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send in the clowns to cook saddam;s

  1. Send in the clowns to cook Saddam's books
    By Mike Carlton
    August 10 2002


    As perhaps you know, I have been urging that Australia should seize the initiative and invade Iraq before the Americans do, thus endearing ourselves to our allies and setting a splendid example to the rest of the free world.

    We hear from Washington that "there are no plans for war on the President's desk", so now is the time to act. But rather than sending in the crack armoured divisions that the Prime Minister thinks we have in Darwin, I have an imaginative strategy to bring Saddam Hussein to his knees in short order, with minimal casualties: we deploy Ray Williams and a SWAT team of top former executives from HIH Insurance, FAI and One.Tel to manage the Iraqi private sector.

    "Operation Golden Hello", I call it. Ray and his good friends Rodney Adler and Brad Cooper could well do the job on their own, wreaking havoc the length and breadth of the Baghdad stock exchange, but to be doubly certain it might be wise to give them a platoon or two of combat auditors from the now sadly defunct Arthur Andersen, with perhaps Jodee Rich and Brad Keeling to run Iraq.Tel. As previously arranged, Piers "The Penguin" Akerman, our great soldier-journalist in the Churchill tradition, would be there to report the hand-to-hand fighting over lunch.

    I shall put all this to our Foreign Minister, Downer of Baghdad (as I hope you are beginning to call him). My one concern is that it could be expensive. As we have heard at both the HIH and One.Tel inquiries, Australian executives at this level require enormous amounts of money, known as incentives, even to get them out of bed in the morning, let alone to do any work.

    HIH's new finance director, one Dominic Fodera, copped a "golden hello" of $1 million after tax in something called a "phantom share plan" to entice him to turn up at the office, and Ray himself got a lump $4.72 million as a useful salary top-up. And then there were the fabulous $7 million success bonuses for both Rich and Keeling for their wonderful efforts with the One.Tel share price.

    There would have to be lawyers sent in, too. It would be false economy to hit Saddam without them. I suggest the bearded chappie who accompanied Ray from the hearing at lunch on Thursday.

    "Don't you have any ethics?" he barked at the rolling maul of media hacks. It was the joke of the week.

    IT MAY not have quite the thrill of those other shows around town, but I am looking forward to my appearance before General Purpose Standing Committee No3 of the NSW Legislative Council next Tuesday.

    For the uninitiated, this is the Cabramatta policing committee, the all-party inquiry into what, if anything, the coppers have been doing to clean up the mean and violent streets of that forlorn, godforsaken sink of crime and sin so callously neglected by the Carr socialist government. I have been invited to explain certain matters raised by that so-called whistleblower, the imaginative former Detective-Sergeant Tim Priest, chiefly his colourful allegation that I am at the heart of a sinister conspiracy to topple the Police Minister, Michael Costa, and his new commissioner, Ken Moroney.

    Others said to be in the plot are the police assistant commissioner Clive Small, the criminologists Dr David Dixon and Lisa Maher, of the University of NSW, and Dr Don Weatherburn, the crime statistician, journalists Chris Masters and Morag Ramsay of the ABC's Four Corners program and Neil Mercer of the Herald. We are directed in this vileness by - wait for it - the former police commissioner, Peter Ryan, and his wife Adrienne.

    Priest is sure that we are also out to get him and his friend, the soi-disant Asian gang expert from Sydney University, anthropologist Dr Richard Basham.

    "Enter Sydney's version of Jerry Springer on Radio Station 2UE at 3 o'clock of a weekday afternoon who, in conjunction with Dr Dixon and others, has launched a bitter and divisive campaign against Michael Costa, Dr Basham, myself and now Commissioner Moroney," Priest told the committee a few weeks ago.

    "I believe that both Peter and Adrienne Ryan are responsible for this, along with Commander Small. They are out to punish those responsible for the truth about Cabramatta and policing being brought out into the open. This is a payback campaign waged to destroy the credibility of those who came here to tell the truth," he blathered.

    There was heaps more of this hogwash, much of it in the outer realms of loopiness, but you get the drift.

    Clive Small will also appear on Tuesday, I understand. Standing room only.

    FOR a week or so now I have been idly wondering which is the more numbingly tedious in the political theatre: the dummy spitting of the Democrats, or the interminable, navel-gazing wrangle about "reform" in the Labor Party.

    In the end I concluded that there was no point in assigning them a ranking on some sort of Richter scale of boredom. Neither deserves even that consideration. Both parties are away with the pixies, their carryings-on now entirely irrelevant to the reasonable concerns of the dwindling numbers who voted for them.

    Senator Andrew Murray's bizarre posturing as a "Democrat in exile" defies all the norms of rational parliamentary behaviour. By leaving the party room - or refusing to take the party whip, as Westminster practice describes it - he is, by definition, no longer a Democrat, whatever he may like to call himself.

    His one-time leader, Natasha Stott Despoja, faffs about like an apprentice hairdresser who has stuck her finger in the blow-dryer, issuing press statement after press statement of impenetrable denseness. A plague on the lot of them.

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