When one recalls the fire and venom of my father's response to attacks from his political opponents, "grace" is not a word which comes readily to mind.  Yet courtesy and civility were his preferred mode of discourse.  He only responded in kind when he himself was attacked.

Growing up in Cronulla and then Cabramatta, I'm sure my siblings felt the same as I did.  We were proud of him.  He made us feel good about ourselves and what he was doing.  From my youthful perspective, he looked after the migrants and he was on the workers' side.  As he always was.

He was a shy man.

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Eighty years ago George Bernard Shaw, the British intellectual who never went to university, famously rejected the offer of an honorary doctorate.  He wrote back to the equally famous university: "I cannot pretend that it would be fair for me to accept...when every reference of mine to our educational system, especially to the influence of universities on it, is fiercely hostile."

Well, for my part, I was more than happy to accept the offer from this fine institution, and I thank the Trustees of Western Sydney University for it!

And Shaw was wrong,

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I have been asked to speak to you today on “board composition, corporate governance and corporate politics”.

So far as the last two are concerned – corporate governance and corporate politics - I’ve seen some of the best and much of the worst.

More than thirty years ago, as a young man of 35, I was appointed CEO of the State Bank.  My chairman was Sir Roden Cutler.  He had seen the lot, the savagery of the Second World War (where he won a VC), the politics of the Australian diplomatic service, and then a record fifteen years as until he was appointed Governor of New South Wales.  Sir Roden had a degree in economics but had never been a banker. 

Well, I knew all the technical stuff - I’d worked and prospered at the best and the brightest – JP Morgan, American Express, Paribas – but Sir Roden had wisdom.  That takes time.  I like to think that the success of the three port corporations I now chair is not just a result of the well-qualified board members working harmoniously together but is also a result of the some of the things I’ve learned along the way. 

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Excerpts from a Public Lecture delivered by Nicholas Whitlam at the University of Wollongong....  

Companies may be large or small. They may be “private” or “public”. The legal definition of what is a private company and a public one may vary from time to time and among jurisdictions – but (whatever the legal niceties) we all have a feel for the difference.

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Excerpt from the speech given by Nicholas Whitlam at Tattersall's Club, Sydney at the launch of his memoir “Still Standing” .

As we were finalising the manuscript, my publisher Lothian, kind hosts to us all today, received three letters – one after the other- from lawyers for three individuals at the centre of those events. The letters from Anne Keating and her good friend Rob Dempsey, a former NRMA consultant, were relatively straightforward.

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The year ended 30 June 2001 was undoubtedly one of the most important in the Association's 81 year history.

Members of the Association and members of what is now NRMA Insurance Group Limited (“NIGL”) overwhelmingly supported the demutualisation of NRMA Insurance Limited in 2000. As a result:

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I have been an industry participant in the development and growth of the Australian banking and finance sector for some time - from my early days at JP Morgan, Banque Paribas and American Express, through the State Bank (where I was a keen advocate of developing our financial system to include off-shore banking) to my current roles with IAG* and Deutsche Bank. As such, it gives me great pleasure to speak to you this afternoon as part of the Australian Banking & Finance Lecture Series.

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