- More than 3,000 referrals of corruption each year and the best it’s got – an RFS catering inquiry
- Did ICAC consider how its show pony inquiries might affect an organisation that relies on volunteers?
- Media blackout suggests no one gives a shit – so there’s talk that Willy Wonka may get called as expert witness
Amid ICAC’s self-inflicted turmoil, after recent abuses of its powers, an ongoing probes into its reckless behaviour and strong indications it’s lost the plot in deciding what’s in the public interest, you’d think the so-called corruption watchdog would bring out its secret weapon to save the day.
ICAC’s wasted NSW Parliament’s time, the NSW Supreme Court and Court of Appeal’s time, the High Court’s time, the public’s time – basically everyone’s time.
So, while deals like those going on in Barangaroo, potentially involving billions of dollars, get the green light on a handshake and fall within ICAC’s jurisdiction for much needed probing, the Commission has gone down the Snack Pack route to change the world.
This is probably something more suited to having lawyers sort out behind closed doors, but the ICAC crew are determined to continue looking like a collective of idiots, so we should only ask whether they have “enough rope”.
If you’re in the right place at the right time you might be able to experience the surreal, out of body experience in yuour home of radio or TV reports on corruption involving FIFA and hundreds of millions of dollars, while reading a newspaper report on Snack Packs which also uses the word “corruption”
- No party pies or sausage roll racketeering in this inquiry, with hints there may be a new probe on pastries
- ICAC alleges a tidal wave of Snack Pack graft is taking hold of the volunteer-based Rural Fire Service.
- Conspicuously absent from Snack Packs: family favourites including: Bertie Beetles, chocolate freckles, clinkers, green/ yellow snakes, toy-based novelties with sherbert and Snickers, Chokito and Mars bars.
But desperate times call for desperate measures and it appears ICAC has a crisis management plan ready to rock ‘n’ roll.
The all-powerful, underperforming and terminally ill corruption watchdog may call on Willy Wonka as a star witness for its latest inquiry amid one of its worst publicity generation efforts ever.
As ICAC’s well-oiled leaking machine went into hiding due to “too much heat” it appeared a decision had been made to not commit the serious crime of leaking secret information to media ahead of the public inquiry in one of its notorious “drops”.
A measure of how badly things have turned out is the fact that with two days of the Snack Pack inquiry under the bridge, not even its preferred recipient of misinformation and unverified smear, the SMH, had run anything.
It appeared only the usual suspects – AAP and the ABC – had run something after day one, but nothing since.
So speculation is now intensifying that Willie Wonka and up to three Oompah Loompahs could become surprise additions to the expert witness list, which ICAC rarely uses given its powers to just make things up.
There’s growing discontent in the community over ICAC’s pettiness, wasted funds on sham inquiries, abuses of power and irrelevance and now, it must be painful for the media manipulators within to see that outlets were now showing signs of no longer listening.
The continued persecution of popular and successful Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen and speculation that inquiries by the ICAC Inspector, David Levine. were about to unearth maladministration and a series of more monumental stuff-ups, means ICAC’s RFS-Snack Pack inquiry needs to be a winner.
We’ll let readers judge this for themselves.
Just to ensure its sensational opening day revelations were understood by a public it usually manages to deliberately baffle, ICAC took the step of humanising the issue, with a shocking image of a Snack Pack featuring among the first of its exhibits.
It includes the controversial Gluten Free Nut Delight, the villified but enduring multi-coloured Lifesavers, party-starting pretzels and the old dip and biscuit offering – hitting home that some iconic sources of nourishment were involved in this “serious and systemic corruption” inquiry.
What’s worse are the pictures of the Rural Fire Service’s operations centre, clearly showing staff in a number of discussions about the distribution of shared kickbacks from catering contracts and reassurances a multinational accounting firm would be overseeing the process.
It’s understood ICAC’s investigators immersed themselves in the investigation with a daily diet of mixed lollies in the office, noting their observations on both colour and flavour.
SHOCK AS FAVOURITES FOUND TO BE MISSING
One of the shocking facts to emerge in the investigation is the complete absence from the Snack Packs of Bertie Bertie Beetles, Caramello Koalas, chocolate freckles, clinkers, green and yellow snakes, novelty goods with sherbert and Snickers, Chokito and Mars Bars.
ICAC’s investigators suspect this may indicate the involvement of organised crime and stockpiling of popular lines of confectionery in an attempt to bump up the price, while there is also a widely held view that our RFS volunteers are being treated like second class citizens.
NO PARTY PIES, SAUSAGE ROLLS OR QUICHE AT THIS STAGE
An eleventh-hour decision was made to exclude party pies and sausage rolls and to a lesser extent quiche, from this inquiry as ICAC hinted it would likely pursue pastry snack industry corruption in a separate inquiry if unable to find more serious corruption issues among more than 3,000 referrals it receives annually.
Some ICAC critics, including Ronald McDonald, are accusing the watchdog of wasting funds at a time where Burger King was running riot in relation to consumer promos which impinged upon his burger chain’s IP (More on that some time soon).
DEEPTHROAT EXPLAINS ICAC STRATEGY
Meanwhile, a debutant ICAC backgrounder assured Save Ryde that all money thrown away was good money spent.
“It’s nothing to be alarmed about, there’s method in our madness,” said an ICAC source, making his debut in backgrounding journos, who spoke to Save Ryde on condition his information wasn’t scrutinised.
“We’ve kind of covered off the issue of stories unravelling by getting secrecy powers that stop victims offering their side of the story and the journos we deal with love that because it saves them from having to argue with editors about why whatever they’re writing is a story.
“Look, we need to get the headline count up again and we reckon Wonka could bring it home for us, so we’re negotiating now and there will be incentives and lots of lollies for observers to bring their kids to public hearings.”
ICAC was even considering a screening of the classic Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with some scenes re-shot to include images of Wonka giving expensive bottles of wine and pens to politicians.
There were also plans to insert a new scene set in a cafe, with surveillance-style visual effects, in which Wonka discusses an investing opportunity in mining licences with an Oompah Loompahs and makes reference to it being a “done deal because he knows a powerful bloke in government”.
CORRUPTION A THREAT TO YOUNG WORKING FAMILIES, CUTE PUPPIES AND KITTENS
The ICAC source said it was obvious the public was realising it had delivered nothing in terms of “serious and systematic corruption”, on which the ICAC Act specifies it should focus, so it was a good time to rehash some of its more popular battles.
“We’ve copped a battering in the Cunneen saga and really need to get back to our roots,” the source told Save Ryde.
“Recently, during a work conference in the Bahamas, we work-shopped the essence of our strategy and came up with: Sensationalise, Uncontextualise, Obfuscate. That is the key to raising awareness of corruption in this state and the threat it poses to young working families and cute puppies and kittens.”
Asked why he’d singled out specific groups among the “victims” of corruption, the source said it was based on ICAC’s anecdotal evidence and it had plenty of cash to throw into a fresh marketing push.
Internal research “which costs a bomb but is essential for pressing all the right buttons” had shown adults were switching off so there was a new push targeting a younger demographic.
KEEPING BAIRD HAPPY AND SNOUT REINFORCEMENTS FOR TROUGH ACTION
The source said ICAC needed to reinforce its snout for upcoming rounds of government funding and in the short term, some sensitive matters would need attention.
That would include a communications strategy to prevent Premier Baird realising he’d been led down the garden path with retrospective changes to ICAC’s legislation to solve a couple of “stuff ups”.
“When he asks ‘does my bum look big in his’ we just tell him he’s stunning and irresistable – works every time on all pollies – they’re interchangeable,” our deepthroat said.
“I guess there was also that nudge nudge wink wink moment when we met with him, in relation to how we’d handle Liberal pollies between now and the next election. It’s really that easy.”
GENEROUS GREG SMITH GAVE US FUNDING WITHOUT TOO MUCH FUSS
It also helped that not much effort was needed to get massive funding windfalls and former Commissioner David Ipp even acknowledge that in an ABC TV interview.
“We were lucky enough to have the former NSW Attorney General Greg Smith tip in some extra bucks recently, around the time of all the Obeid publicity and the Ryde inquiry,” the source said.
“Turns out one of his good mates, Bill Pickering, who employs his son Nathaniel, was giving evidence at an ICAC inquiry and his son was backing him up, so we seconded some of his staff our office under the guise of helping out with the Obeid stuff. They felt better because it created some certainty around
“The downpour of cash we got just for saying yes every time, got us an upgrade from Premium Economy to First for an important conference in Disneyland in Paris recently.”
Save Ryde has assured the source it has plans to do more political and government waste satire and so there would always be a place for the occasional drop of misinformation from ICAC, which up til now has tended to call the SMH’s front page home.
The source said ICAC’s new strategy targeting a younger audience meant it would be engaging more with new media as part of its overall communications plan, but stressed that loyal media partners that have facilitated sensational headlines to date, will not suffer as a result.
#ICAC BUZZFEED FAIL ROFL WTF!
“We’d been talking to BuzzFeed about a list of the Top Ten anti-corruption triumphs by ICAC – then we had to go back to the drawing board after realising there weren’t any,” the source said.
“Our well-developed system of untraceable drops in seedy Sydney back alleys remains intact – that’s rock solid.”
He excused himself after a colleague conveyed a message about some more problems with ICAC’s recently-restructured Narrative Creation Department and promised to fill me in with the gory details later.
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR SNACK PACK INQUIRY UPDATES
You might as well. We’ll have rolling coverage of the global impact and life-changing significance of ICAC’s latest inquiry with commentary from all of the same experts used by ICAC.
And kids – we’ll soon announce special Wonka hamper prizes, with thanks to ICAC and Wonka Corp.