08 April, 2007

CORRUPTION in Australia and Thailand:
a brief comparison of styles

The rear entrance to John Ducklips Howard’s residence in Keeyan-bruh,
where legislation can be bought (Payment by Stock Options preferred)

Most Australians seem to accept unquestioningly that Australia is one of the leading countries on earth. “We’re the guys in the white hats. Other people are corrupt, not us. How can we be bad? We’re Australians, for goodness sake!”

Well, as Robert Mugabe once (mockingly) quipped, Australians have convict genes. We picked up a thing or two about betrayal and crime from our abusive parent, Mother England. We’ve been doing Corruption long enough now that we’ve learned how to cover our tracks very well, so the system runs smoothly enough. Every now and then, someone gets caught and a convenient scapegoat gets roasted:

. . . but most of the time australian corruption stays safely concealed behind thick corporate walls, buried under sedimentary layers of creative accounting.

The difference between australia and Thailand is this – corruption in Thailand permeates every level of society from street-vendors to politicians: it's a chain of interdependent deals. Pull out one link and the entire chain collapses (think domino metaphor, pack of cards, etc). As a result, corruption is very difficult to eradicate (as Thailand's Surayud government is discovering) because it is necessary to prosecute everyone from the Prime Minister all the way through the long chain of deals right down to the street-vendor and the taxi-mafia. The folks at the top probably don't even know who the folks at the bottom are. Right, Mr Thaksin? Mr Thaksin? Hello? ....Hellooooo??

In Australia, on the other hand, corruption resides mainly at very high levels of business and politics, leaving the masses of workers struggling to work more hours to support the resulting top-heavy system…. the rich getting richer at workers' expense. At least in Thailand, everyone scores a few extra baht on the way. Maybe that's the price australians pay for having a convict background - we often tend to defer to (and naively trust) "THE AUTHORITIES". Social genetics are powerful, affecting everything from families to nations.

As a simple illustration of an Australian Who Dared to Question, here’s a letter a FunkyPix2 reader wrote to the ATO last year:
Dear Australian Tax Office,

Enclosed is my 2006 tax return showing that I owe $3,407.00 in taxes. Please note the attached article from Hansard, wherein you will see that the Australian Defence Forces are paying $171.50 for hammers and the Australian Barley Board has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat.

I am enclosing four toilet seats (value $2,400) and six hammers (value $1,029), bringing my total remitted to $3,429.00. Please apply the overpayment of $22.00 to the "Prime Ministerial Election Fund," as noted on my return. You can do this inexpensively by sending them one 1.5" Phillips Head screw (article from Hansard detailing how ASIO pays $22.00 each for 1.5" Phillips Head Screws is enclosed for your convenience.)

It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year.

A Satisfied Taxpayer

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