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Gladys says YES! to Optus for a big win

Peter Switzer
12 August 2022

A big news story of the day has been the former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (who we didn’t want to lose) winning a prize contract for her new boss Optus and, interestingly, it was NSW government business.

This has raised the eyebrows of some scribes in the media. Undoubtedly Gladys’s old running mate, Digital Minister Victor Dominello, who took the Service NSW contract off Telstra to give it to Optus, will be ultimately scrutinized for fair play in the court of public opinion or even at a higher level.

This is Gladys’s first big win since leaving the top job in the NSW parliament. Many of the state’s electors saw her as a star premier. And for a long time during 2020 and 2021 when Covid lockdowns dominated Australia, there were many electors in Victoria and Queensland who wished they had their own Gladys to run their states.

Clearly, the once highly-regarded premier made two mistakes: she tolerated a partner and then did not make him fess up to his errors of judgement. But history will show she was a ripper of a premier and a politician who was, under most circumstances, a great role model.

This win for Gladys is also a coup for Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, the Optus chief executive, who came out of the CBA and was always seen as a woman who one day might lead the bank. It would be fair to say that she was in competition with Matt Comyn for the top job at the bank but when she lost out, making the move to Optus was a smart one.

I’ve interviewed Kelly in her former CBA days on my old Sky Business TV show and she was clearly a person going places. Her Gladys play proves that point.

It’s going to be interesting watching the success of female CEOs as they grow in number. It comes as the number of women winning seats in parliament and ministries in federal and state governments is growing significantly.

If you don’t believe me, check out the Teal independents who basically rocked Scott Morrison and the Coalition out of government.

In case you’ve forgotten, the successful Teal independent candidates were Zali Steggall, Kylea Tink, Sophie Scamps, Allegra Spender, Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel.

Many of these were women who really should have been dominant forces within the Liberal Party. That became clear to me when I heard Allegra Spender speak after winning the seat of Wentworth.

Allegra was the daughter of Carla Zampatti (a great Aussie designer and entrepreneur) and her father John and grandfather Percy Spender were Liberal Party politicians in the House of Reps of this country.

How did she get away and become a teal? Dumb blokes running the Liberal Party!

Over the next decade, it’s going to be intriguing to see how women succeed in positions of power. Jacinda Ardern has made a big splash as New Zealand’s PM and she hasn’t been afraid to embrace big changes.

She’s recently said that “it’s not if but when” that the Kiwis could change their NZ name to Aotearoa, which is Maori for “land of the long white cloud”.

In business, we saw the success of former Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines, who has been replaced by Julie Shuttleworth.

Fortescue Metals Group (FMG)

Gaines took over when the FMG share price was about $5 and before the Coronavirus crash, it was close to $28!

My experience with Christine Holgate when she was the CEO of Blackmores convinced me that women are much more accountable to their shareholders than many of the men who’ve been gifted top jobs.

Christine would show up for an interview when the news was good or bad, but under her stewardship at Blackmores, it was usually great!

I’m keen to see how EML Payments new CEO, Emma Shand performs. This is a potentially successful company but it has met more ‘bad luck’ or bad management than any business or shareholder should have to deal with. And this chart proves it with the share price oscillating from $1.11 in 2018 to $5.66 before the Coronavirus crash of the market to $5.70 by May 2021. It’s now $1.16, despite a lot of smart people telling us that this is a good company with bright prospects!

EML Payments (EML)

My experience with CEOs of many public companies says they’re often under-talented and over-promoted, so I’m glad to see some kick-arse women get some big wins on the board. And I also say, go Gladys!

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