Hockey owes us an explanation

At the turn of the century there was a bit of strife at the NMRA – as the New York Times describes:

Though the roots of the strife go back years, the current outbreak of fighting first flared last month, when Nicholas Whitlam resigned as chairman of the NRMA Insurance Group, a former mutual insurer whose customer rosters now include about one in five Australians.

Rowan Ross, who was elected interim chairman, then dismissed the chief executive, Eric Dodd, saying that a majority of the board had lost confidence in Mr. Dodd.

So those are the basic facts. Mark Latham – then MP for Werriwa – raised the issue in the Parliament:

This matter also involves a question of ministerial responsibility. Not only has Minister Hockey stood by and allowed this injustice to occur; remarkably, he has acted in Mr Dodd’s defence. In fact, he has gone out of his way to protect Dodd’s interests within the NRMA. The minister even went as far as personally intervening to prop up Mr Dodd’s position as managing director.

On the weekend of 7 and 8 April, there was media speculation that the board of NRMA Insurance was reviewing Mr Dodd’s position. The following Monday, Rowan Ross, the acting Chairman of NRMA Insurance, received a call from Minister Hockey advising him not to sack Dodd. After Dodd was, in fact, dismissed on 10 April, Ross received a further call from Mr Hockey, in which he said, `Remember that I am in charge of ASIC.’ Ross took this to be a threat and subsequently told many people of the minister’s actions. It was subsequently reported in the media that the minister had given Ross `the rounds of the kitchen’. Minister Hockey has acted improperly, and perhaps even illegally, by intervening in this fashion.

To be complete – Latham did make a whole series of other allegations.

Hockey’s response:

As a minister, I took the view that Australia could ill afford to have the caucus-like bar room brawl in the boardroom of NRMA spread to the executive of NRMA at a time when the largest general insurer in Australia was under pressure with the collapse of the second largest general insurer in Australia. I rang the acting chairman of NRMA and asked him if the speculation was true: that he and the board had done a deal to dismiss the chief executive of NRMA at the request of Mr Whitlam, who had resigned. He would not respond to me. I reminded him that at that juncture the chief executive of NRMA was also the chairman of the Insurance Council of Australia and was working with the government on a rescue package for thousands of policyholders in HIH, who at that time had no protection whatsoever. In fact, the insurance industry at that moment was working with the government to come up with a solution to respond to the immediate problems of HIH. At that point of time, it was decided within the board of NRMA that they were going to take their bar room political brawls into the executive of NRMA and potentially destabilise Australia’s largest general insurer.

I do not apologise for one second for making it obvious to the NRMA, both publicly and privately, that the government, through its prudential regulator, APRA, and through its corporate regulator, ASIC, would carefully monitor developments at NRMA to ensure that good corporate governance was adhered to. I do not apologise for that. That is what any prudential and responsible minister would do to ensure that all appropriate laws were complied with by the board and by the executive of NRMA at a time when the insurance industry was under enormous pressure.

That’s what Hockey told the Parliament in September 2001.

In May 2001 he told a conference (emphasis added):

Insurance, generally has performed reasonably in this regard however, given recent events I have asked both ASIC and APRA to pay particular regard to the current board and management instability at NRMA.

NRMA is Australia’s largest general insurer. While APRA advise me that there is no prudential concerns with NRMA, I am concerned that recent board infighting is doing damage to NRMA and damage to the general insurance industry.

Well – all that can now be seen in a different light given Hockey now boasting in his biography:

I said Rowan, I am sending everyone down to NRMA tomorrow and they’re going to give you an enema like you’ve never had. And I rang ASIC and APRA and the ACCC — all the regulators — and I said I want you to raid the NRMA publicly and I want it to have the enema it’s never had. I rang the Tax Office, too, and said you go through the joint.

So you sool the corporate regulators and the Australian Tax Office onto an organisation because you’re worried about in-house brawling? To avoid damage to the “NRMA and damage to the general insurance industry” and at a time when “the largest general insurer in Australia was under pressure with the collapse of the second largest general insurer in Australia” you order government regulators to give that company “the enema it’s never had”. Really?

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28 Responses to Hockey owes us an explanation

  1. Alfonso

    ‘Australia could ill afford to have the caucus-like bar room brawl in the boardroom of NRMA.’
    That’s no business of Statist Joe’s or the govt’s unless Australia also has a secret list of too big to fail corporate cronies, in addition to the 4 pillars.
    Not to worry, bonuses still got paid all round.

  2. H B Bear

    Sounds like Sloppy Joe watched too much Eliot Ness as a kid.

  3. iamok

    Methinks Joe is getting too much of a sense of his own importance. Very very dangerous son.

  4. sdfc

    in addition to the 4 pillars.

    It’s funny how the dickheads at the cat talk about the 4 pillars policy without knowing what it means.

  5. Tom

    You’re right, sdfc. 97% of Cat readers are dickheads. It’s so obvious considering what’s going on with the climate.

  6. The Ghost who walks

    And sdfc; you know apparently!

  7. sdfc

    Okay Tom, why is it advantageous to allow the big four to merge?

  8. sdfc

    Sorry Tom, forgot you are a moron.

  9. Tom

    I forgot you were such an expert on prudential regulation, sdfc. And as such your main objective is to prevent anyone finding out you know fuckall about fuckall.
    Big four what?

  10. Menai Pete

    It was more than in house brawling. It was a Labor Party attempt to take over the organisation following the demutualisation process.

  11. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    “Big four?”

    No, it’s down to the Big Two – the Durban Sharks and ACT Brumbies got knocked out in the semi finals tonight. Now pith off sdfc.

    I have long pictured Joe in a blue uniform with shiny brass buttons and a peaked cap, welcoming guests at the front door of the Regent in George Street, affable, as John Candy’s “Uncle Buck”.

    He revealed his substance way back when he volunteered to be the regular entertainment on vacuous Chubby Mellie / Kochie’s Playschool for Adults morning “news” show.

    His generous self assessment way exceeds his apparent ability and he is as useless to the Liberals as The Hon Carpet Stroller, Member for Goldman Sachs.

  12. mareeS

    Cats with long memories will set me straight on this, but I recall NRMA as quite a benign organisation until Nifty & Co post 1976 started looking for hollow logs and backdoor passages of influence, and avenues to unfettered sources of cash. NRMA suddenly became a political plaything for all parties, upon which to foist their political hopefuls and reward their political cast-offs. Just check out the alumni. Demutualisation was a good thing, but it’s still a rich political toy.

  13. Steve Shailer park

    The biggest mystery is why Joe would pick a left wing journalist from the Courier Mail to pass on these private conversations.

  14. tomix

    Wasn’t Joe personally preselected by the grandstanding previous Member for North Sydney in 1998?

  15. H B Bear

    People are always looking for back door passages of influence in Sydney. It is that kind of town.

    You are correct though. Revving up sleepy mutuals was all the rage in the mid 90s or thereabouts.

  16. George Brandis thanks for NOTHING

    Joe Hockey, eh?

    Now treasurer?

    Jesus H. Christ, we are so screwed.

    Remember that I am in charge of ASIC

    He actually believed that would scare NRMA. It wouldn’t scare ANYONE.

  17. johno

    The truly gobsmakingly stupid aspect of this story is its source.

    Hockey, himself. His own autobiography.

    Why in God’s name did that idiot think that his was a good time to release a book in which he brags about sooling corporate watchdogs onto a corporation he was having a problem with.

    I use to think Turnbull had the worst politician judgement of any member of the Coalition. Sloppy Joe has proved me wrong.

    Could explain why his first budget was a complete disaster politically. Maybe Abbott does need a reshuffle.

  18. George Brandis thanks for NOTHING

    Why in God’s name did that idiot think that his was a good time to release a book in which he brags about sooling corporate watchdogs onto a corporation he was having a problem with.

    Joe ain’t so bright.

  19. sabrina

    Hockey appears to be a great obfuscator, to some extent Keating-like. He comes up with different explanations on past events from time to time – whether it is uni fees or the one you allude to Sinc.
    For him, it was budget emergency before the election, and now in NZ he tells no problems in Australian budget.
    Reading the newspaper this morning and digressing a bit, his young colleagues having school kids are still milking the taxpayers by buying children’s books out of their publication entitlements. For them, Hockey’s age of entitlement never stops. To be fair on him, there are many on the other sides too.

  20. johanna

    Joe ain’t so bright.

    Ain’t it the truth. He’s a personable fellow, but the thought of him being in charge of the Budget, or throwing his still-considerable weight around corporate boardrooms by reminding them that he is in charge of the ASIC watchchihuahua, is pretty scary.

    Putting out an “autobiography” at this stage of the game is sheer hubris, and demonstrates the lack of judgement and suspectibility to flattery that has characterised him from the beginning. Comparisons with Lord Wentworth are indeed apt.

  21. The more I hear from Hockey, the more a dislike him. I think he may have succeeded in moving below Turnbull in my books (and to those who know how much I dislike Turnbull, that really says something)

  22. Jeremy

    The biggest mystery is why Joe would pick a left wing journalist from the Courier Mail to pass on these private conversations.
    He also picked the red head flag left wing journalist Peter Fitzsimons to introduce the book.
    He has strange friends.

  23. StraightShooter

    Joe has had a (deserved in my opinion) reputation amongst public servants for his explosive temper tantrums and vindictiveness for many years. He is one person I would not want to be on the wrong side of.

  24. candy

    Joe Hockey seems like a nice warm hearted person to me. He seems quite proud of the budget and put a lot of work into it, but he has copped a lot of abuse around the social media and Fairfax and the ALP lie about what’s in it all the time with their scare tactics.
    I think it’s been a stressful time for him, well it would be for anyone.

  25. WhaleHunt Fun

    Minister Hockey’s father is a great guy. His opinions on border protection are thoughtful and sound.
    Cannot see how Joe could have come to be as he is.
    Perhaps he was schooled by leftwing cretins.

  26. johanna

    He seems quite proud of the budget and put a lot of work into it,

    Candy, are you serious? A five year old might be quite proud of their plasticine depiction of an elephant, and put a lot of work into it.

    We expect the Treasurer to “put quite a lot of work” into the nation’s Budget. It’s the bare minimum for holding the job.

    The “Hockster” (TM johanna) has given us a Budget which puts us further into debt. Since our credit is still pretty good, he has nipped down to the local hock shop and pawned a few bits and pieces to pay the bookies, the publican and the landlord, while telling grandma’s creditors that they might have to wait.

    It’s like a bad Ealing comedy, except that we are living it.

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