At first glance, doom on all fronts – local, federal, international.
* The Liverpool mayor, ex Labor police minister and NSW Labor Right member George Paciullo, stands aside, as does big man in small pond, Canterbury Leagues Club president Gary McIntyre, amid kickback/conflict of interest/nepotism scandals over a development called Oasis, designed to deliver Canterbury 1000 pokies to fleece the poor.
* A report to the world’s 22 richest countries leaked on the eve of the Johannesburg earth summit (the one Howard can’t be bothered attending) that the world has lost 10 percent of its forests in the last ten years, helping to escalate global warming, that we’ll need 30 percent more fresh water by 2020, that less than 0.1 percent of the average income of the rich countries finds its way to poor ones, and that donations for environment protection and basic social services has plummeted from 35 percent of aid 10 years ago to less than 15 percent. We’re wiping out species of plants and animals with glee and global energy use will rise by 50 percent over the next 18 years.
* Asylum seeker Sharid Qureshi has been charged $26,460 – $130 a night – for his stay in the Maribyrnong detention centre, where he slept in a dorm with no door, was banned from having sex, endured a toilet with no door, two hour queues for a shower and one towel for the entire detention period.
Life’s a bitch, our leaders are stuffed, and there’s nothing we can do about it, right? World “leaders” are incapable of looking after our planet, our federal “leaders” treat the poor and disenfranchised like shit, and the locals we elect to look after our backyard and our footie clubs are burning our interests for self-interest. But wait.
Two courageous, persistent old-fashioned Herald journos Anne Davies and Kate McClymont broke the back of the Canterbury/Liverpool Council scandal with hard work and rolled gold leaks. Who leaked? Who knows? Maybe someone who wanted to make a killing and got frozen out. Maybe someone who’d had enough of the stench of it all. This is journalism at its finest, in the public interest. And the Herald is fighting for a constituency not traditionally its own – residents of Western Sydney. Clearly the competition, the Daily Telegraph, has been happy doing the cheap and easy tabloid thing rather than the hard yards in their heartland. And the Herald has let traditional investigative journalists do a job journalism has been gradually retreating from for a long time – holding the insiders accountable on behalf of the people they’re ripping off. In this case the Fast Bucks Development Club, and the Let’s Pretend Sport Isn’t Big Business Club.
There’s more – a wonderful tale of Canterbury footie club members realising the power is theirs to grab. They collected signatures to a petition at the Canberra Raiders game on Sunday – even Raiders fans signed it! – to force McIntyre’s resignation.
“McIntyre must go. We only need 100 Bulldog members’ signatures to call an extraordinary general meeting for the dismissal of McIntyre, and we’ve got 230,” said Michael Taouk, 27, of Redfern. A group of club members seizing their power circled Canterbury footie club yesterday to deliver the petition to someone with power. They got results. McIntyre walked out and resigned.
Down to bottom left of page one. Scientists and academics who’ve stayed true to science and the academy and refused to be bought and sold by big corporate players, and countless non-government organisations led and supported by activists around the world committed to change. For all its faults, the UN, in finding space for NGOs and daring to paint a big picture, is looking the powerful in the eye and telling them the truth. Not that they’ll listen, until they really, really have to. But the fightback has begun.
Bottom right. There’s pro-refugee groups around the country visiting asylum seekers in detention, raising money to defend them in court, holding rallies to commemorate the Tampa, proclaiming their beliefs with car stickers and signatures on petitions. People power means Julian Burnside QC and other lawyers determined to insist to the bitter end that every person in Australia has human rights and the benefit of our legal norms can take the government to Court on behalf of Mr Qureshi. Burnside will argue that the accommodation bill is unconstitutional.
So you can read page one two ways. Why not choose the latter? It’s an empowering feeling. Take a risk and take a stand. It might even be fun!
I just can’t get Labor’s close-down of the children overboard inquiry out of my head. (See SMH Connect, And the winner is…, and for the case against the reluctant witnesses and the damage Labor’s cave-in will do to our democracy What servants are for, June 27).
Labor Senate leader and chief inquiry prosecutor John Faulkner has all sorts of private excuses for what Labor has done – the Senate would have to put public servants in jail if they refused to obey subpoena, Reith wouldn’t tell the truth anyway, blah blah blah, but one fact stands out like a very, very sore thumb. NOTHING IN WRITING!
Webdiary is a forum where Faulkner can write at whatever length he likes a defence of the shut down in the certain knowledge that I’d publish it in full. He hasn’t even told the public in a statement why Labor’s spat the dummy and delivered the Government a blistering win and accountability a crushing blow. Nothing.
Maybe that’s because Labor hasn’t got a leg to stand on.
One example. Prime Minister and Cabinet senior officer Michael Potts has been twice scheduled to give evidence on his role in his subordinate, Brendon Hammer, calling a meeting with Commander Stefan King on what he might say about the fact that he briefed Hammer on the fraudulent photos within two days of their release by Reith. Potts has been postponed, now let off, yet his story is totally at odds with that of Hammer. We’re talking allegations of witness tampering here, folks. And we’re talking about PMC head Max Moore-Wilton’s responsibility for failures of administration in his department. Why the back-down, John?
Another example. There is a precedent for putting the hard word on a government staffer to give evidence to a Senate committee, and it was set by the government when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. The Liberals wanted to quiz David Busting on the spending and workings of ANIMALS, Labor’s propaganda arm. Labor said no, citing the so-called “convention” of big-party convenience against staffers being called. The Liberals – led by the now Senate leader and defence minister Robert Hill, the bloke who’s banning everyone he can think of who might damage the government from giving evidence – got the Senate to order Epstein to turn up. This is the precursor to a subpoena. The Government caved, Epstein appeared.
Yet Faulkner and co haven’t even sought a Senate order against Reith, his advisers Scrafton, Hampton and Hendy, a mere administrative assistant in Reith’s office called Lisa who handled the notorious captions of the fraudulent photos, and even the head of the defence task force formed to help the inquiry, Admiral Raydon Gates.
Why not call the government’s bluff? Why not release the independent report on the case to answer of Reith and Co when it comes in and dare them to clear their names? Why not, after releasing that report, ask health minister Brendon Nelson why he employs Hampton as his spin doctor when Hampton won’t deign to clear his name of suggestions he helped mislead the Australian people? Scrafton is now a public servant in the defence department – why not pressure defence department head Alan Hawke to redeem himself on the children overboard fiasco and order his officer to give evidence or refer him to the Public Service Commission for possible disciplinary action? Why not ask the lobby group for manufacturers, ACCI, why they’ve just employed Peter Hendy as their chief executive, when he refuses to answer questions on his activities on children overboard? Why not press defence industry company Tenix on why it employs Reith as its lobbyist and public spokesman given the case he’s got to answer that he lied to the Australian people? And Robert Hill on why he’s dealing with Reith on Defence? (See Craig Skehan’s brilliant story today on the Reith-Hill connection, and recall that Hill recently dubbed Reith “an honourable man”.)
And then there’s SIEV-X. There is no justification of any sort for Hill telling Gates he can’t appear. Gates is the new chief of navy. As task force chief he reviewed all the intelligence on SIEV-X. His evidence is vital. He made public comment on the matter recently. Why not suggest a Senate order for him to appear? And why not recall Admiral Geoffrey Smith, just retired, to explain himself? After all, the head of the Prime Minister’s task force, Jane Halton, who mentioned SIEV-X in passing in her evidence, was recalled for a detailed look at the matter when it became important. Smith mentioned SIEV-X in passing in his evidence, then got blown out of the water by Admiral Bonser – surely he’s got questions to answer?
What’s the problem, John? No guts? An untidy fit with Labor’s latest scheme to restore a shred of political credibility to a clapped-out outfit? Principle zero, as usual? Webdiary would love to publish your reasons for Labor pulling out. Are you game?
Hill raises no objections to Reith advising Tenix
By Craig Skehan, Defence Correspondent
August 27 2002
The Defence Minister, Robert Hill, says he has no objections to his predecessor, Peter Reith, advising defence industry company Tenix on its bid to buy the Government’s Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC).
This comes amid industry concerns over the value of Mr Reith’s knowledge from his time as defence minister before retiring at the last federal election.
At stake is a move away from competitive tendering and the future of billions of dollars worth of Government defence contracts, including the construction of new air warfare destroyers.
In an interview with the Herald, Senator Hill argued that advice Mr Reith now gave to Tenix was an internal company matter and not one for the Government.
He said the only restriction should be in relation to specific contract details of which Mr Reith would have had knowledge from his period as minister. However, one industry source told the Herald it was clear that the main reason Tenix had engaged Mr Reith was because of his previous government involvement in relation to the future of naval shipbuilding.
The shipbuilding industry is involved in intensive lobbying as federal cabinet prepares to make crucial decisions on a rationalisation program centred on the sale of the ASC.
Tenix head Paul Saltieri has been reported as expressing confidence that the Government will choose his company to acquire the ASC and it will then become Australia’s major naval shipping industry operation for decades to come.
Senator Hill has not ruled out building a wider consortium around the sale of the ASC which could include Tenix’s main rival, the formerly Government-owned ADI, as well as smaller firms.
However, the minister has also left open the option of the cabinet appointing Tenix or another company as the lead player, through acquisition of the ASC, which would sub-contract work to so-called “second tier” companies.
At a media conference on July2, Senator Hill said he had no problem if Mr Reith was “giving general advice on strategic matters” to Tenix.
However, Senator Hill added at the time: “I would not expect him to be involved in contracts in which he played a significant role in the development of the framework for those contracts.”
Before retiring, Mr Reith was engaged in drawing up policy proposals on naval shipbuilding rationalisation and the dumping of competitive tenders in favour of so-called “strategic partnerships”.
A spokesman for Tenix said last night that Mr Reith was now “providing strategic advice on issues relating to defence industries” to the company, but not on individual contracts.
Options for the future of the shipbuilding industry are canvassed in a report presented to Senator Hill by his department last week and he is due to take a submission to cabinet next month.
In the interview with the Herald, Senator Hill was asked about Mr Reith’s consultancy and the argument that he should not be advising Tenix on the Government’s forthcoming decisions on naval shipbuilding.
“No, I would say what he advises Tenix is between him and Tenix,” Senator Hill said.