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Who to help?

In response to the tragedies our country was suffering – and still suffering – before Christmas we notified AIMN readers that:

We here at The AIMN would like to help in some small way, therefore we have decided that all donations received on Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be forwarded on to the Australian Bushfire Appeal.

We were overwhelmed to receive $753 (which we rounded up to $800) and we thank those who donated to The AIMN.

Then came a stumbling block: Who to help? Any number of charities came under the umbrella of the Australian Bushfire Appeal and we couldn’t decide which one to donate to. In the meantime, disaster after disaster kept breaking our hearts.

Eventually we decided to donate the money to SAVEM (South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management) because of their work with injured koalas on Kangaroo Island, where half of the population of 50,000 koalas had perished.

Why did we choose them above others? It was this report that we found from July last year; Kangaroo Island koalas may save the koala species that decided it for us. The report explained that:

South Australia’s Kangaroo Island koalas have been found to be free from the disease that is threatening koala populations around Australia, particularly in Australia’s north-east where populations are declining dramatically.

Scientists led by the University of Adelaide have discovered that, unlike every other large population in Australia, Kangaroo Island koalas are free from infection by Chlamydia pecorum. This bacterial infection is the most significant disease causing death in koalas, and a key factor in koalas being under threat in north-eastern Australia.

(You might like to also read: Rescuers are warned not to take koalas off fire-ravaged Kangaroo Island because they are the only ones in the country without chlamydia).

We hope that the reasons for our decision to donate to SAVEM are supported by those wonderful readers who donated to our appeal.

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Skiddy leaves his mark

By Grumpy Geezer  

It was Tony Abbott’s ludicrous, bow-legged saunter that encapsulated the man; some wag once remarked that he looked like a cowboy leaving a rodeo portaloo. His gait was an asinine affectation, the purpose of which no doubt was to reinforce his self image of a macho man, a tough guy in red dick-stickers, but instead the ape-like amble simply highlighted the novelty of his adoption of bipedalism.

A dung flinger, a wrecker and mendacious saboteur, an idiot, a practised liar and humbug Abbott was without a doubt Australia’s worst ever Prime Minister. Until now.

Abbott and his trademark I-shat-myself swagger has been superseded by a smirk on a jerk – Scott SkidMark Morrison.

The caps, the thumbs up, the pie-gobbin’, the beer kneckin’ and the stunts; none capture the real Morrison. It’s the supercilious, omni-present smirk that does. Arrogance, smugness, disdain and uninterest all in one self-satisfied facial expression that says “I was elected to rule not to serve”. The smirk is who Skiddy is. Even in the most dire of contexts he struggles to control it but there’s only one thing that will remove it – his inevitable and welcome demise.

Many will see the beginning of the end times for brother Skiddy as being marked by his clandestine abandonment of our burning country to flee to a beach chair on Waikiki. Others may see it as marked by his New Year’s eve partying at Kiribilli House with his dubious pals frolicking in the pool while firies were putting their lives on the line; or maybe it’s his subsequent photo op with cricketers who he saw as more deserving of his presence than those who had lost everything in the flames.

For me, the beginning of his end was Nelligen heroic firey Paul Parker’s spray. This is the start of the death spiral of a dodgy salesman, the smirk removal shovel to the face of a self-serving grifter.

 

The calamitous bushfires have brought out the best in many people and the worst in others. The worst-of-the-worst is Morrison – a gutless grub who hides from crisis in Hawaii and uses his missus as a human shield. He thinks of the fires as a backdrop to the cricket and describes his presence at a firey’s funeral as “tremendous”. He ran from aggrieved victims who objected to being used for a photo op and the prick’s funded empathy extended to a single bag of Woolies’ groceries for the thousands of displaced fire evacuees.

This is a brazen coward, a liar, a gobshite and a parasite whose only interest is self-interest. What sort of worm, after being humiliated into responding to the crisis then produces a self-congratulatory TV ad praising himself for all those things he for so long refused to do? The chutzpah is staggering.

Morrison the rapturist may believe that the drought and the fires are signs of the Apocolypse but he needs the status of the office of PM and its fat salary to guarantee his seat in the heavenly chariot and a poolside sun lounge in his members only celestial paradise, so he’ll continue to propagandise, politicise and gaslight until summoned by the ethereal choir.

His Tory cronies will sort through the ashes looking for  way to make a quick buck. A promised $2 billion recovery fund will have the leeches such as Angus Taylor and Barnaby Joyce drafting their business plans and opening new accounts in the Cayman Islands.

The vandalism of our environment will continue as this regime introduces legislation to crack down on environmental litigation and class actions and cuts “green tape” to let loose the vandals to monetise what’s left of our natural environment. It will continue to demonise protest and dissent, and its goons will continue to threaten 13 year old girls with arrest.

This is no time for politeness, there is no reason to respect Morrison or his office. This is a time for anger and outrage. When Skiddy is eventually extracted from office he will have left his mark – a scorched Australia, smoke-stained glaciers in NZ, Chile and Argentina and a legacy as Australia’a worst PM.

Skiddy, you are unprecedented. You are a wretched, despicable bastard.

Never forget, never forgive (image from ozzyman.com : photo credits AAP/Channel 7)

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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The damage Scott Morrison and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades

By RosemaryJ36  

You could probably divide the world’s adult population into three groups. Those who have minds open to accepting new knowledge, those who have trouble absorbing anything that requires re-thinking what they have always accepted – and those who refuse to even consider that what they already know might not, in reality, be correct.

The essential scientific process is based on probability – an area which leaves many people a lot poorer after backing the wrong horse! In fact, the failure of education authorities to provide as many as possible of their students with a proper grounding in statistics and probability, enables a great many charlatans – political and otherwise – to flourish!

The scientist formulates an hypothesis to explain certain phenomena, gathers and then examines all possible evidence for the null hypothesis (i.e. that their hypothesis is false) and finally tests the power or probability that the null hypothesis is indeed true. They set a very high bar, and the whole process is very clearly documented so that fellow scientists, in the same specialist area, can repeat the process and compare results – this is what is known as peer review.

This makes it clear they are actually going in to bat for the opposition, as it were, and trying to prove their hypothesis is false – which should reassure those who believe that scientists are trying to prove their own theories!

You need to understand that peer reviewed research, when published, provides evidence of research which has been repeated and/or checked by other than the original specialist scientist, and which establishes scientific knowledge or fact – until and unless subsequent research updates those facts. Opinion has no place in this process and opinions provided by scientists in other discipline areas – unaccompanied by peer reviewed reports – carry no weight whatsoever.

Opinions published by those with neither scientific credentials nor, in particular, expert knowledge in the specific specialist area, should carry no weight and are simply smoke and mirrors, attempting to discredit, for whatever motive, information about the real scientific facts. Sadly, this succeeds far too often. The shock jocks are a source of misinformation for the gullible and should be banned, IMHO! They won’t be, because the profit motive beats social responsibility hands down!

Science and religion have fought many wars over the centuries.

Clearly documented, and available to all, is information on how the Catholic Church (and other Christian sects) have promoted the Holy Bible as being the word of god, and everything in that book is regarded as incontrovertible fact.

In fact, some religious so-called educators still promote the creationist theory – in flat contradiction of accepted knowledge of the development of the known universe.

Belief and opinion are often enemies of truth and at present we are witnessing the consequences of letting belief, opinion and vested interests, subvert public information and delay action which was shown, decades ago, to be necessary to avert catastrophic climate conditions.

Our current Prime Minister proudly boasts of his religious affiliations – a boast which should at once raise our suspicions that his judgement is biased and therefore faulty in any area which involves science!

His background as a failed marketer is responsible for his current, underhand way of promoting himself and fund-raising for the Liberal party in the guise of an information post on social media, linked to the Liberal party ‘Donate’ page!

He can’t help himself, because, on the evidence, he apparently is incapable of understanding the image he projects.

His party members are happy, because he has succeeded in leading them to an unexpected third term in government, but the damage he and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades – and may shorten many lives.

Throughout their current dominance in politics, the Coalition have promoted themselves as being better at managing the economy – and compliant media have supported this myth.

It seems that few people are aware of how massively the Australian debt has blown out since the Coalition undertook to restore the economy to balance. People do not understand national finances enough to realise that achieving a surplus is simply saying that, in the current fiscal year, the government will actually receive in taxes of all sorts – and from the sale of the country’s assets (thank you so much Peter Costello!) – more than it actually spends on services, while failing to mention that “As at July 1 2018, the budget estimate of net debt in Australia was about A$341.0 billion, up from A$174.5 billion in September 2013, when the Coalition took office. That’s an increase of A$166.5 billion, or roughly 95%, over almost five years.”

Fact Check: has Australia’s net debt doubled under the current government?

And when it comes to cutting services to achieve a surplus, what is the cost of damage to lives engendered by processes like Robodebt?

Emphasis on ‘fiscal rectitude’ has camouflaged incredible human damage, wherein the poor lack support and the borderline are actual driven into poverty and suicide.

And looming over all this is a genuine existential crisis which our government refuses to recognise by promoting appropriate actions.

It is worth repeating what everyone knows – Australia’s efforts alone will have minimal impact on world conditions but if every country took that same attitude, we are all doomed.

In fact, a significant number of countries, and States within a country in the case of the USA, are making great strides in developing policies which radically reduce the use of fossil fuels and counter pollution.

The start of serious efforts has come so late that we will be playing catch-up if we are to bequeath to our grandchildren a world in which they can do better than merely exist.

We need every innovation to be explored and every viable invention put into action.

We still have time – just – but, under this government, Australia appears to totally lack understanding of what is required.

The Prime Minister only returned early from a totally ill-timed holiday because his reputation was taking a public battering.

He only developed a policy to support the fire-fighters because he was pressured into doing so.

Initially he only offered financial support to volunteer firies in NSW – his home state – until he was made aware that it had to be a national offer.

Instead of having an experienced Public Service to advise him, he has been relying on advice from political advisers.

Their advice is directed to keeping him in power – not into doing what is right for Australia!

There are so many things on which we could expect our national government to be formulating national policy, while we have a Prime Minister who seems intent on throwing all responsibility to the State governments!

If our accidental PM had a vestige of commonsense, he would be forming a national, non-partisan government, including representatives from all states and political areas, plus experts from the CSIRO and other appropriate scientific and service organisations to deal with the climate emergency, housing those displace by the fires, related employment and food production issues – you could make your own list – it is endless and needs careful prioritising.

We are at war with the elements and the country needs to be on a wartime footing.

Can you do it, Prime Minister?

If you do not have the bottle, then step aside and let others take on a job which appears to demand more than you can give.

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

Will you join me and get out on the streets – maybe Australia Day would be appropriate? – and tell those whom we rashly elected that they need to go because they are not governing for us!

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Wild fires in Victoria: the debate is over

The graph below comes from Tony Eggleton, “A Short Introduction to Climate Change”, Cambridge University Press, 2013), Fig. 12.4, page 200.

The caption in part says: “Gentle slopes in this graph from 1896 to 1930, and again from 1955 to 2000, suggests more-or-less average climatic conditions. Sharp rises in fire extent from 1939 to 1952, and again after 2000, might reflect rising temperatures in the preceding years.”

In the Weekend Australian recently, Gerard Henderson has named a number of years when Australia has had wild-fires. Following are those years and the size of areas (hectares) of burning, listed in Wikipedia.

I851 Black Thursday Vic. 5Mha

1939 Black Friday Vic. 2Mha

1983 Ash Wednesday SA, Vic 418,000ha

2009 Black Saturday Vic. 450,000ha

2019 – NSW, Q, SA, Tas, Vic, WA 5.9Mha and continuing

Henderson writes that there have been wild-fires in Victoria before. But he goes on, “But until now, there has been no suggestion that the state’s future would be one of continuing apocalypse. Yet this is the message of the self-declared progressive media as it seeks to blame others for natural tragedies.”

So what is the view of the self-declared right-wing/denier/septic media? We have had wild-fires before (“natural tragedies” – Henderson) and we will again, and the UN downward pressure will not work because we need “better technologies” (Angus Taylor) – and anyway we will meet our self-designated emissions target “at a canter” (Scott Morrison) and Australia emits a little more than 1% of world carbon emissions (Henderson) so we cannot influence Climate Change.

Anyone questioning the right-wing view is a clown, says Henderson – a comparison also employed by Clive James in his sceptical writing on Climate Change.

Yet it is quite clear, when we look at the graph above and the figures for areas burnt by wild-fires over time, that we are heading for an apocalyptic if we allow those trends to continue. We have been warned by the IPCC for a long time that Climate Change is real, driven in part by the burning of fossil fuels, with now some 30,000 wild-fires burning across the world, global temperatures rising, ice melting, nature adversely affected, people dying from heat effects at a rising rate…

Sceptics try to persuade us that Global Warming is a hoax. But there is no coherent science of denial – just a lot of specious claims, often contradicting each other. For example, Ian Plimer says that CO2 has nothing to do with Climate Change, but the late Bob Carter says CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

Sceptics are often paid by people with vested interests to write as sceptics in order to confuse the climate “debate”. But when we look at the data of the kind provided above, we see the futility of their denial and contrived scepticism. When we read their sceptical writing we see the illogical and contradictory nature of their “arguments”. When we look at the real world we see what the IPCC has been telling us for a long time now.

Wild-fires in Victoria 1896-2010

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We told you so …

By Jane Salmon  

“I Told You So” Isn’t That Much Fun in This Heat. But we DID. 

It is so tempting to point out the facts, having been part of the small “alternative” and often science- educated chorus warning for 4 decades that if homeowners and businesses don’t convert to renewables, they are partly to blame for global warming.

First Australians have every right to be really, really pissed off. It’s their country we’ve wrecked.

Anyone who drives long distances in cities or invests in coal shares, is certainly culpable.

Big coal miners and campaigners against a “carbon tax” have been especially damaging. They usually hide their hefty profits offshore.

Where are Gina, Twiggy and Clive now? Not on the end of a fricking hose or even a rejected handshake, that’s for sure.

But it’s easy for ecologists to feel glum, angry, smug and self-righteous. We mainly vote Green. Some are not driving cars or investing in coal. We may rent only one dusty place to live instead of owning several. Some stick to public transport most of the time.

Many almost coped living off-grid in the 70s and 80s. Having immersed ourselves in favourite bush places for more than a fortnight, we’ve seen flood and fire before.  We saw this coming decades ago.

We relinquished contact with most family members who put “progress” in the form of mindless “development” and a fast buck ahead of their planet, their childrens’ and grandchildrens’ futures, we prefer not to befriend/employ people who are LNP voting sheep.

Then again, no one is pure. Who knows where the super is invested? We use too much shower water, reuse too little grey water, have a large domestic footprint and STILL find it hard to resist cheap crap from China instead of sewing sustainably produced ethical fabrics ourselves. This is selfish too.

Even I remember Val Plumwood predicting climate doom at our family Christmas table in 2003 and thinking “Geez, lighten up, Val. Take the day off. The kids don’t want to hear this”.

I remain cross with those who own multiple roofs and put solar on none of them.

But maybe we should have focused on the more recent cuts (by the same short sighted LNP government outfits) to hazard control and firefighting resources.

The idea that trees create cooler micro-climates seems to escape bogans bent on blaming forests for also becoming “tinder” dry once they’ve endured logging or been otherwise interfered with.
(“Boo hoo, the holiday home! I’m a climate refugee!” Puhlease! Ever heard of Maslow? Or Syria? Some of you are temporarily displaced, not homeless”).

Anyone who wants to blame ecologists for fires or greenies for bad park management is desperate to avoid self-examination.

And so, frankly, are the hordes who, alienated from nature, blindly drive to bush or beach in warm car convoys just as our drought-stricken country heats up each year. The signs of fire danger are there in crisp, brown scrub every August.

I understand, you’re in a tiny apartment all year … but regional Australia exists even when you’re not looking.

It’s also irresponsible to drain vital local water systems in periods of peak evaporation … so rich city folk can enjoy their summer coastal binge. (Yes, we know, the water can be crystal).

But you … you … you also voted for coal, you dicks.

You really need to own that.

Gondwanan beeches, bees, rare marsupials are gone because of you. It’s not like nobody told you. You just had to switch off your mindless “reality” tv and read a few factual articles. New Scientist is there online right next to Insta and Tinder.

And maybe after you’ve flagellated yourself a bit, you can interrogate Big Coal and the IPA about what they can do to mitigate the harm, about switching to renewables and reversing warming from here.

You owe it to the rest of us crusty eco-bores who saw all this coming and acted accordingly. Because, smug as we are, we’ve lost so much that we truly, truly love, too. Our hopes for the future were sacrificed first. You took that.

Thanks to Jackie French for pointing out the difference between short term fire reduction failures and those of coal huggers.

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Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 8)

By Dr George Venturini  

After the allegations of AW.B.’s misconduct became public, A.W.B. suffered “financial harm” (including a loss of market capitalisation and trade, legal costs, class action settlements, redundancy costs and restructure costs) and “intangible or immeasurable harm” (including a “shattered” reputation, loss of corporate knowledge and employee morale, and reduced credit ratings).

The scandal would eventually see the end of A.W.B. A.W.B.’s share-price had continued to suffer, and the cartel was taken over by Agrium Inc. in December 2010 and delisted from the Australian Securities Exchange. On 1 January 2018 Agrium announced that it had agreed to merge with PotashCorp, in a new behemoth  called  Nutrien, which would become the largest producer of potash and second-largest producer of nitrogen fertiliser worldwide. It has 1,500 retail stores and more than 20,000 employees. It is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange, with a market capitalisation of US$34 billion as of January 2018.

A.S.I.C. had called for Mr. Flugge to be fined the maximum $200,000 and banned from managing a company for ten years. It had began its civil case against Mr. Flugge ten years before, but the case was put on hold while it pursued criminal charges, which were dropped in 2010.

The finding might have cost Mr. Flugge anywhere up to $200,000.

The Court also disagreed that Mr. Geary knew the payments to Iraq were contrary to United Nations sanctions and dismissed all proceedings against him, saying that A.S.I.C. had “not proved he has acted anything other than reasonably.”

Unlike the chairman, Mr. Geary had not been put on notice about A.W.B.’s possible misconduct in relation to the inland transportation fees as he was not present at the Washington meeting.

Mr. Geary was expected to be awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs (P. Durkin, ‘ASIC loses AWB case against Trevor Flugge a decade after Oil-for-Food,’  The Australian Financial Review, 15 December 2016).

A.S.I.C. had put the civil cases against Mr. Flugge and five other former A.W.B. executives on hold in November 2008 to wait for possible criminal charges, but in a shock decision in mid-2010 it was revealed that the criminal aspects of the long-running A.W.B. investigation had been abandoned.

A.S.I.C later re-ignited the civil penalty cases over the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in “transport”, “discharge” and “sales service fees” to Jordanian-based trucking company Alia, revealed later to be a front for the Iraqi government.

In a limited victory A.S.I.C. had won two of the civil cases in 2013 against former managing director Andrew Lindberg, who would pay a penalty of $ 100,000, and against former chief financial officer Paul Ingleby, who would pay a penalty of $ 40,000. But cases against former directors Michael Long and Charles Stott were dismissed.

On 15 February 2017 the ‘corporate regulator’ sought on appeal to overturn the Supreme Court decision clearing Messrs. Geary and Flugge of knowing about the ‘kickbacks.’ (Asic appeals verdict AWB directors did not know about Iraqi bribes, The Guardian, 15 February 2017 and Australian Associated Press).

In a brief statement A.S.I.C. said that the matter was expected to return to Court on a date to be fixed and it would not make any further comment.

On 14 March 2017 the Court was to hear arguments about what penalties should be imposed on Flugge, who was facing a fine of up to $200,000 and disqualification from managing a corporation.

On 10 April 2017 Mr. Flugge was fined $50,000 and banned from managing a corporation for five years for failing properly to investigate $ 23 million in ‘kickbacks’ paid to Saddam Hussein’s régime.

The Supreme Court of Victoria ordered that Trevor Flugge, the former chairman of A.W.B. Ltd., pay a fine of $50,000 and be disqualified from managing corporations for five years. These penalties were imposed in consequence of the Court’s finding that Mr. Flugge had breached his duty of care by failing to make adequate inquiries about the propriety of certain payments by A.W.B. to the Iraqi Government.

True, the Court found that Mr. Flugge had acted honestly, nevertheless it denied his application to be relieved from liability on the basis that the breach of duty was “not a minor or accidental breach of duties that could be excused.”

A.S.I.C. had brought similar proceedings against five other directors and executives of A.W.B. The proceedings against two of those individuals had been discontinued and another two had been settled. (E. Younger, ‘AWB’s ex-chairman fined $50k over Iraq food-for-oil scandal,’ abc.net.au, 10 April 2017).

* * * * *

Some information that a careful search might have made available to the Cole Inquiry is still accessible. A search produced: AWB – What the Middle Man Knew, Journeyman Pictures.

The transcript is of extraordinary interest and anyone who wishes to pursue the sound basis of this libretto could do so, freely.

The interviewee is Otham Al Absi. He was the agent of A.W.B. in Jordan.

The transcript begins as follows:

“Reporter: Thom Cookes.

It’s been 23 years since a serving Prime Minister has been called before a Royal Commission to explain himself. Not only John Howard, but his Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministers were all required to tell the Cole inquiry exactly what they knew about the $295 million paid in kickbacks by the AWB to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.

John Howard, Australian Prime Minister [is seen and heard as saying]: “I did not know, my ministers did not know, and on the information that I have been provided and the advice I have received from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I do not believe that the Department knew that AWB was involved in the payment of bribes.” Emphasis in original]

Tonight, a key player in the scandal tells Dateline that he had been meeting with the Australian Government Trade representative in Jordan since the mid’’90s. His company, Alia, was a money launderer for the AWB, allowing it to funnel hundreds of millions in illegal payments in breach of United Nations sanctions.

Reporter: Do you believe that the Australian Ambassador and the Australian Embassy in Jordan, they knew the relationship with AWB that they understood that?

Interviewed was Othman Al Absi: Yes, yes. Because the Austrade – there is a company name here is Austrade, belong to the Embassy – they know about us.

Reporter: Right from the beginning, the relationship?

Othman Al Absi: Yes, yes. And there is a guy – Ayyash, Ayman Ayyash – although I don’t remember the first name, he sit with us, he came to our office here, and we sit in some restaurant in Amman with the AWB – it was a dinner or something – so they know about us and we know this guy from Austrade.

Reporter: And this is right from the beginning of the relationship, this is when you were first setting it up, or this is some later time?

Othman Al Absi: No, it was since 1995, ’96, something like that.

Ayman Ayyash was the Austrade representative in Jordan from 1994 to 2003. Austrade is the trade agency of the Australian Government.”

And the transcript goes on:

“Reporter: Right from the beginning, was the company a joint venture with the Iraqi government?

Othman Al Absi:  Yeah, that’s right. It was a joint venture between Ministry Of Transport of Iraq and our Sheik al-Khawam because at that time there is embargo and it’s very difficult, communication, and they need some people from outside Iraq to work in transportation and especially in maritime. So this is the idea came off.

Reporter: And it was well known – from what I understand – right from the beginning, that it was a joint venture with the Iraqi government – there was no secret about that?

Othman Al Absi: It’s not secret. It’s registered in Ministry of Trade in Jordan, and there is nothing to hide.

Alia has also emerged as one of the major front companies used by the Iraqi government to rort the oil-for-food program, set up when trade sanctions were imposed after the first Gulf War. And according to the UN investigation, between March 2000 and December 2003, around $1 billion flowed into accounts held by Alia at this branch of the National Bank of Jordan. Nearly $300 million of this were illegal payments from AWB disguised as either “after sales fees” or as bogus transport services that were never supplied. After taking a cut of between 0.25% and 1%, Alia transferred the money to an Iraqi government account at the al-Rafidain bank in Amman. Othman al-Absi doesn’t dispute this money flow.

Othman Al Absi: As agent for AWB, I will receive that money officially through our bank in Jordan, and also this money, officially to al-Rafidain Bank, transfer it in Amman, Jordan, in account of Water Transportation Company of Iraq. It’s not to any personal account, it’s for a government account.

Reporter: So you’re not concerned with what those fees were for?

Othman Al Absi: I’m concerned that this is a fees, but fees for what, for whom? All what I know it is for government of Iraq, that’s what we know. And in that time, because there are more than 200-300 companies they have a contract with Ministry of Trade, with Ministry of Transportation, with any ministries in Iraq, and they do the same procedure, so nothing to hide in that time. So where was the United Nations in that time? Why nobody said, “What you are doing?” or “What’s that?” Because, as what I told you, it was official.

According to Mr. Al Absi, his company was on the guest list to the Australian Embassy in Amman.

Othman Al Absi: The Embassy here in Jordan, they know us and they invite us as a famous company in Jordan, and they invite our chairman to the home of the Ambassador around two times, and they know about all our activities and our working. So we don’t feel that it must be through official channel because all what we hear in that time – AWB also it’s a part of the Government.

Reporter: So did you think you were dealing with the Government, in one sense, with the Australian Government?

Othman Al Absi: That’s what we felt. Because when any government gives the license to export the wheat to just one company, that means there’s a relationship between the Government of Australia and this company.”

Mystery!

Here is how the transcript continues:  

[It had already been confirmed that Ayman Ayyash was the Austrade representative in Jordan from 1994 to 2003. Of course, Austrade is the trade agency of the Australian Government.]

Reporter: And for that reason you felt that you were essentially dealing with the Australian Government?

Othman Al Absi: Yeah, we are dealing with the Australian Government and everything is official, and everything is in the right way, let’s say. That’s what happened.

According to Mr. Al Absi, this is not the first time that he has told of his early links with Austrade. In February this year, he was interviewed by an Australian Government solicitor.

Reporter: What did the Australian Government want to know, what did they want to talk to you about?

Othman Al Absi: About the same issue – about the relation between AWB and our company, and about the transferring that money and lots of questions. And we gave them a statement about all the questions they need.

Mr. Al Absi told Dateline that he had informed the Government solicitor about his meetings with the Austrade representative, Mr. Ayman Ayyash. But none of this made it into this statement tendered to the Cole Royal Commission. 

So what else can Alia Transportation, the mysterious Jordanian conduit in this scandal, tell ? When Dateline interviewed Mr. Al Absi there was a reminder of the strong ties between his company and the AWB.”

Later on the interview recorded Dr. Labib Kamhawi. He is the managing director of Cessco, a Jordanian company supplying the oil and gas industries.

“His company was also identified by the U.N. inquiry as having made illegal payments to the Iraqi government in breach of sanctions. He claims these “taxes” were an unavoidable cost of doing business with Iraq.

Dr.  Labib Kamhawi: But I’m talking about the tax itself, I mean, and the tax itself was not a secret, no. If it was a secret, it was the worst-kept secret on Earth.

Reporter: So, you believe that the extra charges that Iraq was imposing were totally out in the open? Everybody knew about this, there should be no surprise about this?

Dr. Labib Kamhawi: It was mandatory on everybody and it was not a secret. And it was a tax, OK, which every contract had to pay. And the money went to the Iraqi government. This is not the responsibility of the business community, it is the responsibility of the United Nations to make sure that its regulations were observed, that its sanctions were observed.

According to Dr. Kamhawi, Jordan had to break the sanctions regime simply to survive.

Dr.Labib Kamhawi: We cannot afford this luxury in Jordan, you have to understand this. If we do what we are told to do, we die. We cannot afford it.

Reporter: What do you mean if you do what you were told to do?

Dr. Labib Kamhawi: For example, “Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t export, don’t, don’t, don’t.” It’s not really a luxury. If we don’t sell to Iraq, then we sell to somebody else.

Reporter: There is no other choice ?

Dr. Labib Kamhawi: Absolutely.

Dr. Kamhawi’s company, Cessco, is just one of the more than 2,000 identified by the United Nations inquiry as having made illegal payments to the Iraqi government. The list is a who’s who of international business. But the granddaddy of them all, accounting for 14% of all the kickbacks paid by suppliers to Iraq, was the AWB. In 2004, when the United Nations announced its inquiry into the oil-for-food program, Alexander Downer wrote to the AWB to offer his support, and to:

Alexander Downer, Letter: … “congratulate AWB Limited in its impressive performance in securing exports to Iraq. This reflects… the close co-operation between AWB Limited and the Government. The Government remains committed to working closely with AWB Limited “in pursuing export opportunities in Iraq.” ” 

That close co-operation appears to have evaporated. But according to Othman Al Absi, the Australian trade agency on the ground in Jordan was well aware of the links between Alia and the AWB right from the beginning.

George Negus: Dateline attempted to contact Ayman Ayyash, the former Austrade representative in Jordan, but he didn’t return our calls. Some of our written questions to DFAT, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra remain unanswered. Late this afternoon, officers from the Cole Royal Commission into the Oil-for-Food scandal came here to the SBS studios and subpoena-ed Thom’s interview, much excitement. The inquiry gets under way again in Sydney tomorrow. (© 2013 Journeyman Pictures, Journeyman Pictures Ltd. 4-6 High Street, Thames Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0RY).

* * * * *

And what of three cabalistas protecting the racket?

Following the Coalition’s defeat at the 2007 federal election, Mark Anthony James Vaile AO resigned his position as Nationals leader and moved to the backbench. On 19 July 2008 Vaile announced his forthcoming resignation from Parliament; he submitted it on 30 July. In September 2008 Vaile was appointed to the board of Virgin Australia Holdings. Vaile is also the independent chairman and a non-executive director of Whitehaven Coal Limited, chairman of the Regional Infrastructure Fund of Palisade Investment Partners, a specialist independent infrastructure manager, a non-executive director, appointed by the Australian Hotels Association of HOSTPLUS, an industry superannuation fund, a non-executive director of Servcorp, a director of the Singapore-listed Stamford Land Corporation, and chairman of 123 Childcare, an education provider in the People’s Republic of China. Trade’s Vaile now amply and successfully represents foreign business.

Alexander John Gosse Downer AC, Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2007, resigned from Parliament on 14 July 2008. He set up a boutique consultancy firm, Bespoke Approach, through which he became consultant to Woodside Petroleum – erroneously mentioned as Lakes Oil (P. Cai, ‘Downer joins Lakes Oil as Rinehart board appointee’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 2013 – where Rinehart is of course Gina Rinehart).

In time, Downer took up the position of United Nations envoy to Cyprus with the U.N. Secretary-General to help revive the peace process; the appointment took effect on 14 July 2008.  He also held a number of board appointments, including the Advisory Board of British strategic intelligence and advisory firm Hakluyt & Company, Merchant Bankers Cappello Capital Corp., the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Huawei in Australia. It did not matter that Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecommunications equipment maker, was to be unofficially banned from tendering for the National Broadband Network for security reasons. He resigned the U.N. position in February 2014 to be ‘sent home’ as His Excellency The Honourable Alexander Downer, AC, Australian High Commissioner to the Court of St. James, more closely to consort with ‘the Hanover’, ‘the Hun’, ‘Charlie’, Andy – all of ‘The Firm’.

John Winston Howard, OM, AC went on to oraculate as Holy Man of the ‘natural party of government’.

Continued Wednesday – Comedy without art (part 1)

Previous instalment – Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 7)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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El Paso – the United States’ descent into xenophobic barbarism (part 23)

By Europaeus *

Continued from Part 22

There are now reportedly more ‘non-military’ government agents armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines. While Americans may have to face several increasing obstacles in order to own a gun, the government is arming its own civilian employees to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorising them to make arrests, and training them in military tactics. (T. Coburn and A. Andrzejewski, ‘Why does the [Internal Revenue Service] need guns?’, wsj.com, 17 June 2016).

Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armour, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and liquified petroleum gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, Interanl Revenue Service, Food and Drug Administration, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities.

Why do police need armoured personnel carriers with gun ports, compact sub-machine guns with 30-round magazines, precision battlefield sniper rifles, and military-grade assault-style rifles and carbines? Of course, they do not!

In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons have become routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarisation of law enforcement over the past several decades. Over the course of 30 years, police officers in jack boots holding assault rifles have become fairly common in small town communities across America.

Does this sound like a country under martial law? While it still technically remains legal for the average citizen to own a firearm in America, possessing one may end up being stopped, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without having committed a crime, shot at and killed by police.

One does not even have to have a gun or a look-alike gun, such as a ‘BB’ gun, which is a guns designed to shoot metallic ball projectiles called BBs, in one’s possession to be singled out and killed by police.

As J. W. Whitehead writes: “There are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order.

Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something – anything – that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.”

And Whitehead supports his position by listing many examples of police over-reaction.

So much abuse passes for policing in America today, and it is only getting worse. In most cases, police could have resorted to less lethal tactics, could have acted with reason and calculation instead of reacting with a killer instinct. Indeed they could have attempted to defuse whatever perceived ‘threat’ caused them to fear for their lives enough to react with lethal force.

That police instead chose fatally to resolve these encounters by using their guns on fellow citizens speaks volumes about what is wrong with policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.” (S. Stoughton, ‘Law Enforcement’s “Warrior” Problem,’ Harvard Law Review, 10 April 2015).

And Whitehead concludes: “”Remember, to a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. … Violence begets violence: until we start addressing the U.S. government’s part in creating, cultivating and abetting a culture of violence, we will continue to be a nation plagued by violence in our homes, in our schools, on our streets and in our affairs of state, both foreign and domestic.” (J. W. Whitehead, ‘Who inflicts the most gun violence in America? The U.S. Government and its police forces,’ Information Clearing House, 14 August 2019). Mr. Whitehead is the author of Battlefield America: The war On the American people, New York, N.Y. SelectBooks 2015.

Neo-Nazis are now selling the New Zealand shooter’s racist screed for $4 on Telegram. The manifesto which inspired El Paso is now a hardcover book.

Before a mass shooter killed 51 people and injured 49 others in two Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019, he released an 87-page racist screed – titled The Great Replacement – which quickly found its way onto 8chan before New Zealand authorities could shut it down.

Now, while the shooter remains in gaol, his writings are being sold as a hardcover book for $ 4 a copy on the anonymous messaging service Telegram by a neo-Nazi in Ukraine who hopes to spread the ideology off the Internet and across the Ukrainian-speaking world.

The shooter’s manifesto, cited as inspiration for the mass shootings at El Paso and at the Poway synagogue in California on 27 April 2019, as well as an attempted attack on a mosque near Oslo in Norway on 10 August 2019, was written in English and has been translated into a number of other languages, but the publisher of this version claims it is the only hard copy out there. By the end of August 2019 advertisements for the book started showing up on Ukrainian right-wing channels across Telegram.

The book is being sold by the administrator of a Ukrainian far-right channel on Telegram with more than 1,000 subscribers, called ‘Brenton Tarrant’s lads.’ The administrator goes by the name ‘Hitler Himself.’

The channel went on air on 17 March 2019, two days after the Christchurch shootings. It openly glorifies the manifesto and the shooter with various white-power memes, videos, and images explicitly encouraging violence against Jews and people of colour. The channel also features original lyrics and links to songs found on SoundCloud – a European online audio distribution platform and music sharing website based in Berlin, Germany which enables its users to upload, promote, and share audio, all of which aims to expand the ‘white power movement’.

“I do not make money on this. If someone doesn’t have shekels to spare – take the layout and print this out on your own, not a problem,” the channel administrator wrote. “The idea is to give paper versions to everyone in a row, on birthdays, wedding anniversaries and baptisms of children. In the first place, the inhabitants, to open their eyes to our cruel world.”

The latest posts on the Telegram channel include PDF attachments of a letter that the Christchurch shooter was able to send out of a high-security prison in New Zealand to someone in Russia. It praises Russia and encourages violence.

The producer of The Great Replacement hardcover and administator of the channel refused to be interviewed, saying that he was not interested in answering questions to a “kike journalist” who worked for a “lie-production factory.”

The New Zealand manifesto has been cited as inspiration for a number of recent mass shootings. The latest in a succession of extremists to reference the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto was a Norwegian white nationalist who attempted to start a massacre in a mosque on 10 August 2019 in Oslo.

That was just a week after Crusius, the killer in El Paso, wrote in his own manifesto: “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” And he proceeded to kill 22 people. The young man who opened fire at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California on 27 April 2019 also made reference to the New Zealand shooter, and cited the 27 October 2018 Tree of Life – or L’Simcha Congregation synagogue shooting in a neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – and Hitler, of course.

All three aggrieved ‘white nationalists’ believe in the process of ‘white replacement’, or the idea that all white people are being ‘replaced’ by immigrants from non-white countries, either by birth rates or immigration, and that some entity or organisation has deliberately planned for this replacement to take place. Invariably, the ‘white nationalists’ place the blame on Jews.

Anders Behring Breivik , since 2017 legally Fjotolf Hansen, the Norwegian who killed 77 people in Oslo in 2011 and left a 1,500-page screed expressing a fear of ‘white ethnic replacement’ by migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, is cited as the Christchurch shooter’s biggest inspiration. But besides inspiring the manifesti of ‘white supremacist’ shooters, the rambling document has been quietly spreading through ‘white supremacy’ and neo-Nazi Internet communities around the world.

The administrator of the Christchurch shooter’s channel, shortly after setting up the channel and congratulating his white brothers, outlined his intentions: “I was inspired by the Brenton Tarrant manifesto to create this channel, after reading which I decided to translate it and spread the manifesto and everything related to it.” he wrote.

The first mention of a planned printed version of the book came on 14 May 2019. Shortly after, the administrator explained that he had found a publisher willing to print it. By the third week of June, the first samples of the Ukrainian translation of ‘The Great Replacement’ had been printed. The administrator claimed that the organisation was not interested in profiting from the sales but just wanted the manifesto’s ideas to be spread.

An advertisement for the hard copy of the book

By the end of June, pictures of the book placed next to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, drawings of swastikas, and semi-automatic rifles began to surface on the channel.

The administrator of the Telegram page uploaded a picture of books with the hard-copy version of The Great Replacement in Ukrainian standing in front of a poster of Hitler and adjacient to Mein Kampf

Once, the administrator uploaded a photograph of “the happy owners of the first copy” of the Ukrainian version. The photograph features seven men dressed in what looks like military attire, each holding a hardcover copy, and some holding their hands up in the Sieg Heil! salute.

On another occasion, the administrator boasted that a foreign reader had just ordered the book. On 9 August 2019, he announced that he had sent eight copies out in one day.

Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website of very questionable reputation, also found advertisements for the hard copy on another Ukrainian Telegram channel belonging to Karpatska Sich, a group of fighters who presently define themselves as “a right-wing nationalist movement whose fighters are united by the common ideas of the national revival of Ukraine and a powerful traditionalist Europe.” The Karpatska Sich was formed in November 1938, and collaborated with the Nazis during the second world war. It remains a ‘nationalist’ formation.

“We urge all sincere nationalists to purchase the only available Ukrainian translation of the manifesto of the hero of national resistance, Brenton Tarrant,” the group posted after the El Paso massacre. “He, along with like-minded men, launched a desperate attack on aliens in New Zealand in their temple, which resulted in the murder of many dozens of uninvited aliens.” (V. Kipnis, ‘Neo-Nazis are selling the New Zealand shooter’s racist screed for $ 4 on Telegram’, The manifesto that inspired El Paso is now a hardcover book,’ VICE, 20 August 2019).

 

* Europaeus landed in Australia over fifty years ago. Except for the blue skies and starry nights between 02.12.1972 and 10.11.1975 the place has been constantly overwhelmed by what Hannah Arendt called the ‘sand storm’ – a metaphor for totalitarianism.

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We were once the envy of the world, but look at us now

By RosemaryJ36  

Politics is a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to group of members. It refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance—organized control over a human community, particularly a state. … Politics is a multifaceted word.”

Our current Prime Minister needs to read the paragraph above very carefully. His very position and all activities in which he engages are political and both affect and are affected by the policies which he and his cabinet formulate.

A caveat: I have not studied politics in an academic context, merely observed and read widely about it over an extended period.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time for issues such as the effects of climate change to be discussed – unless you take into account the need for policies which will ensure minimal adverse impact. In that case, sooner is better than later, and, if later, then greater urgency is required to put those policies into effect.

The Westminster system on which our government was established is far from perfect and has been altered by successive governments in highly undesirable ways.

The underlying concept was that politicians elected to government needed expert advice (Thank you, Sir Humphrey!) and this was best provided by apolitical advisers. Recruitment to and advancement in the APS was on merit, and permanence was a useful device to avoid politicisation of the advice.

The concept was good but those served by it have destroyed it through blatant politicisation and outsourcing. Our governments now rely on a bevy of non-APS advisers who tell Ministers what they want to hear, for the most part, and are totally politically biased. Heads of Departments are political appointments, successive governments have privatised services which do not work well in a for-profit world and paid huge fees to consultants to provide advice which is far from unbiased.

Human Services, in particular, require human – and humane – supervision and they are ill-served by algorithms!

Job seekers are people, not numbers or boxes to be ticked, and an ever-expanding population guarantees that, however many new jobs might be created, there will neve be enough to meet demand. And pushing round pegs into square holes destroys lives!

Expensive Royal Commissions (except for the purely politically motivated ones, which have revealed little of note) have exposed massive problems which regulatory bodies have ignored or failed to punish.

Our Constitution was devised to accommodate transfer of some powers from the existing States to the newly formed Commonwealth government, and the means of amending it made no allowance for the rapid technological and social changes which were to follow in rapid succession.

Now, at the start of 2020, we are still arguing over the recognition of our First People in the Constitution, we have a highly politicised Public Service, we have also politicised and gutted many oversight bodies like the AAT, we have established a soulless and incompetent mega Department of Home Affairs, which threatens to lead us into a police state, our foundation concepts of a Fair Go, mateship and egalitarianism have been warped out of all recognition, and we have growing poverty with massive corporate wealth while children live on the streets.

Hello, Charles Dickens! Are you still around?

In tying ourselves to the coattails of the USA, we have adopted a great many attitudes which are destroying the Lucky Country.

Only a decade back, we were the envy of the world in economic terms.

We were riding high through the GFC and we had a brilliant public health system which was also the envy of other countries.

But the Murdoch media empire supported the Coalition and the Coalition was more interested in tearing down than in building up, and privatisation was the name of the game. And look where that got us!

We are now invested in a world, ruled effectively by global corporations, which are generating multi-billionaires, mainly in the USA, but a growing number here, too.

Sneering conservatives refer to anyone who tries to help the needy, as a bloody leftie or – if the issue involves environmental issues – as a bloody greenie!

The fact that the health of mankind depends on a healthy environment, biodiversity supporting a complex food chain, clean air and water, proper sanitation, adequate resources to provide universal education and proper accommodation – all this is brushed aside by those whose wealth relieves them from the stresses of day to day living while they watch their millions grow!

And – NO!!!

I am not envious!

Growing up in the UK under wartime restrictions, going without luxuries – and many necessities – was normal. We had virtually no parties and limited entertainment, outside that which we created for ourselves, so that we appreciated those rare occasions when we could enjoy them.

I have had a very fortunate life in many regards for which I am most grateful, and, while now I am not even close to being ‘wealthy’, I want for nothing and can afford to support not for profit organisations, which are dependent on public support, because governments under the Coalition have withdrawn previously promised support!

I have nothing but scorn for a man like Scott Morrison whose words and actions are so incompatible.

How can you call yourself a Christian when your every action is in conflict with the recorded teachings of Jesus Christ?

That clearly makes you, by definition, a hypocrite, and not deserving to be addressed as Honourable.

I hope, Prime Minister, that it is a long time before you enjoy another holiday.

People are dying while you still ‘believe’ that we need to do nothing about the climate emergency.

Of course, we are a small cog in a very big and complex system. But – guess what? A whole machine can be destroyed because one small component fails!

We are one of many countries which have relatively low emissions in the big picture (although our per capita emissions are appallingly high) but that does not mean our efforts are not required. The more people on the rope in a tug-o’-war, the greater the chance of beating opposing forces!

In fact, we need to make a greater effort, partly to make up for those not so able to reduce emissions themselves, and partly to shame into action those others not yet doing enough.

THAT is what morality is about.

Doing something because it is the right thing to do, whatever the cost!

If I am repeating ideas about which I have written before, I make no apology.

I am watching pictures of people’s lives being destroyed, literally and metaphorically – shades of WWII – but this time we have the knowledge why, we have known for several decades, we have people claiming to be leaders who do not have the understanding to make appropriate decisions and I feel as though my pressure valve  must be released!

We ALL have a duty to put pressure on the current (hopefully for not much longer) government to form a National government, non-partisan and including appropriate experts, to prioritise an agenda for doing our share and more on reducing emissions, replacing fossil fuels, re-training fossil fuel workers for employment in industries which, using renewable energy, can manufacture the resources required, deal effectively with recycling and generally lead us away from a destination which will deny our grandchildren a future life!

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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El Paso – the United States’ descent into xenophobic barbarism (part 22)

By Europaeus *

Continued from Part 21

Might is Right! Sieg Heil!

“Trump is not an anomaly of a morally bankrupt nation, but rather an emblem,” and “The U.S. is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode,” So wrote Phil Rockstroh, a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard.

“Within day-to-day life in [America], a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons.

Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less.”

More to the point, the poet asked:

“Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things? A firearm’s heft, for one.”

And he explained: “The weapon’s substantial feel, when held and hoisted, serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation. Gun reality offsets the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aims the weapon on a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast.

The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. The late British author Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in her book, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:” (The book, subtitled A Journey through Yugoslavia is a travel book, written by Dame Rebecca West, published in 1941 in two volumes by Macmillan in the United Kingdom and by The Viking Press in the United States. It probes the troubled history of the Balkans, and the uneasy relationships amongst its ethnic groups. The landscape and the people of then Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as West untangles the tensions which rule the country’s history as well as its daily life. It is a Penguin Classic, reprinted in 2007).

West wrote: “Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.”

The existentialist philosopher continued: “Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at President Donald Trump’s rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works on behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage. [Emphasis added]

In our era, in which, the U.S. empire is in decline and the white supremacist order is giving way, Trump’s frightened legions feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) – a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the U.S. socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment. It’s the stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown. [Emphasis added]

To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. They should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane. [Emphasis added]

Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The U.S. was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class’ are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations. [Emphasis added]

It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummeling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

Epidemic levels of middle-aged U.S. citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalized white supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner in which despair can be mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage. [Emphasis added]

Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lie shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.”

Rockstroh moved on to consider “Fascism as [a] Psychoactive Drug.”

“Fascism – he said – acts as an anesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism. It is also a psychoactive drug; its incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material provides an intoxicating, crude allure. [Emphasis added]

Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high-rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high-rise rooftops. Touching the Earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground-level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play. Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. U.S. mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by white men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan. [Emphasis added]

The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset.

The U.S. citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” The origins of perpetual shooting sprees can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant white supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch. [Emphasis added]

Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late U.S. imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the U.S. (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the U.S. is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained U.S. empire.” [Emphasis added] (P. Rochstroh, ‘Bodies on the ground and the rise and rise of the economic elite’, Information Clearing House, 15 August 2019).

But there is another problem, as John W. Whitehead noted: “It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.” In the words of Celisa Calacal, a Filipina freelance journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Mass shootings are a problem in America and, although they are getting deadlier, they seem not getting more frequent. And yet, while mentally ill individuals embarking on mass shooting sprees are a problem in America, tighter gun control laws and so-called ‘intelligent’ background checks fail to protect the public from the most certain perpetrator of gun violence in America: the United States government.

Consider this: five years after police shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old man in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been no relief from the government’s gun violence. This is what one has learned about the government’s gun violence since Ferguson, according to The Washington Post: “If you are a black American, you have got a greater chance of being shot by police. An unarmed black man is four times more likely to be killed by police than an unarmed white man. Most people killed by police are young men. Since 2015 police have shot and killed an average of 3 people per day.” (J. Fox, J. Jenkins, J. Tate and W. Lowery, ‘What we’ve learned about police shootings 5 years after Ferguson,’ The Washington Post, 9 August 2019).

More than 2,500 police departments have shot and killed at least one person since 2015. And while the vast majority of people shot and killed by police are armed, their weapons ranged from guns to knives – even to toy guns.

Clearly, the American government is not making Americans any safer. Indeed, the government’s gun violence – inflicted on unarmed individuals by battlefield-trained Special Weapons And Tactics teams, militarised police, and bureaucratic government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later – poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter.

There is more: “mass shootings … have claimed the lives of 339 people since 2015… [D]uring this same time frame, police in America have claimed the lives of 4,355 citizens.” (M. Agorist, ‘US police have killed over 1,200% more citizens than mass shooters since 2015’, The Free Thought Project, 15 July 2019).

Curiously enough, in the midst of the finger-pointing over the latest round of mass shootings, Americans have been so focused on debating who or what is responsible for gun violence – the guns, the gun owners, the ‘domestic terorists’, the Second Amendment, the politicians, or America’s violent ‘culture’ – that they have overlooked the fact that the systemic violence being perpetrated by agents of the government has done more collective harm to the American people and their liberties than any single act of terror or mass shooting.

Violence has become the American government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down. The government even exports violence worldwide, one of the United States most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world for too long now. (B. E. Sawe, ‘World’s largest exporters of arms,’ World Atlas, 6 June 2019). Controlling more than 50 per cent of the global weaponry market, the United States has sold or donated weapons to at least 96 countries in the past five years, including the Middle East. (T. C. Frohlich, ‘Countries Buying the Most Weapons From the US Government’, 247wallst.com, 15 March 2019). Saudi Arabia was the top customer of the American arsenals followed by Australia. The United States also provides countries such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Iraq with grants and loans through the Foreign Military Financing programme to purchase military weapons.

At the same time that the United States is supplying nearly half the world with deadly weapons, profiting to the tune of $36.2 billion, its leaders – President Trump at the front – have also been lecturing American citizens on the dangers of gun violence and ‘appeared to be’ working to enact measures which would make it more difficult for Americans to acquire certain weapons.

Talk about an absurd double standard! On one hand there is plentiful talk about getting serious about gun violence while on the other the government makes not a step to scaling back on its weapons. While gun critics continue to clamour for bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armour-piercing bullets, the United Sates military is providing them to domestic police forces.

Under the claim to a military ‘recycling’ programme, which allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990. (M. Shank and E, Beavers, ‘America’s police are looking more and more like the military’, The Guardian, 7 October 2013). Included among these ‘gifts’ are tank-like, 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, M.R.A.P. vehicles, tactical gear, and assault rifles.

Continued and concluding tomorrow … (Part 23)

 

* Europaeus landed in Australia over fifty years ago. Except for the blue skies and starry nights between 02.12.1972 and 10.11.1975 the place has been constantly overwhelmed by what Hannah Arendt called the ‘sand storm’ – a metaphor for totalitarianism.

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Race to the Bottom in the Retail and Service Sectors?

By Denis Bright  

As 2020 gets underway, it must not be assumed that populist conservative corporate values have smothered generations of commitment to fair wages and working conditions in Australian workplaces. Where shortcomings exist, unionised workers themselves with support from favourable media coverage should be able to note the good, bad and the ugly in Australian corporate life.

On New Year’s Day 2020 special arrangements were made to compensate wage and salary earners at three key venues that I visited in Brisbane.

Office Works and Woolworths offered a day’s extra leave to compensate workers for their public holiday commitments. Aldi offered penalty rates and at UQ Sport, gym and pool attendants were paid penalty rates of 250 per cent.

Developments in anti-discrimination law offer fringe benefits for the advancement of social justice in the workplace. At a time when most employers still have a preference for non-union labour, trade unions can and should strive to regain majority support as in the teaching, health and transport sectors.

The Harvester Judgement from the High Court in 1907 made Australia a pacesetter in the development of fair wage employment (Waltzing Matilda and the Sunshine Harvester Factory):

In the Harvester Decision, Justice Higgins of the Arbitration Court decided that 7 shillings a day, or 42 shillings a week, was fair and reasonable wages for an unskilled labourer. This became the basis of the national minimum wage system in Australia. It was a ‘living’ or ‘family’ wage, set at a level which would supposedly allow an unskilled labourer to support a wife and three children, to feed, house, and clothe them. By the 1920s it applied to over half of the Australian workforce. It became known as the ‘basic wage’. Additional amounts were paid to more skilled workers, for example an additional 3 shillings to a fitter or other tradesperson. These additional amounts were known as ‘margins’. In the Harvester Decision, a fair and reasonable wage for more skilled employees was for example 10 shillings a day for ‘journeymen’, or tradesmen.

In Ex parte H.V. McKay (the Harvester Decision), Justice Higgins of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court decided to determine what ‘fair and reasonable’ wages were using the following test:

I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilised community. [p.3]

Decades later at the Transfield Factory in Sydney on a visit to Australia in 1986, a youthful-looking Pope John Paul II called for a renewal and a revitalisation of the Harvester Traditions.

Image from transfield.com

Fortunately for Australia, your most cherished traditions place great value on equality and mutual support, especially in difficult times. The word “mate” has rich and positive connotations in your language. I pray that this tradition of solidarity will always flourish among you and will never be looked upon as old-fashioned.

In juxtaposition, some irresponsible corporate managers are hell-bent on fostering the erosion of fair and cherished Australian values in the retail and distribution sectors.

The practice of working for under-award cash wages continues in some small venues where wage theft is regarded as responsible business management to avoid taxation responsibilities, insurance payments to work cover and state payroll taxes.

As a trade-off, irresponsible employers offer some token perks to casual employees. These might include rough accommodation on farms or perhaps part-payment in food which was not used that evening in the restaurant. The selling line for this corruption was the incorporation of family values as a substitute for workplace laws or even a misapplication of the parable about workers in the biblical vineyard which had nothing to do with pragmatic industrial relations in the modern sense.

Customers have the right to quiz employers if they suspect that sloppy and even corrupt practices are occurring at their favourite retail or service outlets.

A century back  Sigmund Freud noted that people under siege would often project their insecurities on vulnerable people in their midst.

In today’s new corporate era small business entrepreneurs in corporate malls might ignore macro-problems like exorbitant rent levels imposed by shopping centre managers or national leaders hell-bent on stripping Australians of their commitment to fair wages and working conditions to focus on the challenges posed by customers from less advantaged suburbs.

Guest workers in Australia could easily assume that such corporate values are the vulgar manners of the mainstream society.

Here Felipe from Sao Paolo in Brazil waits in the shade at Petrie Terrace in Brisbane for his next pizza delivery.

It is disappointing to see new arrivals in Australia working as contractors for multinational food distribution networks for piecework payments which should have been extinguished with the demise of those satanic coal mines and mills in Britain’s first industrial revolution.

The inappropriateness of petit corporate values does not take a break for the holiday season. Everyone can communicate about our daily Australian adventures

I enjoy visiting the Southpoint Shopping Complex in Grey Street, South Brisbane which is one of Brisbane’s new Transport Oriented Developments (TODs) It is adjacent to the platform at Southbank Station. This is a half-billion-dollar property investment with retail outlets, food venues, bars and hotel facilities. It also incorporates some heritage buildings which have a new lease of life for this digital age.

Image: Real Commercial

Because South Point is near transport hubs for buses, trains, the adjacent TAFE College and local private and public state high schools, the centre attracts customers from a wide southside catchment.

Woolworths is clearly the anchor point of the retail outlet. Here casual and permanent employees work in a convivial atmosphere. Their welfare and industrial awards are protected by a high level of union membership with the Shop and Distributive Union (SDA).

One of the more persistent questions to the security guards at Woolworths is about access to the toilet facilities in the adjacent food court.

Contrary to international hygiene practices, the toilet facilities were initially kept closed at weekends. Now, these facilities have been closed for weeks with the lame excuse that maintenance of facilities is still in progress to justify an abandonment of conventional hand-washing practices.

As site managers, at South Point, the multinational conglomerate Knight Frank Australia Holdings Pty Ltd claims a right to open their public toilets only at their discretion as it is a privately owned facility which can over-ride conventional health standards for the consumption of food from takeaway outlets who pay their fair share of rent to the management centre.

Customers are directed by security guards to use the toilets on Platform One at Southbank Station which is less than readily accessible when escalators are out of order and there is no signage to a lift to the station level.

All this seems rather trivial for a major multinational rental agency with vast global resources with an annual turnover that exceeds one trillion Australian dollars from Knight Franks vast commercial, agriculture, real estate and philanthropic sectors.

This philanthropy apparently does not extend to the maintenance of hygienic hand washing in the food court at South Point. Corporate giants at other inner-city venues across Brisbane seem to survive financially while still maintaining clean and adequate toilet facilities.

Corporate advertising from Knight Frank conceals a mean streak in corporate character which surveillance cameras, security guards and regular police visits should be able to handle.

Times are tough for some sections of corporate Australia. Knight Frank Australia Holdings Pty Ltd suffers from falling real wages. The company’s revenue growth and commercial returns have tapered recently. A fee must be paid to gain access to greater details with strategic block-outs on the corporate profiles available to the general public:

The state government comes in for unfair criticism for apologists for the toilet closures throughout December 2019 at Southbank.

Corporate pressure is being placed on the Palasczszuk Government to install electronic gates at Southbank Station. This would involve an outlay of several million dollars to control the arrival of Train People from less affluent Southside suburbs. The rhetoric is similar to Peter Dutton’s concerns about Boat People to swamp the good fortunes of an affluent nation. It is a short step from abandoning our refugee responsibilities to applying this rhetoric against Trainloads of Bogans from Logan, a local authority to the south of Brisbane.

The financial resources of the Palasczszuk Government are being stretched to the limit to complete the cross-river rail project without any subsidies from the federal LNP for a six billion dollar construction project at a time when GST sharing with the state and territories are likely to be moderated in a slowing economy. There is no holding back on federal subsidies for the complementary Brisbane Light Rail Project being developed by the LNP controlled Brisbane City Council.

Perhaps this exercise in citizens’ journalism will encourage everyone to observe and participate to take control of the remnants of social justice from our corporate elites who are becoming more outrageous with every new year of LNP control in Canberra.

Citizens’ journalist Denis Bright checking out the good, the bad and the ugly in corporate society and back-pedalling against unfair wages and working conditions under the false flags of free enterprise and trickle-down wealth agendas. 

 

 

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Australian Labor, the CFMEU and its secret money

By Hungry Charley  

As Australia burns, corporate-sponsored climate denialism it seems, has been working overtime. It is also becoming more and more obvious that the current government is taking its public cues on this topic from the likes of the IPA and the Murdoch Press.

But what about party donations? People are increasingly unwilling to accept that all political donations are benign and do not generate favours as the political parties would have us believe. In fact, the need for greater political transparency has never seemed more urgent. Attention has rightly been on the influence that the fossil fuel sector has over the Liberal and National Parties (LNP) – and it is considerable. So, I think it’s now time to look at Labor and who is donating to their war-chest.

Why? Simple. Climate change is the most pressing issue we and future generations will face. Labor is the alternative government, they should be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the LNP. As public trust in democracy crumbles, we need to ask, are Labor offering a real alternative or will a future Labor government just be more of the same? These are real questions that deserve analysis. Labor have a couple of years to make some adjustments, so let’s compare the major parties and see how their donor mates stack up.

Firstly, the LNP get slightly more money via large donations, by large I mean over $13,500, because that is the minimum parties are required to disclose to the AEC. By the way, even though the last financial year ended on the 30th of June last year, disclosures for that period have not yet been released by the AEC – so we’ll have to be content with the previous financial year records (2017-2018).

Over the last 30 years since records have been kept, the LNP has received $ 542,303,641, while Labor has received $518,174,402 in donations and ‘other receipts’. Ok so similar amounts over 30 years but, what sectors dominate for each party?

For the LNP, the sectors of decreasing importance are: associated entities, $121,741,277; intra-political party donations, $89,297,765; finance/insurance, $69,620,607; resource and energy $23,055,402; pharmaceuticals $11,308,890; media companies, $6,752,947; and tobacco, $3,454,294. The LNP has received only $199,117 from unions over the 30 years.

For the Labor Party, the largest donations and receipts are from: unions, $125,998,804; associated entities, $118,809,074; finance and insurance sector, $67,690,231 (mostly as ‘other receipts’); media companies, $18,457,276; resource and energy companies, $9,277,312; pharmaceuticals, $5,615,431; and tobacco, $697,805.

So for the finance (mostly banks) and insurance sector, it seems they are having a bet each way as far as donations to the major parties are concerned. And it seems to have paid off. Up until the banking royal commission and other subsequent scandals last year, banks have been well looked after by both camps. Both majors also received similar amounts from ‘associated entities’, which I will discuss a little further on.

But as the Guardian’s Transparency Project indicates, the vast majority of money received by both the Labor and Liberal Parties are “undisclosed donations” – money from sources which parties are able to avoid reporting on using disclosure loopholes, such as use of ‘other receipts’, split donations and party front groups registered as ‘associated entities’.

But there the similarities cease. Resource and energy companies, pharmaceuticals and tobacco clearly favour the LNP. The LNP also relies significantly on ‘intra-political party’ donations for its revenue, that is donations mainly from state branches to the federal party. Unions clearly favour Labor, as would be expected.

If we look at the resources and energy sector, while the LNP receive donations from a wide range of coal, gas and iron ore companies, Labor, on the other hand, receives the bulk of donations from the gas sector, principally players such as Woodside, Santos, Origin and Chevron.

How has this investment paid off for the gas sector? As Simone Marsh explains, very nicely indeed, with Queensland gas reserves signed off to China, prior to any assessment or transparent process, and key Labor figures, Martin Ferguson and Craig Emerson now making pretty good money from the gas sector. Now Labor supports the opening of the Beetaloo Basin in the NT to fracking and will not oppose the expansion of the sector in the Bowen Basin in Queensland. Development of gas fields in Qld has not stopped since the initial approvals 15 years ago. Anyone who still contends that lobbying and donations do not bear favours is talking to blue fairies in the garden.

So, what about the union donations to Labor, such a significant amount of money must be burning holes in members pockets? Well, not really, most of this money actually comes from corporations.

In the first place, while union donations are significant, the majority comes from a small number of large unions, primarily the CFMEU, Mining and Energy and the CFMEU Construction and General Divisions. The CFMEU mining branches contributed $4,640,103 to the Labor Party over the last 30 years according to AEC disclosures. But Labor may have received much more from the CFMEU through the unions’ registered ‘associated entities’ than is publicly acknowledged. The Queensland District associated entity have receipts for more than $23,000,000 and NSW the Northern District entity of this union has received more than $34,000,000 in 2017/18 alone.

Where did this money come from? AEC listed Associated Entities are required to detail receipts, donations and debts on annual returns, but disclosure is not always transparent. For the Qld District in 2017/18, while they state that income exceeds $23 m, receipts are provided for only $945,000 of this amount. Disclosed providers include miners Anglo American, Austrack and the Gladstone Port Authority. What of the rest? The answer is unclear and where this money went is also not clear, as while the annual return states that the district paid over $24m in ‘payments’ details are not provided. Total debts for the year are said to be over $3.6m, while details are provided for only $1.3m. It is interesting to note that while these organisations are registered Labor Party associated entities, the AEC register records that the Labor Party did not receive any funds from these entities in 2017/18.

For the NSW District, of the $34 m received in 2017/18, $28 m is accounted for in receipts and the primary ‘donors’ are AGL (both as Macquarie and Bayswater Power Station which AGL acquired in 2014), and various Hunter Valley mining operations including parent companies Rio Tinto, Yancoal and Glencore. Again, while payments amount to some $33.5m, details of payments are not disclosed to the AEC.

A cursory glance at other year’s statements show that of all organisations in Australia, including the LNP, it is these unions, registered as ‘associated entities’ which receive the largest amounts of money from the fossil fuel resources and energy sector.

‘Associated Entities’ are now the primary way in which lobby money is provided to the major parties in Australia. While the LNP has entities such as the Cormack Foundation, the amount of fossil fuel money flowing into union registered associated entities puts this to shame.

Besides Unions, Labor also has a number of other entities which provide funds, particularly the John Curtin House Ltd, which has provided $32,279,330 over the last 30 years and Labor Holdings Pty Ltd which has provided over $55,703,665 to various branches of the Labor Party in the same period.

In the 2017/18 financial year, John Curtin House Ltd received $639,859 in receipts, though provides details for only $408,102. Payments are given at $1,487,017, though no details are provided. According to AEC, nearly all the money received by this associated entity was from the National Labor Party head office.

A similar pattern can be found with the largest associated entity contributor to the Labor Party, Labor Holdings Pty Ltd. While receipts are provided for nearly the whole amount in 2017/18 (amounting to some $4,508,278), no details for the $6m in payments are provided on the AEC entity register. Receipts show that the primary sources of money received are National Labor Party Secretariat and Morgans Financial Limited, a private equity and financial management firm.

Not to be confused with Morgan Stanley, whose Australian subsidiary has provided substantial funds (~ $5m in the last four years) to the CFMEU NSW Mining and Energy associated entity.

Given the extent of money flowing into Labor’s associated entities, questions remain to be answered by the AEC as to the destination of the payments made by these entities.

What is also clear is that the money flows in a circular fashion between the various Labor branches and associated entities. One can’t help drawing a comparison with the way laundered and dirty money is put through a casino ‘washing machine’ to be legitimised. One thing is clear, the lack of transparency in our political donations system is disturbing. One can only imagine what the most recent AEC disclosures prior to the last election will reveal, or not reveal.

But what has all this union money achieved? One only has to look at Labor’s support for the gas sector and mining in Qld and NSW (come on down Joel FitzGibbon) and draw your own conclusions.

Until the political donations process in this country, particularly through ‘associated entities’ is made publicly accountable, we can only guess as to the extent our politics is being influenced by vested interests.

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El Paso – the United States’ descent into xenophobic barbarism (part 21)

By Europaeus *

Continued from Part 20

Between the two editions of The dangerous case of Donald Trump, books on Trump have been published by the shelf-load.

One of them, particularly interesting carries the title of Fantasyland, and it explains: How America went haywire: A 500-year history, Random House, New York, N.Y. 2017).

Published on 5 September 2017, it is by Kurt Andersen, a journalist and satirist, well-known for having coined the notable insult “short-fingered vulgarian” for Donald Trump. (J. Kelly, ‘How Donald Trump Became the Short-Fingered Vulgarian’, Vanity Fair, 7 March 2016).

If, in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus claims that history is a nightmare from which he is trying to awake, the premise of Andersen’s ravenously exhaustive book is that United States history is a nightmare from which its citizens, at least those privileged to be smart and rational, have never been able to awake.

Over the course of five centuries, from the Pilgrims at Salem to Phineas Taylor Barnum, an American showman, businessman and politician, who is remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and more recently to Scientology and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, the reader is presented with a ‘new history’ of what was and is happening to the United States, up to and including President Donald J. Trump at Washington.

With good reason, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

The question for anyone who still cared remains: “Is Trump mentally ill? Or is America?

Another psychiatrist weighed in. Also published on 5 September 2017, Twilight of American sanity: A psychiatrist analyzes the age of Trump, Morrow/HarperCollins, New York, N.Y. is by Allen J. Frances, formerly a professor at Cornell University Medical College and since chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine. A past leader of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM – ‘the bible of psychology’ – Dr. Frances is regarded as the world’s leading expert on psychiatric diagnosis, and “one of the world’s most prominent psychiatrists” (The Atlantic, June 2017) for his ability to analyse the American national psyche, viewing the rise of Donald J. Trump as darkly symptomatic of a deeper societal distress, and finally to make sense of present day America and charting the way forward.

“It is comforting to see President Donald Trump as a crazy man, a one-off, an exception – not a reflection on us or our democracy,’ writes Frances. “But in ways I never anticipated, his rise was absolutely predictable and a mirror on our soul. … What does it say about us, that we elected someone so manifestly unfit and unprepared to determine mankind’s future? Trump is a symptom of a world in distress, not its sole cause. Blaming him for all our troubles misses the deeper, underlying societal sickness that made possible his unlikely ascent. Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society – if we want to get sane, we must first gain insight about ourselves. Simply put: Trump isn’t crazy, but our society is.” This is Frances’ main thesis.

Dr. Frances explores at length the many societal delusions which have given rise to Trump. The delusions include a false belief in fast, easy solutions to complex problems, such as global warming: “God will fix it”, guns: “They do not kill people – people do”, dwindling resources: “There will be a high-tech fix”, and so on. Exploiting this societal sickness, Trump, a “skilled snake-oil salesman selling quack medicine…won power because he promised quick, phony cures for the… real problems burdening the significant segment of our population left out of the American dream.” As far as unyielding unemployment – in the so-called ‘rust belt of America’, for instance –   Frances writes that “most of the jobs were lost to automation, not globalization, and sadly they will never return.” In the election campaign, Trump, a lifelong con man, displayed the common touch, while Hillary Clinton proved “remote and inaccessible, assuming she could rest comfortably on her long lead and past laurels.” Frances makes no secret of his deep abhorrence of Trump: “we have placed the future of humanity in the hands of someone indifferent to facts, proud of scientific ignorance, and ready to act deceitfully on whim and spite.” Still, while Trump “doesn’t qualify for a mental disorder…he does present with one of the world’s best documented cases of lifelong failure to mature.” He is “a distillation, mouthpiece, and terrifying living embodiment of all the worst in human nature and societal delusion.” In a final ray of hope, Frances envisions the possibility of a rational post-Trump world informed by progressive populism. For the time being, Frances worries that Trump has “a particular gift for bringing out all the worst irrational thinking and impulsive actions in his followers.”

While this essay was being revised once more, three events occurred, by sheer and yet significant coincidence  on the same day: 14 November 2019.

The first was the news that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch had reported – on the basis of over 900 emails between the editors of the right-wing news organisation, Breitbart and President Trump’s senior advisor for policy Stephen Miller – on the deep connections Miller has to racist ‘white nationalists’, and on how Miller has promoted ‘white nationalist’ publications and conspiracy theories of right-wing, fascistic tendency.

Miller, born in a Jewish family, happens to be connected with anti-Semitic groups. As a speechwriter for newly elected Donald Trump, Miller helped write Trump’s inaugural address. He has been a key advisor since the early days of the Trump’s presidency. An immigration hardliner, Miller was a chief organiser of President Trump’s travel bans, of the Administration’s reduction of refugees accepted to the United States, and of President Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents. Miller has prevented the publication of internal administration studies which showed that refugees had a net positive effect on government revenues. Miller reportedly played a central role in the resignation in April 2019 of Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, whom he believed was insufficiently hawkish on immigration. (White Nationalists are running the White House, therealnews.com, 14 November 2019).

Next came the news that a 16-year-young person, later identified as Nathaniel Berhow, had stormed into Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, just before classes began, killed two students and injured at least three others with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol before turning the gun on himself. He did all that on his birthday. It seems that he survived and was taken to a hospital where he was in ‘grave condition’. A classmate described Berhow as a ‘quiet kid’. “You wouldn’t expect anything like that from him,” he added. (J. Cowan, N. Borel-Burroughs and J. Fortin, ‘Student kills 2 at California High School,’ The New York Times, 14 November 2019); (G. Fonrouge and K. Garger, ‘Santa Clarita high school shooter identified as Nathaniel Berhow,’ nypost.com, 14 November 2019).

On 14 November 2019 the much expected work by Jeff Sparrow: Fascists among us: online hate and the Christchurch massacre, Scribe Publications, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia was released.

Continued tomorrow … (Part 22)

 

* Europaeus landed in Australia over fifty years ago. Except for the blue skies and starry nights between 02.12.1972 and 10.11.1975 the place has been constantly overwhelmed by what Hannah Arendt called the ‘sand storm’ – a metaphor for totalitarianism.

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Tropical winners

By RosemaryJ36  

On 1 January 2021, I shall celebrate having lived for 50 years in Darwin, the Top End capital of the Northern Territory. Just a year to go!

I left snow on the ground at London Airport on 29 December, 1970 (it was a 24+ hour journey in those days!) when our 3 children and I flew to our new home in Darwin to join their father, who had taken up a position there a few months earlier.

Clearly the children are now in their mid-life, their father moved on to a new relationship a few decades ago and I now enjoy living on my own, in independent living, in a delightful retirement resort, within walking distance of the beach!

As a child, once WWII, with all the rationing and shortages, air raids and broken nights, was over, we were able to buy petrol again, put the car back on the road (you would not believe how many punctures we had to mend on our first long drive in 1947, after the car had been laid up for 8 years!) and head off – that moment when we crested a rise and saw the sea for the first time – that was the real beginning of our first real holiday since 1939!

Every day, here in Darwin, when I have occasion to leave home, I repeat that experience of glimpsing the sea, several times a day! Magic!

I arrived in the middle of the Wet, and yes – it was warm – but by the middle of my first Dry season, I was complaining of the cold when the temperature dropped below 20 deg C! While I do not enjoy continuously sweating, I really would much rather be too warm than too cold, and, now that I have installed rooftop solar (it is pretty standard here to have rooftop solar hot water systems anyway), I have cheap air conditioning available when I need it.

If you do not really enjoy cold weather and you have never been to the Top End, you are missing out on a gem!

We have probably the most non-racist, cosmopolitan population anywhere in Australia. There are frictions from time to time – nowhere on earth is Paradise! – but in general you will meet people in a social setting from an amazing range of nationality backgrounds.

About 30% of our population is composed of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders people and a high proportion of them live in remote communities. Because that provides us with a large number of Aboriginal rangers, with Indigenous knowledge of land management, added to the nature of the flora in the Top End, we suffer few, serious bush fires. People living on rural blocks are usually dependent on bore water, need to maintain fire-breaks and do experience an occasional bush fire situation.

Like the rest of Australia, our rainfall levels, together with our water table, are below average – which is a concern.

The fact that our government has just opened the door to fracking in the Beetaloo Basin is further cause for concern.

To look at a locality, and changes in its climate conditions over time, is not a scientific way of establishing the existence (or not) of climate change. Nevertheless, recent trends do arouse suspicions that our average temperatures are increasing and our wet season rainfall is also increasingly more variable.

We have recently experienced a significant fall in population numbers. For a great many reasons, our population and workforce are both decreasing and we need to regenerate.

Self-government has, IMHO, been a mixed blessing – apart from anything else, we have a small population from which to choose our representatives and, like everywhere – since politicians are not highly regarded – the most suitable potential candidates do not necessarily step up to offer themselves as candidates.

Reading of the horrendous bush fires, in virtually every State, with lives and property – and livelihoods – destroyed, I wonder whether the NT government should not be discussing, with other governments, ways in which industries involved in renewable energy and waste disposal could be established in the NT – we have superabundant quantities of solar energy available to supply power to manufacturing facilities – and those displaced and not wanting to re-establish in their original locations would be welcomed with open arms!

If we had a half-way competent Federal government, its leader would by now have established an oversight body to plan for recovery and for avoidance of repeat disastrous situations.

Given that the Commonwealth government seems to be fixated on religious issues and blind to urgently needed policy development, we have to put on our thinking caps to bridge the void!

My deep sympathy goes out to all those who have lost family members, their means of supporting themselves and their hopes and plans for the future.

We all need to help – we are, after all, a nation which once prided itself on its mateship.

We must now all pool resources and ideas and try to bring something good out of cataclysmic disaster.

Here’s wishing that the New Year brings healing and hope fulfilled.

My New Year’s Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 7)

By Dr George Venturini  

In 2005 the Cole Inquiry heard that between 1999 and 2004 the A.W.B. had systematically paid almost AU$300 million in illicit fees and ultimate ‘kickbacks’ to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

A.S.I.C. had placed the civil cases, which had been initiated in late 2007, against Mr. Flugge and five other former A.W.B. executives on hold in November 2008 to await for possible criminal charges but in a shock decision in mid-2010, it was revealed that the criminal aspects of the long-running A.W.B. investigation had been abandoned.

A.S.I.C. re-ignited the civil penalty cases against the six men over the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in “transport”, “discharge” and “sales service fees” to Jordanian-based trucking company Alia, which payments turned out to be ‘kickbacks’ to Saddam Hussein’s régime.

In 2013 A.S.I.C. had won two rather unimportant civil cases against former managing director Andrew Lindberg – who was sentenced to pay a penalty of $100,000, and against former chief financial officer Paul Ingleby – who was sentenced to pay a penalty of $40,000.

Cases against former directors Michael Long and Charles Stott had been dismissed. A search of the public records revealed the ‘corporate regulator’ had spent an estimated $15 million on the A.W.B. prosecutions at that time.

A.S.I.C. had not gained the best result with Justice Robson over the A.W.B. cases, after he dismissed one of the ‘corporate regulator’ two cases against Mr. Lindberg, while ruling that the agreed $40,000 fine against Mr. Ingleby was too tough – a decision which was over-ruled on appeal.

A.S.I.C. was bound to prove that Mr. Flugge, an experienced director, knew or ought to have known that A.W.B. was breaching the United Nations Security Council Resolutions – and it failed. (P. Durkin, ‘Former AWB chairman Trevor Flugge finally faces court’, The Australian Financial Review, 11 October 2015).

The Iraqi wheat-‘kickbacks’ scandal was set to reignite headlines again in 2016.

The mid-2000s scandal involving Prime Minister Howard, Foreign Minister Downer, and Trade Minister Vaile did not seem ‘to go away’.

It was thought at mid-2009 that the reason why Australia had slipped down the international anti-corruption rankings was because of the A.W.B. Oil-for-Food scandal.

Transparency International keeps on lamenting that many governments simply are not putting enough effort into curbing bribes. Some years ago the organisation evaluated the efforts member countries were making to uphold the O.E.C.D.’s Anti-Bribery Convention. Australia did come out in the bottom category, criticised for carrying out little or no practical enforcement against bribery offenses by national businesses operating overseas. That was a category shared by 21 O.E.C.D. countries, as diverse as Brazil, Canada and Turkey. Only four countries were in the top tier, cited for active enforcement, with eleven in the middle with moderate enforcement. In such a climate there was a risk that, unless enforcement both improved and became more uniform across countries, the Anti-Bribery Convention could become irrelevant. A Convention like this cannot afford to fail, otherwise it becomes one of those international conventions which are more valuable on paper than in practice. That would not have disturbed Australian governments after the Royal Ambush. Today, practically no significant international treaty or convention ratified by Australia is abided by.

Especially over the decades prior to the Convention, multinational corporations have helped bribery and corruption become a much worse problem especially in developing countries. As the multinational corporations, especially American and European, went abroad to countries which were vulnerable, the scale of the bribes increased – greedy officials would demand more from foreign investors.

This was particularly a problem in the resources sector, and distorted several national economies.

The Transparency International reports look at how many foreign investment corruption cases have gone to court, year by year – and how many have resulted in convictions. While not specifically including bribes, Australia’s biggest overseas corruption case around 2009-2010 was the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal and the Australian Wheat Board. Six cases were at the time in the civil courts, but none had yet resulted in convictions – and even the moderate recommendations from the Cole Inquiry into the affair had not been followed up. The lack of results had placed Australia in the bottom group. Countries like the United States and Germany, which have both prosecuted several cases, served as a clear contrast in the top category.

Clearly the A.W.B. scandal would not go away, no matter what the Howard Government would do. It was the prevailing opinion that, apart from that scandal, the government itself was incompetent, dishonest and corrupt. It has been proven so in relation to its accountability and other processes following the discovery of restricted  and secret intelligence reports and communications between various Australian embassies, trade officials, the United Nations, Australian public servants and the Australian Prime Minister, the then Minister for Trade, who was also Deputy Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister and their Departments in relation to the A.W.B. scandal.

New evidence and supporting material had come to light during an independent investigation into claims that Members of Parliament were holding ‘dirt files’. The ‘dirt files’ claims had been proven in the process of the investigation, and a substantial amount of material related to the A.W.B. scandal as well as documents related to other issues had been discovered. Much of the A.W.B. material was held by various Australian agencies and had not been brought to the attention of the Cole Inquiry into the bribes ultimately flowing to the Saddam Hussein’s régime.

The available material showed that, in fact, senior Government ministers were told on a number of occasions that the A.W.B. was providing bribes to Saddam Hussein’s régime, contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Oil-for-Food programme. Copies of confidential and secret diplomatic cables, memoranda, e-mails and other material were found showing that both the then Minister for Trade as well as the Foreign Minister, had received numerous detailed intelligence and other briefings very early on into the scandal. They did nothing. The Foreign Minister noted in one secret memorandum to the Australian Embassy in Jordan that: “No-one will ever find out anyway.”

Image from Independent Australia

The then Minister for Trade was also advised on a number of occasions as to what was going on. Prime Minister Howard was also briefed on the matter by the various agencies including the Office of National Assessment, as well as the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australia’s international spy agency.

The same Howard Government which had kept silent over what it knew of the Oil-for-Food scandal set out ‘to detect, investigate and prevent corrupt conduct’ through the newly formed Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, A.C.L.E.I., with an Office of the Integrity Commissioner.

The Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in 2006, and placed under the responsibility of the Home Affairs and Justice Minister. A.C.L.E.I.’s role is to detect, investigate and prevent corruption in the Australian Border Force, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Federal Police (including A.C.T. Policing), Australian Transaction Reporting and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), CrimTrac Agency, prescribed aspects of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and the former National Crime Authority. Other agencies with a law enforcement function may also be added by regulation. A.C.L.E.I’s primary role is to investigate law enforcement-related corruption issues, giving priority to serious and systemic corruption. The Integrity Commissioner must consider the nature and scope of corruption revealed by investigations, and report annually on any patterns and trends in corruption in Australian Government law enforcement and other Government agencies which have law enforcement functions. Accordingly, A.C.L.E.I. collects intelligence about corruption in support of the Integrity Commissioner’s functions. A.C.L.E.I. also aims to understand corruption and prevent it. When, as a consequence of performing her/his functions, the Integrity Commissioner identifies laws of the Commonwealth or administrative practices of government agencies which might contribute to corrupt practices or prevent their early detection, s/he may make recommendations for these laws or practices to be changed. Any person, including members of the public and law enforcement officers, can give information to the Integrity Commissioner. Information can be given in confidence or provided anonymously.

Well Juvenal could ask: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? – “Who will guard the guards themselves?”

After all, who would know about a little bit of corruption work, promoted by ‘benevolent’ organisations such as the one rendered public by the Victoria Ombudsman in March 2011. And the innocent name? – The Brotherhood. The ‘brothers’ meet for lunch, to hear a guest speaker and then to engage in a bit of ‘networking’.

What the Ombudsman discovered about The Brotherhood confirmed the widely held conviction that its activities undermine the community’s confidence in public institutions.

Invitees from a list of up to 350 influential people had been attending the lunches every six weeks since the first one was held in 2003. The guests are all men, and the Chatham House Rule applies, i.e. “What is said in the room stays in the room.”

The host has been from the beginning the founder, a former policeman between 1988 and 1999, who had come to the attention of the Police Internal Investigations Department for, among other transgressions, assaulting a member of the public, and fined $200. He came to head two private companies. The founder started the lunches with the statement: “We are all members of The Brotherhood and we must assist each other.”

A whistleblower told the Ombudsman that “[the founder’s] motivation for the formation and maintenance of this group is to, amongst other things, provide an environment to facilitate unlawful information trading including confidential police information and other confidential information from government departments. This is in addition to gaining commercial benefits and inside information regarding contracts for tender.”

On the invitation list were two ‘Liberal’ State M.P.s, many current and former police officers including one with alleged links to an organised crime figure. A former Australian Wheat Board executive involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal was on it, too. So was the manager of a licensed table- top-dancing venue frequented by Victoria Police officers.

Some of the public servants attending maintained databases of sensitive information. It seems that a regular attendee, a senior Victorian Police officer, disclosed the identity of a prosecution witness in a high-profile murder trial, contrary to a Supreme Court suppression order. One member used his position at the Traffic Camera Office to annul over $2,000 worth of speeding fines accumulated by the founder and persons of his companies. The ‘operator’ denied any wrongdoing, but the case was recommended to police for investigation.

The example of The Brotherhood is not unique. The Ombudsman’s report cited the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption’s investigations into the ‘Information Exchange Club’ in 1992. This could be added to the mountain of damning reports and inquiries including Royal Commissions into various state Police forces over the decades. Nothing ever seems to happen. ‘Revolving door’ appointments involving positions on boards for retiring, previously highly placed politicians have become routine.

Of course, the preceding are just some examples of unlawful behaviour. The most notorious scandals of the last decade include: Trio Capital; the Commonwealth Bank financial planning scandal; CommInsure; the ANZ insider trading scandal; the bank bill swap rates fixing scandal, which now involves three of the big four banks; Storm Financial; Opes Prime; the Financial planning scandals at Westpac, NAB and Macquarie Private Wealth; the LM Investments; Bribery allegations against ASX boss Elmer Kunke Kupper; the ‘managed investment schemes’ (MIS) fiasco (Timbercorp, Great Southern); the Insider trading between an ABS bureaucrat and a NAB banker; and the Reserve Bank Securency scandal.

Perceptions of corruption in the Australian Government and public sector increased in 2018 for the seventh year running, surging eight points since 2015, and remaining in 2018 the same as in 2017 – in an annual index by Transparency International.

Since its inception in 1995, the Corruption Perceptions Index – Transparency International’s flagship research product, has become the leading global indicator of public sector corruption. The index offers an annual snapshot of the relative degree of corruption by ranking countries and territories from all over the globe. In 2012 Transparency International revised the methodology used to construct the index to allow for comparison of scores from one year to the next. The 2018 C.P.I. draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

The result puts Australia in thirteenth place globally for perceived openness, the country’s equal lowest ranking in the 23-year history of the report.

Australia’s 2018 score was 77, down from 85 in 2012. Denmark came in first with 88, with New Zealand second (87), followed by Finland (85), even with Singapore (85), Sweden (85), and Switzerland (85), Norway (84), Netherlands (82), Canada (81),  even with Luxemburg (81), Germany (80), even with United Kingdom (80). Somalia is the last (10), preceded by South Sudan and Syria (13) and North Korea and Yemen (14).

The former chair of Transparency International Australia, Anthony Wheatley, Q.C., has had occasion to say that Australia’s score was “the result of inaction from successive governments who have failed to address weaknesses in Australia’s laws and legal processes.”

Foreign bribery scandals such as those involving the Australian Wheat Board and Securency had damaged Australia’s reputation and legislation introduced into parliament in December 2015 was “long overdue”, he said.

Transparency International has also been calling for a federal anti-corruption agency; a nationally consistent and tighter political donations disclosure regime; and safeguards against dirty money from overseas bleeding into the Australian finance or real estate industries.

Muscular anti-foreign bribery laws and political donations reform were required to help arrest the slide. Mr. Wheatley said that addressing weaknesses in government would also raise the bar for the private sector.

The links between public institutions and big business interests – both mainstream and underworld – are becoming well known to the public, but one would be an optimist for thinking that anger at the seemingly endless stream of scandals is growing. It is pressure from the community which leads to the inquiries. It is in response to this same outrage that instrumentalities like the state-based Independent Commissions Against Corruption were established.

The demand on big business to abide by their State ‘rule of law’ is certainly justified; and the fight to bring business ‘operators’ to heel must continue. But so long as governments rule on behalf of corporations and the real power in society belongs to an oligarchy the battle will never be successful.

On 15 December 2016 the ‘corporate regulator’ lost its long-running case against former A.W.B. chairman Trevor Flugge and former executive Peter Geary on all but one allegation, more than a decade after the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal.

On that day the Supreme Court of Victoria heard that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission had succeeded in proving just one breach by Mr. Flugge.

Mr. Flugge was facing four allegations of breaching his director’s duties, while Mr. Geary faced thirteen allegations of breaching his executive duties.

A.S.I.C had alleged the two former executives breached their duties as directors in overseeing that some AU$229 million would flow as ‘kickbacks’ to Saddam Hussein’s régime between 1999 and 2003 in order to secure lucrative Iraqi wheat contracts.

A.S.I.C. claimed that Mr. Flugge had breached his duty of care under section 180(1) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) by failing 1) to ensure A.W.B. did not breach U.N. sanctions; 2) to ascertain whether A.W.B. had sought and gained U.N. approval for the payment of inland transportation fees; 3) to make inquiries of A.W.B.’s senior management about the propriety of the payments; and 4) to ensure the A.W.B. Board and/or Board Committees were properly informed of, and responded appropriately to, the matters in issue.

A.S.I.C. also alleged that Mr. Flugge knew the fee payments were being made by A.W.B. to Iraq in breach of U.N. sanctions, that they were a sham, and, hence, they were improper. Accordingly, argued A.S.I.C., Mr. Flugge had breached his section 181 of the Corporation Act on the duty to act for a proper purpose and in good faith in the best interests of A.W.B.

A.S.I.C. later alleged – and the Court accepted – that in March 2000, Mr. Flugge attended a meeting with the Australian Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. during which attendees were informed that the United Nations had concerns about irregularities in A.W.B.’s contracts and dealings with Iraq under the Oil-for-Food programme.

In turn, Mr. Flugge submitted – and the Court accepted – that in mid-2000, Mr. Flugge and other members of the A.W.B. Board were informed by the managing director that the payments had been approved by the United Nations. The evidence also established that Mr. Flugge had told a number of other people that he had believed the managing director’s statements.

The Court, however, found that A.S.I.C.’s allegations were not proved.

Judge Ross Robson dismissed the claim, declaring that he was not satisfied that Mr. Flugge knew. But he did find that, had Mr. Flugge inquired into the issues raised by the United Nations, he would have discovered that it had not knowingly approved of the payments.

Judge Robson found Mr. Flugge’s reputation for honesty had not been tarnished by the civil case brought by the ‘corporate regulator’, which failed to prove he had known the payments contravened United Nations sanctions.

In handing down his judgement, Judge Robson said that, if Mr. Flugge had made inquiries, he would have uncovered the fraud and stopped the corrupt payments.

“It is relevant that Mr. Flugge has been left to face the accusations of A.S.I.C. almost alone, when many other A.W.B. executives have avoided being proceeded against,” he said.

“The Australian community, however, has every right to be profoundly disappointed in A.W.B.’s conduct and the ignominy that it brought on Australia and the damage suffered by its shareholders.

Nevertheless, the Court should be circumspect in not adding onto Mr. Flugge the sins of others within A.W.B. who have escaped being penalised.”

The Court held that, following the Washington meeting, Mr. Flugge was duty bound to make inquiries as 1) to whether the inland transportation fee payments were irregular, 2) why it was suggested they were irregular, and 3) why the United Nations would raise the issue of irregular fee payments if the U.N. had approved the payment of those fees. The failure to make these inquiries amounted to a breach of Mr. Flugge’s duty of care under section 180(1) of the Corporation Act.

The Court further held that Mr. Flugge’s reliance on the assurances of the managing director did not relieve him of his duty to make proper inquiries, noting that “a director is not excused from making his own inquiries by relying on the judgment of others.”

Additionally, the Court held that the duty to make inquiries is an ongoing obligation and so Mr. Flugge’s breach continued until he lost his position on the board.

Judge Robson said that the A.S.I.C. had failed to make out its case against Mr. Flugge, except for one breach of director’s duties by failing to investigate after being told that a controversial “inland transport” fee paid by A.W.B. to the Iraqi Government was in contravention of United Nations sanctions.

“The Court finds that A.S.I.C. has not established that Mr. Flugge knew that A.W.B. was making payments to Iraq, contrary to United Nations sanctions,” Judge Robson ruled.

“The Court finds that A.S.I.C. has not established that it was well known within A.W.B. that payments were not authorised by the United Nations. … The Court finds that in mid-2000, the managing director of A.W.B., Mr. [Andrew] Lindberg expressly informed the board, including Mr. Flugge of the payments and that they were authorised by the United Nations.”

“The Court finds however that A.S.I.C. has established that Mr. Flugge breached his duties as a director … in not inquiring into the issues raised by the U.N. and that if he had done so, he would have discovered that the U.N. … had not knowingly approved of the payments in the circumstances where neither Iraq nor the A.W.B. had any responsibility to deliver wheat within Iraq,” the Judge ruled.

Justice Robson found that Mr. Flugge had acted honestly, dismissing A.S.I.C.’s assertion that he had “sat on the board ticking off codes of conduct when … he knew of a ‘very big and dark secret’ … and that ‘worse than doing nothing about it, he positively encouraged management to get on and do this dirty work’. ”

“In the scale of breaches it was certainly not egregious, but it was not the sort of breach for which a director, knowing what Mr. Flugge knew, should be excused,” Justice Robson said.

“Even if Mr. Flugge had stopped the payments … there is every likelihood that A.S.I.C. would have taken proceedings against A.W.B. executives [and] Australia’s reputation internationally would have been tarnished, shareholder class actions may have been instituted and A.W.B. may have collapsed.”

Judge Robson said that Mr. Flugge had been of great service to Australian commerce, wheat farmers and the Australian community generally and had recognised that work in fixing penalties.

The ruling came close to a decade after the Cole Inquiry found that the A.W.B. had made the secret payments in full knowledge that they were in breach of U.N. sanctions.

Continued Saturday – Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 8)

Previous instalment – Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 6)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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If ever we wanted a New Year to be better than the last, 2020 is the one

We’ve never found it harder to say “Happy New Year” than now. Given the heartbreak being felt across the country perhaps “Hopeful New Year” seems more appropriate.

We’re doing it tough. Thousands of others are doing it tougher. But readers of The AIMN share a common thread so succinctly summarised by Phil Pryor in his comment under 2019: The Top 5.

It’s been a hard year on the nerves and many are now frustrated, disappointed, depressed. We always need honesty, confidence, foresight, planning, positive and progressive attitudes, some hope. With a government from the top down consisting of dung, droppings, drainblocks and deviates, we feel stalled, dumped, betrayed.

That’s how the year ends, and as from today it is how the New Year begins.

We Australians are a resilient lot. It will get better because we will fight for what makes our country better. We can not control the elements but we can hold the powers that ignore them to account.

Over the last couple of weeks people have found their voice. In 2020 we will be shouting, and I suspect, taking to the streets even more. We want our country back and in 2020 we will make that known throughout the halls of Parliament. We will make Canberra rattle with our voices.

But all that’s in 2020.

Reflecting on The AIMN in 2019 … the year was a good one for us, easily surpassing the total number of hits we received in 2018.

In 2019 we had the 20 millionth visitor to the site since opening our doors on the 2nd of January, 2013. People are reading us! We also reached a Facebook membership of 20,000. And we look forward to a bigger 2020 thanks to our fabulous team of writers, our dedicated admin team, the loyal commenters and the growing number of readers.

You’ve all made The AIMN what it is today and we owe you our special thanks.

Oh, and we wish you a Happy New Year.

Michael and Carol.

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