From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Brushtail Graphics

The Baird Witch Project

16 December 1999

We are a long way now from that day, way back in 1993, when Juan Antonio Samaranch said "Sydernee! Sydernee!" Many ravens have come home to roost, and the Olympics are still nine months away.

On the night Samaranch spoke, thousands of airheads danced in the streets and the Olympic bid supremo, NSW's Transport and Tourism Minister Bruce Baird, preened himself mightily.

Since then, the Olympics have become one of those glorious fiascos which descend on Sydney from time to time like a force of nature, laying bare the seedy inner workings of the political and business establishment.

By the time the Olympics come, none of the original sports bureaucrats will be left on SOCOG and Michael Knight may never hold down a job in this town again. Graham Richardson will probably survive, but he is a shameless and indestructible politics junkie, thriving even in the most poisonous political evironment ... like those super-bacteria that live in toxic waste, or even, some think, in outer space.

Bruce Baird is a very low-profile backbencher in Federal Parliament these days. In February this year he claimed he'd secured an agreement from the Fairfax and Murdoch press to turn a blind eye to "duchessing" of IOC members during the Olympic bid process. The news chiefs indignantly denied the whole thing. These were not things one says about the media big boys and Bruce has not been heard from since. Some say he is dead and that his ghost haunts the political thickets of Canberra and Macquarie Street.

I thought of Bruce when I read Andrew West's article on the debt-laden M2 motorway in the Sun-Herald, last Sunday morning.

As NSW Roads and Transport Minister, Bruce championed the controversial project, and it was he who signed the project deed on behalf of the Fahey Government in October 1994. It was also signed by his right-hand man in the big M2 push, RTA Chief Executive Maxwell Moore-Wilton ('Max the Axe'), who now heads up John Howard's Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The motorway was supposed to be a win-win-win situation: a win for the motorists, a win for the investors, and also a win for the taxpayer, because the Hills Motorway Group (Headed up by John Howard's brother Stanley) was going to pay a handy little earner to the taxpayer -- rent for the motorway site during its 45 year tenure.

We now know otherwise. According to key documents obtained by the veteran Legislative Council independent Richard Jones, the State will probably never get any rent from the motorway, and it seemed that the Macquarie Bank (which set up the M2 deal), knew this all along. The contract for the M2 set the threshold at which Hills Motorway would begin paying rent to the RTA at an after-tax return to investors of 12.25 per cent a year. But in August 1994, Macquarie had done financial modelling -- which was attached to the project deed -- showing the tollway would never reap more that 11.78 per cent return to investors per year.

This was not what we were told, I seem to recall, and it wasn't what Parliament was told either. In October 1994, Max Moore-Wilton told a parliamentary estimates committee:

"... under the M2 proposal by Hills Motorway Consortium, the Consortium takes all financial risks including patronage risk and usage risk in respect of that tollway over the life of the tollway. There is no continuing or operating subsidy or risk sharing by the Government with the consortium".

Richard Jones described the lost revenue as "the result of a covert agreement between the consortium and the former Coalition Government to provide a hidden subsidy which was not agreed to by Parliament". He also called it "fraud against the State in respect of the leasehold and incentive rents supposed to be paid to the RTA".

It was all vveerryy interesting indeed.

It was time to open the Bruce George Baird file again. On some jobs I carry the 9 mm Browning as insurance, but that would not be right for this job. I am not a superstitious marsupial, but you can never be sure. I took my big wooden cross from the cupboard and laid it on the desk.