The AFR ran a front page story a couple of weeks back saying
that former Prime Minister Bob Hawke was associated as an Australian representative of a
major American con man who is facing criminal charges.

Whilst the link was relatively tenuous and Hawkie professed ignorance,
the revelations in a new book, The Accidental Gangster, by Sydney crime figure Bela Csidei are more startling. The Bulletin has this week carried an extract which lays out more of the late Sir Peter Abeles’ notorious network. How’s this for a big claim:

My access to the seats of power was building by the day. I was still doing a lot
of physical work to make a living, but by sticking closely by Papa (Sir Peter) I was within
the small, tight circles of Australia’s power elite. Hawke, meanwhile, was
continuing to strengthen his ties with Murdoch, helped by Abeles’ support.
Murdoch was confident a Hawke Labor government would be good for business, but
without Abeles’ assurances, there was no way the ALP could have enjoyed such
powerful media backing.

I remember Abeles’ elation the day Hawke was elected.
Although Abeles was an influential player in the Hawke ascendancy, there could
be no doubt Murdoch was the kingmaker. All three men were key players in the
infamous pilots’ strike. Backing Abeles and Murdoch, Hawke outraged the pilots
by bringing in the air force. Hawke said later: “We had a situation where the
pilots would have wrecked the Australian economy. They wanted a 30% increase and
we all knew that if that was done, the accord would be smashed and wages would
break out. I wasn’t looking after the airlines, I was looking after Australia
and so was Sir Peter.”

The whole airline dispute was contrived. Ansett was in
financial strife. By antagonising the pilots to the point where they walked off
the job, the markets had a feasible explanation for the airline’s poor
performance. All its deficiencies could be disguised by the horrendous economic
impact of crippling industrial action. This way the unions would wear the blame
the shareholders would perceive Ansett as the hapless victim.

Hmmm, what would Rupert say of this claim? It was just over 20 years
ago that Rupert engineered the famous Wapping dispute to revolutionise
the British newspaper industry and it sounds like he was emboldened by
this to take on the pilots, just before his 1990-91 debt crisis. TNT
also almost went broke in a similar debt trap around the same time.

The other interesting connection to all this is this week’s death of
controversial Gold Coast developer Eddie Kornhauser. Eddie started out in
Melbourne and after Sir Peter, was regarded as the other colourful
Jewish businessman closest to Bob Hawke.

Law firm Holding Redlich has acted for Bob Hawke over the past 30 years
after an introduction by Eddie before he moved to the Gold Coast to
wheel and deal with Sir Joh and Russ Hinze and well and truly earn his
membership of the white shoe brigade. His funeral is in Melbourne today.

Peter Fray

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