28/05/2008 - 22:00

A selective view of political history

28/05/2008 - 22:00


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A selective view of political history

State Scene highlights Australia's first Iraqi affair because it implicates Mr Whitlam just like the Iraqi-AWB Affair implicates Mr Howard; two PMs who have a conga-line of fans and gloating admirers.

Australia's torrid Whitlam years have attracted many admiring accounts which so carefully overlook the first Iraqi affair.

Thankfully, Bob Hawke, in his autobiography, The Hawke Memoirs, didn't dodge this crucial issue, even if his scathing comment was extremely brief.

Mr Hawke wrote: "Hartley, in his fanaticism, obviously saw the enmeshment of the ALP with Iraq through this proposed transaction as highly desirable.

"But that Whitlam, who was aware of the abhorrent nature of this regime, should acquiesce appalled me beyond measure."

Messrs Whitlam and Combe were severely reprimanded by Labor's highest councils, with Mr Hawke later saying this was "the saddest meeting of my whole career in the ALP".

According to Mr Parkinson: "This is a big call from Labor's longest-serving and most successful prime minister.

"It puts the scandal in its true historical context."

Let's hope Mr Howard doesn't tread too far down the sanitising path and instead comes clean on all aspects of Australia's second Iraqi affair.

If not, he'll leave room for historians to delve into both Iraqi affairs that snared two Australian PMs in a way that casts grave doubts on their political judgment.

Here's what Mr Parkinson wrote of the first of these rarely-mentioned scandals, on its 30th anniversary.

"Luckily, for Whitlam and Labor, the [$500,000 Iraqi] deal, ultimately, went pear-shaped.

"The caretaker Fraser government was returned in a landslide, and the funds pledged by Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council never arrived.

"This left the ALP, which had beefed-up its campaign ads in the expectation of a fat cheque from Baghdad, deeply in debt.

"But it could have been so much worse.

"Had those funds landed in the party's bank account, Labor might forever have been tainted, with Whitlam potentially prey to blackmail.

"For the deal left open the inference that an ALP would adopt policies favourable, or at the very least, sympathetic to the Ba'athist regime in Iraq.

"Does anybody believe Saddam and his ilk would not have used that leverage?


Forget sanitised self-serving political autobiographies, memoirs and authorised biographies.

The book that's needed could be titled 'How Iraqi Money Snared Two Australian PMs'.

That would be worth something.


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