Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A drink in the pub with mates

"But you don't know who you have a drink with down in the pub and what they might have been doing."
– Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer

Now we know the government's excuse for its utter incompetence in the AWB affair: it runs government like having a drink in the pub with mates. Yep, right from the horses mouth: that's Alexander Downer's argument for why the government was
not incompetent for failing to act earlier against AWB. It didn't know what the AWB would do or was doing.

Didn't you
see it coming? Of course the Cole Inquiry was going to hang the corporate honchos of the AWB, and let the Howard Government off the hook in the Iraq bribes for wheat scandal. As the story broke earlier this week, Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Kevin Rudd returned to his claim that the terms of reference for the Cole Inquiry into the Iraq oil for wheat scandal were rorted to keep the government from being found to have acted illegally or with impropriety.

Of course, the Howard government trumpeted Commissioner Cole's findings that it didn't know of the wrong-doing carried out by AWB executives (despite the numerous warnings from public servants!) – leading us to the only conclusion possible:

This government is utterly incompetent. It's failure to investigate the warnings about AWB's shenanigans in Iraq were entirely due to the failure of its ministers to read, heed or act on the warnings by public servants about the AWB's activities in dealing with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

It relied on the 'word of a mate' – its cosy business partners in the AWB, rather than the words of its public servants. It backed-up a business operating in the worst traditions of the excesses of Australian corporate greed and corruption of the 80s – the culture that saw the Alan Bonds and Christopher Skases of Australia operate frontier-style businesses with corrupt practices and greedy hood-winks.

But want can you do? You just don't know who you're drinking with at the pub.

[Image credit: 'Three Men in a Pub', by
John Luce Lockett]

Correction and Apology: The image I've used above is from a painting by John Luce Lockett. I apologise to John that I didn't provide the appropriate credit to him for the image – I was being sloppy (because I believe in giving credit for the images and text I use, but this time I wasn't being thorough), and didn't mention his name or offer an appropriate link to acknowledge him when I first published this post. I have fixed that up now. Corrected: 12 December 2006

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At November 30, 2006 3:12 pm, Blogger unique_stephen said...

Governments simply must be accountable: be it over concessions to torture or corruption or whatever. If they feel that by some Machiavellian metric that a particular action, seen in the light of the greater good is acceptable, then sure, go for it - but have the guts to stand up and be accountable for your actions.
Want to poison a dictator - Roman style (or KGB), perhaps it would save thousands of lives in a war. But damn well stand up and say you did it. If the systems and checks were in place, the ombudsmen sufficiently powerful then the hard choices can be made and you would still never have a Watergate. Would it be acceptable for the Australian Government to pay the right bribe and get Hicks accidentally released and transported to the US where all of a sudden he would have access to the usual avenues of Justice? Perhaps only a Jesuit could think a path through the moral quandary but I dare say the government would not be too harshly criticized for that bribe.
It is rarely black and white but decisions made in the knowledge that they will be known and made accountable are better decisions.

nuf sed


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