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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 29 February 2008
Questions remain how stand over man Younan passed himself off as ICAC officer
Mood:  not sure
Topic: nsw govt

Picture: Where ever you look there are developers including "Stockland" outside the ICAC hearing room as a gaggle of media monitor figures exiting today.


The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is the kind of place where they give the media an emergency exit plan like on a Qantas flight. Everything should be fine but they are defying 'gravity' only in this case the ruthless game of money politics in NSW.
It's easy to fall into a frivolous attitude with the cartoon like characters straight out of the Sopranos lined up at this hearing. Really they do look so. Big fairly harmless guys like Cr Frank Gigliotti in the witness box today in the Gong-gate, upset over his wife's breast cancer who just wanted the sinister stand over man Younan to leave him alone.
The Commission played footage of a case of Chivas Regal from Gigliotti going into Younan's car boot ostensibly to keep the ICAC itself quiet, that he was impersonating: Here it is already on News Ltd websites:
Whiskey scandal brewing
THIS is the moment a councillor caught up in the ICAC sex-for-development case gave a case of whiskey to conmen posing as corruption investigators. Video of the handover was released today as Morris Iemma told a female MP caught up in the scandal to stand down and Wollongong council's future is on the rocks. More
At this point the hearing room door opened as someone entered and guffaws of laughter could be heard from the Media Room as the flaks watched the same footage across the foyer.
Maybe it was Friday cabin fever for these folks - serious reporters like Deborah Cornwall (7.30), Wendy Frew (SMH), John Lyons (The Australian) and the bloke from the ABC tv who usually does the whimsy (maybe his exec producer also has a sense of humour). And others I don't recognise.
But a flippant reaction to proceedings would be wrong. Certainly the beak Judge Jerrold Cripps was techy with miserable Gigliotti, who was doing no giggling and didn't enjoy his gig today. We made a drawing of him with his ample girth resting on the desk surface in front, balancing on the chair edge, as if to concede it was always going to be inadequate:

One of the meeja agreed it was a case of racketeer "wolves amongst sheep" with Gig arguably being the latter.

In fact we found the hearing room a little intimidating amongst the ethnic folk even with our own 1/8 Italian heritage - what were these guys really capable of? We started to see the sense in sitting at the back where one is less noticeable amongst the serious players, or camp in the media room itself.
Frank Vellar who for want of a better metaphor was an older version of the Matt Damon character in The Departed deep in the mire, reverting to Italian for emphasis, bedding the talent Beth Morgan. She was sitting (significantly?) next to John Lyons (The Australian) most of the morning suggestive of some kind of media deal. She will surely run the naivety defence with tender age, those looks, and benign sexism, it just might work. On the other hand Vella is quoted today referring to his male developer and councillor peers as "smarter than a fox" and "they will eat you" to one Cr Zanotto.
We went to the ICAC pursuing a theory, that like Matt Damon in the movie they had or have a rat deep in their midst. We suspect so from the Debra Jopson story front page Sydney Morning Herald 21/2/08 namely:
Maybe this Melinda McCabe formerly Manager of Investigations at ICAC who turns up working with disgraced Joe Scimone at the Maritime Authority is the real Matt Damon in this story? We pressed Nicole Thomas, media officer for ICAC on this point and she called back quick smart but only to say ominously "no comment".
Certainly Judge Cripps wanted to know why the hell Gigliotti was so convinced a hefty grub like Younan could possibly be an ICAC officer. It was indeed incredulous, and to hear the detail was to feel the chill clammy embrace of Big Younan and even sympathise with his victims. 'How stupid' we are supposed to think unless .....there is or was a rat deep down in the ICAC burrow. In that case it could ring true to hapless Gigliotti, who otherwise didn't seem that stupid, well and truly hooked by Younan, who did in fact trade on the allegation ICAC was dirty. It's a scenario likely to greatly unsettled the beak too.
We all have to hope it was a mere ruse.
Then there is the quandary of Ms Morgan, senior planner. One journo said she's irrelevant now, and a retired senior planner of 35 years experience in the public gallery told this writer she was "naive". The Daily Telegraph runs a story today pretty much to the effect she has already been punished by humiliation as a pawn, if not porn, or hooker for gaming developers:
is the title on the web, but actually the headline in print is 
This woman deserves our support
with a big neutral image clutching legal folders. How's that for friendly spin?
On the other hand we recall a Peter Corris crime thriller where the willing participant in a Bonny & Clyde sex and robbery adventure is later absolved for being young, female, and emotional. Certainly Morgan, possibly with her mother sitting next to her, is such in the back of the court - mortified, quietly distraught even as Vellar gave his evidence this morning at one point looking up, and who knows maybe even to the back of the court but probably to his lawyer.
We admit to a cynical streak still - something doesn't quite gel with us in all her genuine anxiety - reportage of writing the ethics policy then breaking it; leadership training programme in Bondi Junction, fooling around with a married developer, her own divorce, joining in the table of knowledge tactics meetings; failing to officially report Joe Scimone's harrassment while knowing his political connections; Noreen Hay MP elected in 2003 and a certain age and ripe for a challenge like Jodi McKay got that seat of Bryce Gaudry up in Newcastle. Or maybe just her tone of voice in the tapes played today at the hearing.  Just how ambitious and calculating was Ms Morgan? Was her goal a political career in the end, short circuiting the money men drip feed to the other councillors, for her own political aspirations? Was she ever a member of the local ALP herself? Did she fancy herself after the Greens stole Cunningham federally in 2001?
Did she look at Nicole Cornes in South Australia and think I can do that, all I need is financial backing?
Noreen Hay has just been ditched too, as we read this arvo on the Sydney Morning Herald 3.32 pm today

ALEXANDRA SMITH 3:32pm | Premier orders Wollongong MP to step down as secretary for health.

Our theory re Morgan stalking Noreen Hay MP is probably all fanciful and unworthy and certainly lacks any factual basis, all circumstantial surmise. Possibly says more about this writer's obsession with real politik. But then we just wonder, was there two Beth Morgan's? The besotted naive mid level planner, or the bored ambitious calculating amoral political animal who knew the power geography too well and the role of money in that paradigm, whose general manager was literally in it up to his neck as well, but not her immediate superviser Director of Planning? Ms Morgan had ability and opportunity, maybe motive, and we wonder.
Was she in fact too good a student of reality in that frog pond and taking a career path? Anxiety more about the existence of the ICAC itself putting a spoke in the whole sorry affair including her escalator upward?
There were some choice comments in the hearing about the "fuckwit deputy" and "mini me" etc present councillors. Truth to tell Beth Morgan couldn't have been worse.
Judge Cripps gave natural justice notification to all the lawyers as the day's hearing drew to a close that under S. 74C of the ICAC Act:

[74C Reports relating to local government authorities

(1) The Commission is authorised to include in a report under section 74 a recommendation that consideration be given to the making of a proclamation under the Local Government Act 1993 that all civic offices in relation to a local government authority be declared vacant if the Commission is of the opinion that systemic corruption exists within the local government authority.]

they would need to address this potential recommendation to govt for dismissal of the Gong council. 

We already know from his press conference a week ago Premier Iemma is keen to sack the council too.
State Govt will be keen to quarrantine Wollongong Local Govt at every turn, including ditch Noreen Hay MP, a loyal servant of the regional ALP but not nearly as good looking as Ms Beth Morgan.
The ICAC broke up early - 1.30 pm today - probably so the Big Meeja could work up the audio and visual material provided on disk for the weekend splash. Nicole Thomas as media officer like a heavily armed navy frigate, if not battleship, was keeping jealous watch again over the media fleet. Earlier she dispensed AV disks, and now ever more transcripts as we left in search of honest sunlight.
We used the exit plan.

Posted by editor at 3:49 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008 10:22 AM EADT
Wild variability in weather a symptom of climate change?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: globalWarming


Picture: Storm clouds roll over Marrickville yesterday 28 Feb 08, as radio talk back callers notice torrential rain thrashing their local areas, causing truck drivers to pull over and let these brief storm bursts pass over.

Recently the non profit Bondi Beach Community Night Market (as distinct from the much bigger School Market nearby) asked me to check their submission for renewal of their DA, having been a ward councillor 95 to 99, and now doing some part time secretarial work for their monthly meetings to help pay our bills (Feb 08). We were too late with feedback to influence their written submission, what with NSW politics in general in meltdown and just trying to keep up with the flurry of stories from the Big Media 'reptiles' (or is that angels?). They got their DA approved as per many previous years last Tuesday 26 Feb 08.

But we did notice this rather significant financial feedback via the market stall coalface down on the coastal strip: Somewhat anecdotal to be sure but it's another thread in a changing eco-system;

The BBCNM’s previous & current hours of operation were agreed upon with the Council equitably to give as much time as possible to the market to enable reasonable trading hours each year, & also to provide fair & equitable access to the site for other Council promotions etc.


Since these original terms were agreed upon a number of factors have impacted on the area. One of the main issues facing the profitability of the market is the increasingly unpredictable weather for this area. In the last two trading years (October to April) the market has only been able to trade until near midnight three times. For the last 3 or 4 years, in the summer time the market is extremely lucky to be able to trade until 9pm/ 10 pm at the very latest due to adverse weather conditions (including wind).


For the past few years traders have faced very difficult times economically which began with the knock-on effect from the Cronulla riots, to extremely bad weather of the last two Summers. The new trading hours proposed by the Council will affect many people’s livelihood, severely restricting the BBCNM authority & possibly bring back a return to the anarchy of the illegal trading of old.



The trade in the area is naturally both seasonally & weather dependant. During the increasingly brief periods of warm sunny weather people head to the beach in droves, but on the more usual overcast, cold or rainy days more often than not the vast majority of those that venture to Bondi flock to the sanctuary of Bondi Junctions Westfield.

Because of these adverse conditions and the fact that Roscoe St is a wind tunnel & unprotected from the elements many trading days are affected. Factors such as rain, strong winds, the cooling effects of the early shadows/ winds that sweep/ hit the area restrict, or eliminate the possibility of trading altogether on many days. Many Bondi Beach businesses say that these days there are only 40 good trading days per year at Bondi Beach - the rest of the time you struggle to pay the rent. ....


Meanwhile front page of the SDT captures the general vibe here today:

Which follows that newspaper coverage of high impact localised storming:

Wild weather ends lost summer Wild weather ends lost summer
Hail in the hills ... Bilpin, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, after the storm passed. Picture: Greg Dulson

The experts are noting that this is all about La Nina cycles rather than climate change as such but tell that to the folks copping it and noticing the weirdness.

Posted by editor at 8:14 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008 8:55 AM EADT
Thursday, 28 February 2008
'Insider trading is part of the system': Market participants
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: corporates


  Eddy Groves

With the ABC Learning (no relation to ABC public broadcaster) share trading intrigue breaking in the news this timely backgrounder only last week, with selected choice quotes:

Insider trading rife in Australia | NEWS.com.au 23 Feb 2008

INSIDER trading is so rife in the Australian stock market it may be weakening the reputation of the local bourse, forcing the companies' watchdog to bulk up its resources in the wake of a poor track record in cracking down on the practice. ....

"It is frustrating and commonplace to see informed price movement happen before announcements,'' Peter Hunt, principal at boutique investment bank Caliburn Partnership, told the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Summer School yesterday.

"There is greed and short-termism that is pervasive, and getting worse.'' ....

"We are concerned that insider trading is at a level that is a major issue for the market,'' Balanced Equity Management managing director Andrew Sisson said.

....He said in the 40 days before an announcement, a target's share price would rise on average 10 per cent.

"In the very last day there is a spike of about 3 per cent typically,'' Mr Sisson said.

"This is partly rumours, partly straight insider trading. It's fair to say that a significant level of insider trading is detrimental to our market.''

.... Gresham executive director Jenny Seagate said 2007 was "a year when insider trading was on the rise''.

..... "For many market practitioners six-figure fines are relatively small, although it is a lot of money to most people.

"Let's seriously think about decent seven-figure sums.'' ....

Peter Hunt's ways to cut insider trading
* The secondment of staff between ASIC and the private sector
* Better data about insider trading
* Measuring the performance of the regulator against the data
* Handing ASX's supervisory powers to ASIC to create a centre of excellence
* Improving and speeding up the litigation process
* A specialist markets tribunal made up of market participants of "good standing"
* Financial rewards and immunity from prosecution for whistle blowers
* Plea bargaining and civil penalties with $1 million plus fines
* Give compliance officers a statutory duty to report directly to ASIC if they see or suspect suspicious behaviour

Posted by editor at 10:05 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008 4:42 PM EADT
Stop press: Developer given enough rope on Deb Cameron ABC 702
Mood:  vegas lucky
Topic: nsw govt

 Image:Godfather ver1.jpg

Oh my god, live to air, a Wollongong developer called "John Canelli" as we heard it. As sometimes happens his mobile phone rang during the interview and he was caught mid stride passionately defending his development industry sector. Otherwise no great significance one would think.

Then it happened, a tune wafted over the airwaves across all of Sydney like a scene from the excellent Shawshank Redemption - not ethereal opera but his ring tone theme from The Godfather pseudo docu-drama about the Sicilian Mafia, not to be confused with the Camorra from the Campania region of Italy.

No wonder Deb Cameron felt "lucky". It's a scoop and quite bizarre electric broadcasting. Andrew Denton's enough rope modus operandi has struck again.

Next interview by direct comparison was intrinsically honest former NSW Auditor Tony Harris. Oh how the fates have combined. Then a good Samaritan bikie, then an ocean rescue of a fisherman. What a morale booster for the still fairly quite new radio jock Cameron. Bravo. Who would have thought Big media reptiles could lose so good by comparison:

And moderate ABC sledger Joe Hildebrand has the page 1 byline on the Sydney Daily Telegraph today with more tough love on government integrity. One feels the 4th Estate have got up on their hind legs (!) and have been doing their profession proud this fortnight, and so much praise here for that.

So enjoy this sublime Mozart here, you earned it via "Andy" aka actor Tim Robbins

     YouTube - Andy plays Mozart

And especially this thrilling part, turning the volume control ... even higher.


Postscript #1 29 Feb 2008



Posted by editor at 8:40 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008 9:06 AM EADT
SMH reflecting social and government neurotic conflict on dangerous climate threat?
Mood:  sad
Topic: globalWarming

This cut and paste from the layout of the Herald opinion pages yesterday indicates the tragedy of our times: Increasingly existential threat to society correctly identified by economics editor Ross Gittins from dangerous climate change and yet the Herald editorial proper commitment to growth of the energy sector with

"in a state that expects rapid population growth, and corresponding economic growth, in coming decades"

Talk about disjunction. It's the tragedy of our times and maybe of all time. About 12 years left if you read Gittins closely , and factor in the best scientific advice coming through the mass media, indeed breaking through the market based ecnomic filters.

A market failure which is the tragedy of our time, and probabaly of 4 billion plus years of evolutionary ecology:


Earlier today we wrote here:

Rally for public power assets in public hands

This is a real mind bending situation - no doubt about it. One thing capitalism does well is creative destruction of a sunset sector tearing down assets ..... no doubt about that. But in the case of restructure of a major major major profitable natural monopoly I strongly suspect the capitalist free market model won't work to achieve this renewable energy outcome that all thinking people unionists, and greenies want.

That is a high employing solar and wind and geothermal and wave etc energy sector.

The reason is the ability to make money from dirty energy via abundant coal is just too easy with huge momentum right now. Why close a big coal power station with all that huge private profit?  There just is no financial incentive, rather there is every incentive to just run it into the ground cutting safety, and higher mechanisation and less jobs and ramp up production until it busts in terms of equipment or government carbon regulation.

That's a recipe for ultra production of dirty energy. What we need is a hypothecated restructure where the profit centres in the business, namely the retail side (not the negative high maintenance poles and wires which they couldn't sell if they tried), into those renewable energy agendas.  That is publicly subsidised transfer and restructure. That's far better done with public control just as JK Galbraith exercised control during the crisis of WW2 for the US Govt (winning two US presidential medals of freedom as a giant of the political economy).

This sell off agenda ever since 1997 has been a naked attempt at hiving off the profitable section to big business mates just like profitable 380 bus route with a private heavy rail link to Bondi, socialise the costs by closing the 380 down, and all the other bus routes cross funded by the 380.

To think such big big big restructure can follow without sufficient ownership control is just a little too wishful given corporate ability to cook political policy with money politics - they will use that dough to sabotage and delay the scale down and replacement - saying China and India aren't doing it so we ought not, we will have blackouts, we need more not less power for the growing economy etc. In other words no renewable energy switch at all. All that grubby money, all that cheap coal.

A public interest centrally planned economy is in fact a good model for big big big public interest problems, where the profit motive is way secondary like a time of war itself. Ross Gittins/Herald article yesterday when you read it carefully is shocking. And totally contrary to the editorial same day in direction really. He is saying we have about 12 years until the end of the world and the human project way over 450 ppb of CO2 equivalents. In short we are fucked without massive massive intervention into the market and that means walking away from corporate hegemonic control of our economy with its growth fetish.

In other words fuck off private equity etc corporations including in the energy sector, we prefer the planet and a future to the money. And yes it does mean loss of easy short term funding. It is a big sacrifice with alot less lolly money. But it is also crtiical to a sustainable future for a publicly driven economic restructure. Even the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta seems to have added his voice. Incredible really.

Posted by editor at 8:16 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008 8:11 AM EADT
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Herald reporter nails Premier Iemma with question on improper influence?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: nsw govt

As the heat and damage continues to mount all this fortnight the front page of the Sydney Daily Telegraph had the weight early as above in this story:

It's time to be frank, Sartor | The Daily Telegraph

Interestingly the ABC radio are reporting a legal threat by Premier Iemma against any media suggesting corrupt decision making of Ministers as a consequence of donations. That is a libel suit:

 Iemma threatens journos amid donations tension ABC

And Sartor is in pain too:

Donations row: Sartor snaps at 'scumbags' - ABC News (Australian ...

But Andrew Clennell is of rival Sydney Morning Herald is also in the hunt for a Walkley with this story in full below which was on their webpage until earlier this evening, and is still searchable online, but off their main page now it seems. Is this the result of legal pressure?

We feel it needs to be copied and reposted, just to be sure it remains in the public domain. For though Quentin Dempster argues on ABC TV tonight there is no evidence yet of proximity between donations and decisions, we submit that is not the only test of correct governance.

 Rather we say another is that but for the position of power, would the request for support for say a fundraising dinner, or a donation direct, have been given? If not then that's use of the ministerial position for a personal party political benefit. In short a protection racket - the implied threat is you will donate or else take the consequences. It starts to look and feel like "the joke" as corrupt conduct has been known as previously.

That's the allegation in Clennell's story and Iemma hasn't answered it, except in fact to admit he has "participated" in fundraising. Iemma is a lawyer. He knows or should know from 1st year contracts at law school about "undue influence" and "unconscionable conduct" thus invalidating a legal agreement. What about in the extra ministerial activities of a senior politician: Even if it can be argued as not the intention to leverage the portfolio for donations, then what about the effect? Does every interest group except the minister think there is no pressure to donate?

Clennell is asking the right question, as per the strong front page story in the Daily Telegraph by Joe Hildebrand pictured above about Minister Sartor. Sartor can say until he is blue in the face there was no connection between donations to the Party and his planning decision but what of the effect on the giver(s)? Did they expect a quid pro quo? And what about the other story of canvassing for a fundrasing dinner to developers who needed Minister Sartor's discretionary support? That's the same undue influence question directed at Premier Iemma with no convincing answer to date.

We have no hesitation in saying those developers had no freedom to refuse the minister's clammy embrace if they wanted to do business, and the Greens are right to call it "inappropriate". Protection racket would be another term.



Mr Iemma ... dodged the question.

Mr Iemma ... dodged the question.
Photo: Bob Pearce

Andrew Clennell, State Political Editor
February 27, 2008 - 12:17PM

NSW Premier Morris Iemma today refused to answer whether he has ever personally telephoned interest groups in his portfolio responsibility areas as a minister or premier to ask them to attend fundraisers, as the storm over political donations to the Labor party grows.

Mr Iemma's evasion of the question follows Sydney Morning Herald revelations, which have been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption by the Greens, that during a phone call Planning Minister Frank Sartor asked the chief executive of Stockland Group, Matthew Quinn, to book a table for a fundraiser.

Stockland at the time had several applications before the minister.

Yesterday in Parliament Mr Sartor refused to deny the allegations.

He has previously said he has "no specific recollection" of the conversation.

Mr Quinn has not commented on the alleged conversation.

Mr Iemma was asked today: "Either as a minister or as the premier have you ever telephoned any interest group within your portfolio responsibility and asked them whether they were attending a fundraiser?"

He said: "I've participated in fundraisers in the past, I've participated and attended fundraisers as the premier, as the former prime minister has, as have other ministers, shadow ministers and indeed the leader of the opposition is attending one on Friday and never [have I had] any improper association, conduct as a result of attending fundraisers or being involved in fundraisers."

Journalist: "When you were a minister or the premier have you ever telephoned an interest group within your portfolio responsibility and asked them whether they were attending a fundraiser?

Mr Iemma: "It's the same question you just asked me and I just provided you with a response."

Mr Iemma also defended Mr Sartor and appeared to pre-empt the ICAC finding concerning Mr Sartor, saying he was a man of "integrity".

He told the journalist:"If you're alleging corruption on the part of the minister for planning, do so, lay the allegation, face the consequences of the libel suit that comes.

"If you're alleging he's acted corruptly, in a matter that is before him, lay it and face the consequences of the libel action."

Posted by editor at 8:03 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 8:55 PM EADT
Pics of seriously energetic rally to keep public power assets in high risk climate
Mood:  energetic
Topic: nsw govt









Posted by editor at 8:45 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 5:32 PM EADT
Crikey calls for tips on Manildra ripping off the taxpayer on ethanol
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: aust govt


Veteran Alan Ramsey took a swing at Dick Honan (pictured above) of the Manildra corporation way back 2003 here:

A disgrace of the old school - smh.com.au 16 Aug 2003

Here is veteran Michelle Grattan back then too:

It's not assets, it's access - theage.com.au 17 Aug 2003

Lateline ABC reportage here of similar vintage:

Lateline - 11/08/2003: Labor attack Govt over Honan ethanol deal ...

Over at the Big Commercials, then Finance Editor Michael Pascoe with Seven Sunrise dishes the Big Money gossip back in Sept 2004:

Michael Pascoe, Finance Editor: While Sunday Sunrise's transmission was interrupted by the Olympics, some amazing business stories were playing out.

Inevitably in a particularly busy period, some extremely interesting details have been largely overlooked - details such as Dick Honan, chairman of Manildra Group, threatening John Pascoe when he was chairman of George Weston Foods - and John Pascoe apparently yielding to that threat - effectively, corporate blackmail.

He is of course no relation of mine.

Now that's the same Manildra Group that is the biggest single donor to the Liberal Party, the company that the Federal Government turned itself inside out to help over a little matter of ethanol. Yes, that Manildra.

George Weston also is a major contributor to the Liberal Party's coffers - some $600, 000 over the past five years. As either chief executive officer for 15 years and more recently as chairman, one might suspect John Pascoe had a say in that.

There's something else worth knowing about George Weston - aside from making Tip Top bread, Golden Crumpets and various biscuits, it's also a serial abuser of the Trade Practices Act with a particular taste for price fixing.

Four times its been hauled before the beak and fined for price fixing and associated matters - most recently two weeks ago when it copped the one and a half million dollar fine the ACCC asked for - and the ACCC has been criticised for not seeking more.

The actual fine was reported by several newspapers - but only the Australian's court reporter, Vanda Carson, picked up the apparent corporate blackmail story in Federal Court judge Roger Gyles' scathing judgement.

Otherwise, it fell through the cracks until the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday ran a riveting feature by Elisabeth Sexton, albeit well back in the paper.

Justice Gyles' judgement is itself a fascinating read - but let's just stick to the corporate blackmail bit.

A George Weston director, Paul Loneragan, had rung Manildra executives to suggest increasing the price of flour - price fixing.

Dick Honan didn't go to the ACCC when he found out about it. He went to John Pascoe because what Honan wanted was to stop George Weston importing gluten. Oh, I should have mentioned, gluten is another product Manildra dominates in Australia.

According to Honan's own extraordinary evidence, he told Pascoe he would go the ACCC about the price fixing unless Pascoe agreed by 5 pm to stop the importation and re-export of gluten.

As Justice Gyles puts it:

"Later that day, Pascoe informed Honan that the commercial matter was resolved in the manner sought by Honan."

Pascoe didn't go to the ACCC either. He did sack Loneragan, but with 12 months pay. And George Weston re-employed him as a consultant the very next month. Justice Gyles makes some interesting comments about that.

As it turned out, some anonymous whistleblower still tipped off the ACCC about the price fixing attempt.

Pascoe also was chairman of Aristocrat and Centrelink as well as George Weston, but he suddenly resigned all his very well-paid board positions two months ago when the Federal Government appointed him chief federal magistrate.

What I'm left wondering is: If that judgement had been made prior to John Pascoe's appointment, would it have had baring on his suitability for such a senior judicial role?

For that matter, would it have had baring on his ability to continue as chairman of a poker machine manufacturer? Would acceding to Honan's threat pass probity in the gambling industry?

I also can't help wondering if the ACCC needs to take a close look at the gluten industry. 

Dick Honan is no slouch in the affluence stakes:

ABIX via COMTEX) -- "BRW" magazine released its "Rich 200" list for Australia for 2002. The net estimated worth of Dick Honan is $A250m, which compares with $A270m in 2001. Honan, who inherited a flour milling and sugar business, has built Manildra Milling into a major Australian food processing company. Manildra rationalised its US food processing operations and bought the bioproducts division of George Weston Foods for an estimated $A41m.

Publication Date: 23 May 2002

Here is Crikey.com.au last Monday 25th February 2008, and it's a cracking story about corporate welfare:

Manildra's fuel ethanol grant will increase inflation

Richard Farmer writes:

As we try to make sense of stories about politics and companies, it pays to keeping looking at the list Crikey published back at the beginning of the month of who is giving how much to which party. I checked this morning and it put the current Independent Commission into Corruption inquiry about goings on at the Wolloongong Council into a proper perspective.

Property developers and development companies provided $5.1 million of the $13.9 million which Australian Electoral Commission figures show was donated to the three major political parties in 2006-07. Now we know that there is no such thing as free morning coffee as well as a free lunch.

The list also would make a normal person wonder why it was that the ethanol producer Manildra Group was the biggest single donor of all. Was there something other than altruism behind Mr Dick Honan's support for the democratic process? One of our website users suggests there just might be. In an anonymous tip the informant writes:

Dear Crikey, Please keep my details confidential. I thought you would find this information of interest.

I note that Crikey recently highlighted the massive donations given by Mr Dick Honan's Manildra Group to the two major political parties.

I'm sure you are aware that Manildra is Australia's near-monoploy fuel ethanol producer and receives a biofuel grant from the Federal government of just over 38 cents per litre. (Mr Howard ensured Manildra received the grant while ethanol importers would not.) Manildra will soon have the capacity to produce around 120 megalitres per year. Anyone doing the sums will quickly realise that the 2% biofuel mandate to be implemented by the NSW government, not to mention the 40 megalitre/year contract BP recently signed with Manildra, will result in Manildra collecting large sums of taxpayers' money.

Manildra asserts that its ethanol is solely derived from waste starch (i.e. fermentation of starch and sugars in the effluent stream of their Bomaderry gluten and starch operation. The plant separates wheat flour into gluten and starch. Some starch/sugars are lost to the liquid effluent stream). This makes them look greener than green. This is not the case.

Manildra has used corn starch from China and is currently negotiating with a Thai company (The THH Group) to supply tapioca chips to produce ethanol. Also, because of the huge profit margin on fuel ethanol, Manildra has been diverting more and more food-grade and industrial-grade starch to ethanol production. It is also rumoured that they are sending sugar from their Harwood sugar refinery to Nowra for ethanol production.

The result is obvious; The price of the starch and starch-based products (glucose, fructose, maltose, etc) that Manildra sells to food and beverage companies such as Fosters, Kraft, Cadburys and Nestle, and that are sold to industrial users such as Amcor, Visy and PaperlinX, must be increased so as to meet the profit margin enjoyed on the subsidised fuel ethanol.

In other words, the government's fuel ethanol grant is leading directly to food-price inflation which is in turn contributing to higher interest rates.

Aside from the food-fuel-inflation issue, wasn't the biofuel producers' grant supposed to assist LOCAL agriculture, not that of Thailand and China, which just makes our trade deficit even worse? Similarly, before handing over OUR money, why hasn't the Fed Government, the NSW Government or BP not demanded that Manildra provide a carbon/GHG lifecycle analysis and net energy analysis of their ethanol, as is now the case with biofuel suppliers to the EU market?

Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au, submit them anonymously here or SMS tips and photos to 0427 TIP OFF.

Next day 26th Feb 08 Manildra's PR officer responded to Crikey.com.au, which might not be quite apples and oranges on our first reading:


Peter Simpson, General Manager of the Manildra Group, writes: Re. "Manildra's fuel ethanol grant will increase inflation" (yesterday, item 15). I refer to your article in yesterday’s edition. This company does not as a general rule respond to allegations from anonymous informants particularly when such allegations are absolutely false. However the following points will serve to correct the factual errors contained in the points raised by your anonymous informant:

Biofuels Grant: Manildra does not retain the ethanol producer’s credit of 38.143 cents per litre. Not less than 112.5 per cent of this producer’s credit is returned to major oil companies and fuel wholesalers to pass on to Australian motorists. In other words 100 per cent of the Government subsidy paid by taxpayers is returned to the motorist together with another 12.5 per cent paid by Manildra It is for this reason that ethanol blended fuel is able to be sold cheaper at the petrol pump. Additionally, whilst it is true at the moment that this company produces the major part of Australia’s ethanol production, there are a number of new plants on the drawing board as well as other plants already in production. For example, Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources data shows that in 2006/2007, the total volume of ethanol claimed by producers Australia wide under the Ethanol Production Grants Program amounted to around 83.5 million litres of which around 53 million litres were claimed by Manildra. That is, Manildra only claimed 63 per cent of the total subsidy claimed.

Balance of Statements: Manildra does not import tapioca chips and has no intention of doing so. Corn starch imported by Manildra is used for the manufacture of modified products other than ethanol. Manildra is not sending sugar from the Harwood sugar refinery to Nowra.

I will not make further comment on this or the other statements made by your informant as frankly they do not make a lot of sense. I trust that in the interests of fairness you will publish this reply in today’s edition.

Posted by editor at 6:13 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 7:47 AM EADT
Break dance circus act for 2020 Summit: Puffed Nelson, grinning Ruddster, Garrett
Mood:  mischievious
Topic: aust govt

This is more interesting than watching paint dry, spotted via Crikey with original YT link below: There is something disturbing here too, perhaps the puffed Nelson figure valiantly keeping up with the beat while outnumbered, or is it the brash grinning poise of the Rudd and Garrett figures prosecuting their vaudeville rather than real policy action with such ease (the bread and circuses aspect of federal govt), or just the pathetic 'pollies just want to be loved/don't hurt me' sound track, as they live in financial security and relatively high on the hog. It works on so many levels we laughed hard, but we better stop trying to explain a joke (always a bit of a bore) and let this mash weave it's own magic here:

We watched the second half of the urban/climate change themed large format chat show Insight on SBS last night 26th Feb 08 and noted Prof Peter Newman from West Australia, that a market approach will just deliver "enclavism"surrounded by "Mad Max suburbs". Very true.

We have another too cynical speculative view about this elite list of the summiteers:  A cute story on West Wing tv series (episode 5, series 1 in fact) involved a special pass for the 'elite' like Josh Lyman character, who get to go into the bunker, or Airforce 1 if or when the apocalypse happens, calling up survivor guilt etc. Is this the first draft of our own Aussie bunker list The Day After Tomorrow?!

Posted by editor at 5:42 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 7:06 AM EADT
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
Comparative food budget of families across the world
Mood:  hungry
Topic: world

We received this from Steve Economidis on a broadcast email, but without attribution. It actually derives apparently from:

The book is Hungry Planet: what the world eats.  by Peter menzel.
Here are some more links about this work (that actually give credit to the ones due):
What's impressive is that the glorious images put us all in the picture. Who after all is not from 'a family'. Who indeed does not eat? What thinking person is not worried about sustainability of the human project and similarly ecological life supports?  

These images are reproduced in turn from


Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11 Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina Food expenditure for one week: $341.98 Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09 Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27 Family recipe: Pig's knuckles with carrots, celery and parsnips

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53 Family recipe: Okra and mutton

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo Food expenditure for one week : $31.55 Family recipe : Potato soup with cabbage

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03 Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Kuwait: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City Food expenditure for one week: 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Family recipe: Chicken biryani with basmati rice

China: The Dong family of Beijing Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce

United States: The Caven family of California Food expenditure for one week: $159.18
Favorite foods: beef stew, berry yogurt sundae, clam chowder, ice cream

Mongolia: The Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar Food expenditure for one week: 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02 Family recipe: Mutton dumplings

Great Britain: The Bainton family of Cllingbourne Ducis Food expenditure for one week: 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15 Favorite foods: avocado, mayonnaise sandwich, prawn cocktail, chocolate fudge cake with cream

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23 Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Posted by editor at 9:05 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008 9:32 AM EADT

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