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Max-The-Axe on the sharp end after royal prank

Max Moore-Wilton

Max Moore-Wilton

Southern Cross Austereo chairman Max Moore–Wilton, facing a station crisis over the royal prank tragedy, is a man used to coping with a lot of heat.

In 1996 Mr Moore-Wilton was appointed by John Howard to head the Prime Minister’s department, after a career spanning both the public and private sectors. Nicknamed Max-the-Axe, he was regarded as both tough and politically savvy.

He gave no quarter, either in cutting public servant numbers or fighting power battles within the bureaucracy.

Opinions of him among fellow bureaucrats varied from grudging respect to intense dislike, with critics describing him as a bully.

He faced a publicly rough time after the ''children overboard'' affair, which featured heavily in the 2001 election and led to inquiries later.

In 2002 Mr Moore-Wilton testified he had not  known the claim that asylum seekers had thrown children overboard was wrong, and had not advised Howard that it was.

But this had a strange sequel.  When Paul Kelly interviewed him in 2008 for The March of Patriots, Mr Moore-Wilton said he had told Howard very late in the 2001 election campaign that his latest advice was that no children had been thrown overboard.

Kelly reports in his book that despite Howard denying this implacably, Mr Moore-Wilton insisted this was what he remembered. But then, just before the book was printed, he told Kelly he had concluded his recollection was faulty.

After leaving the public service at the end of 2002, Mr Moore-Wilton took up the position of CEO of Sydney airport, which he held for several years. He became chairman of Austereo in April last year.  

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