Bogged Down Under

A week ago “Down Under” Prime minister John Howard warned he would seize control of Australia’s ports unless steps are taken to reduce congestion. In his nation’s struggle to meet surging Asian demands for resources, trade has been disrupted by delays at key ports, he said, and he added that better management was essential for greater efficiency.

“We have said to the states that it’s vital to our export performance that there not be delays and blockages in ports,” he said.

Howard was speaking after his Deputy Prime Minister outlined a plan under which the nation’s ports would be managed by a single federal government-controlled body. Under the scheme, Howard’s conservative government would spend billions improving export infrastructure in ports which are all located in states governed by Labor Party leaders.

Some state governments, of course, attacked the plan as an election stunt. Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter bluntly stated, “The Prime Minister … telling us that they’re going to run the nation’s ports should cause everyone to run in panic. They would be completely incapable of doing the job. They’re useless.”

Pretty subtle, don’t you think? But Mr. Carpenter has a point. Think about this:
• Just last week “Bloomberg.com” told of a small South Carolina parts supplier that had collected about $ 20.5 million over a six-year period from the Pentagon for fraudulent shipping costs, including, [get this!] $ 998,798 for sending two [two!] 19-cent washers to a Texas base.
• The company also billed, and was paid, $ 455,009 to ship three [three!] machine screws, costing $ 1.31 each, to Marines in Iraq, and also received $ 293,451 to ship an 89-cent split washer to Patrick Air Force base in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

These transactions were recorded in the Pentagon, by the way, and no one even seemed to notice. The price the military paid for each item shipped rarely reached $ 100 and totaled just $ 68,000 over the six-year period, in contrast to the $ 20.5 million paid to the South Carolina company for the shipping. Can’t you just imagine what would happen if our politicians schemed to put a government agency in charge of our container ports? Pay attention to Mr. Carpenter’s assessment.

In our Vol. III, Art, 21 commentary, back in mid-May of 2005, we talked about the Australian Prime Minister’s earlier threat to take over his nation’s loused-up container ports. In our final paragraph we warned that, “… this worldwide problem makes it obvious that no one knows of a solution and that the many costly attempts at buying time have proved futile. Our patented system solves space problems, labor problems, money problems, employment problems, distribution problems, delay problems, etc., etc. Or are we waiting for government intervention?

“[Impossible, you say? Ever hear of the Department of Homeland Security?]”