Props are in order for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s favoured campaigner-in-chief Isaac Levido, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the UK Queen’s Birthday Honours over the weekend.
The UK’s official Government Gazette records Levido, 36, was recognised for “political service”. The unofficial commendation would say the Port Macquarie-born pollster and strategist was the guy who clinched Boris Johnson a second term as Prime Minister.
Not bad for someone who got their professional start as a liquidator at Ferrier Hodgson.
Levido worked on the UK Conservative Party’s 2015 and 2017 election campaigns before setting up the Washington DC office of Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby’s polling outfit, Crosby Textor. He then returned to Australia to serve as the Liberal Party’s deputy campaign director from January 2018 to mid-2019 - helping the Coalition win the federal election. On that campaign, Levido worked alongside Michael Brooks, a pollster from Crosby’s British company CTF Partners, as well as the Kiwi-born consultants Sean Topham and Ben Guerin. That team was later parachuted en masse back to the UK to run Johnson’s 2019 campaign. UK campaign spending data released in disclosures last week revealed the Tories racked up a bill of almost $2.9 million to CTF during the 2019 campaign.
While Levido’s gong is impressive, it’s worth noting he won’t be the most decorated in the office. Crosby himself scored a knighthood four years ago for his work running the Conservatives’ 2015 general election campaign under David Cameron.
NOT THE TOP GONG
There are even higher congratulations to hand out. Levido wasn’t the only Aussie-type to score a gong. Scottish-born former BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie received a knighthood for his services to business, science, technology and to British-Australian relations.
Mackenzie, who moved back to the UK in late March, served as the top banana at the Aussie-based miner from 2013 to 2019 before handing over the reins to the Canadian-born Mike Henry in November last year.
In late September, Mackenzie took part in his first board meeting as a director of fuel giant Shell.
TALK OF THE TOWN
News of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s relationship with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire certainly came as a surprise during ICAC hearings on Monday.
Evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption had already revealed Maguire’s expensive divorce settlement from wife and co-company director Maureen - believed to be as much as $1 million - had motivated Maguire to secure another term in Parliament.
Property documents behind the Maguires' North Wagga Wagga family home also reveal the couple’s joint assets were divided before the watchdog announced its probe.
Maureen transferred her share of the home to Maguire in mid-2017. Since, she has been linked through company records to a Sunshine Coast apartment near Noosa. Meanwhile, Maguire has been the sole owner of the North Wagga Wagga home which sits on 15 hectares.
But the home wasn’t the end of the pair’s financial dealings.
Together, they sat as co-directors on the Maguire Trading Company from 1995 until December 2017. Then Maguire stepped down, leaving Maureen as the sole director.
The company, which has since been deregistered, took centre stage in the corruption proceedings when it was revealed it accepted payments from Maguire’s business associates, including property developer Joseph Alha. Maguire’s former electorate office manager Nicole Hatton confirmed to ICAC she had drawn up invoices for Maguire Trading Company while working for the MP, including invoicing Alha for the MP’s flights to China on a 2012 trip when Maguire represented the Sydney businessman.
The commission later heard Maguire had also tried to influence appointments to the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, which Alha deemed to be unfriendly. There has not been any evidence that Maureen Maguire was involved in any of her ex-husband's deals.
In a statement to the commission, the Premier said her personal relationship with Maguire began in 2015.
After a protracted planning process, celebrity chef Michael Moore and wife Angela are inching closer to getting the green light for big renos at their historic Paddington home.
The pair have filed a $1 million development application proposing to add another two bedrooms to their Caledonia Street pile and a raft of other works, including new bathrooms, a passageway connecting the house with an existing outdoor studio, and a plunge pool - very Grand Designs indeed.
The UK-born Moore is the chef and owner of O-Bar, the celebrated revolving restaurant on Level 41 of Australia Square, formerly known as The Summit.
The pair bought the home in 2018, paying $4.05 million for the deep block with a long history - including a stint during the 1940s and 1950s as a sly-grog joint. The pair have been wrangling with the famously finicky Woollahra Council for the better part of the year to get the renovations off-the-ground.
“On 7 July 2020 the application was withdrawn. Council advised that the application should be re-lodged with works to the front structure removed,” the planning documents note - which is polite planning speak for never in a million years.
But it’s good to see the owners and architects are more optimistic with the most recent iteration. “The design was refined numerous times in accordance with heritage feedback from Council … this reduced and refined application has been prepared in accordance with the advice from Council,” planning documents read.
Samantha is the The Age's CBD columnist. She recently covered Victorian and NSW politics and business for News Corp, and previously worked for the Australian Financial Review.
Stephen Brook is CBD columnist for The Age. He is a former features editor and media editor at The Australian, where he wrote the Media Diary column and hosted the Behind The Media podcast. He spent six years in London working for The Guardian.