Free speech can become expensive

Free speech can become expensive

Freedom of speech ain't free down at the Institute of Public Affairs - it will cost punters $495 to hear Keith Rupert Murdoch deliver the after-dinner oration at the free-market think tank's 70th anniversary celebration on April 4.

Tweeted IPA research fellow Chris Berg on Sunday (spelling and e.e.cummings-style lower case as per original): "i agree it would be great if it were complimentary, but unfortunately donation-based orgs don't have a lot of spare cash".

However, the IPA's latest financial report shows it had almost $1.8 million in cash as of June 30 last year.

"Dinners are very expensive - we have to charge for them and we use them as fund-raisers," Berg told CBD. "At the start of the year we have to raise whatever our budget is from scratch."

Executive director John Roskam said the cash stash was "not really" a lot of money. "Not compared to the Grattan Institute that got $30 million from the government."

He said IPA membership ballooned to 3000, up 1000 from the previous year, on the back of concern about freedom of speech, the carbon tax and government spending.

Revenue for 2011-12 exploded from $2.3 million to $3.95 million, fuelled by a boom in donations ($2.26 million, up from just $560,000 in the previous year).

The Murdoch family has a long association with the IPA, with Sir Keith serving on its council in the 1940s and son Rupert following suit in the '80s.

"A few tickets are still available," Roskam said.

Office sterility

BHP Billiton's $75 million man Marius Kloppers isn't the only corporate high-flyer with a hatred of any trace of humanity cluttering the desks of his minions. The outgoing mining boss famously even prohibited his underlings from consuming curry within nose-range of other workers. But it turns out Gail Kelly (pictured) is running a clean desk enclave in the home of curry, India, where her bank Westpac hides its call centres.

"When you go there you'd be blown away. You know, talk about clean desks, I'm talking about really clean desks," Kelly said. "They're not allowed to bring a pen or piece of paper into the room."

To be fair, Kelly revealed these details after being asked if "offshoring" could compromise the security of customers' data. She said there was no such threat.

Radio revival

Convicted tax cheat and former Masters Apprentice Glenn Wheatley is back in the radio game with the backing of Oceania Capital Partners - and he's bringing an old and famous name back with him. On Thursday Eon Broadcasting, which is 90 per cent owned by Oceania with the rest belonging to The Wheatley Organisation, paid $17.75 million to buy Sunshine Coast stations Sea FM and Mix FM from Southern Cross Austereo.

The Eon name is a throwback to the dawn of commercial FM broadcasting in the be-mulleted early 1980s when Wheatley was the founding director of Eon FM, which became part of the Austereo network.

Numbers dance

They'll be taking the poll next to the pole when shareholders in Planet Platinum meet at the company's strip club, Showgirls Bar 20, in Melbourne Friday.

Planet Platinum, which is also landlord to brothel the Daily Planet, has been suffering from limp performance, so angry shareholders have taken aim at chairman and chief executive John Trimble.

Several of the shareholder group - "Shaggers" for short - have travelled from interstate, so CBD is hoping for a satisfying outcome.

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