The Guardian August 15, 2001


Editorial:

Let's call it by its right name corruption

The death of Christopher Skase has focussed minds on the corruption that 
is endemic in big business affairs. The capitalist system measures the 
pinnacle of success in terms of dollars. The law permits it, the state 
rewards it, the media either promotes it or covers up corruption except 
when the rapacity of individuals becomes too glaring and others get 
hurt.

That was Christopher Skase's crime. It was not that he had spectacularly 
"worked the system" to make millions but that in collapsing his Quintex 
company, he had robbed others of their share of the loot.

As his daughter-in-law remarked at the time of his death  he did no more 
than what was the norm in the 1980s. Just so!

But any implication that things have changed since the 1970s would be 
misplaced.

For years there were the "bottom of the harbour" tax evasion schemes 
whereby companies manipulated their accounts to avoid taxation. Does anyone 
really think things have changed?

On August 9, the Australian Financial Review reported that 
billionaire Harry Triguboff (the Meriton Apartments tycoon), has offered 
the Tax Office $200 million to settle an ATO claim of double that amount. 
Then there is the strange fact that Kerry Packer, allegedly Australia's 
richest man, is able to get away paying virtually no tax at all.

We have the examples of OneTel and the HIH Insurance collapses. Clearly, 
there is corruption involved. The Board members of these companies were 
able to get away with millions in gratuitous payments.

Other companies have sunk without any publicity in the media with workers 
left high and dry. Isn't that why the AMWU has had to wage a struggle to 
force companies (and very big and wealthy ones at that) to put workers' 
entitlements into a Manusafe fund?

And why have the companies fought so hard against this entirely justified 
claim? It is because in the future these companies want to pocket their 
employees entitlements and want to do some "restructuring" which leaves 
their workers holding an empty bag.

Oh, yes! these practices are perfectly legal. Company law is written to 
protect the shoddy practices of the capitalist system.

Corruption is not limited, however, to company directors. The recently 
published report of the National Audit Office tells a sorry story of 
corruption (let's call it by its right name) going on among Federal 
politicians.

Taxpayers paid out no less than $350 million in entitlements to serving and 
retired Federal politicians. There are 223 members of the House of 
Representatives and the Senate and an unknown number of retired politicians 
still drawing their lucrative pensions or travel allowances.

The National Auditor made a scathing report and made 28 recommendations. 
You will not be surprised to know that the government Department of Finance 
and Administration rejected all but three of the Auditor's recommendations. 
That is a clear indication that the government has no intention of putting 
a stop to the lurks and perks.

The report states that one politician billed the taxpayer for $93,933 for 
photographic services while another spent $16,880 on handing out Australian 
flags in his electorate. Yet another spent $41,000 to fly his family around 
Australia.

Retired politicians claimed more than $2 million for travel costs while 
travel for spouses and children for present MPs cost more than $1.3 
million.

Again, all of this is probably perfectly "legal" in terms of the 
parliamentary rules and regulations. After all, it is the same parliament 
that makes the rules for big corporations and the morality and the 
practices of most parliamentarians go along with the capitalist system. 

A report of the National Crime Authority helps to make the point. It says 
that financial deregulation (which is Federal government policy) has made 
it easier for criminals to conceal their activities. Only criminals? Their 
report says the proliferation of offshore tax havens had made it hard to 
detect money laundering, while launderers were engaging professionals who 
understood complex global financial systems to assist them.

Corruption is endemic to capitalism.- that's the reality  and it's the 
system that has to be put out of business eventually if there is to be any 
chance of putting an end to corrupt practices.
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