Just occasionally, the corporate media manage to shed some light on the activities of the rich and powerful in this country. In The shadow side of a cardboard king, Age journalist Michael Bachelard lifts the lid on the late Visy Industries head and Israeluvvie Richard Pratt.
Here are the more political references:
"A Sunday Age investigation has revealed a dark side to Pratt that played out through decades of questionable business deals and borderline criminality - allegations of bribes, thugs, systematic tax evasion, intimidation, the use of prostitutes and the purchase of political influence...
"The sources, who declined to be named, also allege that many politicians, as well as union officials and executives in competitor companies, were bribed or received favours with an expectation of support. It worked. When Pratt got into trouble with the National Crime Authority in the mid-1990s, very few politicians raised his conduct as an issue - a situation attributed by a Labor apparatchik at the time as being because Pratt 'has been very clever and built up friendships and support'. Sources have told The Sunday Age that former Trades Hall secretary John Halfpenny was regularly handed brown paper bags stuffed with cash. 'Dick hated unions, but believed you could buy them off. But they'd take the money and not do anything', one former executive remembers...
"Then comes a frank admission of what Pratt was buying with his large donations to both big political parties: 'the fact of political donations being followed by letters from Richard Pratt for assistance... could cause embarrassment for the recipient and the author', the document says. Politicians are summed up for their reliability. 'Whilst a number of prominent politicians and others are on side, Daryl Williams QC [the then attorney-general] is to some degree an unknown quantity and Peter Costello is far from over the line'. Williams is considered by both sides of politics to have been a straight shooter, and Costello never crossed the line to Pratt's side. John Howard was publicly praising Pratt during the cartel case between 2007 and 2009 while Costello remained silent... Pratt's wooing of politicians went beyond donations to the two big parties. One document... shows that after he finished as prime minister, Bob Hawke was on the Visy payroll, earning $8333.33 every month between September 1995 and June 1996, or $85,661 for the year, for 'consulting services'. Gough and Margaret Whitlam received $27,000 over the same period." (25/7/10)
Although Bachelard makes a compensatory reference to Pratt's philanthropy, "worth $150 million or more," he skirts completely the issue of how this was spent. While the website (theprattfoundation.org) of Pratt's philanthropic arm, The Pratt Foundation, reveals that both Israel and Australia are the beneficiaries of his largesse, no details are given*. Jewish community news site, J-Wire, talks of "upwards of A$30 million to more than 350 Israeli causes in the last ten years." (Tribute to Richard Pratt at Israeli military commemoration, jwire.com.au, 2/11/09)
[*Interestingly, the website prattfoundation-israel.co.il is a little more informative.]
The one Pratt Foundation project in Israel we have heard about here is the high propaganda value Park of the Australian Soldier at Beersheva, "funded... to honour the Diggers who have fought in the Middle East" (Rhapsody, Jan-Mar 2008)*. Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the following reference to the park and its creator in her June 23, 2009 address to the Australia Israel Leadership Forum in Jerusalem: "It is a wonderful reminder of our shared history and one more part of the legacy of the late Richard Pratt. It will serve as a place of pilgrimage for Australians and a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today were hard-won."
Australian pilgrims, however, will likely have no inkling whatever of the allegation, in Bachelard's report, that the real damage to the Australian economy of Pratt's cardboard box cartel with APM "would be more in the order of $2 billion rather than the $700 million estimated by lawyers pursuing a class action over the cartel's proven duration, from 2000 to 2004."
But, hey, what the hell. As an earlier press report on Pratt, Friends in high places, revealed: "Pratt has donated about $1.5 million to the Liberals and $500,000 to the Labor Party since 2000. At his $15 million, 12-bedroom mansion, Raheen, Pratt hosts frequent political fund-raising functions. Howard was a recent dinner guest at a Liberal Party fund-raiser. A week earlier, Rudd was the star attraction at a Labor Party function." (Steve Burrell, SMH, 13/10/07)
Verily a "Renaissance man," as his very good friend and Labor heavyweight Bill Shorten was moved to say on the occasion of his death last year (Former trade unionist Bill Shorten will miss Pratt, dailytelegraph.com.au, 28/4/09).
[*See my posts Anzac Day Special: Diggers Die for Israel (25/4/08) & Zionist Myth In-formation (1/5/08)]