February 23rd 2002


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: New Zealand's Economic U-Turn

Reality finally bites Democrats' leader

Family First rises, Democrats fall, in South Australia poll

2002 NCC National Conference - Building the Movement

Straws in the Wind: Andersen's Fairy Tales / Flying / Out of Africa

New Zealand to vote on new Constitution?

Bioethics: Cloning concerns must be addressed

Letters: "Booming" economy?

Letters: Politics to blame

Letters: Hot air

Letters: True ALP position

Media: Cross-media ownership laws / Negative coverage?

United States: Is the terrorist threat being politicised?

Economics: Privatisation - essential component of globalisation

Law: Abortion link to breast cancer victory

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Straws in the Wind: Andersen's Fairy Tales / Flying / Out of Africa


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, February 23, 2002

Andersen’s fairy tales

The quest for Enron, and for the truth about their auditors, Arthur Andersen’s role, goes on in America, but surprisingly little media interest is still being shown in the firm’s performances elsewhere, e.g., the UK and Australia -though HIH promises to get worse rather than better.

Tony Blair’s Labour Government, and his Party when in Opposition, dating back to the 80s, have had very close connections with Arthur Andersen. Put on an unofficial Whitehall blacklist for 13 years by the Tory Government, Labour, when elected, swiftly restored Andersen to favour. Arthur Andersen’s are now doing an enormous amount of work for Blair’s people.

Arthur Andersen was on the previous Government’s blacklist because it was being sued for negligence. The Conservatives had been sold the idea of backing a new car plant in Northern Ireland by an American firm, De Lorean. The venture collapsed with massive debt, the Government didn’t think the auditors, Andersen, had shown due diligence, so sued them.

The case had dragged on for 13 years - meanwhile the ban on using Andersen remained. Six months after Blair’s election, his Government suddenly settled out-of-court for one-tenth of what the previous government was demanding. After which the ban on using Andersen was lifted and they are deeply involved in doing work for the Labour Government.

In fact, Andersen, following the Tory ban, had started to involve itself, very seriously, in British Labour’s various schemes, helping it with shaping policies, platforms, questions in the House, etc. And for little or no return. But the reward has come since 1997 - Labour’s victory year. Many former Andersen staff have moved over to official jobs.

The British press were initially loath to tackle the Blair/Andersen/Enron connection, but events have forced their hand. Whereas, up to date our media, especially Murdoch’s people, have said very little. I suspect they might have to say more, for there appear to be some unanswered questions which need putting to rest concerning the Blair/Anderson love-in.

Flying on the seat of someone else’s pants

The Ansett saga lurches on, shedding jobs, shedding customers, and shedding credibility with each day. And each day produces three different versions of what has happened and what will happen. Not since the Poseidon Nickel Boom - and Bust - can I remember the hills being so alive with rumours, wishful thinking, disinformation and good old cash-for-comment.

Terry McCrann of the Herald Sun is still the writer to follow - although The Australian has produced some adventurous scoops. Is this a chink of light at the end of that there tunnel? Has The Australian at last discovered that Al Gore and Kim Beazley didn’t win their elections, and decided to move on?

But Terry McCrann has drawn attention to the almost incestuous atmosphere in the Federal Court. Fox and Solly Lew were both directors of Coles Myer - Lew is still connected.

The Federal Court judge hearing and deciding all this is Alan Goldberg. The then Alan Goldberg QC accepted a commission from Coles Myer to inquire into what was called the Yannon Transaction. Goldberg cleared Lew and Fox of any connection with the misappropriation of Coles Myer’s moneys.

But Myer’s new finance director, David Bowman, rejected this Report and began a search of his own as part of a general clean-up of Coles Myer’s finances. He was sacked, then given a million dollars and returned to England to what sounded like a far more salubrious position. But the tumultuous shareholders’ meeting which ensued seems to have supported Bowman’s misgivings.

The Board was reshuffled with some - though not all - of the directors under criticism, disappearing. The ASIC then conducted a four-year inquiry into the matter, which for me seems to come down to whether Bowman was right or the now Mr Justice Goldberg. I’d love to get an answer.

But McCrann’s concern is whether Justice Goldberg should "be the court" approving requests for further delay thereby "indirectly putting money in the pockets of Fox and Lew".

And "should he not have completely disqualified himself from any matters relating to Ansett?"

Justice Goldberg, in acknowledgment of his long association with Fox and Lew, is speaking of "two boxes" - one containing matters pertaining to Fox and Lew - which he will not open; the other Ansett, which he will. But McCrann, and not only McCrann, dispute the reality, the plausibility of this division. McCrann, and not only McCrann, believe Justice Goldberg should not have been hearing this case, and further to the point, wasn’t this just another asset stripping exercise which failed?

The Ansett union and ACTU leaders have displayed utter ineptitude and gullibility throughout. Fox and Lew have run rings around them. Living off hubris, threats and hot air - attacking the Government every second day and imploring help the other - the union "leaders" are left with 3,000 workers out of 16,000. If they’re lucky.

Flattered by the public media who hope to somehow injure Howard - and by the commercial media, whose bosses hoped - perhaps still hope - to get a share of a new lean Ansett - based on mass sackings, debt repudiation and assets bought at bargain prices - the unions have completely lost control of the action. Inevitable, for they appeared to have no strategy except shouting at Howard, the New Zealanders and blocking airline terminals. This they call militant unionism.

Channel Nine, and News Corp papers, have gone on as if Ansett is the only airline in Australia and joined the completely phoney push to force the Government to provide taxpayers’ money to keep feeding the white elephant, while bullying the airport authority to make economically disadvantageous concessions to Ansett, possibly at the expense of other carriers. The Government must refuse. Why were Packer and Murdoch so interested?

Twice two makes five

Economic analyst Ed Shann said some interesting things in the Herald Sun (February 9). With constant pressure from the funds and bankers for companies to achieve returns far in excess of what is either prudent or practical, "companies like Enron diversified into increasingly higher risk operations, in the search for profits to keep its share price and executive remuneration rising".

When the inevitable happened and some of these high risk investments failed Enron tried to hide the results of its failures. It shifted losses off the balance sheet while declaring profitable transactions.

Isn’t this happening here? And are we ever warned before the roof falls in? And don’t the fairy stories and the cover-ups from our masters, their regulators, and the scribes, start up immediately? The capitalist emperor must be seen to have clothes, dammit.

This could be a bad year for greed; but a great one for lying.

Out of Africa

"Every day [in South Africa] there are on average 59 murders, 145 rapes, and 752 serious assaults, and now a new crime, the rape of babies. Women and children are being abused and killed in high numbers within the family, while the Minister for Safety and Security says: ‘We cannot police this. There is nothing more we can do’."

This was a quote from Andrew Kenny (Spectator, December 29, 2001).

Unemployment in South Africa now runs at 33 per cent while the rand is 17 to the US dollar, down from 5 when the ANC took control. Twelve per cent of the population is HIV positive, but the President says HIV can’t cause AIDS. Criticisms of any aspect of South African society are most unwelcome. Whether they concern health, education, galloping corruption, carnage on the roads, violence, and insecurity for white and black alike; affirmative action policies which install coloured workers, including engineers, who no matter how inefficient or uncooperative, cannot be dismissed - criticisms are verboten. And criticism is very likely to be followed by accusations of racism, if you’re a white critic, or "self-hating" if you are a black critic.

The results are, for example, the unit costs of production are rising, the rand is falling and departure from South Africa of whites, mainly skilled, is at its highest ever. And these are early days.

A clue to the whites’ future in South Africa was the December 2002 meeting of the Southern African Development Commission where South Africa expressed total support for Mugabe’s policies in Zimbabwe. This support was repeated at the meeting of many Commonwealth heads held recently, with the black states lining up to kill all suggestions of sanctions: thereby refusing to go along with the EU or with Great Britain or Australia.

The CHOGM meeting in Brisbane will soon reveal a split along racial lines - the split pre-ordained by the black members. Is this Huntington’s Law - i.e., the clash of cultures - at work in Africa as elsewhere?

Watching the latest heist to push masses of cheap, unskilled labour into Australia by the big moneybags - got me to thinking about the kinds of migrants we would really like to accept - ones which do not cost us an arm and a leg to settle. More and more South Africans are already coming here, and not a few from Mugabe’s racist nightmare state. There are six million whites in South Africa, and it is they who made South Africa and Zimbabwe into the prosperous, essentially optimistic states which they were.

These people have a proven track record - so we ought to be going after them. Our Jewish community is working hard to take in any South African Jews anxious to move - and good luck to them. But I know of few other organised attempts to attract these skilled, educated and English-speaking people.

There would be opposition from the racists in our midst - those who hate Europeans, especially detest the Anglo-connection; and those who are angered by the Christian West. But nowadays most people recognise such unfortunates.

Andrew Kenny asks, "Is South Africa doomed to follow the rest of Africa into oblivion?" Which is where the rest has gone.

Obviously loving South Africa, he says no - not necessarily. Being uninvolved, I would says yes, it is. Kenny says bringing back "any kind of white minority rule is morally and politically untenable - and anyway, no whites would want the job". This last says it all.

By the way, is black minority rule - one tribe calling the shots over the other tribes - immoral? Or a dictatorship of a majority over a minority, whom the majority marginalises and persecutes? Never mind - I think we should just prepare properly and legally for European South Africans when they decide to come.

So far as the non-European members of the Commonwealth who are going to back Mugabe again and who would split the Commonwealth if opposed, are concerned - there is a remedy which George Bush has been applying to Muslim states impeding his war against terrorism. Cut off aid while making things generally difficult for the obstructionists; and rewarding those who oblige. Selective rewards to particular, influential members of an otherwise hostile junta, often works wonders. Bush is going to start doing the same to the great UN bureaucracy and the aid multinationals before too long, thinking he has better uses for US money. He is going to start demanding a bang for a buck, and so should we. But there will be a great wailing and gnashing of cheque books.

If, it is said, cutting back on aid to, say, South Africa hurts the poor - well, in a country where millions are without running water, sanitation or proper housing, the Government is about to spend R60 billion on new military weapons. When the inevitable uproar and corruption inquiry followed, President Mbeki said critics had "the racist conviction that Africans, who now govern our country, are naturally prone to corruption, venality and mismanagement". So there.

Who is South Africa expecting to fight - other than its own people? Answer - no one.

Third World countries have armies not to fight wars, but to oppress their own peoples, and enrich and empower their own politicians and army leaders. The new planes sit in their hangars, while the politicians sit in the nightclubs.

The West knows this when they sell the arms (and know that some of them will finish up with third parties; enemies of the West). The power and authority which armies confer, locks out the majority - indefinitely.

Now that Bush has provided his own weapons industries with a brand new arms race, he can, if he wishes, tell them to lay off the Third World rulers - it’s chicken feed, fellas.

But non-military aid, without cast iron conditions - simply leaves corrupt, unaccountable rulers free to squander their nation’s social product, which Western aid obliging replaces. Two steps forward, two steps back.




























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