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Ill gotten grains - when will Downer resign?
In the 'Hot Topics' of the Ausaid website you find Australian Humanitarian Aid to Iraq:
And now.. a word from Ausaid's sponsor:
How anybody in Downer's position could champion the integrity of his aid program in the light of the Cole inquiry almost makes me believe the man had no idea of what was occurring under the auspices of Ausaid in Iraq, To conduct yourself in a manner so contrary to such information would be a bold-faced lie enough to cost a sinner his soul.
However, when you get to the end of this speech you realise that prices may have already been paid:
Taking this line of non-argument as one of Downer's raisons d'etre casts an interesting psychological shadow over the Government's attitude toward the AWB. The picture beginning to emerge is of a government attempting to manipulate Iraq into an acceptable "partner", an Australian trading foothold in the Globalised World Order.
It will be interesting when PM Howard reveals the details of the aid package he's planned for Iraq. If Ausaid-funded "governance education" is exemplified by such as messrs Flugge and Long, Iraq will face an Aussie-enforced "democratisation" with aid withdrawal as the Sword Of Damocles of non-compliance, especially if we helped the Iraqi Planning Minister in the same manner as his collegue in Grains.
On that note we return to last Thursday night's Lateline interview, and Mr D's lack of of reaction to the concept of his department, through Ausaid, paying Michael Long to manipulate the Regime Change to suit the AWB's business interests.
Today's Sydney Morning Herald tells how, in obeying a request from Commissioner Cole, Brendan Nelson has handed over documents discovered during a review of AWB related documents. Mr Nelson has refused to comment on the rumour that the paperwork reveals that Defence told DFAT what the AWB was doing some time ago. Thanks to the Catch-22 that the Government has placed on the AWB Inquiry this news is unlikely to perturb Mr Downer. As Kevin Rudd so aptly described the situation yesterday, "Cole has no power to make findings against government officials, ministers or advisers."
It will be interesting when the transcripts for a day that Mr Downer spent in Washington are eventually released. On what still would have been, in Australia, April Fool's Day of 2003, Our Foreign Minister met Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff. After this briefing Downer gave this statement:
Downer's level of conversations with the Bush Administration, when the Invasion of Iraq was only thirteen days old, implies not only an amazing feat of meetings scheduling but also a level of co-operation that surely existed before the Coalition crossed the border. To have this situation existing at the same time as the Free Trade Agreement negotiators were calling for the dismantling of the AWB because its monopolistic existance violated US trading ethics must have been extremely galling - moreso when you've done the right thing and subcontracted Ausaid work to Halliburton.
The reason that US Wheat was calling for action over AWB's monopoly back in 2003 was because of a US Defence document... the one that Kevin Rudd was waving under Mark Vaille's nose in Parliament last week. Released in September of that year, it discusses Oil For Food overpayments and names AWB.
It's a fair guess that Commissioner Cole would be assuming that US Defence would have shared this intelligence with Australian Defence- it would be a logical reason for calling for the information that Brendan Nelson has handed over. It's getting pretty hard to even imagine that Alexander Downer had no knowledge whatsoever of the AWB scandal. For the Minister to have suggested, within days of AWB's loss of trade due to the Iraq invasion, that Ausaid buy AWB's wheat (and to have the idea rejected by the UN) suggests that Downer was very aware of the AWB at that time. Surely, when negotiating future aid arrangements days later at the White House, this situation would have been weighing heavily on his mind?
How long will it take for Mr Downer to realise that his denial of involvement in AWB activities is reaching a "point of diminishing returns" and resign? It's only Monday...