Petition for Order of Australia awards to be covered by freedom of information act.
The Order of Australia awards system is conducted completely anonymously, and wide open to abuse and corruption.
There is currently no accountability in any way shape or form. It is entirely possible that the entire system is run by one person.
The only public records are the names of the people given awards.
There are no public financial records, no meeting minutes and not even a record of who might have been at any meetings, nor if they are even held.
Even the nomination forms are secret.
There are a number of people given awards with no record whatsoever of having done anything to deserve it.
This is the ideal environment to encourage and promote corruption.
The whole point of The Australian honours system is to recognise outstanding achievement and service. To offer it for sale or to people of dubious character is to reduce the entire honours system to an excuse to have a party, and an insult to those that have been honoured, as well as to those people that have been stolen from by recipients of the honour.
For that reason the entire process should be open to the public, and only limited information held back to preserve the privacy of those involved.
By not being open and accountable the entire point of the honours system becomes mute, and can be used for financial advantage against those who believe the honours system is a legitimate integrity check.
In the case where the nomination is wrong in point of fact or even fraudulent, the council may make decisions based on the assumption that the information provided is true, and do Australians a disservice by honouring people that do not deserve it.
As an example;
The only public record of why Terry Romaro received an Order of Australia medal in 2009 remains at this link;
For those who could not be bothered following the link, the order of Australia medal was issued for services to the fishing industry, and for owning a factory that produced Omega 3 oils from Tuna waste.
What has been reported here is known to be wrong, but it is not known if the reporter made a mistake, or if he was reporting on what was presented to the honours council.
The only way for this news item to be checked is to view the actual reasons this honour was issued in the first place, if the information provided to the council is unable to be checked the integrity of the honours council should be questioned, and if the council is totally anonymous there exists a very real possibility of corruption, with no way for it to even be detected, and no chance of it ever being policed.
Terrys claim is false or misleading for the following reasons;
It is implied if not stated directly that being a member of these committees is for the benefit of the fishing industry as a whole, and that Terry receives no benefit from this.
These committees only meet once or twice a year, possibly within walking distance from where he normally works, and meeting minutes show that he has declared that he owns a quota for catching Tuna.
Conflict of interest
Suppose for the moment that a committee member did not declare that he had a conflict of interest in a matter that came before the committee, in that he owned substantial shares in the company that supplied the imported pilchards that introduced the virus that caused the biggest recorded biomass fish kill in the Southern Hemisphere. http://www.abc.net.au/rural/wa/stories/s1025515.htm http://www.westernangler.com.au/archive/3/48619/_pilchard_virus_-_parliament_questions_answers
Also suppose that the local pilchard industry was a direct competitor to his own company importing Tuna feed.
Someone with integrity may excuse themselves from this discussion, however someone with no integrity would do a risk benefit assessment. IE, the risk and consequences of being caught against the benefit to himself. In this case the risk of being caught is remote, and the consequences of being caught would amount to a slap on the wrist, and told not to do it again. The benefit would be that his company may not need to go to the expense of sterilising the feed, may not need to go to the expense of testing the feed for viruses, and they would have less competitors because the Australian fishermen had been driven out of business due to lack of fish to be caught.
This extra expense could easily be the difference between Fishtrade being viable and not viable.
If that same person held a Medal of the order of Australia it could mean the difference between being kicked off the committee and just getting a wrist slap if he was ever caught. Fishtrade are the only importers of tuna feed, although it is possible that the company that was feeding imported food to the Tuna had the contacts and the time necessary to source and import their own feed.
When a new species of fish is targeted commercially, no licence to catch those fish is needed.
When there may be a danger that a certain species may be over exploited, licences are issued free of charge to people with a history of catching that type of fish in the area they are fishing, limiting the amount they can catch.
These licences can be worth a lot of money.
Suppose someone on this committee had “mates” that could take advantage of this information, or if the licences were deliberately deferred for a year, officially to gather more information, unofficially to allow “mates” the opportunity to report catching this species so that they will be given a quota the following year.
This would provide an incentive to catch fish at a loss in the knowledge that they will get their money back in the value of the licence. Fishermen without this inside knowledge would be at a definite disadvantage as they would not deliberately run at a loss on the off-chance they would get their money back in the value of the licence.
Because no company shares are involved, ASIC, with their very limited resources are not interested, state or federal police would not be interested because no clear crime has been committed.
It amounts to an abuse of the committee privileges, with no risk, and the only losers would be the fishermen that established a new fishery, but did not have inside knowledge that licences would be greatly influenced by the amount of fish they caught that specific year. If the fishery itself is overfished it could be become unsustainable anyway.
To summarise, being a member of these committee's could very profitable, and it should not be assumed that it was done for anyone's benefit apart from his own.
Ownership of Sampi
At the time of the nomination for the Medal for the order of Australia, Sampi and DK quarry's were the only company's taking fish waste in Port Lincoln.
DK Quarrys were putting the waste into landfill, and charging for the service.
Ownership of Sampi was;
45% Peter Laughton in the name of Quotila.
10% Discovery III.
When Sampi was established the agreement was that Peter would provide $100,000 dollars worth of equipment, and his own time and know-how until Sampi showed a profit, and Fishtrade would provide $160,000 paid in instalments, and manage all the paperwork, and receive 10% of the sale price of any product.
Fishtrade never provided this $160,000, and hid this fact by never sharing financial records, despite being asked on several occasions and instead loaned Sampi money at a high rate of interest.
Terry Romaro is believed to own 1/3 of Fishtrade.
Charles Franchina is believed to own 1/3 of Fishtrade.
The remaining 1/3 is believed to be owned by an honest fisherman with no other involvement.
Fishtrade would not provide financial details of what they were doing, and they kept telling Peter that Sampi was not making any profit, and that he needed to provide extra years of labour as part of his agreement to establish Sampi.
Peter was not so keen to spend additional time and money on setting up an oil separator for production, but only did a proof of concept labour intensive runs to test the market.
The production manager that Peter hired did not know how to set up or use the separator, and Fishtrade instructed the manager to dispose of it without telling Peter, who supplied it in the first place, and in the rush neglected to include a number of separator specific tools.
This was done while Peter was away trying to sell Sampi product to local farmers.
The separator was critical in producing the Omega 3 and 6 oils, and Fishtrade disposed of it in 2009, before Terry was given this medal.
Services to the fishing industry
There is a chance that the people nominating Terry Romaro to received an Order of Australia medal actually believed that he helped them at his own personal expense, so I will address this issue as well.
Accepting waste product
When Peter arrived in Port Lincoln to establish the Sampi pilot plant, the only company processing Fish waste was Feedlink.
When Peter had moved enough of his own equipment to Port Lincoln, and set it up enough to start to accept fish waste, Feedlink tried to stop Sampi by getting all the processors to sign a contract to only supply themselves.
When this failed Feedlink folded.
The Port Lincoln processors then had a very expensive problem, what to do with their waste.
The EPA would not allow them to dump it at sea, to dump it in a local quarry was expensive, and to truck it 8 hours to Adelaide was also expensive, even if they were able to find someone to take it.
Sampi was obliged to ramp up production very quickly, and because they had only just started there was not yet a market for the product, forcing them to buy more storage tanks than they needed.
Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina from Fishtrade had the contacts with the processors as they supplied feedstock that was fed to the Tuna, however the new arrangement did not cost them a cent, and they profited at the expense of Peter for the following reasons;
The original agreement was that Fishtrade would provide $160,000 worth of seed funding, Peter would provide $100,000 worth of processing equipment, know how and labour until Sampi showed a profit, while Fishtrade would get 10% of sales that they made until Sampi showed a profit.
Peter was unhappy with this new arrangement and wanted to change the original agreement but this was flatly rejected by Fishtrade.
Because of the massive budget blow-out to buy more storage tanks, and the profit Fishtrade was making in interest charged to Sampi, and combined with the fact that Fishtrade never provided seed funding, Sampi was unable to show a profit for several years, years that Peter was obliged to work for no income.
At the same time 10% commission on a planed low volume sales was suddenly changed to 10% commission on high volume sales, simply because there was a lot more to sell.
Fishtrade at this point had no incentive to market Sampi product, the more Sampi owed them, the more interest they would get, and the longer Peter would need to work for no income.
Peter changed his focus to sales to try to lower Sampi debt, but he was never given any commission and in fact Fishtrade did a bit of creative accounting, sold Sampi product exclusively to themselves, and then selling it to the end user at a much higher price, with all expenses being charged to Sampi.
And so to summarise, not only did it not cost Fishtrade or Terry Romaro any money to provide this service to the Port Lincoln processors, they actually made a lot of money out of it at Peters expense.
A willingness to sign documents he knows are false
Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina broke a number of laws when they stole Sampi.
Both Terry and Charles have also proven a willingness to sign documents they know are false and this may also be of concern to members of the committee that decide recipients of the Order of Australia.
It was a normal practice for minutes of any Sampi meeting to be enhanced to Fishtrades advantage, as an Example;
Sampi shareholders meeting minutes for 27 August 2010.
Directors meetings where Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina were able to out vote Peter Laughton 2 to 1 were normal, and Peter was given very little notice of when they were to happen, in one case less than 24 hours.
Shareholders meetings where Peter Laughton's shares held the same value as Fishtrades shares, and the balance of power rested with a 10 % shareholder, were very rare, with only four shareholders meetings being held over five years, and only one in the last three years. Peter Laughton normally held the proxy vote for the 10% shareholder, and Terry normally declared that proxy vote to be invalid for various reasons, giving Fishtrade equal voting rights and going on record as their own vote outweighing Peters vote.
This particular meeting was first requested well over a year earlier, and was only held on this date after Peter gave up asking and finally took expensive legal action to force it to happen.
Fishtrade refused to allow their premises to be used for this meeting forcing Peter to hire a meeting room at his own expense. Peter also hired a neutral chairperson to run the meeting.
Peter also needed to fly from Port Lincoln to Adelaide, then to Perth to attend this meeting in Fremantle, all at his own expense on borrowed money.
That evening after the meeting Peter had his first ever heart attack, and woke up in hospital.
He never fully recovered from this heart attack.
When Terry took over the chair he also ignored the issue Peter spent so much money to address, the number of Fishtrade directors, and there was a legal obligation to hold this vote.
If the independent neutral chairperson that Peter had hired was allowed to chair the meeting, Sampi might have been saved.
Terry went on to call a directors meeting, with both Fishtrade directors out voting Peters single vote.
It should be noted that no meeting ever had its minutes confirmed, but the level of arrogance would have been high enough to make another false declaration anyway.
The document that Terry signed stated that there were no objections to him kicking out the neutral chairperson and replacing him. This is false, and Terry was fully aware it was false, as were most if not all other meeting minutes, some signed by Terry, some signed by Charles.
Probable influence this Order of Australia medal has had
When Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina deliberately caused Sampi to go broke for the purpose of stealing Sampi from the other shareholders, external Administrators RSMI Bird Cameron were called in.
Sampi creditors report
RSMI Bird Cameron helped to force Peter Laughton to drop legal action against Fishtrade for breaking company laws, the cost of justice was higher than Peter could afford.
When considering the cost of Justice the lawyer involved with the court case the administrators stopped was of the opinion that the Judge may also be influenced by this Order of Australia award.
RSMI Bird Cameron reported that Fishtrade had sold all Sampi product to themselves and that the Sampi accountant had not signed the accounts, (normal procedure if the accountant believes it is not a true record).
RSMI Bird Cameron was fully aware of this situation and prevented Peter Laughton from showing potential buyers Sampi Assets, prevented Peter from contacting the Sampi accountant, deliberately prevented Peter Laughton from getting any financial records at all, despite the fact they were obliged to make sure he had them.
They also knowingly violated copyright regarding the Sampi website and deliberately notified creditors AFTER the deadline to register proxy votes at a creditors meeting.
The Administrators should have a duty to prosecute past directors if they have acted improperly, and knowingly ignored the fact that Fishtrade deliberately failed to conduct the legally required shareholders meeting to vote to remove directors, and ignored the fact that Fishtrade had spent over a million dollars of Sampi money in less than four weeks before the administrators were given control, more than doubling the dept they had built up in all the previous years put together.
They also seemed to believe that Fishtrade actually used or sold Sampi product independent of anybody that thought they were buying Sampi product, despite the fact that the invoices included the Sampi name.
It needs to be asked what would inspire the administrator to do such things ?
Raw incompetence is an easy assumption, but it is hard not to be suspicious that they is a lot more involvement with Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina, than meets the eye.
If it is to be assumed that RSMI Bird Cameron were not corrupt, the only other logical answer is to assume that they were influenced a massive amount by the fact that Terry was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, and therefore must be honest.
Is this blind faith in the Council of the Order of Australia justified ?
As it stands at the moment, being awarded an Order of Australia medal for services to the fishing industry, and for owning a company that processed tuna waste and produced Omega 3 oils is very flimsy in the first place, but to anybody aware of the full story it is a case of blatant corruption.
The best way to inform the committee that recommends to the Governor-General's Office who to award Medals to, that they have been misinformed, possibly fraudulently, possibly through corruption, is to get a copy of the original nomination form that contains this information.
Terry Romaro has done a lot of other things not listed in this page, and for him to be awarded this honour is an insult to those who he has stolen from, as well as to other recipients by association, and significantly reduces the value of the award.
There is also the very real danger that this award may lead to unsuspecting members of the public trusting him more than they should, and it could lead to their lives being destroyed as well.
It is remotely possible that Terry has actually done something to merit this award, but it is certainly nothing that is available to the public, and given his history it is very unlikely.
Terry Romaro stands out as being a very bad egg and I have a lot of other documents to prove it, but how many others have also been given this honour that do not deserve it ?
It should be possible for anybody to review all the nominations, to be able to see why different people received awards and why others did not. If for some reason Terry's award is not an anomaly but part of a bigger picture of corruption the public should be aware of this so that they can treat awardees appropriately.