“The case for widening the terms of reference of the AWB
kickbacks inquiry was always compelling,” says Michael Gordon in The
Age
, but on the evidence presented over the last couple of days it’s
“now
overwhelming.” The Cole inquiry was set up at the request of the UN and
the terms of reference only sought to examine AWB’s (along with two
other companies named by the UN). But now, on the strength of the latest
incriminating evidence against the government, the inquiry needs to be
extended to examine what our elected officials knew of the deal and when
they knew it – especially considering the AWB kickbacks were going to a
regime “considered so evil and such an imminent threat
to our interests that the lives of Australian soldiers were risked
to remove it.” The PM said he would widen the terms of reference if
Cole asked as much. And it is time Cole extended this inquiry.

Something’s gotta give when our leaders keep promising more and more
services while, at the same time, ramming home the message that we’re
already over taxed, says Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald. And
that something seems to be public infrastructure – because, says
Gittins, “politicians
may be making heroes of themselves and proving they can do the
impossible by quietly running down the quality and adequacy of
public infrastructure.” The issue could be easy to ignore, or sweep
under the carpet – especially since the renewal life of infrastructure
is around 50 to 60 years. It’s mostly an issue for local council, and
one that’s made tougher seeing that many of the original works were paid for by federal or state governments, and will soon need
renewing. Maybe “borrowing to finance long-lived public works
will
come back into fashion.”

In the entrenched debate over whether increased wealth equates into
increased happiness, we have been led “to forget what everyone once
knew: that wealth and happiness are not the same thing,” says George
Monbiot in The Guardian. For those “professors of happiness” tell us
that our “failure to feel better as we become richer” is not about
money; it’s about working longer hours and strained relationships. Well
“wealth itself can become a source of deprivation,” and although money
may enhance your freedom, if you have to travel further and further to
find freedom then what’s the point? And “as people become richer, and
as they can extract more wealth from their property,” they become more
protective of it, and are more likely to want to deny others the happiness
and freedom of setting foot on it. Soon there may be no freedom, for
all the greedy wealth.

With American news organisations polarising themselves into
democrat/republican and, more broadly, conservative/liberal, where then
are the “libertarians in politics and the media?” asks David Boaz in
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “Democrats stand like a wall against tax cuts
and Social Security
privatization. Republicans want to ban abortion, gay marriage and
“Happy Holidays.” What’s left for the libertarian? Not much. The worst
offenders are the “oracles” who appear on television, and you’d think
“they’d be thoughtful, independent,” but no: one defends Bush and the
other one denounces him. “It’s no secret that libertarian voters make
up a chunk of America. But
you’d never know it from watching TV – or listening to our elected
politicians.”

The
ability to protect the civilians in Darfur will “remain crippled until
an international protection force has complete air superiority over
Darfur,” says Kurt Bassuener in the International Herald Tribune.
“There remains an appalling policy vacuum on the part of the United
States and Europe toward Darfur,” says Bassuener. And if the West is
“serious about stopping the mayhem in Darfur” and offering
real protection to the uprooted civilian population, it “needs to
summon
the fortitude to cease treating Darfur as collateral damage of the Iraq
war and other policies that create friction with the Muslim world, and
offer the sort of assistance that only it can provide – both in the
air, and on the ground.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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