In light of the AWB kickbacks debacle, wasn’t it terrific to see the news (page 12 of The AFR) out of Indonesia yesterday that explosives giant Orica had dobbed in a bribe-seeking official who has now been arrested.

East Kalimantan is a booming mining region and Orica has been trying to get approval to build a $200 million explosives plant for years, but was held up by demands for bribes from Omay Wiraatmadja, the president of its prospective local partner Pupik Kaltim, a state-owned fertiliser company.

Stupid Mr Wiraatmadja actually put his $US10 million demand in writing so Orica took it straight to President Yudhoyono a month ago and Wiraatmadja has now been arrested on a range of corruption charges.

The country will now probably get the largest greenfield investment by an Australian company since 1998 without corrupt means being deployed. This section of the Federal Attorney-General’s Department website explains why bribery of foreign officials has been a criminal offence since December 1999, punishable with a maximum ten years behind bars.

By the way, I owe Orica an apology for excluding them from last Wednesday’s story (item 9) about Australian companies thriving overseas. After the Dyno Nobel takeover, Orica has about 14,000 employees, offices in 50 countries and sells into another 50 countries. Its workforce is split 6,000 in Australia and 8,000 offshore and it now has 50% of its sales offshore, producing 40% of earnings.

Meanwhile, did anyone else think it was a bad joke that former Orica CEO Phillip Weickhardt was the Productivity Commissioner sent out to front the public defending the draft report yesterday claiming we don’t need to phase out plastic bags?

Er, has everyone forgotten that Orica is Australia’s largest chemical and plastics company and Phil was listed as owning 36,589 shares and 595,000 options in the 2000 annual report before he was finally sacked for poor performance?

Orica shares hit a low of $4 in 2001 but Weickhardt’s replacement Malcolm Broomhead turned the ship around beautifully and the stock is at $22.85 this morning. It would be a good deal lower if plastic bags were banned in Australia, so Weickhardt was completely inappropriate to do this report.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12