THE LAST GASP: The board seats are better at Fairfax

This week, Fairfax caves in to Cowin, the world banking system maintains its integrity and Julia Gillard enjoys some support.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest stories, ever week. This week, hungry Jack gets a bite at Fairfax, Gillard still can’t shake her doubters and the Queensland Liberals tackle those damn meddling scientists.

It begins

As far as protracted battled for company board seats go, the one surrounding Fairfax and the fight over editorial independence takes the increasingly sour-tasting cake. The embattled media group has finally appointed Hungry Jack’s founder Jack Cowin as an independent director, following months of negotiations with the Western Australian entrepreneur. The move is considered by some to be somewhat of a backflip given the media company has fought off the appointment Cowin and his allies in recent months. It’s the first time Fairfax has ever resisted a seemingly inevitable change before eventually caving in. Sticking to its guns, Fairfax has maintained the appointment is in no way connected to its ongoing discussions with Hancock Prospecting. The stance has not met with any scepticism. At all.

Thanks for letting us know

Egg was passed from face to face this week as the scandal (and isn’t there always one?) surrounding British banking giant Barclays deepened. It was the US Federal Reserve in the spotlight early this week, when it released documents showing it knew five years ago that the UK banks were understating their borrowing costs to manipulate Libor. We should probably cut them some slack, though, as they were undoubtedly going to get around to telling everyone at some stage. And it’s not like there have been any large-scale problems in banking in the interim anyway. The saga just gets worse for Barclays, with a top executive admitting to ordering staff to submit false interest rates to authorities in 2008, as he thought the move had been sanctioned by the Bank of England. Because, clearly, as long as you’ve got the ok from the central bank, committing large-scale financial fraud and undermining a key part of the global financial system is fair game. Lucky for the public, behaviour like this in the sector is extremely rare.

I’m not even mad, just impressed

Well, that’s it. The race is over. Once you have been linked to drug cartels and terrorist groups, like global giant HSBC was this week, you’ve pretty much scaled the mountain of irresponsible banking practice. The lender has been slammed in a United States Senate report which claims it ignored both external and internal warnings over its relationship with various parties of ill repute. Experts have suggested HSBC be given at least some credit for pursuing those profits in the face of mounting warnings, noting the stance took a commendable amount of resilience. Not a lot of soul, but resilience.

Not fade away

In a rare sign of inter-party support for the Prime Minister, delegates at the New South Wales Labor conference gave Julia Gillard a twenty-second round of applause this week, indicating she still has backers in the real engine room of the party. The reception came after Gillard declared she wasn't about to `lie down and die' in the build-up to the next federal election, despite distressing opinion polls and renewed leadership speculation. The length of the applause is expected to only be bettered by the one following her concession speech in the immediate aftermath of the vote. Gillard’s right hand man, Treasurer Wayne Swan, has played down the poll results, insisting that party leadership is about policies, not keeping an eye on the polls. And the man has a point – it’s not like every election is some kind of nation-wide popularity contest.

Caught in the loop

The Labor party kept swinging in all directions this week, with its premeditated spontaneous tirade against the Greens continuing alongside various swipes at the opposition. The coalition has called on the PM to ‘come clean’ on her views on the Greens, because obviously, Labor’s view towards the party has not been made clear enough recently. Swan played a familiar tune, adding the Liberals to his list marked ‘loopy’, and accusing them of turning to the extremely conservative side of politics. It’s a searing allegation from the Treasurer; given the coalition is the only Australian political entity to have taken a significant lurch to the right in recent years.

Oh my science

Those crazy lefties took another blow this week when the might of the Queensland Liberal-National party voted to remove climate change ‘propaganda’ from the state’s schools. The party passed a motion at its annual state conference calling on the state government to remove ‘environmental propaganda material’, in particular ‘post normal’ climate science, from its curriculum. The definition of ‘post normal’ is up in the air, but could possibly be explained as ‘anything we don’t like’. The speaker who moved the motion said that kind of climate material was purely political, leading another member to argue that it was dangerous to dismiss different points of view. He was then reportedly dismissed from the party.

Quick misses

Yahoo has named Marissa Mayer as the group’s fifth chief executive in 12 months. The former Google executive said would begin her role by interviewing her potential replacements.

– Shadow education minister Christopher Pyne told gathered media this week that too many Australians are obsessed with reducing school class sizes. He then left the door stop early, complaining that too many questions were being asked of him all at once.

Rio Tinto has sealed a deal with Ansaldo STS Australia which will see driverless high-tech trains haul its Western Australian iron ore. The miner allegedly said that as soon as it can figure out how to get robots to build the robots, it can be rid of those money-grubbing employees forever.

– And finally, mining magnate Clive Palmer says he is still undecided as to which seat he wants to stand for in the next federal election. His hesitation is understandable, as the final call on which electorate he will be denied pre-selection for would be a tough one.

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