman Morschel assured shareholders that Mr Smith had plenty of assets to support such a large personal loan and that he was treated no different to any other customer. Yeah, right.

The reality is that Smith is cruising along on $10 million a year and collected a $9 million sign-on fee to compensate for equity he left on the table after leaving HSBC. That same equity would be worth much less now so he's done extremely well out of ANZ and presumably does have about $50 million of assets to support this $18.4 million loan.

Why does ANZ dominate pokies lending?

The pokies campaign rolls on and it was good to hit the ANZ board with a question at the December 16 AGM asking why they are easily the biggest lender to the gaming industry.

Whilst loans to Crown and ALH are never going to default, ANZ has lost plenty on loans to highly geared pub investment vehicles, such as Tom Hedley's outfit.

Chairman John Morschel claimed ANZ is Australia's largest institutional bank, so it made sense that it would be the biggest lender to the pokies industry.

Silly me had always thought that NAB was Australia's biggest business lender and that ANZ weighed in third out of the Big Four when it came to market capitalisation because CBA and Westpac were so much bigger in home lending.

Now we know that ANZ should logically be the biggest lender to every business sector.

Finally on the pokies, check out the latest from Paul Bendat's Pokieact website and this package of our past pokies coverage.

And try watching this 30 second anti-pokies ad made by Paul Bendat in 2010 featuring our daughter Alice, who was 6 at the time:

The Kookaburra award

After banging the drum on corporate governance for the past 13 years and pushing hard for more female directors over the past two years, it was very nice of the group at Our Community, with the backing of sponsors Westpac, to award the $10,000 Kookaburra prize to your correspondent. See the details here.

Firing up our Youtube channel again

When The Mayne Report first launched in 2007 we were posting daily videos on our Youtube channel. Alas, the cost and time of in-house video production, plus the lack of any revenue, made this model unviable. Besides, daily videos wasn't necessarily the best way to campaign for better corporate governance through shareholder activism.

In the end, it made more sense to channel our efforts into appearing on other people's videos, such as these two appearances last year on Ten's The 7pm Project, rather than trying to build an audience from scratch.

However, when you look back at all the video we've got spanning our own productions, one-off interviews, profiles or lengthy interviews such as Nine's Sunday program or ABC TV's Talking Heads, the regular spot on Sky's Business View and webcasts of AGMs, it turns out we've got a rather large library of material.

Cross-posting has become much easier now, so we have relaunched our Youtube channel and hope you enjoy our many playlists of material.

Some of the playlists on our video site including the following:

11 rounds with Rupert Murdoch

A few rounds with the Millionaires at Macquarie Group

Bye bye Babcock & Brown

The pokies

Gender equity and media trustworthiness in Intelligence Squared debates


Campaigning to end the farmer gerrymander at AWB

Skewering Col Allan on Channel Nine's Sunday program

Defamation action settles

After going almost 10 years without receiving a new defamation law suit, Chinese Community Social Services Centre Incorporated served the following writ earlier this year related to the planning process followed for the tripling of its On Luck Nursing home in Manningham's green wedge.

CCSSCI is chaired by Fred Chuah, who also spent 2009 and 2010 as the deputy mayor of Manningham.

After a lengthy 7 hour court-ordered mediation on Thursday December 22, the defamation action was settled. The settlement includes this public statement.

Statement by Stephen Mayne

1. I would like to state on record that the CCSSCI were correct in believing the expansion of the On-Luck Nursing Home could not proceed without the approval of the Planning Minister.

2. My comments made in The Manningham Leader on 17 February 2010 were intended to convey my personal view, as a councillor, that I had not been fully informed of the expansion proposal prior to the application to the Minister.

3. I acknowledge that some council officers and the then Mayor were informed of CCSSCI's intention to expand the On-Luck Nursing Home.

4. To the extent my comments were interpreted by any readers as suggesting that CCSSCI had acted improperly, I repudiate any such interpretation and apologise for any damage caused to CCSSCI's reputation as a result of any such interpretation.

5. I am pleased these issues are now resolved.

Defending free speech at Manningham

At the Manningham Council meeting held on Tuesday, November 29, the following motion by Cr Graeme Macmillan was approved 6-3:


(A) Manningham City Council investigates ceasing including electronic recordings of Council Meetings on its website from the first Council meeting of 2012 onwards, and restricts access of such recordings to Council's internal records.

(B) Manningham City Council investigates introducing bylaws and penalties prohibiting Councillors publishing materials, whether in electronic, print or verbal format, that is critical of their fellow Councillors.

Page 5606 of the minutes show that our Liberal mayor Geoff Gough, Green councillor David Ellis and myself were the only opponents. All three Labor Party councillors supported it, as did the three Koonung councillors.

I lodged a recission motion the following morning which meant we repeated the debate at the next ordinary council meeting, held on December 13. This is something you only do if you believe new circumstances or information has come to light.

In this case, I felt that the hotly contested mayoral election scheduled for the following week had influenced some councillors into supporting Cr Macmillan's motion in the hope that he would also support them near the top of his preference in a six-way ballot for mayor.

We ended up electing Geoff Gough as mayor and Koonung councillor Jennifer Yang as deputy. I finished second a in three horse race for deputy and 3rd in the mayoral ballot.

The recission motion was ultimately successful 4-2, with Heidi Ward councillor Grace Lavella changing her position after a strong backlash from the community. Unfortunately, none of the 3 Koonung ward councillors were able to vote at the December 13 council meeting, due to various family or personal health issues.

The local papers have covered the attack on free speech quite prominently over recent weeks as follows:

Free speech on the line in Manningham
The Manningham Leader, November 28, 2011

Manningham council considers gag
The Manningham Leader, November 28, 2011

Free speech up for debate at Manningham
Melbourne Weekly Eastern, December 1, 2011

Queries on Manningham mayoral vote
The Manningham Leader, December 14, 2011

The issue even made The Australian's Strewth column on November 29 under the headline: Your right to sledge.

Manningham motion promoting transparency and good governance

It was a relief to get this proposed clamp down on free speech taken off the table and now we will be able to debate this alternative motion I proposed, which was deferred 8-1 at the November 29 council meeting, when Manningham councillors next gather together in public on January 31:

In the interests of improving governance and transparency at Manningham and in light of the notice of motion lodged by Cr Macmillan for the council meeting to be held on November 29, 2011, council:

Notes that local government in Australia has a less rigorous accountability system than Federal and State parliaments courtesy of the lack of a formal Opposition to hold the executive and those in power to account.

b. Supports and celebrates the transparent features of local government in Victoria with regular public council meetings, few confidential items and officer reports and recommendations to councillors which are public and published online, thereby reducing the so-called "Cabinet in Confidence" secrecy provisions which afflict Federal and State parliaments in Australia.

Reaffirms its commitment to open democracy and free speech, including the ability of elected councillors to take contrary positions to officers and fellow councillors in public forums.

d. Supports MAV-facilitated Councillor Conduct Panels and the Municipal Inspector as the primary means by which sanction for breaches of Manningham's Code of Conduct be pursued.

e. Notes that placing audio recordings of council meetings on the council website improves accountability, increases community access to council deliberations and provides a more accurate record of public debate than media reports, councillor and officer recollections, third hand accounts and the formal council minutes.

f. Commits to improve the level of disclosure around councillor expense claims by publishing, beginning in 2012, itemised data regularly on the council website, similar to councils such as Hume, Melbourne and Geelong.

g. In the interests of open public debate and maximum transparency around council deliberations, agrees to amend its meeting procedures so that paragraph 3.9 is changed to:

"3.9. If there is more than one nomination, candidates are invited to address the meeting for up to 5 minutes and then Councillors present at the meeting shall vote for one of the candidates by a show of hands. The order of speakers shall be determined by lot with all councillors present."

Donate to help keep us going

The Mayne Report has wracked up losses of more than $300,000 since we launched in October 2007 and we moved to a free model in June 2009 after struggling along seeking subscriptions for the first 21 months.

It has been nice to receive more than $20,000 worth of donations over the past two years and if you fancy giving us a hand to help fund our activism and keep us going on the political and AGM circuit, just click on the image below:

Crikey contributions: Bolt, Crawford, Biz awards, Murdoch, pokies, Woolies and Gunns

It was fun to spend a few minutes on Lindy Burns' last 774 ABC Melbourne Drive show with Crikey editor Sophie Black last Friday.

Lindy has done a great job on Drive over the past 6 years and next year is moving to the Evening shift. After 12 years and about 500 appearances with Lindy and Virginia Trioli since 2000, I'll be staying with new Drive host Rafael Epstein in 2012.

Sophie has been a strong Crikey editor since Jonathan Green left for The Drum a couple of years back and I've been more than happy to work with her. The work rate rose marginally in 2011 with 71 Crikey articles, up from 64 in 2010 and just 50 in 2009.

The favourite Crikey story for the year, including the 57 comments, was this piece about Andrew Bolt, David Marr, lies and homophobia.

Meanwhile, here are the latest Crikey contributions since the last email edition:

The 2011 Crikey business awards
Crikey, Thursday, December 22, 2011

Murdoch, Baillieu and Morgan - ties that bind old Melbourne families
Crikey, Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chris Mitchell vs the OPI
Crikey, Thursday, December 8, 2011

British parliamentary committee comes to Australia
Crikey, Wednesday, November 24, 2011

Super Thursday for AGMs with Gunns and Woolies in firing line
Crikey, Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How David Crawford protected his old firm KPMG from questions
Crikey, Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nasser, Murdoch sycophancy and the BHP-Billiton AGM
Crikey, Friday, November 18, 2011

How will Bolt respond to Good Weekend cover story?
Crikey, Friday, November 18, 2011

Pokie wars: Paul Bendat runs full page ad in Herald Sun
Crikey, Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Media power shifts: watch for a Stokes move on Fairfax
Crikey, Thursday, November 11, 2011

Analysing the Murdoch management shake-up
Crikey, Thursday, November 10, 2011

News Ltd launches pre-emptive attack on Finkelstein Inquiry
Crikey, Monday, November 7, 2011

The local government story that Crikey rejected

Not everything submitted to Crikey makes the grade and the following from December 6 is an example which is interesting but probably a little too local for a national publication:

Kavanagh comes through as DLP storms the barracades in Moreland

Stephen Mayne writes:

When it comes to Labor heartland, it's hard to go past Moreland City Council in Melbourne's inner north. Think Bob Hawke's old seat of Wills, taking in suburbs such as Brunswick and Coburg.

Historians are struggling to recall any time over the past 80 years that Moreland – or its predecessor councils – had anything other than a Labor mayor. Until last night.

History was made in Moreland when a member of the DLP, John Kavanagh, comfortably won a contested public ballot to become mayor for 2012.

Crikey has previously reported on a strange coalition between Greens, DLP and three Labor women to skewer Labor's blokes faction at Moreland for the 2010 mayoralty. But all that did was deliver Moreland an uninspiring female Labor mayor, Stella Kariofyllidis.

The process also led to Stella and two other female councillors being suspended from the ALP after 4 ALP blokes “laid charges” through its internal disputes tribunal. See more here.

Moreland's fighting Labor guys and girls then put the show back together when they all agreed that Oscar Yildiz would be mayor in 2011.

But the ALP majority spectacularly fell apart again last night when Kavanagh prevailed 8-3 in an open ballot over Labor veteran Tony Helou.

In scenes reminiscent of Christopher Pyne's 9 nominations of Labor MPs for speaker, the Labor women were publically put forward but declined the kind offers by party colleagues.

Back from suspension, Kathleen Matthews-Ward was first up and after declaring her unavailability, she then nominated ALP colleague Alice Pryor, who also declined.

It would appear then that the prospect of yet another term of Helou as mayor was too much for even loyal Laborites, and so ancient tradition was broken.

John Kavanagh is expected to make an excellent mayor. His 21 years as a primary school teacher have prepared him well for chairing Council meetings.

More to the point, Kavanagh has served with distinction as a councillor for 7 years, recognised by all as having integrity, as well as being hard-working and efficient, with good people skills.

The Kavanaghs are an interesting bunch. John ran for council as an independent in 2005 but then joined the DLP to contest the 2010 Victorian election.

John's brother Peter Kavanagh was a Victorian DLP MLC from 2006-10, where he worked well with Victoria's first 3 Green MPs.

The third brother, Paul, ran for the Democrats in the 2010 election.

Perhaps surprisingly, John Kavanagh has worked well with Greens councillors in Moreland, Toby Archer and Jo Connellan. Although there are differences on some of the classic “Catholic” issues, there is agreement on environmental, governance and many social issues. A high degree of mutual respect has characterised the relationship.

Only last week, it was Cr Connellan, backed strongly by Kavanagh, who finally prevailed over ALP resistance in securing comprehensive online disclosure of councillor expenses.

It is hard to see the DLP's new Victorian senator, John Madigan, developing a similar relationship with Bob Brown's crew because he is not in the same league as Kavanagh who, after a solid year as mayor, will be well placed to win the nomination as the DLP's lead Senate candidate at the 2013 Federal election.

With 5 Labor councillors voting for a DLP mayor last night, it would be easy to try and declare the comrades are finally over the famous split of 1955-74.

Maybe some of the younger ALP councillors did not know about this history. A more accurate account of events is simply that a strong independent candidate prevailed, in spite of party loyalties.

Losing the Moreland mayoralty is quite a chink in the ALP edifice, which could make it easier for a Green to become mayor of Moreland in the future, something which has happened on several occasions in neighboring Yarra.

Jane Garrett, a former ALP mayor of Yarra who fended off a Greens primary vote of 30% to win the state seat of Brunswick at last year's Victorian election, was an interested observer at last night's Moreland council meeting.

As a recently elected Federal vice-president of the ALP, she'll no doubt report back to her fellow party bosses that the ALP's battles to retain control over progressive inner city suburbs continues to get harder.

Moreland comprises a good chunk of the Federal seat of Wills, which borders Adam Bandt's seat of Melbourne, and is considered an outside chance for the Greens at the next election.

However, the decision of popular ALP incumbent Kelvin Thomson to recontest makes it that much harder for the Greens and if the Liberals preference Labor, the challenge is greater again.

· Disclosure: Stephen Mayne is a City of Manningham councillor and was not paid for this item.

ALP factionalism and developer connections blow open at Darebin

After being a relatively peaceful and well-oiled machine over the past 3 years, Darebin City Council has turned poisonous after a controversial mayoral election and an even more controversial development approval in Northcote advocated by a prominent Labor family known to the majority of councillors.

The fun and games centre on an application by associates of the Kairouz family to erect an 8 storey building in High Street Northcote where there is a structure plan which encourages only 5 storeys. It is important to note that officers recommended in favour as you can see in the minutes, starting on p245.

Darebin Council has recently refused 3 similiar proposals, but the new Labor Unity controlled planning committee was convinced by the design firm that the council's own structure plan can be ignored. The design firm in question is associated with the Kairouz family which is well known in local Labor circles.

One member of the planning committee, former mayor Vince Fontana, voted against and another, last year's mayor Diana Asmar, left the chamber due to a conflict of interest because her uncle lives in nearby Elm Street. This left Labor Unity's Stanley Chiang and Ben Morgan, who works for the troubled Health Services Union, to push it through.

The move shocked some councillors and no less that three notices of motion were lodged for the December 19 council meeting as was disclosed in the agenda.

All three called for the planning approval to be rescinded.

One by former mayor Vince Fontana called for a refusal.

One by Labor lefty Tim Laurence called for the matter to be referred to the minister

And one motion by newly installed mayor Steven Tsitas called for the application to be limited to 6 storeys even though the structure plan limit is 5. This was quite an about turn given that the mayor spent part of his acceptance speech stressing that he would strongly defend the structure plan.

The argument for the Minister to take over revolves around the fact that the Kairouz family is arguably associated with all 8 Labor councillors in Darebin and will be influential in preselection contests next year.

Mayor Tsitas is certainly well connected because his wife works for local Labor MP and former Right faction convenor Fiona Richardson, who is known to the Kairouz family.

The December 19 Darebin council meeting ended up dragging on for 3 and a half hours.

All 3 motions were defeated 5-4. The online minutes show that it was 5 Labor Right councillors - led by Tsitas, Katsis, Morgan and Chiang - who supported the controversial proposal, as did council's professional planning officers.

Unfortunately for the people of Darebin, this meeting was one of the ugliest and most spiteful in years at Darebin, complete with numerous points of order and interruptions.

The result means the planning committee decision to allow 8 storeys in an area with a structure plan that encourages 5 storeys has surprised some residents, whilst delighting developers who are now expected to ask for additional storeys on more sites.

During the lengthy debate no one mentioned the elephant in the room - that 1 Bent Street was an application lodged by associates of a well-known Labor family.

Diana Asmar's husband, David Asmar, works for Right faction boss Senator Stephen Conroy and has been known to take an occasional interest in development issues at Darebin.

Whilst it is too early to say Darebin is heading towards being the "Brimbank of the North", the councillors will need to play things very carefully now that there is a Coalition Government in Spring St which appears to have a strong commitment to transparency and open government.

It is also worth noting that Planning Minister Matthew Guy lives in Melbourne's northern suburbs and his upper house electorate includes all of Darebin. What does he think about all of this?

Steve Kons and Burnie: a case study in defending senior officers against aggressive councillors

The Tasmanian Labor Party has a long history of producing colourful and aggressive politicians and I had a run in with one of them, former deputy premier Steve Kons, during a recent visit to Tasmania.

The event was a local government managers association conference in October which occurred a few days after some half-council elections had been completed.

The Tasmanians have a system of directly electing their mayors every 2 years and, whilst councillors serve 4 year terms, a half council election is also held every two years.

The weakness in this system is that you seem to be perpetually in campaign mode, although the Victorian model of annual mayoral selection means that some councillors are constantly politicking around the mayoralthy, although at least this is only with other councillors rather than the broader electorate.

Anyway, after getting off the Spirit of Tasmania at Devonport, I was struck to see the sort of coverage that Kons was generating in The Burnie Advocate after he was elected mayor of Burnie.

Having run a highly aggressive campaign against Burnie's general manager from the backbench, mayor Kons was seen posing in front of the Paul Arnold's office asking questions like: "is anybody home?".

Given that Kons himself was caught up in controversy with the shreddergate scandal - which led to what his local paper described as the proverbial "resigned in disgrace" - I was more than happy to step up and defend the general manager, especially after concerns were expressed by some council officers at the conference that an elected mayor was running a public campaign against his own general manager.

The result was this public stoush with Mr Kons on ABC Hobart, during which he claimed I was "the biggest corporate bully in Australia".

From Probus Clubs to the Sydney Opera House: a big year on the talk circuit

2011 was an extremely busy year on the talk circuit with a record 48 gigs.

The favourite was without doubt the Intelligence Squared Debate at the Sydney Opera House, teaming up with Bob Brown and Mona Eltahawy on the question of media ethics.

We ended up losing to Julian Burnside, Hamish McDonald and the BBC's Kate Adie but it was a lot of run and even generated this big spray by Peter Costello's father-in-law, Peter Coleman, in The Australian Spectator.

The edited package of the debate, which was broadcast on the ABC and BBC World, has only recently become available online, so check it out here.

Meanwhile, click here to read feedback after some speeches and click on the image below if you fancy an engagement as the talk circuit helps keep The Mayne Report afloat:

Another lively batch of tweets

Click on the image above to join more than 7500 followers on Twitter as we are regularly dropping out observations about journalism, politics, breaking stories, local government and shareholder activism. Below is the text of some tweets since the last edition:

Here is the audio of last night's 55 minute "year in review" discussion with Rod Quinn on ABC radio's Nightlife:

Great Crikey scoop to obtain & publish the North Korean-style tribute edition of The Daily Telegraph to John Hartigan:

Off to buy celebratory slab of VB with the $54 cheque that arrived today from SAB Miller for my 10 Foster's shares. Smallest slice of $10b.

A Green mayor in Boroondara is almost as big a shock as the DLP taking Moreland. See:

This Whittlesea mayoral election process is the most bizarre yet:

Things are blowing up at Darebin. Steven Tsitas was elected as new mayor & there are 7 notices of motion tonight. See:

A marvelous piece indeed ": Farewell Christopher Hitchens

Tony Jones reckons Hitchens vs religion was his fave Q&A": Remembering Hitchens: a piece by

See strong public submissions objecting to aspects of proposed cheap rental deals at Manningham's new $38m MC2 building

Excellent piece by Paul Barry on Rupert Murdoch in The Power Index today:

Just back from an excellent discussion with a book publisher over a potential memoir. Big job but plenty of hits and memories to recall.

Bolt's lesbian sister entering gay marriage debate on Crikey is even bigger than hearing from Katter's brother. See:

Today's Crikey story on the family ties that bind Gary Morgan's family with the Murdochs and the Baillieus. See:

Love this tale about my cousin, an English doctor-turned-horse-trainer, getting head-butted, stitched & then winning:

Crikey, Haoma Mining shares have jumped 30% today. That's a $5m 70th birthday present for Gary Morgan, the controlling shareholder.

Just had another chat to Chip Le Grand - looking forward to seeing how The OZ plays unhinged Chris Mitchell vs the OPI in tomorrow's paper.

Rockets going off everywhere after Crikey's OPI vs The OZ package. Also Chip Le Grand is doing feature on Eric Beecher.

Chris Mitchell has lost the plot in calling OPI director Michael Strong "corrupt" in Crikey today. Classic over-reaction by a News bully.

Surprised with limited coverage of amazing bunfight between Perpetual and billionaire Rob Millner at Soul Patts AGM yesterday. Was a cracker

Here is council audio of debate at Manningham before 6-3 vote to investigate prohibiting criticism of councillors:

Hired hybrid at Canberra airport and took about 10 minutes to work out how to get it moving. It's not easy being Green. Now, off to ASA gig.

oh dear, controversial Hobsons Bay councillor Tony Briffa has announced himself as mayor 2 days before the vote. See:

Matthew Stevens is another excellent poach by Stutchbury and The AFR. Now just need John Durie back. See

Good meeting with Network Ten chair Brian Long at HQ and a good chat afterwards with our ASA monitor on Lachlan Murdoch recommendation.

Lodged rescission on 6-3 vote in favor of pulling Manningham audio off web and "prohibiting" criticism of councillors. Comes back Dec 13.

Things are getting interesting for the 6 Manningham councillors who voted to prohibit criticism. See Murdoch coverage

City of Geelong prefers to do annual online expense disclosure claims by councillors. See the full 2010-11 figures:

Getting ready for councillor expenses disclosure debate tonight at Manningham. Here is how Hume does it. Too easy:

Cr Macmillan says we should pull audio of council meetings because some councillors “don't have the gift of the gab”:

An interesting local wrap on the Victorian pokies scene from VLGA's new pokies guru Emma Shepherdson:

Latest Murdoch revelation a case of using public company for private gain. Rupert saved $US200,000 on his wedding bill:

Good to see Macklin teaming up with VLGA and Tim Costello to attend pokies forum in Torquay on Dec 8 backing reform:

Have a motion tonight at council proposing regular online disclosure of Cr expenses. Taxi claims have fallen since this

Will be amazed if the Labor blokes on Hobsons Bay council agree to elevate this bloke to the mayoralty as is tipped:

Jeepers, this Kookaburra Award involves $3000 in cash largely funded by Westpac. WBC AGM is in 2 weeks. Conflict? See:

This is nice. Have won the Kookaburra Award from Our Community for campaigning on good governance and female directors:

From the member edition archive

The Mayne Report goes to almost 15,000 people but if you're a relatively new reader, here are links to some of the more interesting email editions sent out over the past year:

Murdoch special, media inquiry, pokies, Manningham, Zara, secretive councillors, Vodafone and then some
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bumper August edition: Bolt, Gillard, pokies, Murdoch, Gunns, unions, ASA, Manningham and Woolies
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Special email edition to News Corp analysts ahead of earnings conference call
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One last trip to New York for Rupert AGM
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murdoch, hacking, councillor conduct, ASA, ranking Queensland councillors, Richo and capital raisings
Friday, July 8, 2011

Elected to ASA board, pokies, Rio, Santos, RHG, Hartigan, Manningham, capital raisings and Rich List
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Elected to ASA board, pokies, Rio, Santos, RHG, Hartigan, Manningham, capital raisings and Rich List
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Council super slug, rate rises, Woodside AGM, lost $1000 bet, pokies article and then some
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rio, Santos and ASA board tilts, councillor misconduct, David Clarke, Woolies, pokies, Rich List, capital raisings and Murdoch
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mark McInnes, Hanson, Boomers, Manningham, MAV elections, defamation, expense claims and conflicts of interest
Friday, March 25, 2011

Bumper March monthly edition: sued, Rio, Packer, MAV, Cornwall, Rich List, Westfield, AGMs and much more
Monday, March 7, 2011

Meetings chairmen, Fairfax, Murdoch, pokies, VLGA, Santos, Alumina, Rich List, SPPs, Manningham and staffers
Monday, February 7, 2011

Mayne family news

The family are all in good form after another busy year. Laura, 10, and Alice, 8, performed well in the end of year ballet, jazz and hip hop concerts.

Laura and Alice are both progressing with piano under the guidance of their grandmother and Laura is also learning the flute whilst Alice started guitar lessons this year.

Philip, 7, had lots of fun playing soccer and basketball and we've just signed him up for a few weeks of Milo Cricket in 2012. It was a bit expensive in the end, but we finally persuaded Philip to do away with his appallingly bogan rats tail, which was inspired by his soccer coach. He used the proceeds to buy more DS and Wii games.

Laura and Alice have taken more of an interest in council matters this year, partly because Paula has placed strict time limits on the amount of listening she will do on Manningham issues.

Whilst not overloading the girls with corporate governance and transparency lectures, we were delighted to discover the following in Alice's writing portfolio at the end of school:

What being Australian means to me

By Alice Mayne

I think it is special being Australian because all Australians have rights and we can make our own choices. I also think being Australian means freedom. Freedom means you can speak and have any job you want and if you're poor the government will help you and that's why I think being Australian is the best.


What a lovely note to end the year on!

Happy holidays to everyone and the best of luck for 2012.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by Stephen Mayne with occasional email editions. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.