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James Packer free as a bird, but not on race day

THEY'RE usually used to carry whales of the gambling kind, but Crown casino's fleet of corporate jets yesterday played host to a far more svelte creature in the shape of one James Packer.

Packer and two other Crown directors strode through the execujet lounge at Sydney Airport, boarding a ''smallish'' 20-seat Gulfstream avgas guzzler about noon.

Given it was a clear day in Sydney, Packer and his entourage were no doubt treated to a bird's eye view of the large gouge in the land that will one day be home to his six-star high rollers hotel and casino at Barangaroo South.

While CBD's spy was able to lay eyes on the gazillionaire in an uncontrolled environment yesterday, Crown will be making sure no such antics will be possible trackside at the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday.

It will be policing the peeping by ushering media through its brand new Birdcage marquee at arranged times.

Wearing two hats

ALONG with pashing strangers while blind drunk at 11am, hats, fascinators and the dreaded hatinator - the convertible note of the millinery world - are all the rage at the races.


Also raging are investors who are wondering what happened to $660 million they pumped into Banskia Financial Group, the regional non-bank that collapsed late last week after management discovered its loan book wasn't as good as earlier believed.

So, as Australia prepares for its annual Cup of chaos, isn't it clever of master milliner Paris Kyne to combine the two? He's come up with a hat inspired by the collapse and the big bad banksia men of May Gibbs' children's classic, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

''I had the idea at lunchtime on Saturday and I put it together on Saturday night,'' Kyne told CBD.

Like all of his work, the banksia hat is a one-off. ''This kind of piece, if you wanted to buy it from me, it would probably cost around $600.''

Keep in touch

BENDIGO and Adelaide Bank was facing the wrath of investors stung by the collapse of timber group Great Southern in a Melbourne courtroom yesterday, but chairman Robert Johanson was not there to soak up the ambience on the opening day of what is promising to be a months-long trial.

He was far, far away, glad-handing shareholders at the bank's annual meeting in Adelaide.

Johanson urged shareholders to stay in touch, but one of his preferred modes of contact suggests there might be some small truth to the cruel jibe that a trip to Adelaide is also a trip back in time.

''You can contact us on Facebook or you can try a carrier pigeon if you like - we're happy to receive your feedback,'' Johanson said.

Sadly there was no word on whether parchment scrolls are preferred to vulgar modern paper.

Double vision

LAST-MINUTE skirmishing in the battle for control of Bioxyne is set to be resolved today when shareholders decide whether to back the vision of the company's future held by biggest shareholder Octa Phillip, or the competing vision of second-biggest shareholder Phillip Comans.

In an ''ASX announcement'' that CBD found on the Bioxyne website (but could not locate on the ASX website) the company attacked Octa on the grounds it wanted to dilute shareholders by 90 per cent.

Not so, says Octa, which says its proposal to abandon the company's flagship cough medicine, which has failed three clinical tests, and back a new business into the company would result in dilution of at most 50 per cent. Octa bioscience managing director Jeremy Curnock Cook also fired back at Comans' allegation, reported in CBD yesterday, that he had ''immediately'' dismissed the company's product after the test results came out.

''The reality is that this drug is seven years-plus off coming to the market, and that's if all goes well from here,'' he said. ''It's not that I regarded the product as having no value - we can't tell. It's that it's going to take a whole lot more money, that we don't have, to take forward.''

Frank exchange

GOLDEN Gate Petroleum is burning through cash like an oil well on fire and angry shareholders want to toss directors into the flames - or at least out of the boardroom. However, they don't want to get rid of executive chairman Stephen Graves, as CBD reported yesterday.

The shareholders' action group does want a chat with Graves, who runs the company's US operations, but its targets are a pair of Franks, Frank Brophy and Frank Petruzzelli.

Last week, the action group lodged a notice requesting a meeting of shareholders to consider sacking both Franks.

The group is also fired up about Golden Gate's habit of financing itself by issuing convertible notes. ''They've done convertible notes on us so long, we're backing up, we've had enough of it,'' organiser Alan Mitchell told CBD.

The group wants corporate restructuring guru Trevor Kelly and former Progen director Tom Burt elected to replace the Franks.

The stoush might need to be resolved quickly. Golden Gate's latest quarterly report, filed with the exchange yesterday, shows it expects cash outflows of $7 million over the coming three months but had just $861,000 in the bank.