June 1st, 2008

So there we have it. Ray Williams has been released from Sydney’s Silverwater Jail. The 71-year-old was convicted in 2005 of misleading shareholders about the financial position of HIH, which left thousands of people without insurance when it collapsed four years earlier with debts of about $5 billion. On his release, Mr Williams again apologised to HIH shareholders who lost money when the company collapsed. “The last thing in the world I would ever have wanted was for HIH to fail, for people to be hurt and for people to suffer financial loss,” he said. “I really am very sorry that that occurred. Perhaps Ray Williams should have put in place upon his desk the Latin proverb “Fortuna amicos parat, inopia amicos probat”, the English translation being; “Fortune is preparing friends, scarcity is in testing them.”

After the jail gates clanged shut behind him Mr Williams calmly returned to one of his many ‘family’ homes to resume normal life. No doubt, apart from some disgruntled words in public from just a few of his thousands of victims and a day or two’s rants from Sydney’s shock jocks, ‘society’ will not have very much more to say on the matter. Today it’s apparent that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the collective voice of society to galvanise on a single issue. Only a couple of decades or so ago that was not the case. Perhaps there are too many distractions now, too many demands on our time – that horrible phrase in vogue ‘we are all time poor’. Even the government, theoretically the custodians of justice and fairness, appear benign beyond belief. Acting NSW Premier John Watkins believes Mr Williams is a good example of how the criminal justice system can reform people.

“He was sentenced by the court, he fulfilled his sentence and he’s been released today,” Watkins proclaimed. The Acting NSW Premier went on to say “I noted on his release that he did apologise to those HIH members. The court system did its work, he was sentenced and he’s served his sentence.” Mr Watkins’ concludes that he believes Ray Williams is repentant. “I suppose the message in it is that the justice system does work,” he said. “If you break the law, it doesn’t matter who you are in our community, you’ll pay for it. That’s certainly happened to Ray Williams” he announced. Has it really Mr Watkins?

But then Mr Watkins is no different from most people today. Our senses, and sensitivity are being dulled and wearied by an endless barrage from every media and communication outlet. The overwhelming content of ‘news’ is short visual and sound bites, ill researched and, ultimately, vacuous. One issue of concern quickly melds into the next. The daily news gabbles past an African countries’ famine disasters which is book ended by longer concerns for the mental health of Britney Spears or the humpustuous lifestyle of Paris Hilton and her lack of driving skills whilst under the influence of alcohol. – MiSay

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