Since time immemorial, middlemen have been getting a raw deal. Everyone’s trying to cut them out and pass the savings onto you, without a single thought for their feelings or the value they add to any given transaction.
Well, enough’s enough. It’s time to pay homage to the shadiest middlemen of all time. (You know what else is shady? A palm tree. No one’s slagging them off.)
Tirath Khemlani got the Australian government into trouble
It’s not often that a shady middleman gets to play a pivotal role in the downfall of a democratically elected government. Back when Gough Whitlam was in power, Tirath Khemlani, an employee of London-based Dalamal and Sons, popped up to broker a $2 billion loan for various projects.
Despite regular telexes between him and Minerals and Energy Minister Rex Connor, Khemlani started stalling and the loan never happened. Unfortunately, the fallout from this unusual scheme – which bypassed the Loans Council – led to accusations of impropriety, Fraser’s Opposition blocking Supply and, eventually, the Dismissal.
John Macarthur gathered wool while we rode the sheep’s back
Always at war with whoever was currently governing colonial Australia, John Macarthur was an expert at turning situations to his own advantage. Every time he was shipped back to England to face justice from the Mother Country, he wound up with more land, more sheep and more power – at government expense.
In fact, so skilled was the father of our wool industry at working the connections between England and Australia that he was honoured on the original two-dollar note.
Glenn Druery preference-whispered minor parties into power
Wherever there’s a game, there’s a rules lawyer. And wherever there’s a rules lawyer, there’s a person willing to work the system to gain maximum benefit.
In the 2013 federal election, Glenn Druery was the man pulling the strings. His work in uniting 35 micro-parties together in a preference-sharing alliance was responsible for the make-up of our Senate crossbench until last year’s double dissolution. Yep, without Glenn we would never have got to know Ricky Muir as well as we did.
Harry M Miller brought us big names and small frauds
There aren’t too many agents that the average person could name off the top of their head, but Harry M Miller is a household name thanks to his discovery of talents like Marcia Hines and promotion of big-name tours in Australia.
Nothing overtly shady in that, right? Wellllll, the man who brought us so many great shows – The Rolling Stones! The Beach Boys! – is on this list because of a harmless little scam called Computicket, which saw him spend 10 months in prison back in the '80s.
John Batman negotiated a treaty that wasn’t fair, legal, or binding
Long lauded for his role in the founding of Melbourne, John Batman’s reputation has come under review in recent years. One of the reasons for this is his negotiation with the local Wurundjeri elders for their land.
Exchanging 240,000 hectares for 68kg of flour, four suits of clothes, and some axes, knives and scissors might seem like shrewd bargaining except for three things - 1) he wasn’t authorised to make this deal, 2) the Wurundjeri people didn’t realise what was happening and 3) even if they did, they weren’t authorised to make this deal either.
For more dodgy dealings, watch Panorama: How Rolls Royce Bribed Its Way Around the World on SBS at 10pm Tuesday 28 March.