The gifts didn’t go down well with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who promptly ordered an independent review and slammed Holgate for “disgraceful” spending. A week later, Holgate had quit, conceding that gifting the ritzy watches never passed the “pub test”– but not before enlisting lawyer Brian Belling to argue the government had no legal grounds to stand her down. And once again, a woman carried the can for decisions that were approved by men. On her way out, Holgate ditched the POSTY1 numberplates from her Range Rover. Perhaps executive recruiter EgonZehnder will include them in the package when they find her replacement.
Luckily for the federal government, the other too-hard-basket item – saving the country’s grounded aviation industry – went more smoothly. It was standing room only in the data room when Virgin Australia went up for sale after limping into voluntary administration in May owing almost $7 billion. While Ben Gray’s BGH lobbed an early bid, the Melbourne-based private equity outfit and rivals were outpaced by US investors at Bain Capital, who never convinced the market their plans involved anything more than a low-cost carrier.
For that, they can probably thank former A2 Milk executive Jayne Hrdlicka, whose most notable career chapter before A2 was almost six years running Qantas low-cost carrier Jetstar. Hrdlicka was so keen to get back to the skies she cropped up at the centre of Bain’s bid while still serving out her gardening leave at A2 Milk. Non-compete, no matter. She simply worked for Bain for free until her gardening leave elapsed. Who says generosity in business is dead?
Bain repaid the favour by appointing Hrdlicka Virgin chief executive. She must have really wanted the job considering she traded Melbourne, where she chairs Tennis Australia, for Virgin’s Brisbane headquarters.
A tale of two city towers
As the pandemic kicked into gear in March and offices sent workers home, the frictions of high-rise apartment living were illuminated by two very different examples of the way we live now: a legal crusade over a 14-year-old miniature schnauzer named Angus and the rights of two husband and husband porn stars to work from home. Could Sydney get any more Sydney?
It sure could, as the saga over the banning of Angus from the Harry Seidler-designed Horizon complex in Darlinghurst resulted in a five-year legal battle that went all the way to the NSW Court of Appeal as well as an amendment in State Parliament and estimated legal fees of $600,000. All before the Supreme Court ruled decisively in favour of Angus and unbanned him from the complex in a victory for owner Jo Cooper and pooch lovers everywhere.
Meanwhile, over at the nearby Monument apartment complex in Oxford Street, modesty forbids us from detailing the live-streamed pay per view antics of US adult entertainer Billy Santoro and Aussie husband Gage from their seventh-floor apartment. Let’s just say the rules of social distancing did not apply. Neighbours were outraged but in true Sydney style said nothing to the couple directly, just bitched to the owners’ corporation, which issued stern reprimands for by-law breaches.
Thankfully, property prices inside the complex remained buoyant. The defiant couple responded with sass, even co-opting CBD’s exhaustive blow-by-blow coverage of their adventures into their own digital marketing efforts. The rascals! Eventually reality hit and the pair moved out, bound for destinations unknown. Let’s hope it wasn’t to Horizon.
Propping up the bar
How do you solve a problem like Nicola Gobbo? The royal commission into police informants thought removing the criminal barrister turned police informer from the Victorian Bar Roll was so important it made that recommendation No. 2 out of 111. It gave the Bar Council three months, telling it to change the constitution if it must.
Newish Bar Council president Christopher Blanden, QC, having immediately promised to implement all the royal commission recommendations, swiftly got the ball rolling. The council has formed a working group and discussed the need for a constitutional amendment.
But here’s the thing. Back when Matt Collins, QC, was president and Wendy Harris, QC, was senior vice-president, they proposed an amendment that would have allowed the council to remove Gobbo, just as the royal commission has now recommended.
It was defeated after a rearguard action led by Roisin Annesley, QC, and Nawaar Hassan. Both were members of the Vote For Change ticket that rolled Harris and others in a clean sweep of council positions. And now Annesley is senior vice-president, deputy to Blanden and on the committee tasked with implementing a reform she previously opposed.
Blanden tells CBD that there was “significant opposition” to the amendment because its proposals were too broad, not because of any support for Gobbo. “Her conduct was egregious and the Bar Council will, if necessary, propose appropriate constitutional amendments to have her removed from the Bar Roll.”
But before that, the council has another plan. It proposes to contact Gobbo and ask her (very nicely we presume) to remove herself from the Bar Roll. Simplicity itself.
Time for a change
For many, getting away from it all was a key 2020 ambition. Former Channel Ten chief executive Paul Anderson moved to the Byron Bay hinterland to become a pecan farmer, while glossy magazine editrix Kirsten Galliott decided to “blow her life up” and become a Tasmaniac and join ABC AM presenter Sabra Lane in the Apple Isle. She’ll still edit the Qantas magazine though, because as the pandemic taught us, you can work anywhere. Just ask Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who made a habit throughout lockdown of honing his calves climbing the hills of Palm Beach. Summer bodies are made in spring!
Doing the Bolt
No item galvanised Melbourne more than the news in August that conservative columnist, blogger and commentator Andrew Bolt was selling up his Malvern East property and leaving “the madhouse of Melbourne” for “the bush”. Which turned out to be the Mornington Peninsula. Where Sky News is building him his own studio. If they can get the internet connection sorted.
CBD is indebted to our Malvern East correspondent, who kept a close eye on the property sale, proudly telling us she was a “50-year Age reader”. To her and all our other readers who kept us endlessly informed and entertained this year, a sincere thank you and long may it continue.
Going, going …
For the moneyed classes, lockdown became a case of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” – right out of the state. Never was this more apparent than in the case of CBD favourite David Elia, the Hostplus super fund boss, who was so keen for “schoolies for grown-ups” (otherwise known as Brisbane’s AFL grand final) that he rocked up in the Sunshine State in September with his family to “speak at various industry events”. So diligent.
But star of this particular show was Peter Fox. You might know him as executive chairman of Linfox Logistics (founded by his daddy, Lindsay) but he is really a humble truckie plying his trade in Queensland, albeit one in a luxurious Gold Coast property he leased from his mate, legendary motorsport champion Mick Doohan, in July, as The Age exclusively reported. Victorians were banned from entering Queensland in March, but police cleared Fox of any wrongdoing, as truckies moving freight interstate were exempt from border closures. Even if that freight happened to be your wife and kids.
But while Fox professed “I am a Queenslander now” when journalists from The Age and A Current Affair caught up with him, he has recently changed status. Family Fox are back in their $30 million Toorak mansion. And extensive renovations were completed in time for Christmas. Which gives us the opportunity to wish Peter, the Foxes and all our other readers a very Happy Christmas and New Year. We return on January 25 to delight and torment you all.
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Stephen Brook is CBD columnist for The Age. He is a former features editor and media editor at The Australian, where he wrote the Media Diary column and hosted the Behind The Media podcast. He spent six years in London working for The Guardian.
Samantha is the The Age’s CBD columnist. She recently covered Victorian and NSW politics and business for News Corp, and previously worked for the Australian Financial Review.