When is a
bribe not a bribe? When Austrade’s working on your behalf? Well,
those experts at analysing broken companies that are breaking news, Bruce and
Barry
have some pointers on the matter they picked up last week at a seminar on doing
business in Indonesia.

Bruce and Barry say “The seminar was
presented by Austrade’s man on the ground in Jakarta, Mr X and his
colleague Mr
Y, a Vice President Director of an Indonesian firm Austrade had brought
to
Australia and who was looking for Australian suppliers.” And Bruce and
Barry – like all business heads – just love PowerPoint. This
part of the presentation made a particular impression on the pair.

That “Upfront fees disbursement required” seemed especially
noteworthy. And it appears Bruce and Barry weren’t the only members of the
audience who felt that way. As they observe, it is illegal for Australian business to pay bribes in
foreign markets to secure business. So, naturally, some queries came for
Austrade’s Mr X. But they can tell the story:

His
response was that, ‘…if you look into the Indonesian government official or
businessman’s eyes, you will just know if they are looking for
something…’

Mr Y
then chimed in to say that, “…yes we are talking about facilitation
payments…”

Astounded
at this response from an Australian Government official, the question was then
asked by another member of the audience, “…are you honestly suggesting
that, as we sit here in Austrade offices, we pay bribes to Indonesian
Government officials?…”

Austrade’s
Mr X then cottoned on to the problem, and back-peddled so fast he almost fell
over.

However
Indonesia’s Mr Y, not realising what the real issue was,
continued on about how, “… of course most non-bureaucrats in Indonesia are
much more embarrassed about taking bribes…”, but he is eventually shouted down
by Mr X who rapidly changed the subject.

The
other important piece of advice on Mr Y’s presentation was the last dot point
that a ‘Chief Entertainment Officer’ was a big advantage. Presumably
necessary for when the forex transfer window at the bank is closed for the day.

It’s
clear that Austrade treads where the angels in DFAT fear to go; not only
acknowledging but encouraging Australian business to pay bribes to Indonesian
Government officials. Given the subsequent covering up by Mr X this must
however be advice only for private clients.

Such a refreshing change after the AWB obfuscation!

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW