When a rugby team loses a game, there’s
sometimes a tendency for the ignorant to
blame one or two players – who fell off a vital tackle, who failed to kick the
conversion, who gave away the stupid penalty.

The wise faithful know it’s never really
like that. The whole team loses the game – every player at some stage of the
match could have done or did not do
something that affected the outcome. The whole team is responsible for letting
the opposition have the ball when the tackle was missed, for not scoring more
tries so that a single conversion mattered so much, for being at the wrong end
of the park when the penalty was given.

So far, the AWB scandal has continued to
concentrate on the individual players. That is understandable within the Cole
inquiry’s examination of AWB itself as that is where recommendations for
perhaps criminal charges will be laid against individuals legally held

At the government level though, it becomes
more and more obvious that it is the whole team that has failed, the whole
relationship between the AWB and key ministers and their departments that
is responsible for embarrassing Australia.
The pre-occupation with finding prime ministerial DNA at the scene of the crime
has overshadowed the bigger picture, the real problem.

In the Government’s approach, there’s more than an
echo of the line that “what’s good for General Motors is good for America”.
In the Howard Government’s case, it’s what’s good for AWB is good for Australia
so AWB should never be doubted and always be served.

That is wrong and unhealthy. It is
symptomatic of weak administration and a lax culture. Of course it is
consistent with other unhealthy government/private sector relationships, such
as that which exists with the main media companies, Qantas, companies cashing
in on out-sourcing of social welfare and certain lobbyists.

While there is no intention to recognise
the whole team failure, the search for individuals to blame will achieve

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey