The Guardian 23 February, 2005


Corporate corruption
and the Australian government

In its dealings with South Pacific countries the Australian government from the Prime Minister down demands their adherence to "good governance" and that they "rout out corruption". Even while giving aid to Indonesia following the tsunami, the Australian government made it clear that it expects to keep control over the way in which the money is allocated and spent.

The implication is clear. The Australian government does not recognise the sovereignty and independence of these governments or their ability to manage their own affairs. In the case of the Solomon Islands this went so far as to send a contingent of Australian troops and police and a contingent of "advisers" to take over the running of some government departments including police, the judicial system and financial departments. The Australian occupiers are still there and intend to remain for years to come.

Somewhat the same thing has been foisted on Papua New Guinea although there has been more resistance on the part of PNG's government.

If the Australian government is really about bringing an end to mismanagement and corruption it need go no further than Australia itself. There is plenty of corruption to attend to and there is much to be concerned about when it comes to "good governance".

The ongoing saga of the collapse of HIH Insurance and FAI is only one example of what is going on in the corporate world.

Rodney Adler and his other associates allegedly responsible for the collapse of HIH Insurance Ray Williams, Brad Cooper, Bill Howard and others are being charged with bribery, dishonesty and breaches of directors' duties. Adler and Williams have already pleaded guilty to serious criminal charges in return for other charges related to the collapse of HIH being dropped. The guilty plea is expected to result in a lighter sentence.

Billions of dollars are involved in the HIH collapse and one can only speculate on how and where some of these billions have been salted away for the future use of those who misappropriated them.

A summary of Rodney Adler's life carried by the Sydney Morning Herald (17/2/05) showed him to be a petty thief and problem at school, an arrogant yuppie, far from honest in business dealings and an associate of known criminals in Australia and the US. A real "captain of industry" to be sure!

Yet, he had in his control the management of millions of dollars of other people's money!

But what the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has revealed is only the tip of the iceberg as its operations are severely limited by lack of resources and staff to investigate and prosecute corporate crime.

In NSW (and undoubtedly in other states as well) there is widespread corruption in local government, especially in dealings with property developers.

At state and federal levels millions of dollars have been handed over to bail out or finance private enterprise projects which have a political spin-off. Why else would corporations make such huge contributions to the coffers of the ALP, Liberal and National Parties?

Corruption is endemic in the capitalist system, based, as it is, on maximising money-making at the expense of others. The Rodney Adler type of criminality is only an extreme manifestation of capitalist economy and morality.

There are no government campaigns against corruption in Australia only when it applies to other countries. It is a device used to justify and to win popular support for Australian intervention such as in Papua New Guinea or virtual occupation with military and police forces as in the case of the Solomon Islands. The government's objective is to ensure that the capitalist economic and social system is firmly installed in these countries as their economies and social systems develop and that Australian or US corporations play a dominant role there.

It would be an unacceptable tragedy (in the eyes of the Australian government) if these developing countries were to follow the example of Cuba, Venezuela or China, and established governments which started to run things for the people, in their own way and in their own interests.

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