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By cam (Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 06:33:29 PM EST) Australian Politics, Australian Wheat Board, Ru486, Happiness Studies (all tags)

The AWB issue won't die, it is starting to have the appearance of a scandal which is exposing government corruption. Ru486 conscience vote passing authority for its approval back to the TGA and away from the Health Minister. Plus happiness and party affiliation.

Australian Wheat Board

The Australian Wheat Board scandal refuses to die. Political corruption is too salacious for the media to leave alone, and the information that keeps coming out on this has been constant. The government gagged public servants at this week's Senate Estimates Committee hearings. This included civil servants from ASIO and CrimTrak. ASIO is the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation - Australia's equivalent of the CIA.

Now it turns out the AWB claimed the 300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein as a tax deduction. From the article;

AWB's Chief Financial Officer Paul Ingleby revealed yesterday to the commission that the company claimed the Iraq kickbacks as a tax write-off. Under questioning by the Cole commission's senior counsel, John Agius, he [AWB's Chief Financial Officer Paul Ingleby] agreed that the payment of "trucking fees" - the kickbacks demanded by Saddam's regime - was treated by AWB as an expense and, therefore, a tax deduction.

The AWB is a legislated export monopoly. The Australian government sent Michael Thawley to Washington to stop the US Senate investigating the AWB's impropriety. He was successful. Canada knew stuff was going on, the US Senate did too, only the Au government didn't know what was going on in their backyard - or maybe they did. The AWB Chairman was payed 680K from overseas aid funds to protect Australia's wheat exports to Iraq. AusAID is a government department that is supposed to be for helping third world nations get a leg up with projects/assistance etc. Not a pork fund for the government to hand out to the chairmen of legislated monopolies.

A Conscience Vote!

Parliament had a rare occurrence, a conscience vote over Ru486 otherwise known as mifepristone. A conscience vote means that the party whips get the day off, and members of parliament do not suffer at the hand of party discipline in having their vote collected for party purposes. It is far more democratic than the parliamentary behaviour we have seen recently such as guillotining legislation through the Senate.

Ru486 is one of a number of drugs that are restricted under the Therapeutic Goods Act of 1989 as 'restricted goods'. Restricted goods are defined as;

means medicines (including progesterone antagonists and vaccines against human chorionic gonadotrophin) intended for use in women as abortifacients.
From the Act;

Ministerial approval of evaluation, registration or listing of restricted goods

(1) In spite of any provision of this Division, restricted goods must not be evaluated or registered or listed without the written approval of the Minister.

(2) A written approval shall be laid before each House of the Parliament by the Minister within 5 sitting days of being given.

This was part of the amendments introduced by Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine to make the Minister for Health responsible for abortion medicines rather than the Therapeutic Goods Administration - a regulatory body. Essentially meaning that politics could control the flow of abortifacients into Australia rather than a science based body. This legislation places abortion drugs in opposition to other medical drugs in Australia which pass through the evidence-based process of the TGA.

This is what the conscience vote was about, removing the Health Minister's control of abortion drugs from the TGA. The private member bill was introduced by Senators Fiona Nash, Judith Troeth, Lyn Allison and Claire Moore. The bill repeals sections 6AA, 6AB, 23AA and 57(9). The conscience vote approved the legislation passed 95 votes to 50.

Happiness and Political Affiliation

Are Liberal voters happier than Labor voters? Similar suggestions have been made in the US with Republicans being happier than Democrats. Is it for real or not? Andrew Leigh is not convinced. He writes;

So far as I can see, none of the differences are statistically significant. The sample sizes in individual electorates is around 100 (see PDF page 23). Stata tells me that for a difference of 69.4% (Grayndler) and 78.6% (Wide Bay) to be statistically significant at the 10% level, I would need a sample of 526 people in each electorate. So as a social scientist, the right way to read this research is "there are no significant happiness differences across federal electorates". Journalists who report it in any other way are misleading their readers.

This is the actual report.

Quote of the Week

From an SMH article

Asked about the Premier's description of Mr Mulligan as a "fuckwit" - picked up on a TV microphone last week - Mr Roozendaal said: "Well, as a new minister I never want to contradict the Premier, and I haven't actually met Mr Mulligan yet so I'll hold my judgement till I have that first meeting."


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