Clean sweep

With the decision of Mark Vaile to stand down, and Alexander Downer likely to return to the backbench, if I’ve read these tealeaves correctly (BTW, is anyone else thinking “AWB inquiry” here), the Coalition will have lost its Leader, Deputy Leader, Treasurer and Foreign Minister in the space of a few days. That certainly increases the likelihood of the kind of radical restructuring I’ve been predicting/proposing.

42 thoughts on “Clean sweep

  1. Let’s not forget to mention the issue of crimes against humanity and embarking on illegal wars. However, methinks that new PMs like all new heads of state have a vested interest in letting past heads of state off the hook on such issues. Wouldn’t want to create a precedent would they?

  2. An AWB prosecution is what is required along with an enquiry into what was known to the Ministers at the time.

    Once the Ministers are selected and in place
    I am sure that there will be many dirty secrets brought into the light of day and examined forensically. Imagine what could turn up in Immigration alone.

  3. That’s right, get into power and launch a wave of political prosecutions. It carries triumphalism to new heights – the Liberals will never rule again, Rudd will found a dynasty lasting 10,000 years and all enemies of the state will be rounded up for jailing and execution.

    SJ, Icon and Jill – have you read Issac Deutscher’s biography of Stalin? You should.

  4. there won’t be any witch-hunt. labor has plenty of skeletons, and has achieved it’s primary aim. well satisfied with the world, they will get on with enjoying riding on the saddle instead of running along beside the ‘horse’.

    besides, the american farm lobby was reported to be seeking substantial compensation. if and after they get a kilo of flesh and expose crooked machinations in the howard regime, labor will get some electoral advantage without breaking guild rules.

  5. An inquiry into AWB needn’t be Stalinist.
    If such a thing were done well, it could possibly be a good precedent to set.
    Having said that, I can’t see any political will to increase ministerial accountability, despite Rudd’s occasional asides on Westminsterism.

  6. Of course, one of the stumbling blocks to the original AWB inquiry, apart from the TOR etc, was the failure to call ranking DFAT staff, from Calvert down. His death gives a lot of them an out. Not really sure what an inquiry would now prove – instead just get rid of the single desk and you’ll kill off the privileges that surround AWB.

    On the clean sweep topic, I nearly guffawed when I saw Vaile described more or less as a country boy who was too honest for politics. That was probably reasonably true for Anderson, but Vaile??

  7. HC, you and others misunderstand John’s point about the Liberals never again forming government.

    He’s not predicting a perpetual Labor rule, he’s predicting a merger of the Liberal and National parties into a single entity or the emergence of a new right-wing party to replace the Liberals.

    I think he’s probably mistaken about that but what’s to be gained by misrepresenting his position?

  8. Personally, Harry, I’m disappointed at the slow start Comrade Rudd has made on the liquidation of the kulaks and the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. It almost makes you suspect him of Trotsky-fascist wrecking.

    But folks, there are indeed very definite guild rules (aka “Westminster conventions”) that new goverments don’t look too closely at the failings of previous governments. In particular, we in the public circus are given extremely restrictive guidelines as to what we can tell the new ministers about what we told the old ones (hence the giant shreddathon that took place in Canberra on sunday morning).

  9. A wave of political prosecutions is exactly what is needed. It has nothing to do with triumphalism, it is about justice and the restoration of morality. It didn’t need a great sense of morality to know that the Iraq War (an active unprovoked war on a distant country) and the AWB scandal (large scale corruption in the face of international sanctions) were wrong. If nothing else it might give pause to those who still believe they can sabotage attempts to deal with climate change. Politicians, lobbyists and public servants can not be above the law or even above a general duty of care. No, I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen, however.

  10. Ian Milliss, I agree. The Iraq war was an act of aggression. If the US had implemented a Marshall Plan instead of the free-market extremist anti-Marshall plan that robbed both the Iraqi people and the US taxpayer to enrich Halliburton, Bechtel and a host of other corporations, then it could only just arguably have been viewed as the liberation of the Iraqi people from the Hussein Dictatorship. (See also my post, which quotes from Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”, in the “Worse than you can imagin thread”).

    Does anyone have any ideas of how to start applying pressure for a proper AWB inquiry? Could it be done through a GetUp petition? Would the Greens or Nick Xenophon be prepared to push for one?


    I think an inquiry needs to also be made into the taxpayer funded “WorkChoices” propaganda campaigns. We need to establish who decided to spend the initial $55million of taxpayers money in order to peddle known falsehoods such as workers entitlements would be “Guaranteed by Law”.

    They gambled that this extravagantly expensive and fraudulent act perpetrated against the Australian people would get them over the line in 2007, and failed. Had they succeeded many ordinary people would have been made to pay an even more terrible price in future than they had in the past.

  11. if you hold your breathe and jump up and down, the tooth fairy will sprinkle ‘virtue dust’ on the labor mob, but if even one person doubts that virtue dust will do it, then labor will merely be a political gang.

    sorry, folks, i’ve ruined it, haven’t i?

  12. Al loomis,

    Why do you presume you have ‘ruined’ anything?

    In my Online Opinion article, “Can Labor bring about a just society” of 24 September I wrote:

    A non-monolithic Labor government is more likely if a popular grass-roots movement in favour of progressive change is brought into existence.

    Such a mass movement should be unambiguously in favour of the election of Federal Labor as the only feasible alternative to the continued rule of John Howard’s unaccountable, anti-democratic and morally bankrupt government.

    This should not preclude it from being strongly and openly critical of Labor’s poor policy decisions: support for woodchipping and the pulp mill in Tasmania, support for uranium mining, watering down of its opposition to WorkChoices, support for high immigration and population growth and the abandonment of opposition to privatisation of Telstra.

    We may well find ourselves disappointed with Rudd in the not-too-distant future, but at least the high combined vote for the Greens and Labor, Democrats and Indepnedents now gives legitimacy for those of us that want something better than the miserable, nasty and backward-looking vision of Howard, Costello et al. If we don’t get it, at least we are now in a far stronger position to raise our voices loudly in order to demand it than if Howard had won.

  13. Well actually Al, I was just thinking about that right then. It is an interesting twist that howard’s main sales ploy was that a change to Labour would create a stalling of “advancement”. But the thing is that that expectation only had a level of belief because of everyones experiences created under the coalition. Peoples hopes for meaningful action have been reliably frustrated under the coalition for the past ten years, and that made the fear of further delay a credible possibility.

    Australia shrugged off the coalition chains and took the leap of faith. So far all I can see is a sea of happy faces, and real hope for a better future. And the rate of change is brilliant, Kyoto signing under way and I no longer am considered an environmental leaper. Even the c oa l it ion are experiencing a rate of change long forgotten. It is all good!

  14. (copied from post on Online Opinion)

    Everyone should Read SMH journalist Alan Ramsey’s articles.


    “We have our country back. John Howard’s Australia died with his government on Saturday night. …”

    “… this last election … kill(ed) Howard off politically, along with the nastiest, meanest, most miserable, self-absorbed Commonwealth government to blight Australia in living memory …”

    “All that remains to sweep him out of sight is to get rid of the more obscene remnants of his governance in the months ahead.”

    “Now, while Costello sits on the backbench for three years … what should happen is those other political misfits like Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock and Tony Abbott should think about another life outside politics. None are part of the Liberals’ future.

    “For God’s sake, go and make our Christmas complete.”

    RECYCLED, REJECTED AND RIGHT OFF THE RAILS (written before the election)

    “The (300 recycling bins in the basement corridor of the ministerial wing of Parliament) seemed a more apt commentary than all the desperate, last-minute Coalition windbaggery going on around the nation on what is about to descend on the Prime Minister after 33 years in public life and almost 12 years remaking Australia in his own miserable, disfigured image. They arrived two days ago and whoever they’re for, 48 hours before a single vote is cast today, you felt somebody, somewhere, finally got it right.”

    “A clear majority remain heartily sick of the Prime Minister and his Coalition claque of tired mediocrities. The ‘it’s time’ factor has been driving political sentiment all year, just as the dominant policy issue in the cities has been the Government’s hated Work Choices legislation.”

  15. Just one niggly point, Dagget. The c oa l it io n gave no thought to breaking promises, so why do you think that costello will honour any obligation that he may have made to his electorate. My reading of it is that he will sit on the back bench until the whole election thing has blown over, the party has developed the ability to run a bi-election,and at about the time that he has found a plump position with mac bank or somewhere he will be off. I’d give it seven months, max.

  16. If there is going to be an earthquake in Australian politics that sees the Liberals and the co-alition never elected again then that earthquake will revolve around the Greens. It will be the co-alition getting Green preferences or a Red/Green co-alition government as has happened in Europe. If the Greens start regularly topping 10% primary vote (easy to imagine in 5 years) this may end up being the only way to government for both the Liberals AND Labor. Even now Labor could not win without Green preferences. Its only logical for the Liberal party to see if it can do something about that. Could Turnbull’s surprisingly strong interest in the environment be a very astute attempt to prepare for this eventuality?

    On another note, Peter Costello’s decision to not take the leadership probably is the best thing for the party. If they choose Malcolm Turnbull then they can quite genuinely claim to have moved on from Howard. Contrast that with the failure of Beazely then Crean then Beazely again.

  17. Actually Swio – I’m surprised the Greens didn’t do better. As I just posted in Monday Messages –

    An interesting feature of the election result is the fact that the ALP did so well in the primary vote (+6.3% swing to 44%). The ALP picked up votes from just about every other party. The greens didn’t pick up many extra votes (and indeed went backwards in NSW – down 0.4% to 7.7% of the primary vote).

    I would have expected the Greens to do better – the Democrats have collapsed and climate change was a dominating factor in the campaign.

  18. Andrew,
    Possum Pollytics had a very interesting post about the relationship between the Labor primary vote and the minor parties. Sorry but I can’t find the link now. Basically he said that after the 2004 election a whole bunch of voters left Howard and parked their vote with the minor parties. Then, the day Rudd took over they jumped over to Labor.

    In other words Kevin Rudd’s success hurt the Green vote quite badly. But its on a long term upward trend

  19. Harry, most of the people commenting here are quite sane, well educated and rational adults.

    We recognise the differences between what might happen, what is likely to happen, and what we would like to see happen in any number of ideal worlds.

    Your slippery slope argument isn’t going to get you anywhere. For instance, in my ideal world, Howard, Dolly and others would be hauled before a international court and tried for war crimes. However, in the real world I inhabit, I realise that the prospects for this occurring are pretty small. But in neither my ideal world or the real world would political executions of Australian politicians occur. Ditto for the rest of the people here.

    Get a life, Harry. Or at least bring yourself up to speed with modern life. The communist bogeyman lost its fright value nearly twenty years ago.

    On the other hand the authoritarian bogeyman is still with us, and you do yourself a disservice in not recognising that authoritarianism is something that applies solely to the left or the right.

  20. SJ, I agree with that claim – most people are sane but any group you will still come up with one vindictive nark. Look at your comment 1. You are bursting for a witch-hunt.

    Now in 24. you were just kidding, right? You were just saying what you would like to see happen. That’s different – you know it never would so your exposed narkiness warrants no criticism. Wrong SJ, yet again.

  21. Harry, if you really can’t see any difference between Nuremberg and the Great Purge, you’re a sad, sad excuse for a human being.

  22. hc,
    There is a world of difference between justice and a witch hunt.

    We have imprisoned innocent people in Australia on the flimsiest of excuses in recent years but even after an enquiry into AWB and where corruption was discovered no charges have been laid against those people responsible. If criminal behaviour is OK if it is performed by the political class then democracy has been undermined far more during the Howard years than I had imagined.

    Charges should be laid for AWB transgressions and a forensic enquiry should be conducted to prevent against this kind of behaviour in the future by our future politicians. A consequence for a criminal or immoral action is justice.

  23. “Not really sure what an inquiry would now prove – instead just get rid of the single desk and you’ll kill off the privileges that surround AWB.”

    Well that’s the rub with large monopolies, how they can become a law unto themselves and when they do err, they can err big time. Same with monolithic public education systems(and ddon’t tell me it’s not because it needs a revolution) Why some lefties bitch so much about an AWB, when their utopia is everything run by one bloody great big monopoly/monolith is hard to fathom. Kill off the privileges as much as possible I say. Competition between players in the Iraq wheat market would have quickly divulged any serious skulduggery, not that you could seriously expect to deal at true arms length with any totalitarian regime. The very idea is nonsensical. As nonsensical as believing you can punish these regimes with economic sanctions and restrictions. They simply pass the price of that on. Get over it and see the AWB problem for what it always was. Lack of competition.

  24. Re AWB.

    It is alleged that an Australian company, operating under a monopoly warrant granted by the Australian government, conspired with the administration of a rogue state illegally to divert $300m into the coffers of that rogue state.

    There is a public interest in discovering the extent to which public officials and members of the government of Australia, had, or ought to have had, knowledge of the circumstances of this transaction between a government-warranted monopoly and the government of a rogue state.

  25. “Why some lefties bitch so much about an AWB, when their utopia is everything run by one bloody great big monopoly/monolith is hard to fathom.”

    You do realsie that not all “lefties” aspire to this, I hope.

    If not, I think we’ve all been talking at cross-purposes for the last couple of years.

  26. Katz: imagine the reaction if an anti-Iraq-war Labor government had been in power while the AWB payments were being made.

    We also have to consider the small matter of thousands of Australians who bought shares in AWB on the basis of representations made by the Howard government, supposedly after full and proper due diligence had been done.

  27. We also have to consider the small matter of thousands of Australians who bought shares in AWB on the basis of representations made by the Howard government, supposedly after full and proper due diligence had been done.

    Interesting point IG.

    Who, precisely, is responsible for th everacity of that due diligence?

    Presumably the underwriters of the IPO have primary responsibility.

    But again, if those underwriters can demonstrate fraudulent misrepresentation on the part of the previous owners of the asset (the federal government) then I imagine that they would have a remedy at law to recompense them for the effects of the fraud.

    And further to that, fraudulent misrepresentation is a crime if it is committed by a private entity.

    Is the federal government indemnified in some way from criminal prosecution?

  28. I would like to see an inquiry into going into Iraq under false pretences, Siev X, children overboard and a few other things. I am not so concerned about AWB because while they were in breach of sanctions, these sanctions have been estimated to have contributed to the deaths of something like 500,000 people through increased malnutrition, infant mortality etc. Those sanctions deserved to be broken.

  29. Peter,

    Firstly, the claims that sanctions killed 500,000 people are highly dubious.

    Secondly, the “sanctions-busting” didn’t result in a single kilo of additional food reaching the Iraqis – in fact by securing wheat contracts for AWB when they weren’t the lowest bidder the bribes paid to Saddam probably resulted in LESS food reaching them.

  30. Ian G @36,

    if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998.

    Unicef, 12 August 1999.

    I found this quote on the Campaign Against Iraq Sanctions archive which, interestingly, bears the Cambridge University coat of arms. Can you explain why you consider the number to be “highly dubious”?

    I’m also not clear why you think less food got to people on account of the sanctions busting. Maybe Saddam on-sold it to other countries?

    Not defending AWB here, just curious.

  31. That’s a pretty massive “if” – no other country in the region achieved anything like it – primarily because the oil price collapsed after the Gulf War.

    Furthermore, it assumes that any increase in mortality was due to the sanctions – not to the war; the destruction of infrastructure associated with it; the urpisings in Kurdistan and the shia areas; the massive number of internally displaced people after Kurdistan became a quasi-independent state or the massive environmental pollution from oil fires and depleted uranium.

    The AWB wasn’t selling Iraq wheat outside the UN oil-for-food program – they were bribing the Saddam regime to use the money from that program to buy Australian wheat rather than wheat from our competitors. That money was then used to prop up the government and Saddam’s lavish lifestyle.

    Just because we oppose the invasion of Iraq doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that Saddam really was an evil bastard. Doctors have testified that they were prevented from using what drugs they did have to treat childhood leukemia victims so the kids suffering could be used as anti-sanctions propaganda.

  32. The claim of 500,000 children dying from the sanctions is a very conservative estimate based on a 1995 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report – no doubt quite a few Iraqis died as a result of the sanctions ice then. This figure was not contradicted by Madeline Albright in a famous 60 minutes interview when she was asked about it.

    There is no doubt that the bribes to Saddam Hussein were dodgy, but hardly significant compared to the awful impact of the sanctions. An inquiry into the consequences of those sanctions – I’d like to see that!

  33. IG@38,
    “The AWB wasn’t selling Iraq wheat outside the UN oil-for-food program – they were bribing the Saddam regime to use the money from that program to buy Australian wheat rather than wheat from our competitors. That money was then used to prop up the government and Saddam’s lavish lifestyle.”

    Not in dispute. But Saddam ate the money not the wheat. Who ended up with the wheat in their belly?

    Basically AWB was involved in a “tendering” process. Anyone could have offered the same or more money for the contract. But while Saddam got the money the amount of wheat was the same. Without the bribe, how much wheat would Saddam have purchased? How many more children would have died? I am not ignoring Saddam’s evilness.

    As for infant and child mortality the relevant comparison seems to be Iraq in the 1980s v Iraq in the 1990s. Mortality in the rest of the region doesn’t seem relevant.

  34. The issue of AWB bribes and Howard government connivance in them is a question of Australian jurisprudence not a question of international humanitarianism.

    If anyone can produce a Howard government document which states that the Howard government winked at AWB supplying Saddam with a $300m bribe because the Howard government believed it was more moral that the Iraqi people got something to eat under any conditions, then I’ll but PC’s line of argument.

    But of course such a document would prove Howard government foreknowledge of a deliberate breach of a UN sanction, wouldn’t it?

  35. In 1995 the sanctions had been in place for about 2-3 years. The estimated 500,000 deaths implies a greater death toll per year than the Lancet estimate of annual deaths since the US invasion.

    I find it difficult to accept that as conservative.

    Furthermore as I pointed out already there were several other factors beside sanctions contributing to the failure of the Iraqi child mortality rate to continue to decline at the same as pre-war. The Iraqi child mortality rate was also declining at an unusually rapid rate in the 80’s because it went up during the Iran-Iraq war and then reverted to the long-temr trend of declining mortality.

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