Modia Minotaur

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

First Big Kev, Now Big Kez

Like him, loathe him, fear him, the death of Kerry Packer, announced yesterday morning by a misty-eyed Richard Wilkins on Channel 9's Today Show, represents the end of an era.

When I was studying leadership as a formal discipline at university, we were all asked to name the three most influential leaders in Australia. Few people left Kerry Packer out of their lists - most ahead of democratically elected leaders such as state premiers and the Prime Minister. Moguls such as Packer are increasingly influential in modern bureaucracies, acting outside and upon both the cabinet and opposition. In the case of media moguls, this effect is massively magnified. In fact, it's difficult to think of a sphere of Australian life in which Packer did not have some hand - horse racing, cricket, gambling, newspapers, television (much of Channel 9's news broadcasts of yesterday were dedicated to eulogising their departed head honcho, who famously sold the network to failed - and forgetful - entrepreneur Alan Bond and then bought it back again for a song). Though Packer donated portions of his $7bn personal fortune to both sides of politics, his passionate dislike of the Keating government - which passed legislation preventing him from buying Fairfax - was well known. Keating - never a media darling - received the harshest run of all in Packer media, in particular the notorious `pig farm' affair.

How ironic that Packer should pass away with only one of the Howard Government's long-cherished pieces of reform held over until next year - cross media ownership.

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