EDITORS of Tasmania’s leading media organisations were spoiled for choice last week. 

A couple of juicy murders, with plenty of speculation about links to previous homicides.  A multi-million dollar handout to a Melbourne football club, who are happy to take the cash but don’t really want to be associated with Tasmania.  Ongoing bickering about a proposed slum development on a swamp near Rokeby.

And buried in the finance pages, a few paragraphs about a timber company called Gunns Limited, who released their Preliminary Final Report to the Australian Stock Exchange.

The finances of Tasmanian companies don’t usually raise much interest in the media.  Coverage of full-year results is almost universally limited to a few paragraphs of copy, most likely lifted from the press release accompanying the ASX announcement.

The ABC, Examiner and Mercury didn’t disappoint.  All three reported Gunns’ headline profit figure, puffed out with some lazy, tired commentary from the usual lazy, tired commentators.

There was no analysis of the ASX release, no indication as to what the result implied for the future prospects of the company, and perhaps most scarily, no investigation into what the collapse in profit meant for Gunns’ plans to build a $1.5 billion pulp mill.

In fact Gunns had handed opponents to the pulp mill proposal their biggest gift since, well, John Gay took over public relations for the company.  A gift, that is, if someone had bothered to read the ASX report.

Why didn’t our media question why the volume of export woodchips failed to meet even the worst expectations of every single analyst in Australia?

To use unpleasant football terminology, critics of the pulp mill were given both a free kick and a 50 metre penalty, but they wandered off the field, possibly looking for the mythical fox, or distracted by the possibility of more accusations about poor old Bryan Green.

It looks like John Gay has got away with this one.  No media scrutiny at all, no public comment about what is a troubling financial result, and no impact on what increasingly looks like a disjointed, incoherent campaign to force Gunns to come clean about some of the more sinister aspects of its pulp mill proposal.

Time restricts me from providing a full analysis of the result (I’m currently enjoying a bottle of Tamar Ridge 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps the best thing Gunns have ever produced), but here’s a couple of points to ponder:

1.  Why didn’t our media question why the volume of export woodchips failed to meet even the worst expectations of every single analyst in Australia?

2.  Why didn’t anyone look at the underlying profit result, which was a huge decrease to around $45 million after stripping out the temporary influence of Managed Investment Scheme earnings?

3.  Why haven’t our award-winning, investigative journalists asked the Australian Stock Exchange why they aren’t prosecuting Gunns for failing to notify the market that full-year earnings would fall substantially short of previous guidance?

(Disclaimer:  Jarvis Cocker is not a shareholder of Gunns Limited, at least according to his most recent copy of the shareholder registry.  His accountants or solicitors may have purchased shares on his behalf without him knowing.)

That share price, company announcements:
Latest Stock Market detail: Here

 

Jarvis Cocker

It looks like John Gay has got away with this one.  No media scrutiny at all, no public comment about what is a troubling financial result, and no impact on what increasingly looks like a disjointed, incoherent campaign to force Gunns to come clean about some of the more sinister aspects of its pulp mill proposal.