Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A couple of howlers

If one was into conspiracy theories one would think News Ltd has decided to target Stephen Conroy, possibly because News/FOXTEL isn't getting the easy ride in the lobbying stakes it might hope for. But that is no excuse for inaccuracy.

Today Peter Van Onselen has written in the Oz that Conroy should go because of "multiple failures". One of the targeted events is the appointment of Mike Kaiser who the writer claims "had successfully lobbied for the [NBNCo]'s head office to be located in Queensland". That's news to all those employees in Sydney and Melbourne, and indeed conflicts with Hansard from the Estimates hearing where the appointment was discussed where NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley states that "We have not got head offices." He goes o to outline how they are just recruiting staff to work in Sydney and Melbourne according to where the talent is (which is how Telstra and Optus at least have worked for some time).

The Kaiser appointment is being over analysed. It was Conroy himself who advised the Committee that he had suggested to Quigley that Kaiser would be qualified. Nothing in the rest of the evidence suggests that the decision was otherwise influenced by the Minister - he was simply a referral. Kaiser did not conceal any part of his past. His salary is determined in accordance with standard HR job grading activities.

Personally I wouldn't have made the choice if I was Quigley, because of the political risk. But equally this job is actually about talking to the States not the Commonwealth, and Kaiser as a former Premier's chief of Staff in both Qld and NSW is extremely well qualified for that.

Meanwhile the Telegraph has tried to make something of the move by Conroy's media adviser Tim Marshall to Alcatel-Lucent. The article forgets to mention that Tim is extremely well qualified for this role, he wasn't a party hack turned staffer, but a respected communications journalist who was prebviously editor of Communications Day. His successor in that role, Luke Coleman, has just made a similar move to Tim, but to Huawei.

The lobbying code of conduct doesn't prohibit former staffers from moving into industry, only from "lobbying activities". Tim isn't joining Alcatel-Lucent as a lobbyist, but as a mrketing and communications manager.

Updated I note that the ABC reports this as a potential breach of the "ministerial code of conduct" which is a document I can't seem to find. I can however find the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff. Once again, no breach!

Returning to the Oz article we are invited to see something underhandi the Conroy/Stokes meeting in Colorado. There might be an issue if there was a suggestion of payment, but there isn't. As Lindsay Tanner said they it happened they were going to be in the same place at the same time and they arranged to see each other. The Australian public and Seven shareholders should be pleased that both of them seemed prepared to work on their holidays. As indeed each should be pleased that these two men talk. The Minister is informed on industry issues, the Seven CEO spends his time doing it.

That does't mean this is Conroy's only input. After all he has established and funded the Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN) which has already been a vocal critique of Goverment policy, and is also consulted with by the Minister.

As an aside - the Hansard is only Proof but includes this delightful line. Senator FISHER—Minister, I will go back to Mr Quigley. You can run your interference and I will stop talking to you. I had better put my mouth back in my mug; that might be a better place for it.
I want to see a mouth i a mug!

Disclaimer. I am employed by a Seven company. My views in this blog post are my own. Their intention is to comment on the quality of the reporting as such, not to attempt to defend anyone's particular actions.

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