Air NZ salutes a high-flyer, but is it his last time?

Air NZ salutes a high-flyer, but is it his last time?

THERE was no shortage of subtle digs at a common enemy, Qantas, during an Air New Zealand bash in Sydney on Wednesday night.

The waterfront party in Pyrmont was yet another chance to farewell Air New Zealand's boss Rob Fyfe (the last of his year of goodbye parties will be in Auckland next week). Attendees at his latest farewell included Virgin Australia's Italian stallion, John Borghetti, and his executive team, Tourism Australia boss Andrew McEvoy, Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett and Fyfe's successor Christopher Luxon (who was introduced as the "bald man who used to sell shampoo").

Borghetti was eager to make his way to McEvoy for a deep and meaningful (perhaps yet another chat about Virgin filling the gap in Tourism Australia's budget following Qantas pulling its funding because of TA chairman Geoff Dixon's potential conflicts of interest).

Fyfe had plenty of stories to tell about flying on Qantas to test the competitor's product.

Hours earlier he had flown in from Los Angeles on a Qantas plane. Recalling the trip to Sydney, the silver-haired Fyfe told the crowd that he didn't get much sleep because the Qantas crew kept asking him what his next career move will be when he steps down at the end of the month.

This despite Fyfe declaring on numerous occasions that he does not want to succeed Alan Joyce at the Flying Kangaroo.

Obviously not everyone is convinced this is the last the aviation industry will see of this celebrity CEO.

Upswing hopes

EIGHT is enough for the Singaporean owners of broker and adviser Octa Phillip, who are dropping the "Octa" part of the name. The company, formed when Austock was sold to Intersuisse in February, is to be renamed Phillip Capital Australia in a move that will line it up with Intersuisse's backer, Phillip Capital Group.

While a complete lack of corporate deals and a moribund equities market have made life tough in the stockbroking business, the company is betting on an upswing. It aims to double its Australian private client advice team to more than 150 people.

ICAC's big week

IT'S been a big week at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing rooms, where some of Sydney's elite have been fielding questions about an allegedly corrupt coal deal involving ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid and tens of millions of dollars.

There have been star turns from RAMS founder John Kinghorn, recalling how he didn't get "peanuts" for the float of his ill-fated home loan business, and airline hostess turned socialite Amanda Poole, who had a taxable income of $6 million last year despite not working at all.

CBD has also made a guest appearance, so far escaping the ferocious cross-examination of Geoffrey Watson, SC.

Documents tendered to ICAC include a June 2009 email from James McGuigan to his dad John about their investment in the company at the centre of the probe, Cascade Coal. James, who worked at Arthur Phillip, an investment bank run by Mrs Poole's hubby Richard, flagged a report in CBD about land for sale in the Bylong Valley, where Cascade was operating. "Could be a pure coincidence, but then again our letter mentions Bylong," James told dad. "Could Greg [Jones, a former Labor staffer who had a secret shareholding in Cascade] have passed on to the boys, who planted the article?"

Meanwhile, CBD eagerly awaits the fulfilment of the modestly-named Kinghorn Foundation's intention to find and support or establish "a public affairs institute to research and promote transparency in Australian state, federal and local government."

PR a tough game

FEAR must surely be spreading through public relations covens across the country today after a Federal Court judge revealed one of the arcane trade's deepest, darkest, secrets: how much they charge for their toil and trouble.

In April, one James Ashby hired former 60 Minutes producer Anthony McClellan to work media magic as Ashby geared up to sue his boss, speaker Peter Slipper, for sexual harassment.

"Mr McClellan's fees were $550 per hour plus GST (ie $605 per hour)," Justice Steven Rares said in a ruling on Wednesday.

McClellan struck a no-win no-fee deal with Ashby, telling his client he would be "seeking my fees from the other side with the successful outcome of your case".

Has he been paid? "No," McClellan told CBD.

Judge's full plate

WHILE the language used in Justice Rares' ruling might be mild by the depraved standards of Canberra politics, by judicial standards it is very strong indeed.

In August, as Ashby and Slipper were making a series of appearances before him, Rares was working on a blockbuster judgment in a case brought by local councils who were sold exotic financial instruments by Lehman Brothers.

Stretching to more than 1200 paragraphs, the judgment dealt with complex questions of corporate law and had international ramifications for the derivatives market. Is it any wonder the judge occasionally seemed a little tetchy as he sifted through the lurid text messages produced in the Ashby case?

Got a tip? bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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