Sorry John Howard, but Richard Pratt does not deserve the posthumous return of his Order of Australia.

Much has been made of the amount of money Pratt gave to worthy causes. But here are some other sums that have been forgotten in the rush to eulogise the man.

Visy and Amcor agreed over five years to raise prices by 8-15%, for products that are at the heart of the economy, used in virtually every sector and industry. Visy and Amcor together form 97% of the cardboard and plastic bottle industry.

By one estimate, the cartel cost the companies’ customers $700m. Much of that, perhaps $300m, was passed on to downstream customers — you and me.

Cadbury-Schweppes, in an action that will be in the Federal Court from Monday, is suing the other party in the cartel for more than $120m.

Richard Pratt was involved in one of the biggest rip-offs in Australian history. The trial judge called it “the worst cartel to come before the courts in 30-plus years” and said Pratt was “knowingly concerned” in it and sanctioned it.

Pratt was previously fined for anti-competitive conduct in the 1990s. He was a repeat offender.

The politicians rushing to praise Pratt should ask small businesses, like fruit and veg growers who depend on cardboard products, how they feel about Pratt.

Pratt was right to hand back his honour. Crooks don’t deserve the Order of Australia, and he admitted to being a crook — on a colossal scale.

Oh, and two other numbers. In 2007, Richard Pratt gave $100,000 to the ALP and $200,000 to the Liberal Party. No wonder they love him.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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