Alan Saffron may be indulging in some promotional theatrics when he airily suggests that former NSW premier Bob Askin is merely one of the lesser lights in the unpublishable list of those associated with his notorious father Abe. But even so, the extent to which Abe Saffron was intertwined with Sydney’s political and business elites reflects how systematically corrupt NSW was in the 1960s and 1970s. The real lesson from Saffron’s activities, however, is that he made so much money from vice, he could afford to take up loan-sharking, including, allegedly, to Australia’s biggest businessmen.
It doesn’t take too great a flight of the imagination to realise that the same phenomenon is occurring right now. Billions of dollars made from the illicit drug trade are being recycled into the legitimate economy as investments and loans. Prohibition merely hides these vast sums, and provides strong incentives for corruption. With our present defamation laws, however, we’ll probably have to wait generations to find out which pillars of various establishments were corrupt in 2008.