Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

What now for wheat sales?

The scandal over AWB's major breaches of UN sanctions on Iraq has understandably led to major questions about the future of the single desk system used for all wheat exported from Australia. Like all political parties, the Democrats have supported the single desk arrangement, but I don't believe it can be justified any longer. It is hard to see how the current arrangements can continue to deliver ...

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You don’t know what you don’t know

It's taken a long time, but the report of the Royal Commission has been tabled into the scandal of bribes being paid to Saddam's Iraqi regime to secure Australian wheat exports. I did a series of posts on this back in February this year. Things appear much the same now as they appeared back then. It is quite possible that the internal Coalition wrangling over the future ...

Wheat Wars

The slow but steady revelations from the Cole Royal Commission are gradually revealing the bleeding obvious – if Government Ministers did not know that AWB were paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in direct contravention of the UN Oil for Food program, it is because they were absolutely determined not to know. Even though the scandal doesn’t relate to the wheat export monopoly arrangements (although one could argue that ...

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. ...

Senate Estimates Gagged

I am at Senate Estimates Committee hearings this week. I've been mainly focussing on immigration matters, but the big development has been yet another display of unprecedented arrogance from the government in providing direction to all public servants putting a blanket ban on responding in any way to any questions about AWB and the Saddam kickback scandal. This gag has also

More Wheat 4 Weapons Updates

The revelations, viewpoints and angles on the 'Wheatgate'/'Wheat for Weapons'/'Blood for Wheat'/'AWB Kickback Scandal' seem to be as numerous as the different names coined for the saga.

Wheat Cheats

The scandal continues to widen as more revelations occur at the Cole Royal Commission into bribes paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime by Australia's monopoly wheat exporter, AWB. Even Republican Senators in the USA are getting snippety. Simone Weil once wrote that “Petrol is more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict” but in this case it looks like it’s both. It now appears clear ...

Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff- UPDATED

The saga over the bribes paid by the monopoly wheat exporter, AWB, has a fair way to run yet. Beyond saying that there is a lot that looks very smelly about the affair, I'll wait until more evidence comes out before making more comment. However, it has made me give more thought to how desirable it is for one private company to have monopoly rights over ...

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Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

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  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

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  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

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  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

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  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

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  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

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  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.

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