Monday, May 14, 2012

Agent-General in London. Conflict of Interest?

According to our state government, ‘…The Government of South Australia maintains a European office, which is located in London and headed by Bill Muirhead the Agent General for South Australia. The role of this office is to encourage European companies to invest in South Australia; seek opportunities and provide support for the export of South Australian products and services to Europe; assist South Australian businesses, industry associations and other agencies in establishing contacts in Europe to promote trade, financial and commercial activities of benefit to the State; encourage people to migrate to South Australia under the business migrating scheme; assist the State's Tourism Commission in attracting tourists to South Australia; and raise the awareness in Europe of the State's cultural and artistic activities…’

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Bill Muirhead, our Agent General ‘…is a founding partner of M&C Saatchi, where he continues to operate on a global basis, working with some of the largest and best known brands in the world…’

The Agent General’s address is The Australia Centre, Strand, London. The founding partner of M&C Saatchi’s address is 36 Golden Square, London.

The position is governed by the Agent General Act of 1901. The position is a salaried position with a 5-year tenure. Mr Muirhead was appointed in 2007.

In Parliament on 24 September 2008, Kevin Foley said; ‘…he is now working part time as our Agent-General…’

He does have a sidekick. The Deputy Agent-General, Matt Johnson.

Whilst in the UK last week, our Premier, Jay Weatherill, was prominent in the press for stating that South Australia (SA), in Britain, has no brand, no recognition. It was reported that SA has been confused with South Africa (SA). That brits have a general lack of knowledge about South Australia. That the state needs a new ‘brand’.

Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria have Agent-Generals located in London.

Both NSW and Tasmania dumped the office many years ago.

The question must be asked.

What has Bill Muirhead and his staff been up to for the past 5 years?

In Parliament a few years ago, Kevin Foley stated:

The Hon. K.O. FOLEY: To promote our state we have the Agent-General's office in London, which is doing a lot of work. You would be familiar with his very cheeky adverts. We are very lucky to have a gentleman of the quality of Bill Muirhead as our Agent-General in London, the former founding partner of M&C Saatchi, former chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi and the person credited with developing British Airways' advertising campaign. I think he has worked with Qantas, Coca-Cola and the big brand names in the UK. I think he was also responsible for the Tory election win of Major. I am not sure whether he was around the place when they lost to Blair.

We are very fortunate: he is a very clever man. He had that campaign 'Sod London house prices' and 'Bugger it, I'm off to Adelaide'. A few of the earlier drafts probably would not have got through the censor. That has been very clever. It has created much interest in our state. We do a lot of work outside our London office, in Great Britain in particular, but also in mainland Europe, particularly in France and Germany, for our tourism markets.

According to Saatchi financial records, Mr Muirhead is the Executive Director of M&C Saatchi PLC holding 3,799,369 shares.

Let’s talk about promoting. Let’s talk about advertising campaigns.

Remember the UK campaigns referred to as ‘Sod London House Prices’, and ‘Bugger it, I’m Off to Adelaide’?

According to many sources, Bill Muirhead for M & C Saatchi masterminded these campaigns.

OK Mr and Mrs Opposition. Time for some FOI requests.

(1) How much does the taxpayer fork out each year to maintain Mr Muirhead and the staff he manages?

(2) Do South Australia advertising campaigns go to public tender?

(3) What have past campaigns cost us, the taxpayers?

(4) What companies were awarded those contracts?

From where I sit, and from Jay Weatherill’s comments made in the UK last week, the efficacy of the Agent-General's office must be queried.

And I don't know about you. But there's just something not quite right here. I have no doubt that Bill Muirhead is a very honourable man. But, is it AOK for our government to be handing out lucrative work to a company in which our Agent-General has a very substantial financial interest?

I will leave the last words to Kevin Foley.

‘…For a minimal amount of money, with a novel idea he has got national BBC coverage all around the United Kingdom promoting South Australia…’

On the other hand, maybe, just maybe Jay Weatherill is talking out of his arse, and didn’t notice he was actually in South Africa!


The Hooded One said...

I'm with your Rob. How does that work? No matter how it is dressed up, this guy is a paid employee of the taxpayers of South Australia. Who makes the decisions about who gets the work? I can only agree with you. Something not right here.

Anonymous said...

I looked up the saatchi share. About $1.40 a pop. The guy is worth millions. If his company gets the work time after time, that has to be looked in to. Not right.

Something stinks in said...

Thanks for posting this information Rob. This story makes me think of Shakespeare and Denmark.

Anonymous said...

I work in the public service, and if I went down to my wife's corner shop and bought the pencils for my section and got found out, I would be in serious trouble.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but Anonymouse (May 15 10.14am) it depends on the Level you are able to reach in the public service.
So if you are the CEO it is OK to appoint your very best bestest syncophant friend as your chosen Training provider, after you have rigged the selection process to exclude the thoroughly qualified training organisations.
And the higher up you go it is OK to ignore the provisions required of a job and appoint your next very best friend so you will be assured of a docile yes person at your side for all decisions that need a seconder. You gotta look good up there in the lofty heights in the public service in this stage. Appearance is everything.
So of course the Premier can keep a multi millionaire in lolly money. Even if the Saatchi guy rarely gives a second thought to the needs of South Australia.
Vote them in again and you deserve to have more wool pulled over your eye shades next time again