Tag Archives: AWB

, ,

An Inconvenient Truth

K-Rudd has been caught with his proverbial pants down on Burkegate. This is an event clearly worthy of “gate” status. More details about MPs from both sides of the fence meeting with the shady former WA premier (and convicted felon) turned lobbyist will probably come to light this week and I’m tipping more casualties following the resignation of Ian Campbell. John Howard wants to make distinctions between ministers and MPs, and leaders and followers – which is fair enough to an extent, but there’s really no need to be meeting with someone like Burke. Lobbying is an interesting kettle of fish. It’s where politicians get their lurks and perks. Doctors get their fancy meals from pharmaceutical companies eager to secure future business – politicians get theirs from representatives of industries, interest groups and professional power brokers who are likewise eager to secure something for nothing (or for a meal – politicians are expected to sing for their supper). Benny reckons lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process –

“I love lobbying. i think its how things should work. lobbying and interest
groups should demonstrate the facts, views and opinions. the members of
parliament should act as mediators and decision makers. the MPs should take in
all the information to make rational and logical decisions. lobbying is part of
this process.”

I agree to an extent but I think professional lobbying probably circumvents the political process and ties up access to politicians from the run of the mill members of their electorate – the fact that my employers work as a lobby group backed by the collective might of our members from the North Queensland business community doesn’t bother me – but when you’ve got a disproportionate amount of funding (lobbying) poured into the exercise by an unpopular lobby group (say advocates for nuclear power) might have a disproportionate impact on the political process.

The political machinations behind Burkegate are fascinating – Ian Campbell’s decision to resign – or the decision for him to resign – was a masterful manoeuvre from Howard. Finding the moral high ground in the murky realm of politics will be an important step in the upcoming elections. If it’s going to be a “morals” debate the Coalition need to have their position on issues like AWB, the Iraq conflict and Hicks firmly entrenched on the “right” side (as opposed to wrong, rather than left) – Rudd probably has the advantage in terms of positioning because it’s much easier to criticise government than to govern. This scandal could go a long way towards undermining his integrity – but it could also burn the government if it comes out that more coalition MPs have met with Burke in the past.

It’s an interesting time in politics with the battle of who cares raging in New South Wales and Debnam resorting to physical comparisons with James Bond. The US race for preselection (it’s not even the real thing yet) is heating up with candidates from both major parties vying to outdo their own colleagues (with the amount of muck they spend throwing around within the parties it’s a wonder that any new stuff comes up in the actual campaign) – my early favourite Barack Obama is polling well and catching up to the “impossible to like even though she stood by her husband in America’s largest sex scandal” Hillary Clinton. The Democrats have the opportunity to make history with their leading candidates a female and an African American male – Joe says the Republicans should kill two birds with one stone by endorsing Condoleezza Rice.

In other news – I tried the spectacular “cat poo” coffee last week, I’m not sure I’d pay $50 a cup, but it’s an amazing brew, so smooth and sweet – without the standard bitter bite of a regular cuppa.

LarkNews – a good source for “Christian News” has been updated – my favourite story for this edition is the debate on whether the word “sucks” is appropriate for church – for those of you who have trouble differentiating between fact and fiction, please note that this is parody.

Cole’s Red Spot Specials

Terence is not a name I’d choose for myself or any of my future children. Nor is it a name I’d ascribe to a dog, a cray fish or a cockroach. One must, when one meets a Terence, enquire as to why they chose not to adopt the more acceptable Terry – or even Tezza… but I digress.

Terence Cole was the man responsible for the “Cole Report” the document produced following a $10 million inquiry into the so called “AWB scandal” – the biggest piece of politically charged controversy since the children overboard fiasco. The Australian Wheat Board – or the wheat mafia – is the organisation which represents Australian farmers to ensure they get the best possible price for exported wheat. The AWB decided that the Iraqi wheat market was particularly lucrative due to UN imposed trade sanctions – and sought to secure the Iraq contract by providing “payments” to the Hussein regime. These payments were worth $290 million and were reportedly used to supply Hussein’s soldiers (heretofore referred to as Moustache Petes*) with weapons of individual destruction (ie guns). (Sidenote – if I was going to start selling miracle weightloss pills I would call them weapons of mass destruction). Somebody flipped the lid – blew the whistle – or revealed what was going on and the whole thing created a public furore… well actually it didn’t. It should have. But the whole issue hasn’t really engaged with the public at all. The Australian gradually moved the AWB scandal coverage from the front page to the middle – in a surefire sign that the issue wasn’t moving any more papers. It hasn’t had an adverse affect on the government’s popularity – which should be at record lows according to the media’s protests over changes to industrial relations laws, media ownership and this scandal.

The problem – perhaps epitomised best by the actual report – is that no mud from this situation is sticking on John Howard’s Teflon ministers. Once upon a time ministers were called on to resign at even the whiff of a scandal. Now the government prefers to take to the trenches and sit out the public furore before making any moves. The fact that the memos made their way to Alexander Downer’s department – but were not read by the minister – suggests a gross failure on behalf of the bureaucrats involved. Labor tried laboriously to labour home the point – but failed to score – with John Howard now winning the PR battle by calling for apologies to all the senior ministers who were so spuriously burdened with the weight of the opposition’s aspersions. But really – who cares? Nobody. And we should – on one hand we’re off liberating the Iraqis (a concept I’m not entirely opposed to provided the traditional interpretation of “liberating” is adhered to and not the Bush government’s – which requires the carpet bombing of “liberated” areas to truly ensure the “liberated” state is reached.) – and on the other we’re putting guns in their hands. Surely we could have supplied them with water pistols, or something slightly less deadly. Perhaps water pistols should be standard issue weaponry in all wars – then Pte Kovco’s mother would not have to attack the government for any form of cover up over his death in Iraq.

And finally, I’ll be in Brisbane from tomorrow until Monday – if you’d like to see me please contact my agent to negotiate an exorbitant appearance fee.

* I’ve never mentioned the moustache Petes before – I just wanted to use the word heretofore – I will also hereafter refer to said shady characters as moustache Petes – particularly in this month of “Movember”**
** A stupid concept.