Euromoney, January 2016
Peter Costello faced a challenging gig. The chairman of the Future Fund, and better known to most as Australia’s longest-serving ever Treasurer under the John Howard government, was presenting a keynote speech at a sovereign wealth funds conference in Milan, only to find he was addressing a room full of standing people milling around a buffet table. Not the easiest crowd to enthral with a presentation on the Santiago Principles, the voluntary code of governance and best practice that is supposed to bind sovereign funds.
But a veteran of 12 Australian federal budgets is not easily deterred and, booming through a quite unnecessary microphone in a gilded ballroom of the Hotel Principe di Savoia, he turned to hyperbole to win over the crowd.
“Because I am a chairman of a sovereign wealth fund, I always carry the Santiago Principles with me,” he boomed, as the PA speakers wobbled on their stands under an onslaught of the big man’s sonorous bass. “I carry them close to my heart. I go to bed with them at night. I put them under my pillow. I read them over breakfast.
“I ask my staff to memorise them, and give them bonuses if they can recite them.”
Audience suitably hooked, he moved on to more serious points. But in truth, humour was a good place to start, because at their current rate of observation, the Santiago Principles are in danger of becoming a joke.