Business subtly courts new PM

Business subtly courts new PM

Call it a case of premature exultation. Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd made a much-ballyhooed speech last week finally setting out what business wants from whoever forms government after the election in September (Tony Abbott, unless a political meteor strikes).

While it's probably no great surprise to anybody that the BCA's position is far closer to the Coalition's than to Labor's, Shepherd was careful not to put things in party political terms.

No such inhibitions for opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella, who immediately pumped out a cheeky press release boldly headlined "Business Council backs Coalition". The move appears to have frightened the BCA back towards its more usual uncomfortable position atop the fence - a spokesman for the organisation declined to comment on Sunday.

TV board names

Meanwhile, in TV land they're looking forward to the return of John Howard. It was reported last week that the cricket tragic former PM and former National Party leader John Anderson were among names tossed around as people who might be approached to join the board of free-to-air industry body Free TV. The body will need new faces: Nine boss Jeff Browne last week announced he will step down as chairman after the election, a victim of infighting in the industry that has seen networks turn on each other like starving dogs tussling over the last bone in the world. It seems Howard and Anderson have now been approached and are interested. CBD wants to know if Howard will bring in a 24-hour cricket channel if he gets the gig.

Angel protests

He may be an arsonist, a blackmailer, a molester of teenage girls and a drug dealer, but don't you dare accuse former Hells Angel Terrence Tognolini of fraud.

That's the message sent in a letter last week from criminal lawyers Galbally Rolfe to BusinessDay's Chris Vedelago.

Vedelago had written a story pointing out that Tognolini's fortress-like Melbourne home, which was seized by authorities after his arrest in 2007, is on the market.

In addition to the "defamatory" mention of fraud, the law firm objected to publication of "the fact that Mr Tognolini is a suspect in three murders".

While it's true that fraud wasn't among the offences for which Tognolini is currently serving eight years' jail, it is also true that he's been linked by police to three Adelaide murders stretching back to the 1990s.

His lawyers want all references to the murders scrubbed from the online version of the story. Which won't be happening.

And which of Galbally Rolfe's noble defenders of the rights of their innocent client wrote this thunderous missive? CBD has no idea. Bravely, none of the firm's lawyers put their name to it.

Timely topic

The Australand faithful will gather at the Four Seasons Hotel on Monday in Sydney for the company's annual meeting.

The residential and office developer has been the subject of a takeover talk since December 10 last year when Singapore-owned GPT lobbed a low ball "indicative, non-binding" offer. That's code for we want to take you out but we aren't sure when and to where.

So far nothing has emerged, despite rumours of other potential suitors having a squiz at the books in an online "data room".

But fuelling market chatter is the move by the major shareholder, Singapore's CapitaLand, to seek "options" for its stake, which could include selling it on the open market or into a takeover.

Shareholders will no doubt ask CEO Bob Johnston about the machinations, to which he will no doubt reply it's not up to him. It's likely the only urgency on Monday will be to get to the tea and bickies after the meeting.

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