The Guardian 18 July, 2007

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland


In olden days, if the rich and powerful had a dispute with a troublesome employee they took steps to ensure that said employee could not spill the beans about them and in so doing "blacken his or her employerís good name".

They dismissed the employee, of course, but at the same time (or even in advance of the sacking) they let it get about that the employee was being dismissed for stealing or, even better, for lying.

The former meant that anything the ex-employee said about them would be suspected of being sour grapes; the latter meant that nothing he or she said would be believed.

Itís a technique that has served the ruling class well. And still does.

Digressing for a moment, did you see where the Howard Government, that tower of integrity and administrative efficiency, has allowed the French defence giant the Thales Group to buy the remaining 50 percent of ADI Ltd? (ADI Ltd was once the nationally-owned Australian Defence Industries.)

Whatís wrong with that, I hear you ask? Just that over a year ago, the World Bankís Integrity Unit blacklisted Thales from any of the WBís many projects because of its use of large-scale bribery.

It seems that as long ago as 2005, a former Thales senior executive, Michel Josserand, blew the whistle on the Groupís global slush fund for providing kick-backs to politicians.

Josserand revealed that up to two percent of Thalesí annual turnover of more than US$12 billion was paid in what are known as "secret commissions". Two percent of $12 billion is a lot of money.

However, Josserandís revelations are not the only difficulty affecting the relationship between Thales Group and the World Bank. Previously, another subsidiary, Thales Consulting and Engineering was banned from WB projects over a scandal in Cambodia.

Nevertheless, Australiaís Foreign Investment Review Board claimed to be unaware of any "allegations" against Thales.

"No one raised any questions of that nature with the FIRB", said Patrick Colmer, executive member of that illustrious body.

For its part, the Thales Group issued a statement formally denying "accusations of corruption in France and internationally".

The statement went on, in language that singularly echoes the point with which I began this Culture and Life, "The group would like to point out that these allegations have been made by a former manager of this subsidiary, who was dismissed by the group for irregularities committed as part of a contract for the Nice tramway."

Fraud of another type

Thales Australia was one of the companies bidding for the Defence Deapartmentís $2 billion amphibious ships project. It is part way through a highly lucrative Upgrade Project on Australiaís guided missile frigates (the upgrading of HMAS Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne has been undertaken so far).

As part of the upgrading project, the Australian Distributed Architecture Combat System (ADACS) software on the ships is also being upgraded, to support the firing of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) from the installed Vertical Launch System.

With so much money being thrown around for "defence" contracts, it is hardly surprising that canny corporations try to sweeten deals with secret commissions and global slush funds. After all, itís just good business, when you think about it.

In fact, if you donít think that that sort of thing is the norm under capitalism, consider this: the World Bankís integrity unit imposes hundreds of sanctions on individuals and corporations for fraud and corruption.

Mind you, in the light of the scandal that erupted not long ago around the then President of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz, over his cronyism, corruption and general lack of integrity, the WBís integrity unit should have been looking a lot closer to home.

Wolfowitz was an appointee of George Bush. íNuff said?

Some weeks ago, in this column I commented on the ABCís decision to run the generally discredited program from British commercial television, The Great Global Warming Swindle, and I wondered what sort of arm twisting had been involved to make our national broadcaster give this pseudo-scientific twaddle such a huge platform (the British TV program, a local panel discussion with "experts from all sides", radio and ABC2 all involved).

I quoted from George Monbiot, the science writer and academic who writes regularly for the English Guardian (no relation to this paper). His devastating critique of the science (or lack of it) in the program, published in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 24, should have been enough to stop it dead in its tracks.

But the program has fierce defenders too. One such is the neo-fascist Citizensí Electoral Council (CEC), which sent out a media release complete with colour graphic, headlined: Find out why man-made Global Warming is a fraud!

The release urged people to watch "[The film that] is driving Al Gore and the global warming hoaxters crazy!" According to the CEC, the program (which they claim is a "must see") had "irrefutable science" showing that "CO2 does not drive climate change".

For the CEC, like the man behind the program (TV producer Martin Durkin), "climate change cycles" are natural, and are driven, not by human activity (still less by corporate greed) but by "the radiation output of the Sun, astronomical cycles, and cosmic rays".

For more information on "what really causes climate change", readers are invited to contact the CEC.

Which raises the question: why are extreme right-wingers like the CEC, George Bush and John Howard so determined to deny the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming?

Could it be they are afraid that it might lead to a curtailing of the greedy consumption of resources in the pursuit of profits before all else?

Surely not.

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