22nd September 1999 - report by Scott Balson
Although there were plenty of people taking notes reporters and journalists appeared to be about as thin on the ground as a meeting of the militia in a remote part of East Timor. There were none.
I guess that that should be of no great surprise as the subject was taboo. The bureaucrat, who allegedly is supposed to represent Australians' best interests, held centre stage. His name, Peter Husson, First Assistant Secretary of the Trade Negotiations Division from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (seen right).
Well Mr Husson (whose images may be copied and used by anybody on the Internet without any need for prior authorisation from me - and I took the pics) made it quite clear to us that we were a necessary but boring impediment on his bust schedule. After all we are only concerned Australian voters and his masters have big things planned for his bureaucratic career if he plays his cards right.
Theoretically we were there to make submissions and express concerns to DFAT before the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle (which Husson will attend) but you would have had to pinch yourself to believe that this was his real agenda.
After several questions had been asked during which he condascendlingly answered that "that was not an issue" he was asked how the concerns were being recorded.
"Oh," Husson replied. "I am taking notes".
Like bloody hell. This whole exercise was one of futility. One which would then be used to argue that DFAT had allowed Australians to have their say. It was good to see Tom King, Paul Trewartha and Heather Hill (pictured left) among the audience.
A word of advice to those who will raise issues with Hussan in other Australian cities - demand that a tape recorder record the content of questions and the spontaneous audience response.
You cannot trust bureaucrats further than you can throw them - and after numerous long lunches that is NOT very far.