CBD

Whistleblower facing title fight

CBD can't think of a more deserving candidate for Australian of the Year than the whistleblower who bravely exposed rotten goings-on among financial planners at the Commonwealth Bank, Jeff Morris.

However, it's doubtful that CBA boss Ian Narev thinks the same way - and, astonishingly, it turns out the bank may yet be able to kibosh Morris' chance of taking the title.

By the time nominations closed on Friday, no fewer than three people had put Morris forward for the 2014 award, which was won this year by media maven Ita Buttrose.

One of the nominations came from Jan Braund, who lost most of $1 million she entrusted to top CBA planner Don Nguyen.

"Mr Morris has, against what many would consider better judgment, stood up to one of the biggest corporations in Australia and in doing so has sacrificed his livelihood and his reputation within the industry and has put the health of himself and his family at risk through the associated stress," Braund said in her nomination.

"In an industry characterised by greed and self-interest he stood up as a man of honour."

Another nomination came from Merilyn Swan, whose parents were forced to go on to Centrelink payments after trusting Nguyen. "Mr Morris' courageous actions have precipitated a Senate inquiry into the role of ASIC as a corporate watchdog," Swan said in her nomination. "I commend Jeff Morris as an inspirational role model. He is an ordinary Australian who has stood up and done an extraordinary thing."

Nominations from each state now go before "an expert selection panel", which decides who should be a national finalist.

And who sits on the panel? According to the Australian of the Year website, "representatives of the state/territory Australia Day organisation, National Australia Day Council and award sponsors".

CBD was flabbergasted to learn that sponsors have a say in determining who gets what is generally regarded as one of Australia's most prestigious titles. But it gets worse: the award's major sponsor is the Commonwealth Bank. No, really.

CBA spokesman Steve Batten said: "In the instance where there is a conflict of interest, the bank's representative would remove themselves from the discussion of the nomination of the individual."

BusinessDay owner Fairfax Media is Australian of the Year media partner.

Company licked

Another manufacturing business has frozen up: Australia's only factory producing ice-cream sticks has shut its doors, costing 50 jobs.

Gladstone-based Austicks reckons it has been licked by high labour costs and, despite recent falls, the engorged Australian dollar. At its peak, the factory did sweet business, making 1.5 billion sticks a year. It will now import them, a task that requires just

two staff.

Clyne's focus out

Last week, the chief executive of NAB, Cameron Clyne, gave a speech about the need for

our political leaders to focus on

the long term, rather than the

short term, when developing national policy.

"I've done a few of these speeches in my near-on five years in the role and generally I always try to focus on long-term issues," he reminded lunchers. "[But] when I read about the speech the next day it appears that I only spoke about three things: interest rates, the currency, and the state of politics."

Eyeballing the media pack, he continued: "So just to get that out of the way, interest rates will go to 2.25 per cent, currency 85 to 90, [and] I don't care about politics."

But how could he know that interest rates were going to fall to 2.25 per cent? Could he have a mole deep inside the Reserve Bank?

If so, sadly his source has stiffed him. On Tuesday, rates only fell to 2.5 per cent.

Got a tip?

bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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