Vic election, Herald Sun, Murdoch votes, People's Panel, Tex, tilts, AGMs, Xenophon and much more

November 24, 2014

Dear Mayne Report readers,

Not since 2011 have you had regular service like this over the past two months:

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

However, if you'd rather not receive these increasingly regular missives, click here to unsubscribe.

AGM season drawing to a close

Exiting the Australian Shareholders' Association has freed up more time to actually attend public company AGMs without any constraints on what is said. This has been quite a liberating experience after 3 years working within a broader collective.

For instance, the ASA is fabulous but its demographics make it difficult to highlight the age of directors. Australia has the oldest directors in the world and they are hanging around longer than ever, as was pointed out in this Crikey piece.
Returning to lone wolf activism has also allowed some engagements at smaller AGMs. It was fun to test out AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick at the Treasury Group AGM, along with Jeff Kennett at Equity Trustees and Peter Costello at Nine Entertainment Co last Thursday. Another favourite was getting stuck into the world's biggest listed law firm, Slater & Gordon, for forgetting to put up chairman John Skippen for re-election when his three year term expired in October 2013. A law firm that can't count or follow the most basic of governance rules! Too funny!

Here is the full list of almost 400 AGMs dating back to when it all started for The Daily Telegraph in 1998. In annual terms it breaks down as follows:

2014: 16 so far
2013: 12
2012: 8
2011: 14
2010: 37
2009: 41
2008: 68
2007: 43
2006: 23
2005: 12
2004: 1
2003: 11
2002: 24
2000: 42
1999: 12
1998: 20

With a few more still to come before Christmas, 2014 will end up the busiest year of AGMs since 2010 and 2015 should be busier again, although that will partly rely on more Murdoch-style crowd-sourcing of travel costs with the better half still struggling to understand the "business model" of The Mayne Report.

The Cabcharge AGM in Sydney on Wednesday will be fascinating, although hopes of securing a board seat have declined. There are governance issues aplenty at Cabcharge as this recent Fairfax piece demonstrates.

Keep an eye on this list tracking all 45 public company board tilts later in the week to see the Cabcharge results.

Herald Sun maintains the political pace in Victoria, then throws in a howler

I'm not normally a fan of the Herald Sun but you've got to admire the way they've covered this Victorian election campaign, fearlessly ripping into both sides.

It's also not often that one newspaper knocks over 4 mainstream candidates in one election campaign. The Coalition is starting to resemble a freak show.

Today The Sunday Herald Sun forced the disendorsement of the Liberal candidate in Thomastown for recruiting an inappropriate Bollywood performer to his campaign, although the talk on Twitter is that the party over-reacted.

The Herald Sun's political correspondent James Campbell might be a former Liberal staffer but he's been calling it as he sees it and quite happily declared that Daniel Andrews won the Leaders debate.

It's also been good that the Herald Sun has been all over the campaign, producing numerous page 1 stories and comprehensive coverage.

However, the Monday November 24 splash was a real shocker, as the paper abused its position to demand both sides of politics hand over $25 million to a consortium promoting genetic testing of kids which included their own Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. It took just hours for both sides to cave in to this latest example of Murdoch rent-seeking from governments.

Why the government should change in Victoria

The Baillieu-Napthine government hasn't been incompetent, scandal-ridden or profligate, but they still deserve to be given 4 years on the Opposition benches to re-group. The leadership is dominated by older regional MPs such as the 62-year-old Premier Denis Napthine, the 64-year-old Nationals leader Peter Ryan and the 62-year-old Transport Minister Terry Mulder. It's just not very exciting or dynamic with older country folk running Victoria.

And with the Abbott Government continuing to mis-step on a range of issues, Victorians are set to send a message to Canberra next Saturday.

If Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister, the Victorian Coalition would probably scrape over the line. Instead, we're getting ill-timed attacks on the ABC, rising fuel taxes, climate denialism and a refusal to support public transport infrastructure.
Victoria is naturally a more progressive centre-left state than other parts of Australia and the combination of a pedestrian 62-year-old country vet and a hard-line ideologue like Tony Abbott just doesn't go down well in metropolitan Melbourne.

The Coalition hasn't set the world on fire with its policies either.

For a pro-business party it has slugged business heavily with things like port surcharges, dividends from WorkCover and a new $600 million Fire Services Levy where business pays 8 times as much as residents. This has helped balance the budget but with limited economic benefit. The land tax regime has also become punitive with business carrying the majority of the load.

With manufacturing in decline, the education sector has becoming an increasingly important industry and the initial cuts to TAFE were too harsh and then the deregulated regime too lax. See how the Labor how-to-vote card is capitalising on the TAFE cuts. Those nurses, ambos and firies uniforms really shouldn't be deployed on HTV cards like that.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has been one of the few genuine goers in Cabinet who has out-played his opposite number Brian Tee, a CFMEU member who will take the sensitive Planning portfolio if Labor wins. But Guy has loaded up too much growth on central Melbourne, rushed his Fishermans Bend blue-print and locked up far too much of the suburbs as Melbourne grapples with annual population growth of 90,000. He's also appallingly politicised the application of the "no-go" neighbourhood zone, none worse than his pathetic decision to pluck out South Yarra only from City of Melbourne's requests.

The same think happened with the 2013 extension of the central city car park tax to neighbouring municipalities with the exception of Clem Newton Brown's marginal Liberal electorate of Prahran.

Whilst Victoria hasn't been engulfed with NSW-style corruption, there hasn't been enough governance reform in Victoria, especially on the pathetic regime applying to campaign finance disclosure.

And then you have infrastructure investment where the Metro One rail project through the heart of Melbourne was ditched for an inferior and cheaper alternative.

Too many eggs were put in the East West link basket and Daniel Andrews was able to play the politics of eliminating level crossings instead.

The Labor shadow cabinet is not as strong as the current Coalition Cabinet but the Labor backbench is clearly superior, with younger talent set to emerge. Overall, 2010 did not produce a quality crop of new talent and the Liberals in particular need to find some new blood.

Unfortunately, some of the their best candidates such as Shannon Eeles in Albert Park and Sean Armistead in Frankston are unlikely to win.

All up, I'm predicting and hoping for a change of government, as the polls suggest. However, Labor will lose the seat of Ivanhoe courtesy of former MP and Banyule mayor Craig Langdon running against his successor Anthony Carbines as an independent who is preferencing Liberal candidate Carl Ziebell.

Daniel Andrews will be an honest and capable Premier and Australians like a balance between their Federal and State governments. Too much of one side or the other is never a good thing and with all this extremism coming out of Canberra, a change would be for the better in Victoria.

Stand by for a more diverse Victorian upper house

The Victorian Upper House will look very different after next Saturday's election. The Liberals will lose their majority, partly because their second quotas in Western Metro and Northern Metro are now definitely gone with the loss of Liberal candidates in Sydenham and Thomastown courtesy of embarrassing Herald Sun revelations. The Libs haven't even registered a how to vote card in Sydnenham, so it will only have this state-wide card, where the sacked Liberal candidate is no longer highlighted in blue, as an option for local volunteers. It is also hard to imagine they would hand out this registered HTV card in Thomastown.

Elsewhere, Palmer preferences will help the Greens lift their numbers from 3 to 5 or 6. The Greens will also win Melbourne.

Micro-party preference harvesting will also probably deliver 2 or 3 new parties a seat. This is the 3rd election since Victoria's new upper house system came into place and it has seen the smaller players refine their strategies to focus on winning one seat by offering up preferences to other micro parties in the other 7 upper house regions.

The S#x Party's Fiona Patten is looking good in Northern Metropolitan but will need to hold the impressive 3.59% primary that she polled in 2010. She benefits from the fact that Northern Metro has a double decker ballot paper, unlike all the other regions which have less tickets, and that she gets preferences from The Basics Rock n Roll Party which will benefit from a bigger than usual donkey vote.

Voice For The West candidate Phil Cleary is also a chance in Northern Metro and his preferences will be vital in a big field with 52 candidates. Either would be a good addition to the upper house.

Country Alliance are a reasonable chance to secure a spot out of the three non-metropolitan regions. However, do watch the DLP in both Northern Victoria and Western Victoria.

The DLP preferences are very good in Western and they won their before with Peter Kavanagh in 2006. However, in Northern Victoria they benefit from being first on the ballot paper with Labor positioned last at the other extreme. Just like the Liberal Democrats did to the Liberals in the NSW Senate contest, the Democratic Labour Party will pick up quite a vote from confused Labor voters in Northern Victoria.

The other micro player in with a show is Richard Bowen from the Australian Cyclists Party in Southern Metro. He's a management consultant from the sensible centre who would add to the parliament and has good preference flows. However, the primary vote is all important so any cycling enthusiasts out their should volunteer their time on Saturday in Southern Metro.

A Green-Liberal preference deal?

This Labor talk of a Liberal-Green preferences deal is a beat-up, although open tickets have been registered by both sides without any discussions so far. I very much doubt it will happen. The only cogent strategy for the Libs would be if they feared a comfortable Labor win and wanted to destabilise Labor's left flank with a decapitation strategy on a senior Cabinet Minister like Dick Wynne in Richmond. The Green candidate in Richmond is also quite extreme and some of her hard line views would embarrass the party if she was elected. The Greens would be very unlikely to reciprocate in Prahran, which is the only seat where an open Green ticket might make the difference in saving a Liberal seat.

City of Melbourne People's Panel

Losing a Tuesday for the Melbourne Cup and then bringing the December council meeting forward a week means that we finish the year at council with six successive public Tuesday night council or committee meetings.

Throw in this special committee meeting to receive the excellent People's Panel report on our 10 year financial plan and we're all working very hard at Town Hall. For instance, Friday's audit committee meeting went for more than 3 hours and we're also searching for a new CEO at the moment, which is a major process in itself.

There were plenty of quotable quotes during the 80 minute debate on the People's Panel which has been predictably criticised by the Herald Sun and 3AW's Neil Mitchell because of the progressive nature of some of the recommendations on issues such as bike paths, parking fees and rates.

One thing the panel has already done is take the heat out of any potential momentum around privatising Citywide. Proposals to sell are now dead, buried and cremated courtesy or the panel recommendations.

City of Melbourne's first ever draft 10 year financial plan is likely to be released in late April 2015, before the 2015-16 budget is released, and that is when we will first see just how influential our innovative people's panel has been after 46 people gave us 6 full Saturdays to do a deep dive on council and then come up with recommendations that needed 80% support to be included in this final report.

Nick Xenophon on the rise

It was an interesting piece in the Fairfax papers today on the rise of Nick Xenophon who was instrumental in securing the votes of Senators Lambie and Muir to over-turn the windback of Australia's financial regulations.

And Peter Costello was absolutely right on The Bolt Report today when a described Senator Xenophon as "a good operator". Here's hoping he continues to rise amidst the Senate jockeying that will flow from Palmer's bloc of 4 votes unravelling.

My favourite Xenophon moment was when he delivered this cracking speech to a pokies conference in 2008.

He is brave, innovative, honest, centrist, passionate and hard-working. We need more politicians like him, just like we need more Premiers who were as good as the late Wayne Goss.

Copping abuse from Murdoch loyalists

Terry McCrann used to be a mate but we fell out over his sycophancy in covering the Murdoch family and he's getting more and more unhinged on this issue as the years roll by.

This is what he wrote towards the bottom of a rather strange column in The Weekend Australian yesterday:

As for bill of goods, Fairfax will ‘‘buy'' them from anyone. They bought a beauty from serial pest and self-promoter Stephen Mayne, who simply made up a claim that Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal had voted his shares in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp — publisher of this paper — against Murdoch.

Despite actually quoting a specific denial from an Alwaleed spokesman that “we never vote against our partner Mr Murdoch”, The Age knew better. Yes, but, “the numbers speak more loudly than his words,” The Age immediately added. Actually, the numbers speak no such thing.

From the moment this story broke in Crikey last Monday (see below), I've been very clear to say that the Prince voted contrary to the how to vote card produced by the board on the question of retaining the Murdoch gerrymander. This wasn't my view but that of a global expert on corporate proxy voting who studied the numbers carefully. However, let's be clear, this was a vote against "the Murdoch interests" not an alleged vote against Rupert's personal re-election to the News Corp board, as McCrann's words would suggest.

It is statistically impossible for the Prince to have voted his full 6.6% stake alongside the Murdoch family's 39.4% stake against resolution 6 at the News Corp AGM.

This is a point which no Murdoch loyalist has yet been able to admit. As a political journeyman, you would think the old mate Christian Kerr, aka Crikey's Hillary Bray, would be able to crunch the numbers before producing snippy pieces such as this in The Australian's Strewth column on Wednesday:

Mayne mistake

JUST days before last week's News Corp annual general meeting, shareholder activist cum serial pest Stephen Mayne sent out an email asking for funds to get him there. Mayne made it, flying by the seat of his pants, but the last-minute whirlwind trip left him sadly confused. He tweeted up a storm and bashed out a piece for the wayward website Crikey insisting Saudi shareholder Prince Alwaleed bin Talal voted against the company's dual class capital structure. He didn't — as the spokesperson for the prince's investment company Kingdom Holdings made abundantly clear by saying: “We never vote against our partner Mr Murdoch.” Mayne, a pioneer of the “Not wrong for long” school of web journalism, is yet to correct the record. Perhaps he's sleeping off the jet lag.

It has also been a bit annoying to have Media Watch host Paul Barry tweeting away questions about whether I asked the Prince how he'd voted before the writing the original Crikey story.

As if he'd answer my call or email? The Crikey story was an example of data journalism not phone call journalism. The data still shows that the Prince did not vote alongside Rupert on resolution 6. The reason for the foghorn approach was to try and draw out the Murdoch or Saudi camps with a response.

That is precisely what happened through this Financial Times piece, but News Corp itself is still yet to comment. Paul Barry should be focusing on issues such as Rupert's ridiculous 2 question, 2 minute limit on AGM debate, the truly bizarre News Corp coverage of the whole affair, plus the way Rupert delayed releasing the voting results for almost 30 hours after the AGM finished.

Crikey yarns since last edition

Here are links to the most recent Crikey stories on the News Corp situation, plus another interesting piece about the Nine AGM with Peter Costello.

Even the Saudi Prince has turned on Rupert
Crikey, Monday, November 17, 2014

Murdoch and the Saudi prince: scenario analysis
Crikey, Thursday, November 20, 2014

Governance issues aplenty at Nine for Costello to sort out
Crikey, Friday, November 21, 2014

How Ten's chairman avoided election
Crikey, Monday, November 24, 2014

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Missive to all the Tex Perkins helpers

It seems that not everything is sweetness and light between Labor and the Tex Perkins camp in Albert Park, according to this email recently sent to volunteers by Palais campaign coordinator Peter Holland.

A big thanks to all those who have volunteered (or are about to volunteer) to hand out a how-to-vote card for Tex Perkins on election day. But it looks as if we may not have to do this.
First Tex has been on the front page of the Age (Wed 19 Nov) saying ‘don't vote for me'. Hilary Clinton has contacted our campaign team asking whether this innovative strategy is an election winner and, if so, could Tex to join her campaign for the Presidency of the USA in 2016 as an expert advisor.
But seriously, Tex has said that he is happy that Labor has promised up to $13.4 million for the Palais if it wins the election. He said in the Age ‘ I always wanted to be usurped by someone. I never wanted to win. I'm very happy with the outcome. You don't have to vote for me.'
Labor has not promised the full $25 million that we requested, based on the Council's promise that it would contribute $7.5 million if the state government contributed $25 million. But Labor has promised a significant amount. This is a game changer for the Palais and the St Kilda Triangle.
For the past decade the fundamental problem with the Palais and the Triangle has been that the state government (of both persuasions) has refused to put any money into the Palais. This led to pressure for an over-development of the Triangle to fund a restoration of the Palais.
So, as George W Bush said: ‘Mission accomplished'. (If only he has decided to be a rock'n'roll singer instead of a politician the world would be a better place today).
But it looks a bit silly if we are handing out how to vote cards asking people to vote for a candidate who says he does not want people to vote for him. We could get into some very interesting conversations:
Q. Why should I vote for your candidate?
A. Because he does not want you to.
Try this technique to get your children to do the dishes!
Secondly there is a fly in the ointment.
As we all know the lease of the current operator, Palais Theatre Management headed by Neil Crocker, expires in September 2015. Council is running an Expressions of Interest (EOI) process as a first step to secure a long-term lessee to operate the Palais.
Labor's leader, Mr Andrews issued a Press Release on Tuesday 18 November that said: ‘Labor will lead an alliance with the City of Port Phillip and the operators, Palais Theatre Management, to undertake the comprehensive $26.8 million restoration'. But what is the position if there is another operator of the Palais as a result of the EOI process? Does Labor's promise of funds still apply?
Martin Foley promised Tex that his party's commitment would be applicable to any operator. He made these promises in various text messages to Tex on Sunday 16 November, two days before Mr Andrews' announcement about funding for the Palais. This was a significant factor in Tex deciding to preference Mr Foley. These messages were also showed to the Council CEO, Ms Tracy Slatter. After she assured us that this position would be consistent with the Council's EOI process, Tex agreed to support Labor as he publicly has.
I have asked Mr Foley and Mr Andrews for a clear public clarification of the statement in the Press Release. I have asked for confirmation that Labor's promise of funding is not just tied to the current operator; that it is available to whoever wins the EOI process. This would mean that a Labor government would work with whoever the Council selects and the funding commitment is secure. However they have not been willing or able to do so. There may be all sorts of technical and legal reasons for this: I am no expert.
I hope that this is only a minor problem and that, if elected, the Labor state government and the Council will work out a fair and proper EOI process.
I hope that the current operator, headed by Neil Croker, will win this EOI process. We all know that Neil has done a great job over the past few years. This could be the start of a great development of the Triangle as a whole. I know that Neil wants to put in a multi-purpose room/cabaret at the Triangle This could have 300 people at tables wining and dining and listening to music and another 200 standing. I am sure that there would be huge support in the community for this. Labor has also announced $22 million for a music hub and Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. I would hope that we could put our hand up for it at the back of the Palais. Then we would have created an entertainment and cultural precinct at the Triangle, centred on a re-furbished Palais, that we could all be proud of. It would have huge public support.
But the immediate ‘fly-in-the-ointment' is that, for whatever reason, Labor has refused to made a clear statement that its promise of funding is available to all the parties tendering for a long term lease of the Palais, not just the current operator. Hopefully this is a minor issue that will be resolved in the future, but it is not what we were promised.
So for these two reasons, it looks as if we may not have to hand out how to vote cards on election day. Instead we can all relax and go up to the Gold Coast to hear Tex sing.
I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back, especially those who got Mick Jagger to make a public statement in support of the Palais. All the political parties, including the S#x Party, have committed to saving the Palais. Well done us!

Peter Holland


That's all for now.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is an email newsletter and website which seeks to promote transparency and good governance in the corporate, political and media worlds. It is published by Stephen Mayne, the founder of, shareholder advocate and City of Melbourne councillor. To unsubscribe from this email list, click here.