04/11/2003 - 21:00

When two worlds collide

04/11/2003 - 21:00


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IT’S intriguing how worlds collide – or perhaps, in the instance I am about to raise, touch ever so softly, time and time again.

IT’S intriguing how worlds collide – or perhaps, in the instance I am about to raise, touch ever so softly, time and time again.

The two worlds I speak of are the financial and business affairs of former senator and Labor power broker Graham Richardson and those of WA construction giant Multiplex, which is preparing for its upcoming float.

So how do these two things relate to each other?

The revelations about Mr Richardson’s Swiss-based financial dealings prompted me to recall the personal ties – possibly quite distant these days – between him and Multiplex patriarch John Roberts.

According to the reports of a decade of newspaper stories I researched as a result of that recollection, they go back a long way.

Multiplex reportedly built extensions for Mr Richardson’s house and the senator apparently travelled to China in 1987 in an unofficial attempt to help the company win a contract there.

Mr Roberts told the WA Inc Royal Commission more than 10 years ago that he had been a big donor to the Federal Labor Party.

More specifically, it was widely reported that he had kicked in $200,000 in direct response to requests from Mr Richardson for money back in the late 1980s, as well as funding the Labor Party apparatus behind Brian Burke’s WA government.

But another connection with Mr Richardson relates to the senator’s darkest political hour, when he lost his Cabinet post in 1992 as a result of a scandal involving his entrepreneurial cousin, Greg Symons.

It was alleged that Mr Symons tried to get an Australian visa for a Taiwanese consultant regarding a Technology Park project he was proposing for the Marshall Islands.

An employee of Multiplex, the proposed builder, allegedly supported the application with a letter and a member of Mr Richardson’s office actually made the application.

The consultant turned out to be 18 years old and the application became part of a political furore.

This matter has been mentioned, albeit briefly and without reference to Multiplex, several times during the past week as the Swiss financial dealings of Mr Richardson and his mate, Rene Rivkin, have become public.

It is quite intriguing how these unrelated events, the Richardson scandal and the Multiplex float, rekindled memories of the relationship between business and politics – something that appears, thankfully, to be more of a problem in Sydney these days than Perth.

No takers?

AS for more local political matters, the money may be trivial in terms of a State Budget but few of us are keen on seeing our politicians’ election campaigns funded by taxpayers.

Not only does it give the incumbents an even greater edge than they already have by virtue of holding office, it seems to further distance the parties from the people they allegedly represent.

One way politicians could reduce the impact of private (either corporate or union) funding on politics would be to legislate for free political broadcasts for all candidates as part of the licence for broadcasters to operate – that would save a lot of money.

Advertising in the broadcast media is one of the biggest election expenses, and free commercials could simply be a cost of having a licence that excludes competition.


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