A Murky Mesopotamian Mystery

Now that Mark Bahnisch has gone solo and presumably taken his sociology/philosphy minded readers with him, we can get back to politics. It’s good timing on Mark’s account because after a six month slumber after the election, some interesting things are happening, not least to West Australian Senator Ross Lightfoot.

Lightfoot? Lightfingers? Lightweight? It is hard to tell, with stories about his activities saying this and that, and it all adds up to a curious tale indeed.

We can establish, from all this that several things have happened. First, Curtin University’s Woodside Hydrocarbon Research Facility ponied up $25,000 for a hospital in Kurdistan, and that Senator Lightfoot was at least present when this money was transferred.

You might be surprised to find that an Australian university faculty would be so generous. It turns out that the head of same is a prominent member of the Australian Kurdish community. And in addition, Senator Lightfoot’s travelling companion was the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan representative in Australia. And Woodside Petroleum has interests in Iraqi oil exploration.

And, in addition, Senator Lightfoot was a shareholder in Woodside Petroleum; shares he disposed of on March 15, as the story was about to break.

And there’s a mystery signature to a document that may or may not be a MoA between Woodside and Iraqi authorities.

And then there’s the firearms that he may or may not have been waving around.

And, not least, the confession to the journalist.

This Murky Mesopotamian Mystery is all very curious.

At the very least, Senator Lightfoot’s behavior is a display of extraordinary poor judgement. The Senator was supposed to be in Iraq to observe the election. I would have thought that there would have been quite enough on his plate to be going on with.

Donations to Iraqi hospitals are fine; indeed, are to be welcomed, however, prudence would have suggested a cheque might have been better. Senators should know better then to be waving large sums of cash about. Cash can be hard to account for. I hope that $25,000 has got to its intended destination. Woodside says it has; how do they know?

Strictly speaking, that donation is a matter for Woodside shareholders to be concerned about; if I was one of them, I would at the very least cast a cold hard stare as to why cash was used rather then more accountable financial instruments.

But back to the Senator.

The first thing we can all agree on is that that Lightfoot has shown questionable judgement (i.e, he is a blockhead.) The Prime Minister’s main action has been to talk to him, and one can only laugh at what Mr. Howard told him. We can guess that the first thing was to shut up; beyond that, well, who knows.

The political implications are going to be interesting though. Has Lightfoot done anything illegal? If he has, can he be be removed from the Senate? And if he is removed from the Senate, the West Australian government will be in the delightful position of choosing his replacement. To be sure, the Consititution says (Section 15), that if Lightfoot goes, he has to be replaced by a Liberal. But it will still be fun. An ALP Premier will be in charge of Liberal Senate pre-selections. Ha!

Such constitutional meanderings are mere idle speculation, of course. Howard will protect his misguided missile of a Senator. But Lightfoot’s credibility is shot; and he’s nobody but himself to blame.

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wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

Excellent post – except for last sentence – which contains an inaccuracy – it refers to Lightfoot’s credibility. ??

How much influence do Woodside think 25K was going to buy? Bizarre. Surely, Australia, as seminal and vociferous members of the COW, doesn’t need to stoop so low anyway. You’d hope that preferential treatment is on the cards anyway.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

$25,000 is a lot of money in some places…

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

Not in places that are handing out oil contracts…..

yobbo
2022 years ago

As far as the cash goes, an earlier article pointed out that cash was the only way to get the money to them – the banks aren’t functioning properly at the moment or something.

Robert
2022 years ago

Nice post, Scott. You’ve got a way with words.

Here’s my take:
http://robert.redrag.net/2005/03/19/lightfoot/

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Actually Scott, I’ve been writing about Lightfoot. You know, with a bit of sociology and philosophy thrown in :)

http://larvatusprodeo.redrag.net/2005/03/18/respice-post-te-mortalem-te-esse-memento/

saint
2022 years ago

Yes the Woodside connection gets murkier. Not clear whether the money was carried in or raised from within Kurdistan (which sounded weird: borrow money of relatives to donate to the hospital? Or is ths story about borrowing to also protect our Woodside mate who did not declare cash over 10,000 leaving Australia????)

And despite being an official donation, banks or no banks (after 10 years of semi-autonomy under the no fly zone? Hmmm), no official receipt or form of acknowledgement that moneys were received…

Yeah I’m waiting for the spin cycle to finish.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Monumentally inelegant behaviour by Lightfoot.

But it does make sense. The real winners from this whole Iraq fiasco will be the Kurds.
All the media focus has, until quite recently, been on Shiite versus Sunnis.
If I had $10million dollars I was desperate to spend in Iraq in no way would I spend it in Shiite or Sunni areas – I’d spend it in the Kurdish region. 75,000 guys under arms will keep my investment very safe indeed.

anthony
2022 years ago

What remains to be seen though, is if Tuckey will be able to win his title back. You snooze you lose.

saint
2022 years ago

Harry you forget the Kurds have an uneasy alliance even amongst themselves. Or have you forgotten their own civil war?

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

What used to make these scandals exciting was that we expected sackings might result, that a government might be embarrassed, that it might lose seats in an election. But the last election established that people just don’t care. In fact, if it turns out that the hospital is run by the brother of the Kurdish minister for resources, the voters of WA will probably think Lightfoot is a hero for promoting local business interests.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

aah I remember the good old days when bringing in a colour TV could get a Minister sacked.

John Morhall
John Morhall
2022 years ago

Clearly you can take the Senator out of the movies, but you can’t take the movies out of the Senator. Methinks the the possibility of Geoff Gallop choosing a replacement given the chance would be interesting, particular as Colin Barnett is not over employed at present.

John Morhall
John Morhall
2022 years ago

Clearly you can take the Senator out of the movies, but you can’t take the movies out of the Senator. Methinks the the possibility of Geoff Gallop choosing a replacement given the chance would be interesting, particular as Colin Barnett is not over employed at present.

John Morhall
John Morhall
2022 years ago

Sorry about the double post – I screwed up yet again

Andrew Bartlett
2022 years ago

There’s no doubt there should be a proper inquiry into this. Clarifying who actually paid for his earlier trip (and why it wasn’t declared) is one question amongst all the others that could do with some more focus.

However, despite my having more reason than many other people might to ensure some proper scrutiny of Senator Lightfoot’s actions, I am concerned that this rather farcical saga might harm the cause of the Kurdish people.

Despite everything, I do agree with Lightfoot’s expressed views in support of the Kurds. I believe the Kurds have a strong case for independence or, at the least, some form of autonomy. I worry that the air of ridiculousness that surrounds Lightfoot might carry over on to the Kurds themselves, whose cause deserves to be taken very seriously.

saint
2022 years ago

Well Andrew, when it comes to the Kurds, notwithstanding their own divisions, there is this matter of the Turks, who I think pose a bigger obstacle than even clod footed Lightfoot.

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

Francis, I remember when all it needed was a Paddington Bear to force a minister to resign!

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

I’m glad I’m not one of those idiots obsessed with puns and such like Homer. Otherwise there would be too many opportunities, with Lightfoot, Light fingers, Clodfoot, Capt Dark Foot and asking if the Kurds will find a whey or will they be up Shiite creek without a paddle or will they end up walking on the Sunni side of the street. I’ll get out of here before Iraq up a few more.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

I always thought that ‘Lightfoot’ was an ironic name, like the way we refer to redheads as ‘Bluey’.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

There’s really only one response to all this and it’s pretty much wild, unrestrained laughter. Lightfoot is a dickhead of the first order and rather than summoning the sort of gravitas-laden parliamentary response that will only inflate his already absurdly overblown ego, he should be made the butt of every joke that could possibly be drawn out of this scenario. There’s plenty of scope.

numbat
numbat
2022 years ago

Again howard treated us – the Australian people – with total disdain and contempt – you would think that he bought us eh? What does one of his have to do these days to activate the code of conduct? Perhaps rape the speaker during question time then piddle on the smirking treasurer and set fire to howard himself. Regards, numbat

harry
harry
2022 years ago

I was under the impression that Independence for the Kurds would be extremely bad.
I certainly remember the Americans promising the Turks that the Kurds wouldn’t get independence.
Turkey has a plan to invade to a depth of 12 kilometres should they get independence, to prevent a physical knock on effect into their own Kurdish population who have been agitating for a while.

The most worrying part of the current argy-bargy with the Iraqi Kurds is they want control of Kirkuk – one of several sticking points with their attempted coallition with the elected Shiite party.

Andrew Bartlett
2022 years ago

I don’t dispute that the views of Turkey presents a major difficulty in getting independence for the Kurds. Realpolitic may make it impossible, but I still believe the Kurds have a legitimate case for independence and it is unfortunate if the legitimacy of this case is not acknowledged (or is overshadowed by the Lightfoot saga).

The circumstances are very different, but I’d make similar comments on West Papua – it may well be that it is not feasible or even (now) desirable for West Papua to have independence, but that doesn’t negate the validity of thier cause and the benefit of at least allowing some form of autonomy.

Andjam
2022 years ago

I wouldn’t have expected that, two years after the war, “anti-war” types would be effectively aiding and abbetting Chemical Ali’s attack on Halabja, but attacking the donation of money to a hospital for Halabja kiddies (dressed up in complaints about due process and the like) seems awfully like that.

And I used to think that Ross was at the lowest rung of parliamentary civilisation, so I’m no Ross apologist.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Andjam,
You seem to forget that many of the ‘anti-war types’ were anti-the-American-plan-for-war, and not neccessarily anti-a-military-plan-to-get-rid-of-Saddam.
The argument was essentially one of process.

So too this ‘donation’ that others call a ‘bribe’. Commercial influence simply should not be awarded to those that bribe the most. This is an argument over process.

I take extreme exception to what you wrote here: “effectively aiding and abbetting Chemical Ali’s attack on Halabja, but attacking the donation of money to a hospital for Halabja kiddies”
This is a gross misrepresentation of the position and speaks profoundly of your naiveity.

When some dodgy company gets in and, say, financially supports an increasingly corrupt government that neglects it’s people for personal profit, would you put up with me labelling you as “aiding and abetting chemical Ali” because you supported said dodgy company getting in?
Get real.