The sick culture at the heart of corporate Australia – Sydney Morning Herald

Jim grabbed me by the shoulder of my coat and dragged me across the room to meet the NRMA’s then vice-president, Dame Leonie Kramer, who was also part of the so-called NRMA board succession committee. “Richard,” she asked, “where did you go to school?” I answered: “Meadowbank Boys High, Dame Leonie.” To which she replied “Meadowbank? Where’s Meadowbank?” I answered: “Its in the western suburbs, Dame Leonie. Doubt if you’ve ever been there.”


Well, it all seemed to go down hill from that first meeting. I didn’t fit the mould. I wasn’t a private-school-educated accountant from the lower North Shore or an eastern suburbs lawyer. Apparently the NRMA members who had voted for me – in the largest election of its kind in Australia outside of a federal or state election – had made a big mistake in choosing a road surveyor from the burbs.

A few years later, with increasing voter interest being shown by the member/owners of the NRMA, the born-to-rule crowd became so worried about losing control to the general membership that they sought to demutualise the entire NRMA operation – both the road service and the insurance company – and put it under the grip of large shareholders.

I was glad to be able to sink that attempt by having the prospectus declared misleading and deceptive in the Federal Court. More than $60 million of members’ funds ended up being wasted on this dud attempt to float the member-owned organisation. I had to use my own resources to fund the case while my opponents still used members’ money.

While I was at it, my lawyer, John Garnsey QC, was approached by AMP to vet its upcoming prospectus. John asked me if I wanted to fight the AMP demutualisation, too. I had taken out an AMP life insurance policy at 18, when I was starting as a trainee surveyor with the Sydney Water Board. I had to tell John I didn’t have the resources to fight both. So he took the job. The AMP ended up being demutualised, too.


Now, as a long-suffering AMP shareholder, I look at its current sexual harassment scandal and wonder how its board and management could get it so wrong. It was initially obstinate; then it reacted at snail’s pace to demote AMP Capital chief executive Boe Pahari.

My shares, by the way, are worth about 20 per cent of what I paid for them a couple of decades ago. Maybe a good place to start is by appointing some truly independent directors. Certainly not the old procession ushered through the revolving door by succession committees.

It is still social connections that drive board appointments. And more than two-thirds of directors in Australia’s 200 largest public companies are on the boards of multiple companies, according to RMIT research, and often they collect eye-watering fees from each.

It’s a small gene pool with few outsiders. It leads to “group think”, under which directors become more concerned with being liked and connected. In Sydney they cluster in the eastern suburbs. They go to the same schools, then mix with the same people in legal firms and big accounting firms. They get onto boards at the Art Gallery of NSW, the Opera House and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Melbourne has its own club network. And they network like fury for that next board job. They scratch one another’s backs.

Greater gender diversity at the top is critical to address problematic cultures such as that at AMP, but the boys’ clubs are hard to crack.

Directors are disinclined to rock boats. Boards sign off on questionable business practices, as we’ve seen from the banking royal commission.

Need more convincing? Check out my board papers, correspondence, court papers and meeting diaries from the 1990s and 2000s which are stored in a 100-box collection at the State Library of NSW. Little has changed.

Richard Talbot is a former NRMA director.

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FOUND! Studio Dog Exhibition and Art Trail launched – Bundaberg Now – Bundaberg Now

Found! Art Trail Dog Walk’s Adrienne Williams and Andree Roberts are calling for more children to submit artwork they’ve created that is inspired by their pets.

More than 110 dog inspired artworks have made their way around the Bundaberg CBD in the FOUND! Studio Dog Exhibition and Art Trail.

FOUND! Studio Dog Exhibition and Art Trail’s Adrienne Williams said the project opened on Friday night and they had a wonderful response from the community, and they looked forward to the next six weeks of showcasing man’s best friend.

“There are about 40 art pieces in BRAG and 110 across the track,” Adrienne said.

“We have our community dog walk, where people can walk their dogs and follow the map to view each of pieces, and the next one will be held on 13 September.”

Taking part in the self-guided Found! Art Trail Dog Walk, Amanda Nelson with Pooh Bear the Maltese x Shitzu, Kelly Leather with her Kelpie Hank, and Rhonda Challen with Sherman the Boxer, all said they enjoyed checking out the dog-inspired artwork.

The trio from East Bundaberg Veterinary Hospital and Bargara Veterinary Surgery said the dog walk was ideal for dog and art lovers alike.

Amanda Nelson with Pooh Bear the Maltese x Shitzu, Kelly Leather with her Kelpie Hank, and Rhonda Challen with Sherman the Boxer, all enjoyed taking part in the Found! Art Trail Dog Walk.

Rhonda said the Found! Art Trail Dog Walk was a great way to be involved in the community with their four-legged friends.

“We downloaded the app and it gives a map for the self-guided walk,” Rhonda said.

“It gives you a blurb about the artwork and artist and it’s really interesting.

“There are some amazing artworks to view, and we’ve absolutely enjoyed taking part.”

As well as taking part in the Found! Art Trail Dog Walk Amanda said they were handing out hydro dog vouchers and sharing details about the monthly dog walk held at Bargara.

“This art trail is really a good way to get out with your dog and socialise,” Amanda said.

Kelly said the Bargara Dog Walk takes place on the second Sunday of the month at 4pm, and participants could meet at the Bargara Veterinary Surgery to take part in that event.

Oliver Botha drew a picture of his pet Cockatiel Calypso for the Found! Art Trail Dog Walk art competition.

Students take part in art prize exhibition

Andree Roberts helped organised the children’s art prize and she said there had been a good response from the local students, and there was still time for more children to submit artwork inspired by their pets.

“All of these artworks are just so gorgeous,” Andree said.

“Pets are all about self-care, lowering our blood pressure, and making us happy, so that’s the main message we have – come out and see children enjoying their art.

“Then join in the fun by participating in the scavenger hunt on our Found! Art Trail Dog Walk right through until 18 October.”

Andree said the FOUND! Studio Dog Exhibition and Art Trail student’s art prize exhibition was open to children up to the age of 17, and it was aimed to help take away some of life’s stresses that the younger generation may face, by having them sketch, paint or photographer their pets.

Oliver Botha was proud as punch to see his portrait of his pet cockatiel Calypso hanging proudly on the wall in the children’s art prize in the FOUND! Studio Dog Exhibition and Art Trail.

“He screeches a lot,” Oliver said.

“I had fun drawing him. And my sister and my brother drew a picture of him too.”

Along with the exhibition on Sunday children were able to take part in art activities thanks to Sweet Potatoes Australia and Greensill Farming Group donation of sweet potatoes.

Andree said the student’s art prize exhibition would be open for groups bookings by appointment or for more information people could phone her on 0416 228 857.

Permanent large-scale murals to become part of River of Art Festival – About Regional

Artist Tim de Haan – aka ‘Phibs’ – with one of his murals. Photo: Supplied.

Eurobodalla Shire Council has granted $25,000 to the River of Art festival to create large-scale street art murals that celebrate the community’s resilience and renewal after the Black Summer bushfires.

The murals will remain as permanent public artworks, with two in Batemans Bay, two in Narooma and one in Moruya.

During the festival’s nine days from 18-27 September, the collaborative project between the three towns’ chambers of commerce and the Narooma Oyster Festival will reflect a theme of resilience and renewal.

“This mural art event, which we’re calling REVIVE, will be an enduring symbol of the strength and vitality of our communities in recovering from the impact of the past summer’s bushfires,” said River of Art co-chair Di Jay.

Artist Tim de Haan – aka ‘Phibs’ – will also be working with the River of Art REVIVE project as lead artist, curator and project manager. He has been a prominent figure in the Australian street art scene for 30 years and his work can be found throughout Australia and internationally.

READ ALSO: Resilient River of Art to run in September this year

“Mural artists will be invited to create site-specific artwork, adding to the existing public artwork throughout the Eurobodalla region,” said Mr de Haan.

Renowned local Indigenous artist Cheryl Davison, whose work can be found at the National Museum and the Art Gallery of NSW, has already been working on the artistic design for one of the murals, which will tell the story of Wagonga Inlet as an important source of food – particularly oysters – for local Aboriginal people.

Ms Davison and Mr de Haan have worked together before, creating the Narooma Pool mural, which depicts Gulaga.

“All the murals will be integrated into the Eurobodalla Art Trail, which forms part of the festival’s annual program,” said Ms Jay. “This year, the community will be invited to watch, comment and engage with these artworks as they are created.

READ ALSO: Entries now open for Eurobodalla’s River of Art Festival

“A really exciting part of REVIVE will be watching the way the art emerges from the artist’s brush during the course of the festival. We’ll be filming the work as it progresses so people who can’t visit the sites will be able to watch the whole process on our website. We’ll also be doing updates on Facebook and Instagram.

“Not only is this a fantastic permanent addition to our region’s artistic life, it’s outdoors and COVID-19 safe.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to slim down our festival this year because of COVID-19, but REVIVE is a fabulous initiative despite the restrictions.”

The River of Art Festival will feature the River of Art Prize, Open Studios, workshops and exhibitions, and the new REVIVE event. The program, which will be finalised in late August, and further information can be found on the River of Art website.

The River of Art Festival is funded by the NSW Government, Destination NSW and Eurobodalla Shire Council.