Gonski calls for board diversity

DAVID Gonski has used his first public appearance since becoming the chairman of Australia's most powerful investment fund to call for greater openness in corporate culture and a greater diversity of board appointments in Australian-listed companies.

DAVID Gonski has used his first public appearance since becoming the chairman of Australia's most powerful investment fund to call for greater openness in corporate culture and a greater diversity of board appointments in Australian-listed companies.

Speaking at an Australian Institute of Company Directors lunch in Perth yesterday, the incoming chairman of the $73 billion Future Fund called on businesses to appoint more women to their boards.

Mr Gonski criticised Australian corporate culture for being too narrowly focused, saying too many people treated board appointments as a retirement plan, rather than as a profession.

"We need to broaden the base of the people on boards. We obviously need to draw from 100 per cent of the population I don't know how we men got away with it for so long. To draw from 49 per cent of the population cannot possibly be as good as choosing the best from the whole 100 per cent," he said.

His comments came as the Australian Securities Exchange board yesterday began preparations to search for a new chairman.

In taking on the Future Fund role, Mr Gonski will stand down as ASX chairman at the end of June.

While the markets operator will look outside its own pool of directors, former Sydney Futures Exchange chairman and current ASX director Rick Holliday-Smith has already emerged as a potential successor.

Mr Holliday-Smith has headed up various capital markets businesses and is currently chairman of the state and federal government-owned utility Snowy Hydro and listed healthcare specialist Cochlear.

Mr Gonski will remain chairman of the Australian arm of investment bank Investec as well as Coca-Cola Amatil. He is also a director of Singapore Airlines, although that role is due to end in July. The early exit of the well-connected Mr Gonski is a setback for the ASX, which needs to maintain good links with Canberra in the face of new rivals such as Chi-X Australia.

Separately, the country's biggest online stockbroker, CommSec, this week told clients it was now linked to the Chi-X trading platform. This means the broker will consider running orders over the rival exchange operator. With WEST AUSTRALIAN

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