Thursday, February 02, 2006

The elusive ‘real story’ about Iraq

The USA is “angry” with Australia. Here’s a selection of the screaming headlines from the major dailies:

The Australian: Angry US slams Iraq bribe denials
Sydney Morning Herald: US demands answers on wheat rorts
The Age: We want the real story, US tells Australia

It seems Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the US Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, has asked Australia’s former ambassador to the US, Mr Michael Thawley, to explain why he “unequivocally dismissed” allegations of Australian Wheat Board kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The Age’s headline is perhaps the most intriguing, embroidering a factual “please explain” as a dramatic demand for “the real story”.

Yes intriguing, because the concept of national governments coming clean with each other on the matter of Iraq (just for example) suggests an irresistible thought experiment.

Imagine, for example, that the Australian Government demanded “the real story” of why the US government in mid-2001 unequivocally asserted that Saddam’s Iraq had been disarmed of WMD, only to contradict themselves less than a year later by unequivocally asserting that Iraq was awash with WMD. The demand could be couched diplomatically as a “please explain” how you had earlier got it so right, and then went on to get it so wrong.

Of course, this little thought experiment has at least one seriously flawed assumption. It assumes that the Australian Government may be even the slightest bit interested in “the real story” behind the multifarious debacle that was and is the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The narrowness of our Australian Government’s interests regarding Iraq is being laid bare in the Cole inquiry hearings as I post this.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Qantas on Government’s ‘affirmative action’ teat?

It’s possible that I’ve become jaded and cynical, but it seems to me that a pattern emerges from some recent news stories. With my emphasis in the following, read on...

Qantas move offshore might cost 2500 jobs

Sydney Morning Herald, October 22, 2005

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon has put himself on a collision course with the unions, after confirming the airline was looking to move “significant parts” of its engineering operations overseas. Such a move could result in the loss of up to 2500 maintenance jobs.

Blue skies for Qantas in new workplace laws

Sydney Morning Herald, December 3, 2005

Business is forecasting financial windfalls from the Federal Government’s industrial relations overhaul, with Qantas tipped as a key battleground and a lucrative winner.

Qantas facing strikes

The Age, December 10, 2005

Qantas passengers face widespread disruptions next month, with thousands of maintenance workers threatening to down tools over the airline’s plans to cut wage conditions... Qantas executive general manager for people, Kevin Brown, denied the airline wanted to cut penalties, but said the unions’ claims would “significantly add to our cost base in an industry where there are massive redundancies” and competitive pressures.

Protection of US route likely to stay

The Age, January 30, 2006

In the strongest indication yet that the Howard Government will protect Qantas’ most profitable route from further competition ... the Federal Government [is] set to block a bid by Singapore Airlines to fly from Australia to Los Angeles..

Assuming Australia’s market economy needs or can support a local international carrier, surely a strong and resilient one can’t be built by all this mollycoddling and protectionism. Such ‘socialist’ measures might be understandable if Qantas was still publicly owned, but this is a private commercial enterprise, for heavens’ sake.

It can’t be argued that the company is providing jobs to Australians, because several thousand highly skilled positions seem set to be “moved” offshore.

Seems just another sorry example of more fumbling on competition policy by the Howard Government’s selective ‘socialism’.