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AWB bribery/corruption (and voter apathy)

Discussion in 'Alley of Lingering Sighs' started by NonSequitur, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine

    May 27, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Seriously, what's it going to take?

    The end of responsibility

    I sort-of hijacked one of khaavern's threads talking about this, but I think it bears its own discussion. For those who don't know (which I'm guessing is most of you), the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) has been found to have paid approximately $300m AUD in kickbacks and bribes to the Hussein regime in Iraq as part of the oil-for-food program over a number of years.

    An enquiry has been set up to investigate the AWB's dealings and how much the Australian Government knew. So far, they've hit the "Deny" button as often as required, even so far as to suggest that the Trade Minister should know what the AWB - one of the biggest exporters in Australia - is getting up to. This is despite evidence that Canadian, US and Russian complaints or concerns about bribery were passed on to Australian ambassadors and departmental staff. Currently, the enquiry's terms do not include determining if and how much ministers and ministerial staff knew.

    To be fair, the Australian political situation has resembled US politics for a while - the incumbent conservatives in a series of embarrassments, but without an effective opposition as any real counter or accountability device. This scandal (which to me illustrates indifference and a serious question of competence, at best) has been receiving saturation news coverage, but it almost doesn't seem to matter - it's over the other side of the world, and no Australians died for it. There seems to be a disconnect, here - if the Government blew even a tenth of that $300m of taxpayer funds on something within the country, there would be hell to pay. Arguably, that $300m spent was recovered on extra shipments and on inflated grain prices, but that also means that less food (and less affordable food) was reaching Iraq, not to mention that the money which was being paid and spent on bribes and inflated grain was not being spent on infrastructure, medicines or aid.

    I'm just not sure what it will take for the average voter to (1) believe that this matters, (2) want to know why nothing was done, despite multiple warnings (which were passed off as "commercially-driven attempts to undermine AWB", for the main), and (3) want those who knew - or should have known, had they not been derelict in their duties - to answer for their conduct. Being a minister is a serious responsibility, and by any objective measure, the current administration is doing everything in its power to convince the public that ministerial responsibility is limited to their office. Call me rude, but that's an excuse a low-level public service employee couldn't get away with, so why someone with such considerable influence and power can say that - and not get pilloried for it - is utterly beyond me.

    A few more links, for anyone who's interested; archived information for the last week should be accessible at www.theage.com.au and/or www.smh.com.au .

    Hanging AWB out to dry

    Spies in dark on kickbacks: PM
    Treasury raised the alarm on kickbacks
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