"I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!", said Sergeant Hans Schultz in the 1970s US sitcom Hogan's Heroes.
This unforgettable refrain by the hopelessly compromised Shultz, a guard in a German World War II POW camp run by "Colonel Klink", passed into US legal parlance in the era of the modern US corporate scandals like Enron Inc.
Wikipedia describes the "Sergeant Schultz defence" as a "satirical term for a legal strategy where a defendant claims innocence by virtue of having been ignorant of facts of which the defendant would normally be expected to be aware". Other terms used for this tactic include the "idiot defence", the "dumb CEO defence" and the "ostrich defence".
The Sergeant Schultz defence is being deployed extensively in the ongoing NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into Wollongong City Council.
Indeed, the February 27 Sydney Morning Herald reported that one of the chief targets of the inquiry, Joe Scimone, a NSW Labor Party figure and former senior Wollongong council staffer, had emailed council planning officers this warning: "When shit happens start throwing it ... Or as the case may be ... deny, deny, deny!"
The inquiry focuses on cosy relationships between certain developers and council staff, but the "shit" threatens to go all the way to the top in the NSW Labor government.
According to the SMH, ICAC received an allegation that NSW planning minister Frank Sartor had phoned a developer to urge his company to attend a February 2006, Labor Party fundraiser, which earned $500,000. That same developer was awaiting the minister's consent for a $100 million commercial and residential development.
The NSW Labor Party received thousands of donations from other developers who subsequently had their multi-million-dollar projects approved by Sartor, according to the Greens. But Sartor hears nothing, sees nothing and admits nothing. He's refused to comment when confronted with the allegations in parliament.
The amounts passing hands — legally and illegally — are astounding. It is another world, that of the rich and powerful elite. It makes one think soberly about the seemingly David and Goliath challenge that projects like Green Left Weekly face.
Sleazy Sartor gets on the phone to his developer mates to turn up to just one of numerous $500,000 Labor Party fundraisers, but meanwhile GLW has to struggle to raise just half of that for its Fighting Fund over the course of an entire year. It's a tough struggle. But we do it, year after year, with your consistent help. Last week, our supporters collected a grand $10,159, bringing the total raised so far this year to $42,732. This keeps us right on target, but we have $207,268 to raise over the rest of the year.
If you can help us in our struggle against the powerful and corrupt ruling establishment, please deposit a donation to our Fighting Fund at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, phone the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia only) to make a donation by credit card, send us a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007, or donate online at <http://www.greenleft.org.au/fogl.htm>.