Mr Robert Piper


By John Emerson on 9 July 2009

Mr Bob Piper is a founding partner of Piper Alderman, a merger between his family’s firm and the Alderman firm, both of which dated from much earlier.  Bob Piper’s grandfather and father were both Senior Counsel and Judges of the Supreme Court of South Australia.    Mr Piper took up a legal career but was not keen on appearing in court.  Through his work as a solicitor in a lot of commercial work he was appointed to the boards of many of South Australia’s largest companies.  The Adelaide Stevedoring Company Board, the Quarry Industries, Fauldings, Advertiser Newspapers, the Cooperative Building Society and was the first chairman of SAFM radio station.


So Mr Piper, let’s go right back to the start and tell me when you were born and where you grew up?

Yes.  Just before you called them Senior Counsel but they were really Queen’s Counsel.  They’re now Senior, but I think you’d be better to call them Queen’s Counsel. The time of when they were, there weren’t Senior Counsels.

No, in fact earlier - I think your grandfather strictly speaking would have been King’s Counsel?

Now you come to mention it you’d better put King’s Counsel and Queen’s Counsel.  
I was born on the 12th of November 1929 at Adelaide. At that time my parents lived in Hawthorn in a rented house that I don't remember, but I remember hearing about it.  From there we went to live in Millswood in Avenue Street in another rented house, while my father built a house in Andrew Avenue.  That was completed in about 1937 and we went to live there.  I lived there until I married in 1962 and then went back to the old family home, because my mother was widowed by then and she didn’t want to stay there any longer - in about 1972.  From then we stayed at that house until 2005, when we sold it to our third son John and went to live in a house in the next street in Wooldridge Avenue.  


During our years in Andrew Avenue, of course I was brought up there really, we used to go to school at Prince Alfred College after we finished kindergarten.  Kindergarten and primary school was with Miss Holland running a small kindergarten, and I think it was through the first three years primary, on the corner of Jasper Street and Wood Street, Millswood.  I went there for the first three years.  In Grade 4 I went to PAC - Prince Alfred - and I can't remember what age we were when we started to ride our bikes, but it wasn't many years after that, it may not have been till 12 or so.  We rode our bikes to school every day and there was never any worry much about traffic in those days.  A lot of it was between the wars, when people didn’t have petrol anyway.

Whereabouts were you at this – which school was this one?

Prince Alfred College. 

Then when I left there I was still at home – I did never believe there was any sense in leaving home.  It was far better to stay at home, economically and every other way, so I remained at home.  My father died in 1959 of a heart attack. These days he would have had a bypass but in those days they didn’t know anything about that, so Mum became a widow then.  I was living at home at the age of about 29 I suppose, and then I went overseas.
I went overseas in 1960 for four months, to the International Bar Association meeting in Salzburg in Austria and then to the Commonwealth Law Conference in Ottawa in Canada.  I did a round the world trip really and took four months to do it, but I didn’t have anything else to worry about to get on that trip.  
Because of my age, at 31, knowing a lot of people and already in the profession, a lot of doors were open to me that might not have otherwise been – but I was also very involved with my old school. I was on the Old Collegiate Committee and therefore knew the Headmaster well, who happened to be the former New Zealand test cricketer John Dunning.  He was in London when I was there.  He took me to the Lord’s Long Room, which is a pretty difficult place to get into apparently.  Having had a very big association with tennis, my father being President of the Memorial Drive, I went to the Wimbledon Ball and to Wimbledon itself of course, and was well looked after in the tennis world as I travelled around.

I later became President of the Memorial Drive myself for 20 years, which was more than enough but being hard to get people to take on voluntary jobs, anything like that.  
I went to the Olympic Games in Rome at the same time. I’d never been overseas before.  My first stop was in Hong Kong where I stayed at the YMCA for five shillings a night, and for that I was provided with a room and a boy to look after my clothes, which was pretty good.  


I went on from there to Beirut.  I can't remember quite why I wanted to see Beirut, I think it’s probably because the plane had to stop there because then you couldn't fly direct to London.  I flew to Hong Kong in a DC6B I think it was.  I flew to London in a 707, which were just coming out then. Anyway, we landed in Beirut, which with all due respect to the people there, they all looked shifty people.  It’s just the appearance of people in the Middle-East, I suppose, plus the fact that I think some of them wanted to take me for my money the moment I got there.  As a matter of fact, when I got into Hong Kong a fellow offered me a ride into town.  Very simply I said yes, hopped into the back seat and suddenly two other fellows were in the seat beside me.  So I just got out.  I didn’t realise how simple I was to even bother thinking anybody wanted to do something good for me.

In Beirut not quite the same thing happened but I know that I got a fright of some sort in Beirut.  I can't remember now whether I went straight onto London or straight onto Rome or straight onto Austria for the Convention, the Law Convention, but anyway I ended up in London and saw cricket and tennis and I had a number of friends.  In those days some of my friends were doctors doing their final degrees.  


Yes. I went across to America afterwards.  Incidentally, when I was in Austria I met a fellow called Patrick Shone who is a lawyer a bit older than I, maybe a couple of years older.  But he was a bachelor as well.  We knocked around quite a lot together. He was the son or the nephew of Selwyn Lloyd, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time in England.  Patrick was an interesting bloke.  He lived in Liverpool and it was the beginning of a long friendship I had with him, and my wife as well, after we got married.  He didn’t get married till many, many years later.  He came out to Australia and we had him staying with us at one stage when he stayed for six weeks. We had at least two children by that time and we took him to Victor Harbor for our holidays.

He also went to the Commonwealth Law Conference in Canada and so I met him again there and I met a number of other Canadians.  The people I met there still send Christmas cards.  We send them to each other, and when we travelled overseas we looked up a lot of these people and really had a marvellous time learning about what they did.  They were all lawyers the same age as I, and with young families as well, when we had our kids of course.  

In America we looked after a company called Car Fastener Company of Australia, a subsidiary of United Car Company, which was an automotive parts maker in Boston and USA.  Because our office had looked after them for years and my father was Chairman of Directors of it, and so the [unclear] partners and I later on became – they asked me to go and visit them in Boston and they really looked after me.  You can imagine what American hospitality is like.  So I thoroughly enjoyed that.

The number of things that happened because of my going to that Law Conference and being involved in business in Adelaide, and being involved in sport in Adelaide in a volunteer basis...  I think your rewards, you don’t look for them but they come.  I’ve done a lot of voluntary work over the years, so much so that I’m quite amazed when I’m working it out.  For instance, at Memorial Drive I was President for 20 years, so that was one meeting a month for 20 years plus committee meetings.  I’ve sort of extrapolated that and Prince Alfred College, where I was on the Committee for about 30 years, you extrapolate it all out and I’ve spent well over a million dollars in time during my life.  I never thought about that until about a year or two ago… But when you think of it you do spend a lot of time, but there are huge rewards out of it, I think, which you don’t even look for.  I became a member of the City Council but that was after I’d been overseas. 
I suppose we could go back and I think you said your father more or less brought you into the firm.  I don't think you actually chose to be a lawyer? 

When I was younger I never – and probably attribute it to my lack of imagination – I never thought of going and doing anything but law.  Dad was a lawyer and I wanted to be a lawyer.  It was as simple as that.  I did very poorly in the university.  I used to fail regularly and sit for supps regularly.  I might have mentioned in there that I really enjoyed my office work enormously and [unclear] because I had to do it in the end.  They sweated out in their summer holidays and things like that…

Did you do the law degree?

No, I did a certificate in law and then when I went overseas I remember – I did a job.  We had a deceased estate of a fellow called Dr Donald Cooper and we were looking after it here.  He left all his Cooper shares to the Swiss Institute of Technology to follow the teachings of Carl Jung.  Have you heard of Carl Jung?


So he left all the money to the Swiss Institute of Technology, who were rather wary about taking it, so when I went there I made an appointment to see them and I met their senior law officer.  He was very kind to me and he took me to dinner here and there and whatever.  But they kept calling me anything from professor to doctor to mister, very rarely mister, mainly professor or doctor.  I thought hells teeth, I haven't got any – so when I came to think of it I’ve got to get something.  I don't know whether you found that having been overseas.  Sometimes they give you greatest deference.

Yes.  I think it’s a risk thing.  They think they’ll get away with calling you a higher title rather than a lower one.

Anyway, that prompted me when I got back and then private – not private, international – yes private international, PIL, which my father had ventured into…I got PIL. Then I think it was Dan O’Connor who was a professor, he said oh we’ve changed the course, you’ve got to public international law now to get your degree, so I did public international.  But I was 10 years older more or less than I was when I was at Uni and I enjoyed it, I did a lot better. It was well worth it.  Anyway, that gave me my degree, which was somewhat later than the certificate.

If your father taught private international law he must have taught Bray, John Bray?  John Bray was at the University around 1931, 1930…

Yes, quite possibly.  I’m not sure how many years Dad taught PIL for but I would think it had been a long time. Dad had a brilliant career really.  I don't know whether I mentioned it in there, but he was a Stow’s Scholar.  He won the Stow prize or the Stow medal.  Now one of them is for winning every year, isn’t it?

That's right.

Well, he did that, because I think that’s when you get the gold…

He got the sequence.  I think you get the Stow Prize and if you get it for, what, three or four years in a row you get the Stow Medal.

Yes.  I’m sure he got the medal.  There’s a very nice handsome gold medal kicking around the family somewhere or in the safe somewhere. So he really was a very bright intellectual and he got to university on a scholarship.  His generation were – well going back to A W Piper, my grandfather, he got to PAC on a scholarship to the school. His father was a minister so he didn’t have much chance otherwise.  He had had eight children, and nearly all of them got scholarships to the university.  The youngest one didn’t.  I don't think he even went to university.  The oldest one didn’t because he was handicapped.  He had a bad leg of some sort and was handicapped.  He may have been mentally handicapped a bit, I don’t know.  I didn’t know him very well and he didn’t live to a very old age.  He died at 44 I think.

But Rod, who became a farmer after he went to the war, I think he was so knocked up in the war – he was an engineer. I think he got a scholarship to the university and he got his engineering degree. Then came Dad and then Cyril, who was a medical practitioner, he again excelled in his profession and was the founder of the Asthma Foundation.

So these four in the middle and my two aunts were both very – they always got prizes at school.  One was an English teacher and the other was a lady of leisure until the war came, and then she decided to do accounting and she was accounting in their office for the rest of her life.  

Who were you articled to?

I was articled to Dad.

You were articled to your Dad.  How did that work?

Alright.  I didn’t ever have any trouble working with Dad, but it also worked that I did a lot of work for other people and not so much for him.  I did some for him.  He had other article clerks.  Bob Fisher was in the firm at the time.  Do you know Bob?


Toby Gordon, who died a year or two ago.  Bronty Quail, I don't know whatever happened to him.  I think he went to become a part of [unclear] in Canberra, I’m not sure.  Another fellow called Wood, or Woodward…in the Air Force I think.  He was also articled.  He was articled there [unclear], used to come in for lunch.  We’d all have a sandwich out the back in one of the small rooms out the back and it was good for young people like me because we listened to these old blokes of about 24 with their war stories… that was a very interesting upbringing actually.

Where was the office located then?

At 23 Grenfell Street.  You can imagine where 23 is, right opposite the Executive Trustee.  We were on the first floor so you had to walk up stairs every time, which was the best thing that could have ever happened.  There was one floor, the ground floor, the top floor and the basement.  There were offices in all of them.  Don Bradman’s sharebroking firm was on the front pavement.  Norman Waterhouse and Mutton were the land agent, the landlords or they represented the landlord.  We were up on the first floor and a firm of accountants were on the first floor as well – well later on it was a firm of accountants – a firm of architects, [unclear] I think.  Later on I think Dick Hardy, an RMA guy, I think accountants, I think they went up there.

How long did the firm stay at 23 Grenfell, was it quite a while?

I don't know but I would think probably from about 1920 to – we were kicked out to build the stump that’s there now, the big Black Stump as they call it - probably to 1972.  I think we went to National Mutual in 1972, that’s where we went to. So that was a long time… but by then the city was beginning to change.  They were knocking down a lot of the old buildings.  I remember Selborne Chambers and a number of other chambers that are no longer there.

So you started doing mortgages and prosecuting for local government councils, road accidents, all that sort of thing?

Actually we used to act for four local government councils, at least four, Brighton, Mitcham, Kensington-Norwood and Enfield and maybe another one, and certainly one or two country ones.  Anyway, they were always having small things like dogs on the beach at Brighton, and horses on the beach at the wrong time of day, and parking in the wrong place and things like that.  I used to do quite a lot of prosecuting for them, which was left to a junior to do and it was a good thing to cut your teeth on a bit.  Most of them pled guilty so you didn’t really have a fight on your hand.  

George Cowan was a lawyer who was one of the partners.  He had been brought up – I know he spent a lot of time in England anyway because he was brought up there.  I think his family lived here.  He married Essington Lewis’s sister, Essington Lewis being one of the prime members or drivers of BHP I think, for a long time.  Anyway, when he left or died - he’d fallen out with his wife I presume, because she used to live in England and he lived here.  He used to live at the Adelaide Club, it was his home. It wasn't a bad place to go I suppose, because he got fed and watered every time he walked in there.  

But anyway, when he died I think I got landed with quite a lot of the National Mutual mortgage work.  In those days National Mutual Life lent money to thousands of people to build their houses, and a lot of it was done based on you take out a life policy to protect your mortgage if you die and the policy will mature we’ll get paid back from the money, which was a good idea.  I did it myself.  It was one of the main ways of borrowing money as far as I was aware.  I suppose other people borrowed from the banks and things.  Daily we had files come over, please prepare a mortgage for Jack Smith and the details would be there, and we’d settle them and go to the LTO.

I gradually learned from the time when I started in the office, being sent to the Lands Titles Office in search of titles, to learning what all these documents were and gradually rising through the ranks to run it.  There were other things to be done besides that and I gradually came across them.  I did a certain amount of wills.  My father used to do quite a lot of wills and I suppose I got landed with them doing a bit or following them through. I did a bit on trust, and then later on I did quite a lot of superannuation funds, which I wouldn't even think about today.  I just wouldn't even contemplate it. But I used to prepare them and try and get them signed and away they went and they worked for people.  I did quite a lot of discretionary trusts.  I did a lot of equity work… and also quite a lot of company work.  We formed a lot of companies because there was a lot of activity going on. New companies were springing up and forming subsidiaries to do this, that and the other.  So I got to know a lot of company law.
Then in about 1975 – it might have even been earlier - we had acted for BHP so we knew a bit about mining, because we had the wire steelworks and people used to go up there.  I’m not sure that we did… somebody goes up there and… the things that happen out there.  So that’s the sort of Workers Compensation… but anyway, we got into the mining world a bit.  

The other thing is I did a lot of work for people in the country.  There was a lot of development, land development, in the South-East, bulldozing forests… all the things you wouldn't want to happen today but it didn’t matter then, or we didn’t think they mattered.  I acted for a number of developers down there.  When I say developers, they weren’t developers in the – I did work for one and he did develop quite a lot of country, but a lot of them were farmers who wanted to add on to their land or buy a bit extra or something like that.  There was the conveyancing to be done and maybe talking to the Council about what we could do and what we couldn't.

I remember another time when the Keith Council and the Bordertown Council wanted to merge – well, one of them wanted to and the other one didn’t.  I acted for the Keith Council. I knew the Keith Council very well because I was in the Prince Alfred Old Collegians Association and had dinner at Keith quite often, and I knew the people who lived around the South-East that came up for the dinner.  Again, that was a source of good clientele because a lot of the farmers… haven't done anything about it, would you be able to tell me what I’ve got to do…eventually that was thrown in.  I went to the Fisher family. There must have been about three different families that we were acting for.  I can’t think of the others, but there were a number of families that we acted for.  Then there were other people from interstate who bought all these investments and if we knew of them, which I did with some of them, then they would ask our firm to do it and I generally was involved with them. 
Then in about 1970, maybe a bit later, somehow I got mixed up with the mining world.  Maybe I went to a few mining conferences and I got known for something, or maybe I performed in mining. Anyway I was invited to form a company called Afmeco, which meant Australian-French Metal Company.  It was the exploration arm of the French Atomic Energy Commission, which was known as Cogema and still is, I think.  Cogema had an exploration arm looking for uranium around the world, one place being Australia, another one being Canada.  It was in the early ’70s.

They asked me to set it up – again because I’d belonged to the Alliance Francaise and been interested in French I guess… oh Bob Piper knows a little bit.  I didn’t know nearly enough to be any good but I’d been involved in it and I still do listen to the French news – I did this morning.  I just sort of get better and better as you do – I can read a French novel but I can’t understand what they’re talking about.  They talk too quickly, but then I often can’t understand when an Australian talks.  Anyway, they came and asked if I would form the company for them, a mining company, and I met their senior people, the head of their organisation, and that was really very interesting because we got to know the people pretty well. 
They had some Australian geologists and some French geologists and one administrator.  Our families became very friendly and their kids came and we took them to Victor Harbour to stay with us over a few days, all the things you do when you’ve got people from overseas.  We never realised, it went back, when we went to France.  They’ve just been outstandingly generous really.  

That was a great opportunity to learn more about mining and we did quite a lot of joint ventures. If an Australian company had a bit of land and the French wanted it, they’d go and do a deal with them and say well look, if we do some drilling will you give us a half interest.  So we had these mining agreements about percentages.  We also had operating agreements with them… look, we’ll arrange for the operator/digger, you arrange to pay for half or whatever. 

So I was constantly doing contracts, which was great.  I enjoyed that lot.  You met interesting people and then every now and again – an Italian company would come in as well. Anyway, on one occasion, I had to laugh.  They said, we are having a meeting with Italians and Germans in Melbourne next week and we would like you to come.  I said oh, alright. We went to Melbourne and we sat around this table… and I said blimey I’m never going to understand any of this.  Anyway, they appointed the German to be the Chairman.  He said well, I think we will have this meeting in English.  Well, thank goodness for that.  That was a really quite interesting experience.

That was the time when Dunstan, the Premier here, and Connor, who was the Minister of Mines in the Federal Government, were playing havoc amongst people like the uranium industry and telling them more or less they weren’t wanted.  I had to go to Canberra several times with their senior executives to talk to people in the parliament over there.  I’m not sure whether we ever met Connor or not.  I don't think we did.

Finally they said, Bob, they said, Mr Dunstan does not want us – the Australian does not want us much - so we’re shifting our head office to Perth because it is closer to France.  But we would like you to stay as a director of the company because we don’t know anyone else anyway.  That was a good compliment I thought.  They went to Perth and they asked me to go to Perth every now and again, not always, but from time to time, which was an interesting life for me.  I had two cousins in Perth as well who I hadn't seen so that broadened my horizons, as well as keeping me in touch with the French.  Really, that association took me to Perth, to Canberra, to Adelaide quite a lot.  

I asked them why they came to Adelaide, at one stage.  I said how is that you came to Adelaide?  It’s interesting.  They said well – what’s the place out at [unclear], the mine.  It’s a very good, more or less Australia-wide mining place there, but they said the food is better priced, the accommodation is cheaper - the list, they had been right through it, in France.  They’d tested every city and worked out what was the best place.

But the other thing is it is the closest place to all the other places - and it is, because it’s only 1500 miles to Darwin, which is much closer than Brisbane is to Darwin and much closer to Sydney, it was much closer to Melbourne. It was interesting to see their rationale for setting up in Adelaide.  
They finally closed down because they’d had enough of being pushed around, and they found a very good deposit in, I think, a placed called McArthur River. I know we’ve got one here, but I think they’ve got a McArthur River in Canada, in the north east of Canada.

They did talk about the closing.  We have some good places in Canada and we’re not sure if we’ll be staying here and sure enough they weren’t welcome here.  But they did a joint venture with Honeymoon – not a joint venture, but they did some drilling for them.  I think it must have been before Roxby Downs or it might have been about the time.

Most of the uranium, your [unclear] plants out at Port Pirie, were they involved with that one?

Are you saying there is one now?

There was one back in the 50s.

No, not that I know of.  Not necessarily our part of the thing.  
But again, when I went to France the head of the organisation said you must come and have dinner.  We had a most interesting time there.

Yes, it would have been wonderful. I go there quite a lot.

Do you?  Oh, you lucky fellow.  We don’t go very often.  It’s a beautiful country.  I love watching the – I’m not so happy at the moment -  but the Tour de France. 

You just have a visit to France.   It’s just fantastic.

Certainly, yes, that’s the value of that – it’s probably easy in a way.  

Yes, it is.

You used to brief out some of these cases to people like John Bray?

Yes.  As I got more senior, I suppose. The firm’s always had very good clientele.  It’s been a very old establishment, so I was often being asked to look after things, sometimes that you didn’t know much about so often we would brief out.  I certainly briefed John Bray on a number of occasions.  

He was very good to go and visit.  I used to go and visit him and put the problem to him, and he would just think for a moment then walk over to a desk or walk over to his bookshelf, it was surrounded with books, and just pull one out… I think Smith’s case has got the answer to this… and bang he’d be right on.  It was just a pleasure to watch him.

Was that in Selborne Chambers still?

No.  He was in Shakespeare Chambers, Shakespeare Chambers being owned by the Wilson family and John Bray and the Genders family.  Genders, Wilson, Bray, I think they owned it.  In fact, I’m sure they owned it because I know Ian Wilson quite well and he told me when they were going to sell it.

The other person I briefed occasionally was Chris Legoe.  I don't know whether I mentioned to you there about Chris, did I, in there?

I don't think so.

Chris came back from England where he’d been studying and had been – I’m not sure if he’d been to the Bar or he’d been to Cambridge.  But anyway he came to see my father who was then President of the Law Society and said I am wondering whether I ought to start up as a barrister in Adelaide.  He said we’re all barristers and solicitors, but I’ve been in England and I’d like to be a barrister only.  What do you think?  Dad said yes, by all means, if you want to do that.  You’ll still be part of the whole group, but call yourself a barrister only, I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.  Chris really started the chambers that we now have in Adelaide, Bar Chambers being the first one.

Before that he was in Cowra Chambers because he didn’t have any – I think Chris has always had plenty of money but I don't know.  I think he comes from a wealthy family.  He must do or he wouldn't have gone to England or at least gone to Cambridge.  Anyway, he took a room in the Cowra Chambers below our offices, which was a vacant room really, that was all.  It was absolutely ideal for me, because every rotten job that I got I just went straight down – Chris didn’t have enough to do so I’d take it down and say Chris, would you like to have a look at this one. I don't think you’ll get paid much for it.  Oh yes, but that’s the way you start isn’t it.

Exactly.  Well it’s history being made, it’s the start of the Bar really.

I had a lot to be thankful to Chris for, I’ve got to tell you.  He handled most of my too difficult cases, even if he just gave me an idea of what the answer was.  If it was a matter of going to court I’d brief him, if there was no one in our office to be briefed.  In our office at the time, who went in about the same time as I did, was a fellow called Ian Grieve.  He’d been to the war,  I think in the latter part of the war.  I’m not sure where he was posted.  But he finished his law a year or two before me.  He and I were the two junior partners if you like, and we were asked to enter the partnership in about 1955, which was reasonably young, except that there weren’t a lot of lawyers around and if you didn’t grab a partner you didn’t have one.  Not that I would have ever left but he might have.

We were both put on a par and he did quite a lot of court work.  He did a lot of the things I did one way or another.  He might have done them just before me and handed them onto me.  We looked after the Royal Automobile Association so we got a huge lot of cases that they would send.  So and so’s had an accident, he needs to be defended.  He did a fair bit of that.  I didn’t do much of that unless I told them to plead guilty.

One of the things I learnt very early was the value of having a view.  Someone will come in and say oh I went around the corner here and the silly fool went right… I’d say you have to give me a plan.  Then I’d go there, because it wasn't too far away on the way home or something like that, and have a look. They don’t see it for themselves do they?  You save them the money of fighting a case they had no hope of winning.  I’ve always thought a view is really – I mean, getting to the source of anything - is really very valuable. 

It’s because people see things their own way.  You’ve got to go back and see what they saw so that you can see it, put them together and work out…

Yes, and then you have the – particularly stop sometimes and convincing a person that what they’ve done doesn't really accord with what they want.

You got involved with one of the big cases of the 1970s with Amoco.

Yes.  We used to act for Amoco, who were a petrol company who came out here from America.  I suppose their head office was called Amoco.  I can't remember.  I was looking at my index the other day because I was looking up a very old something and I had several pages of Amoco.  The jobs came thick and fast.  Of course we bought this site, helped them with their contracts with the service station and so on.

On one occasion in came – I can't remember who he was – it must have been the boss anyway, and said they’re throwing us out of Rocca Brothers, this place at Salisbury… and they said stop them and I said oh lets have a look. Well, not being a court procedure man I said this is not something I know what to do, so I got David Angel to come in, who’s a Judge in the Territory.  Do you know David?


He’s not very well apparently at the moment I’m sorry to say. I got David in and I said David, he’s probably eight or ten years younger than I am, we’ve got this situation.  We’d better have an injunction and stop it, don’t you think?  He said yes, so that’s what we did.  That then went to the Supreme Court and the High Court and finally the Privy Council, I think we’d lost the whole way.  When it came to the Privy Council I just couldn't say to David, well I think I’ll go to London and be the junior – when he’d done all the work – so I sent him.  I’d never regret doing any of that sort of thing.  I think the more generous you are to people, the better life you have anyway.  I’ve had my share of good fortune.  Anyway, he went to that, and that was really a big case and I thought it was fantastic for his age to be able to go to the Privy Council, don’t you think?


It would stay with you for the rest of your life I think. I was very pleased to have done that and it didn’t hurt me that he went.  I was pleased to send him.  

I was trying to remember that case.  There’s an article about it.

Through Australia Trade I think.

Yes. It was complicated because Amoco – I was trying to work it   out - Amoco seemed to own the site, lease it back to Rocca Brothers, who then sub-leased it back to Amoco or something like that.

Well, they did that a lot, but I have an idea that in this case Rocca Brothers owned that site.  There were complications like that occasionally, that you’d have a site that was leased to someone… all part of how they sorted out their petrol price I suppose.  I never came into anything to do with petrol pricing or any commercial activity.

Was it around then when you got another Privy Council one as well with the electoral numbers?

That must have been Dunstan’s day I think.  They were changing the electoral boundaries, which the people in the South East didn’t like. A fellow called Gilbertson got together with one of his friends and said we’ve got to fight this.  He came to our firm and again I ducked doing it and gave it to Ashley Watson.  I guess part of the reason was I was always very busy.  I always seemed to have a lot of work to do and if a thing like that came in, it really needed a lot of careful and hard thinking and time.  I just couldn't do it.

Anyway, I got Ashley to come in, in the first instance to start off, but it gradually rolled on again to the Supreme Court and the Privy Council.  But again, by the time it got to Privy Council I think I’ll have to send Ashley to this.  I sent Ashley, which was a marvellous experience for him.  He’d never been overseas at all.  Neither of them I don't think.  That was an interesting case.  There were a lot of Liberal Party people who wanted to take the thing on and were prepared to back it financially.

It must have been very expensive to send your lawyers to London?

Yes.  It’s amazing they found the money to do it.  Whether the party found it or they did, I don't know.  We got paid anyway, I know that.  We didn’t do it for nothing.

Yes, I think in – I don't know whether it was the Dunstan Government that the appeal was to the Privy Council, or whether it was a Federal Government thing, around the early ’80s…

I think it was the Federal Government because I think the Federal Government decided the High Court would be the final Court of Appeal.  Now the State couldn't have done that, I don't think.  It would have had to have been a Federal decision.

Yes, but in the States I would have thought you could have gone from the Supreme Court of South Australia, or Western Australia, direct to the Privy Council.

Yes.  You may have been able to.  In fact, we might have done that with Gilbertson’s case, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it with Rocca Brothers.

That did go to the High Court first.

Yes, I’m pretty sure.  

The other thing is, there’s a fellow who wrote the textbook on trade practices.  Can you think of his name?


A well-known author of trade practice.  He’s a nice bloke.  I’d met him at the law conference and my attempts at academia have been – or the experience of academia – I have been asked to give a paper on directors’ responsibilities, which I did at one of the law conferences.  It was supposed to give me some kudos, I suppose.  It’s just a matter of putting the time and work into it.  But he was a trade practices man and I met him at one of the conferences.  He’s written a book, it’s in the library.  He was very good. And you know how it is, you look at something and think, I think there’s a problem in this - I’m not sure what the answer is, but we can’t do it without checking to make sure.  Of course one got quite a lot of trade practice comments and queries.  He said if you ever want any assistance, just give me a ring, if you ever want to run anything past me.  I said oh I can’t do that, I haven't got clients, or we’re not going to pay - no, just give me a ring.

So I was able to ring him up any time that I had a difficult problem. Quite often I’d say – I can’t think of his name - but anyway say Colin, we’ve got these facts, and I think so and so, but I just want to be sure that if we do that we’re not going to contravene… No she’s all right Bob, or no you’d better watch that.  I’d say well I might ask you to come and brief for it, and I did occasionally.  That was a huge help to me and it was another member of the profession being very helpful.  

John Emerson: Yes.  Was he at the university?

No, he’s a Canberra fellow.  

I just want to move to a little bit later now, getting towards 1990 and the Hindmarsh Island bridge affair.  

What happened, and others will tell you more, but Michael Abbott came to us and said I’ve been asked to represent a number of  Aboriginal ladies in the affair relating to women’s business down at Goolwa, in relation to this Hindmarsh Island Bridge. Would you as a law firm be willing to be the solicitors for it?  There’s no money in it because we’re doing it for nothing.  We said yes, alright, we’ll do it, as you do from time to time.  So we took it on. 

I wasn't involved in it, but a lot of people were.  The funny thing was that I think certainly we were asked to look after these five ladies, and to protect them and take their statements and whatever was necessary.  But as soon as we were acting for five, five or ten more came in and said they wanted to be in the game as well.  These women were really disgusted at the women’s business, said there’s no such thing.  We’ve lived there all our lives, never heard of it, and they just thought it was bad and not good.  It was creating divisions amongst Aborigines.  So that’s how it started and it was a really very big job.

We kept a cost of it but we never charged, and it cost about $202,000. It wasn’t a bad bit of pro bono work, but you do those things.  It was a great experience for some of our staff, particularly young ones who were brought in to do quite a lot of it.  They worked with Michael Abbott QC and doing all of the hard work themselves and being guided by him – it had its benefits.

How long did that go for?

About six months.  I don’t really know.  It’s only a guess - it might have been a year, it might have been three months.

It certainly made the media.

Yes, sure.

I was very interested in your board and your directorships, because that was obviously a major part of your…

…since 1980 onwards.

1980 onwards.  What was the first one?  

The first one I was appointed to was either Car Fastener Proprietary Limited or the Adelaide Stevedoring Company, either one of those.  I have an idea it was the Adelaide Stevedoring Company.  The Car Fastener Company had one or two management directors but always had Piper (or Bakewell Piper as it was) with the majority of directors.  In other words… if something goes wrong we want our law firm to be able to kick the ones out and deal with it.  I think when someone died or left, at one stage I was appointed a third director, and therefore didn’t have anything to do with it much.  But of course when Bob Irwin and my father left and became a judge, that made a vacancy. Mr Baker was the first one to die.  Dad died or became a judge, so Mr Irwin took it over, I think, and when he died I came into it… so that’s how it sort of progressed.

I’m not sure when I became a director although that does appear somewhere. The Adelaide Stevedoring Company - this is again, the things that happen by association with people.  Our firm looked after a flour company of John Darling and Son, which was a very well-known flour miller years ago.  I don't know if you’ve ever heard of them?

No, but I’ve heard of his family.

Well, they were an Adelaide family, John Darling and Son, and they had big flour mills and they had them, I think, interstate as well as here.  They sold out many years ago to Allied Mills Limited, which was a big New South Wales based company, of whom Sir John Cadwallader was the Chairman.  I think it might have been the Cadwallader family company.

He also was the Chairman, I think, of the Bank of New South Wales at the time, so a pretty high powered businessman.  I knew the Darlings – my grandfather and the Darlings knew each other well as good friends because they both lived in Melbourne and I think they were both on the Norwood Football Club Committee at some stage - so there’s a whole ancestry of knowledge of the family.

The Darling family – there were three left after the men had all left and become businessmen, which means Head of BHP one of them and another one on the board of BHP.  They really moved to Melbourne.  There was Norman Darling here and his sisters unmarried – Grace or Gertrude – and David… anyway they died and our firm had always looked after them and I was deputied to do their probate and such things.  I always did a lot of probate work as well.  Often you had people who could help you and a good thing to do it was. Anyway, I got to know some of the Darling family in Melbourne and Gordon Darling was one of those.

Gordon, who’s been a huge benefit to me, he apparently said Bob there’s a vacancy coming up on the Adelaide Stevedoring Board soon, which is a privately owned company actually.  I don't know whether you’d be interested in something like that, but I’ve mentioned it to Sir John Cadwallader that you might be alright.  I’d never heard of Sir John.  

Anyway, to cut a long story short he asked me to fly Sydney and he said I’d like you to be a director and to keep your finger on our interests in the Adelaide Stevedoring Company, because they owned a 25 per cent interest.  I can't remember who the others were.  I know who the Managing Director was, John Day.  I think – yes, I can't remember the other owners…

That gave me my first directorship and if you got one directorship you were entitled to go to the Institute of Company Directors when you joined and you met other directors.  If people liked you or see you’ve got something to offer, then… we’ve just had so or so die or leave or whatever or we need something, I wonder if Bob will do that.  Why don’t we ask Piper, he’s a young bloke… and that’s how it really built up. Because I was a Director of a company that had some prestige then someone says… he’s on it and must be…
Then there was the Cooperative Building Society… that’s because Alf Adamson sat two rows behind me in tennis and said – we had a family pew, Mum and me and the others, Dad… this is long after he died.  Alfred, on one occasion when we were walking down, said they needed a young lawyer and would I join them so I went on that.

It became much more kudos when it became a bank, the Adelaide Bank, but even so it was a good thing. Alf Adamson was Chairman of that company and he was Chairman of Quarry Industries, so he asked me if I’d go on the Quarry Board.  Well, then I met another lot of people like Adelaide Brighton Cement, people sort of outside the area that we had acted for.

I met other people like Bill Schroder who is a very top director here, a youngish bloke about my age, maybe a year older, maybe a year younger.  I was fortunate enough at one stage to be asked to join the board of Fauldings. See, Bill Scammell came to me and someone had told Bill Scammell I was a pretty red hot sort of fellow, I suppose. Bill came and said would I join his board, so that was a big plus.

How many companies were you a director of at the same time, at the peak number do you think?

Probably five or six at any time.  I couldn't have done that if I was chairman of them.  You can do it as a non-chairman but as chairman it would have been no because of the demands upon you.

Do you think they were particularly keen for your legal ability or do you think there were other qualities you brought?

Well, there were a variety of qualities.  Mainly it was legal. Well I don't know that I really was a red hot lawyer at all.  They’d look at my results… but I mean, it’s a matter of how you get along and what you’re thought of I suppose, and many people have had bad results but have done good things… I think it was legal to a large extent, yes.

Also I suppose if you had – your contacts must have been…

The contacts would have been a lot of it, but the contact had to have some reason why you’d be appointed as well.  I suppose I was an up and coming lawyer in those days or an up and coming company director or whatever.  I met a lot of people around town, and I knew a lot of people because I was on the Tennis Council, I was on the Prince Alfred College Council and the Old Scholars Committee for quite a number of years.  I was a member of the City Council for four years.  I was pretty well engaged with the Liberal Party.  I was Chairman of the Young Liberals when I was very young and always stayed with the Liberal Party.

In fact, I’m sure some of my appointments were because of my Liberal background, thinking well this fellow knows the people that are in the top of the Liberal Party.  David Tonkin I knew well when he was the Premier, but then David Tonkin and I had known each other long before he was Premier or even gone into politics. I know several boards, Investa would be one, the Standard Chartered Bank would be another, where I reckon they appointed me because I knew the political ins and outs.  I knew people in politics, put it that way, and they wanted to get a license to operate or whatever and so on and they thought it would help.

I think contacts and people you mixed with did a lot, and I say this to younger people – if you really want to get on you’ve got to do a lot of voluntary work.  You’ll enjoy it and it’ll be hard going at times and you’ve got to have a very understanding wife and family, because you’ve got to leave them at times.  But I did have, and I was very lucky. I belonged to a golf club… again that’s a good thing from a commercial point of view.  Whether we like it or not, it helps you with business.  But I didn’t go there for seven years… seven whole years I didn’t even set foot on the green, I couldn't because I had a family at home, and was flat as a tack all day during the week days. I couldn’t go out on the weekend except with them to watch their sport and to church on Sunday, so that was that.

However, gradually it all has its benefits and at the end of that time I went down there two or three times a year. Then gradually the boys were getting older and I took them down to the classes and they now have all turned out to be really good golfers.  They don’t make money from it, one of them could have if he’d taken it on but he’s a lawyer.  The benefit now is they all love their golf and enjoy it.

I was quite interested – I think you must have been on the Taylor board.

Yes, J M Taylor, yes.

Now, I remember a certain point in the early or mid-80s we had a visitor from Western Australia that wanted to take over the world.  So you obviously were at the coal face…

Yes, that’s true, yes.

…so I was interested – you were on the Taylor’s board already when Holmes à Court…

Yes, Ross Williams who worked for Ernst and Young, or Ernst and Whinney – Ernst and Young they are now - anyway, Ross Williams was a chartered accountant, he was on the board of J M Taylor and the J M Taylor Company was run by the family, the Taylors. Max was boss and David was number two -  brothers I think, not cousins.  Ross said oh gosh, we need a lawyer on this board.  This was before Holmes.  They persuaded them they ought to have a lawyer on the board, which I became.  Then Holmes à Court got interested in it later on, and heaven knows why he got interested in motorbikes and fishing gear but he did.  But I think he’d put his hand in to anything.  Maybe we had accumulated profits that were there and that he thought he could hold of.

But what he always did was look at a company.  If it had a lot more value than a Stock Exchange trade, he would want to buy it or get in there.  He’d know that he could force them to push some of the money out, and of course they did.  They should have pushed their money out before he got in there and they wouldn't have had the trouble

One of the Darlings, Gordon Darling, who I mentioned before, who got me onto the Adelaide Stevedoring Board, he had some of his family here.  Yes, he had a property here, that's right, and one of his sons was working on it.  He got me to prepare a trust deed for one of his grandsons and do a few things, so I got to know him reasonably well. Then he became Chairman of the National Gallery in Canberra and he said to the minister of the time, who was Ian Wilson actually, I want someone from Adelaide and I’d like you to appoint Bob Piper because I want a lawyer. The Gallery, they do try to have someone from right round Australia.  They don’t try to keep it all Melbourne-Sydney.

So he arranged, really through Ian, for me to be appointed to the Director of that board, which was a very prestigious board about which I knew nothing.  But it doesn't matter, because as James Mollison said to me towards the end of my career, he said Bob, it’s been really great having you on this, because we needed somebody that didn’t know anything about art.

He thought you were adequately qualified.

I had taken that in good heart because I know what he means. 
Anyway, Gordon was responsible for me going on that board and of course that’s another kudos board if you go on the National Gallery board.  I became Deputy Chairman of the Foundation, the Art Gallery here.  I was asked to become Chairman but I had really had enough of running things.  I might even have been Chairman of the National Trust at that time.  I’d always been interested in the National Trust because this firm started it.  Ron Johnson was the first lawyer who drafted the Act for parliament.  He’s one of the senior partners here, had been in the war and come back.

Not long after it started I became a life member. Before I was married I had more money than after I was married, obviously, and I could see that a life membership would suit me very well in the long term.  I didn’t have any idea when I was going to get married.  I was about 28 when I bought a few life memberships and they’ve stood me in good stead.  The Royal Geographical Society was another one.  
Anyway, the National Trust, I’d always been interested in it and visited those places, when we went overseas we’d look at some of their places.  But then I was asked by AC Watson upstairs, from the rooms just above us, if I was – no it’s not, it’s just underneath – if I would be President of the National Trust in South Australia.  Actually, I said, I’m in my 60s now and I’m really getting out of things, I’ve really had enough.  Oh, we need someone, we need someone like you to be President.  I said well, what about you? He said no I haven't got time to do it.  Why do you think I’ve got the time? I said I’d help him.  I said I’ll help you find someone to be president.

I asked a few blokes and I got the whitewash. About the day before he wanted to know.  He said I’ve got to know.  We’ve got an annual meeting and we’ve got to know.  We were down at Victor Harbour and we went to the little Yorkie Church, which is a congregational church, and we had a sermon about serving the community.  As we walked out, my wife just looked at me, she said you’re going to have to do it, aren’t you?  That was all she said.  I said yes, I know, I knew what she was talking about.  So I said I would and that really was a very interesting three years. 
Then because the national President died they had to appoint a new national President.  Melbourne and Sydney both wanted the job but they obviously weren’t going to get it, so they both came to me and separately and asked me if I’d do the job. I said I would for a couple of years.  I became the national President for two years, which was good.  That included a trip to Holland for an international conference.  I said I want to take my wife, I’ll pay for her, the fares, as long as she can hang onto my coat tails in the dinners. I thought that was a pretty fair way of doing it and so we both had a very interesting trip.  That sort of thing comes to you unexpectedly just by spending your time on doing something to help somebody out.  Anyway, that’s just another sideline.

Yes, well it shows the breadth of your life in fact, because you were involved in so many different activities and not necessarily whether they paid.  You were looking for the challenge.

Part of this million dollars I was working out… National Trust…the things I did.  I mean, a million is just the least… but I just got to that much.  

In the late ’90s, mid to late ’90s, I’d been on the National Gallery for some years and I got off that.  Gordon Darling created a foundation, which he wanted me to be a trustee of. They ran it out of Melbourne and he put about $5 million in.  He’s a very wealthy bloke. We used to meet every quarter to decide what artistic organisation we would support.  We’d get submissions from 30 different organisations, probably fund three or four.  

He also did a very good job in saying we ought to have a scholarship.  We ought to provide money for the galleries to nominate one of their people to go overseas to learn more. I thought that was fantastic.  A three month trip overseas at the cost of the Art Gallery of South Australia, but we put the money in, that’s a wonderful thing for art. I was on that for 10 years and that was pretty good.

The other thing is in the early 2000s it must have been, out of the blue came an invitation for me to go on the Board of the Australian Archives, the National Archives in Canberra.  Well, as everything goes, that’s pretty good because I’m about 70 and they usually wipe you out then. I think again my political leanings were such that John Howard knew what they were and he was very fussy about who he put on.  I don't know whether you knew that… he really vetted everybody.  He didn’t want them throwing things back at him, which I can understand.  I don't think you can call it jobs for the boys.  It didn’t pay much.  It really didn’t.  It paid a bit, like $400 a meeting or something, but that was two days away, not a lot. I didn’t have a grizzle about it. I had the very great pleasure of going to Canberra and being involved with what happened there.  The Archives were good.

Anyway, blow me down if the South Australian Government then under – it was just before the Labor Government got in, before Rann got in – I’d been asked if I’d take over the Chair of the South Australian Archives. I was Chairman of that for two or three years. When my term expired I said look, I really don’t want to do any more of this work.  I’m really trying to retire.  So that was the end of that, but that was an interesting and pleasurable job.  They didn’t ask you to do much.  We opened new premises but the people who opened that were the Head of the Department and the Minister in charge and everyone else. I never got an opportunity to say what I thought to the Committee or the people or anything. I didn’t have to make a speech, but there are times when you thought well, I might have been asked to open proceedings and say welcome everyone, I’m the Chairman of – we’re pleased to have the minister.  You’re just sort of wiped out, anything to do with the State.  Anyway, I’m not grizzling about that but it was just an interesting facet that usually as Chairman I would run things, but here I was in the background.

I was also interested in your involvement in the founding of SAFM?


The very first FM station.  How did that happen?

Well, I think it was Bill Cooper.  We always acted for Coopers Brewery and we’ve been slightly related to the Cooper family.  My mother said their old house was not far from Coopers Brewery when she was younger.  I knew Bill Cooper well from school. I had him in my class at school, and Bill was a great friend of my brother’s, that’s my younger brother.  I suppose it was half way through my directorial career when Bill said oh I’ve got this opportunity to go for an FM license. I said, what’s that?  
He said Coopers Brewery are going to put 25 per cent in, Channel Ten Adelaide are going to put 25 per cent in. They were owned by TVW in Perth, which was Seven Perth.  Someone else put 25 per cent in and the public would be asked to put in 25 per cent.

A hotel – the hotel on the way down to Victor Harbor – or the airport, Richmond Road - I will think of it in a minute. A hotel down there – Kevin Palmer was the fellow anyway.  Between us, I’m not sure whether I asked the other directors or he did. Anyway, we got John McKinna who was the recently retired Police Commissioner; Kim Bonython who is well known; Kevin Palmer, myself, Bill Cooper and one of the Channel Ten executives - I’m trying to think of his name at the moment - to make the board up and to work on how we could apply for this thing.

I worked out how we were going to apply and we filled out the forms and we did this, that and the other and worked out how we’d appear.  Then Bill said well we need to get a barrister to put our case, and I said to him, look, I really don’t think I want to talk to a barrister about it.  I think I can tell you what our case is.  I’d rather put it myself than ask someone else to do it, because I’ve got to tell that other person, and I know exactly what I want to say.

So they all had their faith in me. Thank goodness, we got it.  We were challenged by the ACTU who said they wanted it and thought they would have a shoe in, I suppose, for one reason or another.  Also they had made comments that if you don’t bring us in, you’ll be in a bit of trouble, the rotten buggers they were… There was someone else who applied too, a group, but they didn’t have, if you like, the clout that we had.  We had the brewery and the Channel Seven and Ten, I think a better chance. Oh what’s his name – the broadcast commissioner I think he was - I’m trying to think of his name - we had to appear before him to put our case and the others put their cases, and we finally got it.

Anyway it was about that time – that was in about August and we didn’t make any – oh no, probably about June or earlier.  We started operating I reckon in about August.  We hadn't been making any money until about – well we didn’t make any while I was Chairman. I was asked to go on the board of The Advertiser because they had a big problem in The Advertiser.  Their Managing Director had refused to – do you remember that?

Oh yes, he refused to provide a source.

Yes, and he went to jail.  I was asked to act for The Advertiser, which I did, and I briefed one of the Judges, I think it was Kevin…

Kevin Duggan?

Yes, Kevin Duggan, I briefed Kevin.  When we finally sorted out the mess, Sir Arthur Rymill who was Chairman said Bob, we’d like you to join the board - which I thought I was pretty… - I’m retiring, Neil McEwin’s retiring, we want you to come on the board of directors. There’s you and Bill Scammell and Jim Hardy.  So I took that board on.  The problem was the law said you couldn't be on the board of two radio stations.  Because 5AD was owned by The Advertiser, and SAFM was another one, I had to resign from SAFM.

That would have been what year roughly do you think?

I suspect it might have been about ’78 but I’m not sure.  I’m really not sure.  

It would have been after ’78 because I reckon SAFM was set up in ’84.

Oh well, it would have been in late ’84.  I had trouble with Holmes à Court for this, Bill Cooper did, because when I retired and gave up the Chairmanship, Bill Cooper took it on.  When I had been on the board, we’d got very short of money and we said to our major shareholder would you put some more money in?  They said, oh yes, $25-50,000, we’ll do that and we’ll take up more shares. That was necessary to keep the company afloat until we got started.  It worked very well after that.  It was gradually rising but you’ve got to have money to keep going.

We got the approval of Sir John – I can’t think of his name – not Sir John Cadwallader - anyway, the fellow in Perth, Channel Seven Perth, had to approve their tenure.  We had the approval of them, we had the approval of Coopers and everyone.  Then Holmes à Court moved into Channel Seven, Perth.  He’d got a controlling interest in it and he began to own it.  He then said to Bill Cooper I’m not going to put money into SAFM, I’ll buy you out for 50 cents. We paid $1 - this is the sort of fellow he was.  Bill said well you’re not going to buy us out on 50 cents. He said, your company has already undertaken to put the money in. Well we’re not, he said, we’re not.  That’s the sort of bloke he was, and it wasn't a lot of money either.  He saw it as an opportunity.

He then shot himself in the foot because he had given notice that he had shares for sale, for some reason I can't remember.  We then made him sell the shares at the price that he put forward, at 50 cents.  He was stinking mad but it served him right.  He was trying to double cross the company, and Bill had to handle all of that.  
Bill had this [unclear] who was a chairman of the SA Brewing Company.  The SA Brewing Company had had approaches from Holmes à Court as well, he was needling in there trying to get it.  Sir Norman said I’ll beat this fellow, so he tipped in the money to the SA Brewing Company, which was okay at the time, but many years later it became a headache because SA Brewing got taken over by someone and they wanted to do something about it.  
Anyway, finally they extricated themselves from that, but there was a lot of funny wiggles going on…

That’s incredible.

I can’t tell you the actual answer to what happened but you remember SA Brewing got taken over by – well they became Southcorp, and then another mob took them over and they didn’t want anything to do with the television…

What was your view of the way corporations have evolved over the time you’ve been involved with them?  What’s changed the most?

There’s been a lot more emphasis on corporate governance,  on properly running the company and in being honest with the company.  In some of the companies I found people who have done things they shouldn't have done, people that have really been dishonest.  For instance – I don't know whether I mentioned the Quarry Industries one, where you had a bonus issue and one of the directors walked through the door and was told not to come back.  The Chairman was very strictly honest about it…I’ve always taken the Chairman’s attitude and maybe that’s why I got appointed to a number of places.

You’ve got to play it straight.  It doesn't matter what it costs you, otherwise you’re done.  I’ve always said, once you lose the trust of someone you’ll never, ever get it back. Ever. 
There’s been a much stronger reliance on corporate governance, but on the other hand a lot of the companies I’ve been involved in haven't needed that corporate governance.  It’s been just a damn nuisance and the same with the privacy law.  Having to look at it and employ lawyers to give us reams of paper on what we ought to be doing, when everyone knows what you ought to be doing.  

So I suppose you could say over-regulation.  I think ASIC has been good and I think they’ve been able to – they’re criticised for not chasing this, that and the other from time to time.  Fundamentally it seems to me they don’t need corporate governance, they can look at a company and say well they’ve been doing the wrong thing, they ought to be able to go for them, and not worry about whether the company – a company that doesn't govern itself properly, well it deserves to get into trouble.  Sure, some people are going to have misfortunes and you can lend money to some organisation that goes broke and you had no idea, but they probably didn’t tell you that they’re teetering on the red.

No.  I think we might wind up, but before we do – because you’ve come from such a long line of lawyers, I was very curious about whether your children have taken on?

Yes.  My oldest son, he wanted to be a lawyer always.  The University wouldn't let him start the course here, Adelaide University, nor would Flinders as they said he didn’t have enough marks.  Which was very disappointing to him because he was – about 80 per cent I think he had, and he was a very good sportsman at his school and he was a prefect.  He’s the sort of fellow who is a very straight, helpful fellow.  He’s not making much money now because he does so much for other people.  Anyway, that’s another story.

He went to Flinders University, got his economics degree and then he became a Chartered Accountant.  He got his liquidator’s license and he worked for Arthur Anderson. Then I said to him one day, the University of New England have got a law course that is by correspondence.  Do you want to do that?  He did it immediately.  He got through in two and a half years and he fell into the hands of another woman over there and he married her.  He wanted to stay there and he’s still there now but he’s not married to her, he’s married to someone else who’s a gem fortunately.  He’s found what he deserves now, and he’s a lawyer in that town.

He is finding it very hard to make enough living because he’s got two former wives, both wanting money, and three children, two of them really young, plus two step-children now with his current wife, who’s reasonably well off thank goodness so they can hold the fort together.  But again, he was on the Art Gallery Board over there and his former wife said you don’t make enough money, you get off the Board and do more work.  He’s now the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and he’s not making enough money because he’s always helping other people.  

He really turned our family off the law school to be quite honest, for the fact that they wouldn't let a fourth generation get in.  But I mean, you know, not fair to give people privileges, well maybe not, but he was the right man for the job at the time.  

A second son couldn't get in.  He wanted to do law as well, so he took himself off to Tasmania and did it at the University of Tasmania.  He now works in Darwin.  He worked here for a while.  He worked at [unclear] for five years.  He worked for another firm here for a while… first of all another firm, then here for five years, and he’s in Darwin which is where he wants to stay.  He’s running his own practice and it’s quite a good practice.  Again, as he’s got four children he doesn't make any money and he wants to send one down here to boarding school next year, and guess who’s going to have to pay most of it.  But I think he’s a very successful lawyer in Darwin now. My impression is he’s very well thought of and doing very well, except not making a lot of money.

He and his wife have fallen out. She was a nurse and a generalist and a lawyer now.  

The third son is a sharebroker here and doing very well and has since he was sent in there to do some work experience.  The boss said he’s a nice lad, will you let us employ him and I said sure because he didn’t even get his Matric.
The fourth boy – I don't know whether I’ve told you about him.  He’s in the advertising world and he works in New York.  He was working here for one of the big firms. 

Anyway he went to Toronto with his then girlfriend who wanted to work there as a teacher.  He wanted to get out of Australia anyway to get a bit of life experience in the advertising industry.  He’s the creative director and he has had an outstanding career.  In 2007 he won the prize, the Grand Prix prize in Cannes, for the best TV ad in the world for that year.  He’s now doing – he did so well there that the New York head office said you’d better come quick to New York.  So they shifted him to New York where he now lives and works. This only happened in the last 18 months.  He’s just been appointed by their office as the global creative director for Panadol for Australia, Asia, England and Ireland, which is not a bad – something to be appointed to.  He’s also made five ads called – I can’t think of the name now, but they’re all to do with shredded wheat…what’s the thing… youtube, the youtube. You know youtube?


You’ll find it on youtube.  

So you had four sons?

Yes.  We had a daughter in the middle but she died very young.  She was only a few days old, 15 days old, with a very bad heart murmur.  You can’t help those things and she was shockingly deformed in the heart.  She had a few weeks, a few months, few years, not long… she went in a few days.  But that’s the way the cookie crumbles and you can’t help it.

No, no. Thank you very much.