Aid budget for wheat exports

The news that a former AWB Chairman was paid nearly $680 000 a year from our overseas aid budget for the purposes of protecting our wheat export market to Iraq is perhaps the most galling piece of information to surface yet from the Oil for Food/Wheat for Weapons/Wheatgate/Wheat Overboard scandal

While the amount of money seems exorbitant, I can understand the value in trying to protect an export market. But to take that money from funds meant to be used for overseas development assistance is just a disgrace.

John Howard made no bones about the purpose of the payment – “It was because our principal concern at that time was to stop American wheat growers from getting our markets. We thought Mr Flugge would fight hard for the Australian wheat industry.”

Quite what that has to do with overseas development assistance to poor countries is beyond me – let alone a country that we have to help rebuild because we’ve just invaded it.

Using the aid budget to pay for some of the costs of imprisoning refugees on Nauru was bad enough, but at least some of that money went into the island’s economy – albeit in a completely short-term, unsustainable non-developmental way.

Leaving aside all the other arguments about the AWB-Saddam kickback scandal, as someone who has long called for our aid budget to be significantly increased, I am majorly peeved that even the relatively small amounts we are currently spending is being misused so grotesquely – and shamelessly.

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39 Comments

  1. Andrew we both know that this government will spend any amount they can to defend a position they take.

    I wrote to the Grains Council overnight to express my disgust that none of them are willing to say a word about the 500,000 Iraqi kids who died of starvation – they are reserving that until Cole reports.

    Isn’t that nice? The Iraqi people will only become real after the Cole report.

    I have yet to hear one cogent answer for this obsession with Iraq – 650,000 tonnes per year out of 15 million tonnes of exports don’t make sense.

    The only truth seems to be the BHP position – we want the oil.

  2. Marilyn, I thought it was 105,000 so now its 500,000 presumably still counting.

    I agree that its a bit rich to use Ausaid to fund the fellows visits – I would have thought an economically rational thing to do would be to offset the cost of “promoting / saving whatever the wheat industry” to the body whose job is to market ect the wheat indisutry. In other words its just a buisness cost and shouldn’t be subsidised by general revenue – irrespective of the issue.

    Having said that I wouldn’t get to excietd about the quantums – if were serious about government wasting money look at the billions wasted on defense toys, collins class subs come to mind, the largess delivered to millionaier ex PMs of all persuasions, millions to keep the raging terrorists from attacking the big white house at bay, the list is endless, the massive welfare subsidies to the middle classes etc etc.

  3. And $3 billion to lock up refugees. I am aware of the numbers involved in the waste – it was $83 million taken from Ausaid to pay for Nauru by the way.

    For heavens sake why does every single wastage have to descend into a moral equivalency. Flugge was being paid 100’s of thousands to do his job for AWB – he didn’t need to be paid by Ausaid, by us, to tote guns and cash around Iraq doing his deals.

  4. That is exactly what I just said – I am getting serious reservations about your capacity to digest and analyse information

  5. How much of your own income do you give to help poor countries?

    If you want more money to go on overseas aid, then why don’t you and your ilk just open your wallets and give more.

  6. Personally I don’t have a problem with the Australian government looking after Australians before Iraqis or any other nationalities for that matter.

    Charity begins at home.

  7. Fine Geoff, and when Auatralian’s need looking after in other countries we will tell them they don’t have to. Right?

    Grow up – all people are born equal and equal in dignity and must be treated with a brotherhood.

    Eleanor Roosevelt and Doc Evatt, two of the authors of the Universal declaration of human rights.

    I don’t happen to believe Australia even bothers to look after her own properly but for pete’s sake – what did the Iraqi people do to deserve you lot?

  8. Marilyn, you need to “grow-up” and stop telling everybody else to.

    Personally I have had no effect on the Iraqi way of life. I’m not a racist so I too think we are all created equal, even though it was Jefferson (whom I happen to think was a great man)wrote those words.

    Nothing you’ve said… ever… makes me resile from the FACT that the Australian Government has as its first duty the care and consideration of its citizens and their country.

  9. For Marilyn before she goes off again… the words I was referring to were the ones in the “Declaration of Independence”…

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

    “all men are created equal….”

  10. Geoff and Chris,

    Believing that Australia should look after its own before increasing overseas aid is certainly a valid viewpoint, however I think the key question is why was money allocated for overseas aid being spent to protect Australia’s wheat interests? Whether such protection warranted such spending is an issue in itself, and I’m still undecided on that front, but surely we should expect sufficient responsibility from government to spend public money on what it has been allocated for?

  11. Well I suppose it’s a form of reprioritising and budgeting Jennifer.
    Personally I think we spend too much on OS when we really do have problems here that could do with fixing and that of course always means money.

  12. It’s plain crazy that anyone could come out with a response like “Charity begins at home” to this, as if that’s some kind of justification.

    Yes we have problems here that need fixing – I’m very very doubtfull that tossing $600,000 out of the overseas aid budget to the AWB chairman is going to fix any of them!

  13. Assuming Chris’s comment (#5) is aimed at me – which it may not be:

    FWIW, I have given monthly donations to two different overseas aid organisations for some years, even though I’m not sure that’s actually relevant to the topic I raised. I don’t really know who or what you mean when you talk about my “ilk”, so I can’t really respond to that.

    The outrageous thing is that money that is allocated in our Budget and our Appropriation legislation passed by Parliament as Overseas Aid is spent quite shamelessly paying an Australian to work on maximising Australia’s wheat imports. Seems rather like misappropriation to me.

    I believe it is a good long-term investment for Australia to spend more on overseas development assistance (if it is properly targetted), but I would hope even people who don’t support overseas aid at all would see that this type of expenditure isn’t foreign aid and shouldn’t be labelled as such.

    It’s not “reprioritising”, it’s false labelling of a budget outlay. If that’s an indication of the level of accuracy the government requires in irs account-keeping standards, it’s no wonder they didn’t notice when kickbacks and bribes were being labelled as transport costs.

  14. “It’s plain crazy that anyone could come out with a response like “Charity begins at home” to this, as if that’s some kind of justification.”

    No mollie it’s not. It may be cliche but it’s not crazy. Anyone in the real world knows that if we don’t look after ourselves first, we won’t be able to look after anyone else.

    BTW, I wasn’t just talking about the $600, million or the AWB. But I can assure you $600,million would go quite a way in helping many Australians and Australia survive into the future.

  15. Can you give us an example of where our OS aid has been a good long-term investment Andrew?

    Don’t be disingenuous about “reprioritising” Andrew… all governments do it, families do it, individuals do it. It is a logical consequence of living in a world in which one interacts.

  16. disingenuous: (adjective) not candid or sincere, especially in feigning ignorance.

    If I was a business that published accounts listing expenditure as a donation to charity, when I’d actually spent the money paying a mate to help promote my business, I don’t think the Tax Office, shareholders, etc would think it was OK it I just dismissed it as “reprioritising” expenditure.

    I think the nicest term they might use would be “dishonest”.

  17. I’d expect a government to reprioritise expenditure… which means changing allocations etc… as the conditions warranted.

  18. A large chunk of the point I am making is that they didn’t change allocation. If they had, I would have disagreed, but at least it would have been transparent. The money came out of the AusAid Budget. If it had come out of AusTrade or some similar body, I wouldn’t be complaining. I have no problem in the government spending money to try to maintain our export markets (as long as it’s spent legally, and even though $680 000 a year seems a lot), but I do have a problem if they call it overseas aid when they’re doing it.

    (This is based on what I have read to date dervied from evidence given at Senate Estimates Committee hearings – if I discover I am mistaken I will correct the record).

  19. “But I can assure you $600,million would go quite a way in helping many Australians and Australia survive into the future.”

    Yes Geoff it would – but it didn’t go anywhere near many Australians, it was paid to one, already well paid person to undertake a task that had not anything much to do with the purpose the money was allocated for in the first place.

    And looking after ourselves means looking after those around us as well. Australia may be an island continent but it is still part of the rest of the world.

  20. Have you asked them to explain why they did it the way they did?
    Would that make any difference to future events?
    Do you consider it a real misappropriation of funds?

  21. Geoff asked:
    Have you asked them to explain why they did it the way they did?

    Not yet, I’m just commenting on reports of answers another MP received.

    Would that make any difference to future events?

    I’m sure there’s many opinions on whether anything I do makes any difference. However, if it is as it seems to be, then the more people who say they believe it is unsatisfactory, the greater the chance of a chance in such a practice.

    Do you consider it a real misappropriation of funds?

    I will seek opinion on a legal interpetation of that, but without getting too precious about it, Parliament approves appropriations on the basis of Outputs described in documents presented by the government in the Budget. It does seem to me to be very misleading, but whether it goes further than that in a legal sense I don’t know. I can’t imagine someone launching court action over it, given the amount involved.

    After all, the High Court found that a multi million dollar advertising campaign selling the governments IR policies was sanctioned by a departmental appropriation for $1.4 billion designed to produce the “outcome” of “higher productivity, higher pay workplaces”, (plus “efficient and effective labour market assistance” and “increased workplace assistance”).

    I’m still not sure how the Outcome of overseas development assistance matches with “stopping Amercian wheat growers getting our market”, but perhaps it can be explained to me. In any case, I will explore it a bit further over the next few weeks.

  22. Geoff said: “Well I suppose it’s a form of reprioritising and budgeting Jennifer.
    Personally I think we spend too much on OS when we really do have problems here that could do with fixing and that of course always means money.”

    Yes, there are problems in Australia that do need fixing, but what is needed from all Government’s is more action and less rhetoric.

    For example, Mental Health in the state of South Australia and across the nation is poorly funded and coordinated. There has been more than 3 decades of talkfests and no action.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that issues like poverty and mental health and many more will not be fixed unless they become vote winning issues.

    Politics in Australia needs to change in order for these problems to get fixed.

  23. Sharman Stone has a whole new spin on Lateline. We wuz feeding the starvin’ your honour.

    I fail to understand how paying Flugge over a million to “stop the US getting our wheat sales” fed a single person except a fat cowboy.

    Geoff if you have a problem with basic theft and dishonesty you are really in trouble aren’t you? One claim is that our wheat is the best quality – but we have to use tonnes of expensive fertilisers on the soil to make any wheat grow in most areas because the soil is too salty thanks to desertification.

    There are multiple impurities in the soil ranging from DDT to Dieldrin and Aldrin that cannot readily be removed from the soil. In the north of SA they have found high levels of Cobalt and Strontium 90 in the soils from the Maralinga testing.

    All that aside, much of the land farmed to grow wheat is marginal at best and poison at worst.

    The sales to Iraq would not have made anyone in Australia stinking rich, but if BHP and Woodside could get in early for oil sales that would have.

    650,000 tonnes per year out of 15 million tonnes sold each year is not much.

    I think the truth is that Australia got really greedy with Iraq – they were getting a premium of $13 per tonne all of which was money stolen from the Iraqi people to pay for the food they ate, and then the rest was given to Saddam.

    David Marr and Marian Wilkinson have a terrible summary in the SMH – I suggest it is read by all and sundry.

    Now back to the wheat quality. If I was starving I would not say to anyone “I will only eat best quality Aussie wheat”, I would eat anything.

    The notion of stopping the US farmers from getting “our” wheat market while we were helping them blow up the country is one of the most repulsive things that even this government has ever mouthed.

  24. If this keeps up you’ll have to give me a topic of my own just to answer those who have problems with what I say Andrew.

    Yes we do have problems max, many more to do with; immigration, infrastructure and the environment.

    As for mental health, the implementation of measures by the “progressive” left, (such as those recommended in the Richmond report by the NSW Labor government) has led to increases in crime and the homeless. Where mentally ill people have found themselves reinstitutionalised in prisons.

    Did you miss what has just recently gone on max?

    End mental health buck passing: PM
    From: AAP
    February 03, 2006
    PRIME Minister John Howard says he wants a meeting with state leaders next week to avoid buck-passing of responsibilities when it comes to mental health.

    Mental health will be on the agenda at the Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting in Canberra next week.

    NSW Premier Morris Iemma has said he wants mental health to be a top priority, but Mr Howard said while it would be on the agenda it would be one of many health issues to be discussed with state and territory leaders.

    “I will open the batting on mental health but there are a lot of other things on the agenda and I think we can make a lot of progress in some other health areas,” Mr Howard told Channel 9.

    Mr Howard said he wanted to avoid buck-passing with the states on mental health

    “We have to work with the states, I’m not saying it’s all their responsibility and I don’t expect them to pay (for everything),” he said.

  25. Marilyn, there doesn’t seem to be one single thing you like about Australia… why don’t you migrate? Honestly I never see a single positive post from you, not a single point. Yet the migrants and refugees keep a comin’.

    “Sharman Stone has a whole new spin on Lateline. We wuz feeding the starvin’ your honour.”

    Undoubtably we wuz Marilyn.

    “I fail to understand how paying Flugge over a million to “stop the US getting our wheat sales” fed a single person except a fat cowboy.”

    You fail to understand much. If the US get our sales more farmers go bust, more suicides, etc, etc, etc… bigger trade deficit, harder to pay our way, etc, etc, etc… surely a self professed farmer’s daughter, understand this at least….. No?

    “Geoff if you have a problem with basic theft and dishonesty you are really in trouble aren’t you?”

    No problems here marilyn.

    “One claim is that our wheat is the best quality – but we have to use tonnes of expensive fertilisers on the soil to make any wheat grow in most areas because the soil is too salty thanks to desertification.”

    Actually that isn’t accurate. You don’t combat salinity with fertilizers.

    “There are multiple impurities in the soil ranging from DDT to Dieldrin and Aldrin that cannot readily be removed from the soil. In the north of SA they have found high levels of Cobalt and Strontium 90 in the soils from the Maralinga testing.”

    Well they did explode some big bombs there marilyn.

    “All that aside, much of the land farmed to grow wheat is marginal at best and poison at worst.”

    Another exaggeration.

    “The sales to Iraq would not have made anyone in Australia stinking rich, but if BHP and Woodside could get in early for oil sales that would have.”

    Iraqi oil is for Iraqis Marilyn….

    “650,000 tonnes per year out of 15 million tonnes sold each year is not much.”

    You must mean wheat right… I mean oil is sold by the barrel right.

    “I think the truth is that Australia got really greedy with Iraq – they were getting a premium of $13 per tonne all of which was money stolen from the Iraqi people to pay for the food they ate, and then the rest was given to Saddam.”

    :roll: Australia?????? marilyn do you ignore everything people write here?

    “David Marr and Marian Wilkinson have a terrible summary in the SMH – I suggest it is read by all and sundry.”

    Anything Marr writes is so far left in its political bias it wouldn’t resemble the truth. Wilkinson is just as bad. You need to broaden your reading habits to get a better balance in your perspective. A bit of balance would be nice.

    “Now back to the wheat quality. If I was starving I would not say to anyone “I will only eat best quality Aussie wheat”, I would eat anything.”

    Really?

    Now, can somebody tell me what all that was about?

    The notion of stopping the US farmers from getting “our” wheat market while we were helping them blow up the country is one of the most repulsive things that even this government has ever mouthed.

  26. “The notion of stopping the US farmers from getting “our” wheat market while we were helping them blow up the country is one of the most repulsive things that even this government has ever mouthed.”

    Damn I missed that little gem…. :roll:

  27. Geoff I think you are lost in space and I for one am really tired of your illogical and cruel poison. Do you know anything at all about wheat farming and what is required to make things grow in Australia? What poisons have been used to kill weeds? I do because I grew up with it, was out doing it, spraying horehound with Aldrin.

    The soil is poisoned. As for migrating, why the hell should I blindly approve of every repulsive thing done in my name and as a 7 th generation Australian where do you think I should go.

    Howard said it by the way. In Parliament.

  28. For heavens sake!! Please stop it both of you. Andrew already had to close down the other related thread because the two of you managed to reduce it down to a two way bickering session which added absolutly nothing useful to the discussion.

    We are very lucky to have a federal parliamentarian who is willing to discuss the issues with us and who talks to us and is actually interested in our thoughts and opinions – that’s why most of us come here – please stop spoling it for the rest of us.

  29. Hey Andrew didn’t have to do that at all… yet he did.

    It’s quite obvious that Marilyn sprays the blog with off topic stuff and rubbish, you can either ignore it, correct it or comment on it’s validity. After all that’s what a blog is for…

    The other option is for Andrew to delete it.

  30. I wonder how many other aid packages have been really protection for our exports? If $83 million is taken from the AusAid budget to pay for locking up people on Nauru, with nothing gained except to hide the money away from the immigration department, how much of our overseas aid is being brutalised in the way this was.

    There is now a letter on the site from Downer to AWB about the UN enquiry in response to Andrew Lindberg pointing out that there were many complaints about their padding of humanitarian wheat sales.

    Hmmmm….Downer didn’t do any investigation himself on this and I wonder why not. It is there in black and white that Lindberg informed him.

    As for charity begins at home – where does the revolting state memorial for Kerry Packer fit while aboriginal kids live in chicken wire sheds in the desert without decent education or medical care?

  31. I think you’ll find Kerry did quite a lot for Australia and Australians marilyn and most of it would have been in strict confidence.

  32. Geoff Re Kerry Packer. Your right on the money re Kerry doing things in confidence.He put thousands of people out of work in the regional areas through buying abattoirs employing the town after many had borrowed loans feeling confident of work only to then close the abattoir down. He did this for two reasons.Its true he was a srewed businesss man because he used the plants or abattoirs as a tax decuction when of course they ran at a loss. Then he had to close them down[didnt he]. By that time he already had sourced the local supply of cattle or livestock contacts. Kerry undertood the bush people and he knew he could not tap into contacts like that despite his momey. The old farmers has to get you know you as a man shake your hand and look you in the eye. It takes a long time to be excepted Geoff. Kerry knew that as well.Kerry Packer kept a lot [in confidence]Geoff. If he had really wanted to help Australian farmers he could have educated them quite easily and taught them to ask the relavant questions concerning trade and the trade dollar. He knew the farmers did not follow the overeas trade market. He sat back and watch goat farmers and other get ten to twenty dollars per Goat at the same time the muslims and others paid seventy or eighty dollars per goat. He bullied his way through life with no thought of others. Sure he dontaed some things to hospitals and health. They were also a tax deduction. His record for animal cruelty and taking jobs from Australian stands alone but he kept that in confidence too. Open your eyes Geoff or do some research. Packer was not a kind person thinking of his fellow Australians.

  33. We should not have a single desk for Wheat and the many other things the AWB are involved in. Everybody knows that competion is good for any product. The farmers need a choice of markets not just one outlet. If we follow the AWB enquiry it is clear there were kickbacks. People do not take the risk of getting caught giving kickbacks for nothing. Heavy political donations are given to all countries involved in paying kickbacks. It seems our Government are most kean to keep it as a single desk.The oppostion wont make too much noice either. I think its termed feeding for chooks by the way. Thats when donations are mainly given to one party however the others are thown a few scaps as well [just in case something ever comes up so they do not act as the opposition.]Kevin Rud is not making too many comments given the fact hes been supplied with a great deal of info. The US have clearly decided they want to wheat contract. No worries I am sure Vaile will divet all the wheat and other products to the US and from there it will finally reach its destination. For a price of course. When the farmers finally wake up and apply for their own export licences for all products we might finally get the midle man and the Government staying out of what after all is the Australian farmers business.

  34. Packers Consolidated Meat Group was involved with Lakes Creek Wendy… is that what you are referring to? I gather you know he owned PBL etc, etc, etc…. anyhoo this is off topic as are most things started by marilyn.

  35. No Geoff. I was not speaking of lakes Creek. I am well aware of it and why it was re>openeded with The T brothers.I was responding to your comment > nothing more.Acyually its not that far off track if you follow the conections Geoff of AWB and others. AWB purchased Westfarmers Landmark in 2003. So actually its on track. However yes i agree with you comments about M not saying one positive thing about Australia. Have a nice evening and try not to fight with M. i think shes just so dedicated to helping people who are less fortunate than us she forgets not all people are honest or even nice. Even some of the ones they lock up in these camps. opps off the subject again [sorry] Its really easily done.

  36. Ok Geoff lets you and I do something postive for the wheat farmers. JAKIM In Malaysia can dispute world wide. They have visted me once regarding another matter. Vaile has recently visted tham re something similar but they might jow prefer to deal with us.So if you are intersted we could help the Ausie farmers obtain their own export licences and i also have Saudi contacts. Perhaps M would like to help as well get that wheat to thise starving people. I am on track and I am quite serious. Thats the problem with this country we all just wait for the Government to set us up again. So lets sell some wheat shall we?

  37. Well not that anybody looks interested but i have done my bit. We meet with the Minister of Ag from Maylasia next week and we already have a big company interested to export wheat. It will be done on a NFP basis if it goes through from my part and the funds will go towards TV adds against the AVA for their support of live Exports as well as the churches and others. Anybody interested to hep farmers export wheat please leave a post.

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