Those with long memories will recall that this is not the first time
Canberra officials turned a blind eye while farm marketing boards were
up to their necks in dirty business. In the early 80s the
government-owned Australian Dairy Corporation’s offshoot, Asia Dairy
Industries, was playing (and paying) like Les Patterson on an unlimited
expense account.

The terylene safari suits from the Dairy Corp were all over South East Asia, paying out “incentives” to mysterious local
middle men in return for lucrative contracts – never mind that the
deals were settled with a little cream on top for all, including
foreign bureaucrats. Things turned so nasty at one stage an Australian
official was mysteriously gunned down in Indonesia – apparently for
refusing to play the game his colleagues took for granted.

Tenacious investigations by Tasmanian Liberal Peter Rae in his Senate
Estimates Committee hearings brought the scandal home to the door of
National Party strongmen, Peter Nixon and Ian Sinclair. However in
those days the Nats were more important and the Fraser Government shut
down a Federal Police inquiry just as things were getting interesting.
A few minor officials walked the plank, but Nixon later confided it was
a close run thing.

I was a young Press gallery reporter at the time, and vividly recall
receiving a call late one Sunday evening from a senior minister begging
me not to run with the story, “for the good of the Australian dairy
farmers. That’s just the way business has to be done in those places.”
Seems those cocky Cockies never learn.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey