Downs Under #2

August 4, 2006

ModeskiScot-in-exile Alec “modeski” Downs’ weekly summary of Australian news.

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No cronyism here, bank on that
Treasurer Peter Costello has this week strenuously denied any wrongdoing with his wife Tanya recently accepting a job with one of Australia’s largest banks, paying $150,000 (£61,000) per year. He conveniently omitted the small fact that the headhunter who recruited Mrs Costello was a 20-year family friend, John Allen.

Mr Allen said, “I can categorically tell you I have had no conversation with the Treasurer at all in the six months in which this was done, except formally, through my role with the Remuneration Tribunal.” Er, would that be the same Tribunal that decides the pay rates for politicians? Why yes, yes it would.

It gets better: In a marvellous feat of political doublespeak, when asked if the bank (ANZ) knew of his relationship with the Treasurer, Mr Allen said “I think there was an awareness that when you’re a recruiter, you can seek someone with a network who can identify and bring talent to you.” Or, roughly translated: “No, and I wasn’t about to tell them.”


Illegal fishermen to walk the plank?
Prime Minister John Howard continues to dismiss human rights as an inconvenience, with a novel plan to refit a prison ship to detain illegal fishermen off Australia’s northern coastline. Perhaps he’s been to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean film recently? Howard somewhat unconvincingly suggested we could one day see a sudden influx of illegal fishermen, and that sticking them in a ship’s brig for a month would be “very sensible” Yes, that seems far more sensible than, say, bringing them to prisons that we already have onshore.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said, “This policy harks back to Australia’s penal history” and I’m inclined to agree. Wouldn’t it be far more productive to channel more funds into the Coastguard? I can only wonder who the PM has in mind to give the contract for the prison ship to, and what they promised him in return. Maybe it’s all just a ploy to walk Peter Costello up the plank. Avast, ye usurping landlubber!


Labour gives PM deadline on interest rates
Opposition leader Kim Beazley would not get on well with Supernanny. Where the latter is plump, strict and stresses the consequences of misbehaviour, Mr Beazley challenged the PM to lower interest rates by year end – without saying what would happen if he did not. Where’s the incentive for the naughty child (Howard) to do as he’s told? As interest rates rise this week by 0.25%, Beazley capitalised on this to berate Howard for breaking his promise that rates would not rise under his government. That it was the Reserve Bank of Australia, and not the government who was responsible seems to have escaped the opposition leader somewhat.

Mr Beazley says of the PM that, “He will be judged on whether or not he has managed to [lower interest rates]” by middle Australia. Judged how, one might ask. In the next election? I have to say that the PM has thus far not heeded so-called middle Australia in (m)any issues, and while the ALP fail to present a credible alternative, I don’t think Howard will be unduly worried by this threat. Still, half the fun of not being in power is the ability to issue baseless threats.


Diplomat shirks responsibility for Kovco stuff-up
A bit of background for those of you who haven’t heard of this story: Jake Kovco was the first Australian soldier killed in Iraq. In a story which reminds me very much of the controversial Deepcut barracks, he apparently accidentally shot himself with his own pistol while horsing around. Feel free to draw your own conclusions, but you’d think that of all people, trained soldiers would know not to play with a loaded gun.

Instead of his body being returned to Australia, the military went against its own rules and used a commercial contractor to ship Kovco’s body back to the country for burial. Only, they sent the wrong person home. Instead, Bosnian joiner Juso Sinanovic’s corpse made the journey. Since this was discovered, all manner of people have been stepping up to deny responsibility.

Alastar Adams, the Australian consul who placed his seal on the coffin, thus ensuring the identity of the person, didn’t actually check to see who was in there. If only he’d compared the photograph of the body with Kovco’s passport, he’d have seen that they were two different men, one even have a beard where the other did not. Of course, Adams blames Kovco’s platoon sergeant. The Defence Minister blames the morgue, the Prime Minister promises to get to the bottom of this, and nothing of the sort happens. Now, I’m not usually a member of the tinfoil hat brethren, but the furore over the mixup seems to have stopped people asking questions over just how Kovco died. Or indeed the larger question over what we’re doing in Iraq at all (though no one seems to care any more).


And finally…Mrs Doubtfire arrested for bank robbery
In what has to qualify as one of the dumbest crimes this year, Nino Leo Lanu of Bayswater, Melbourne (about 15 minutes from where I live) dressed up in locally-bought woman’s clothing and stormed into the National Australia Bank brandishing a fake plastic gun he’d bought from the Reject Shop. He made a quick getaway with $25,000 and an exploding dye bag. I say quick, because he lived across the street from the bank. His mum even sent flowers to the staff, not knowing her little darling was the cross-dressing crook. The part that cracks me up the most was that he forgot to shave.

That’s all for this week folks, be sure to check out the forums.


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