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Follow the Big Money: Bad Business with Baghdad

By Craig Rowley and Richard Tonkin

Some may have tried to blow it off as a political beat up, but that would be a big mistake. This story just gets bigger each day as anyone closely following the Cole inquiry into bad business by sanction busting bribe-payers would know.  It is the biggest scandal we've seen for many years.  Alexander's wheat dreams have become a nightmare, and not just for him. The list of those involved keeps getting longer and the exposure of what they've done gets more excruciating. American farmers and politicians are getting more agitated and excited. Our own wheat farmers are growing more concerned. Investors in the companies involved are set for substantial losses. Our politicians are getting set for a big fight. Our nation is faced will substantial damage to its international reputation.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley has called on Prime Minister John Howard yet again to widen the Oil-for-Food inquiry terms of reference. "One thing we can absolutely not afford as a nation is any more cover-up," he told reporters in Melbourne. And Mr Howard is now saying he would be prepared "to consider expanding" the terms of reference if requested by Mr Cole to do so.

And make that request for broader terms of reference is exactly what Mr Cole did yesterday, but not quite in the way expected. Rather than immediately seeking broader scope to look into the Howard Government's role in the scandal, Cole is keen to have the scope to investigate another big player that would appear to have been involved in the bribery and sanction busting business - BHP, the big Australian

Howard and his government are not off the hook yet though, with Cole also noting that he might ask the government to broaden the terms of reference for the probe if he uncovered any evidence of illegal acts by the government or its officers. As a consequence the Prime Minister is playing the confidence card. He says he would appear before the Cole inquiry if called and that he is confident that no ministers or public servants had known that AWB was paying kickbacks. "I did not know, Mr Downer did not know, and on the information that I have ... I do not believe that anybody in the departments were told that AWB was paying bribes", he told reporters on Friday.

But this is about something much bigger than bribes. It's not just about bad business. It's about sanction busting. Those sanctions were put in place to beat Saddam without the need to drop bombs on Baghdad. The failure of those sanctions was cited as a reason for the invasion of Iraq by George W Bush's coalition of the willing.

Whatever you believe there is no doubt this is big and it seems set to only get bigger.

The big guns in sanction busting – AWB

In October 2005, the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme—better known as the Volcker Committee – released its final report into the United Nations on the Oil-for-Food program.  The Volker Committee identified more than 2,200 international firms that, knowingly or unwittingly, paid a total of more than a billion dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime.

As pointed out by Tony Parkinson in The Age last November, whilst the rollcall of global corporations includes pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, DaimlerChrysler, Volvo, Siemens and the Chinese state-owned industrial conglomerate SinoChem., right near the top of the list is our very own Australian Wheat Board. That's not just a consequence of Australia starting with an A. If you sort the list by the amount of money that made its way back into the Iraqi dictator's pocket you'll find AWB Ltd right at the top of the list.

The Volcker inquiry found AWB Ltd paid almost $300 million to a bogus trucking company, Alia Transportation & Trading Co. of Amman, Jordan, purportedly as fees for transporting inland 8 million tonnes of Australian wheat. In fact, Alia did not cart a single grain of wheat. Alia, a front company majority-owned by the Khawam family (a powerful Iraqi clan living in Jordan) was established and 49% owned by the Iraqi Transportation Ministry, and it simply took a cut and passed on the rest of AWB Ltd's payments to Saddam's bankers.

The Volcker inquiry found no evidence to suggest the monopoly wheat exporter had acted dishonestly, concluding on the evidence it had that AWB Ltd did not knowingly pay kickbacks. The Cole inquiry is finding evidence that in fact AWB did act dishonestly, did knowingly pay the kickbacks, and did more.

On Thursday a former AWB manager, Mark Emons, blew the whistle on AWB's payment of kickbacks, telling the Cole inquiry that since at least 1999 senior executives agreed to the system that funnelled money to Saddam's regime and that they did this knowing that it could be illegal. They believed it was the only way to get things done. Through the course of the Cole inquiry to date we're starting to see a clear picture of exactly what the people at AWB believed was this 'only way' things had to be done.

Saddam had issued a special presidential decree demanding a US$12 surcharge per tonne from suppliers selling wheat to Iraq under the UN Oil-for-Food program. Suppliers were told no payment, no unloading in Iraqi ports. From numerous emails and facsimiles between senior AWB executives, the Iraqi directly involved - Grains Board head Zuhair Daoud and the general manager of Alia, we learn how AWB dealt with that demand. Rather than question the demands made of them, as the Canadian Wheat Board did, they focused on finding a way to facilitate the payments.

We've learned that one AWB executive, Dominic Hogan, went as far as joking about smuggling cash in a very large suitcase, though considering that the wheat for gold story perhaps it was only half in jest. What is no joke is the course AWB finally settled on, a scheme set up to meet the sanction busting demands of the Iraqi dictator. They engaged the bogus trucking company Alia back as a means of funnelling money directly to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Big problems for a big hearted (former) big Australian - BHP

BHP likes to be seen as a business with a big heart as well as a hefty and healthy balance sheet.  In 1996, it was warned by DFAT that its big-hearted plan to send wheat to Iraq as a "humanitarian gesture" (and then recoup the money -- with interest -- through instalment payments) would breach United Nations sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. Still it seems the big Australian was unperturbed, so it went ahead, bought 20,000-tonne wheat from the then statutory Australian Wheat Board, and shipped it to Iraq. Then it did some funny business with AWB to build the repayments of US$5 million to a BHP related company using sham contracts with further inflated wheat prices. These contracts involved a BHP related company called Tigris Petroleum.

This week the Cole inquiry has heard that BHP Billiton's head of Energy, Phil Aiken, brokered the deal between AWB and Tigris Petroleum, the company collecting the $5 million owed to BHP. Tigris agreed to pay US$500,000 to AWB for recovering the debt. Michael Long, AWB's head of marketing, said in evidence that Phil Aiken wrote a reference letter in September 2000 confirming Tigris had been assigned the debt to BHP by the Iraq government. Asked if he was concerned the money paid to Tigris might go to the Iraqi government, Mr Long told the inquiry he was reassured by correspondence from BHP.

BHP says it will cooperate fully with the inquiry, which Commissioner Cole is now looking to have broadened so it can consider charges against the world's biggest miner. On Friday, Cole said in an address to the inquiry that it was "incongruous and inappropriate" that he has been unable to make findings about BHP's activities. The inquiry has heard that BHP funded the 1996 "humanitarian gesture" in a bid to win petroleum exploration rights in the country once UN sanctions were lifted. BHP has denied the money was intended to help secure BHP oil rights in Iraq, despite an assertion made by AWB CEO Andrew Lindberg in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange in mid January that it was the intention of BHP to get the inside running on the oil exploration rights.

Bit players in big strife - Rhine Ruhr and Alkaloids of Australia

Let's not forget the bit players that have been busted, Melbourne firm Rhine Ruhr Pty Ltd and Kingaroy company Alkaloids of Australia Pty Limited.

Rhine Ruhr, based in Sunshine makes parts used in oil refineries, chemical plants and water treatment plants. They won a contract in 2001 to supply more than £113,000 worth of "trays for regenerator towers" to Iraq's oil industry under the UN "oil-for-food" program (how these trays fit into program to supply food to starving Iraqi people we can only wonder at). Rhine Ruhr inflated the contract by 10 per cent to pay kickbacks to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions. A sum of £11,365, described as an "engineering services fee", was then paid to the Iraqi Government by a British agent acting for Rhine Ruhr in Iraq. The British agent, Tony Davies, has refused to come to Australia to give evidence to the inquiry. Thanks to the investigative journalism of Marian Wilkinson, National Security Editor for The Age, we've learned that Davies is still working for Rhine Ruhr, trying to secure new contracts in Iraq and no doubt still trying to 'faciltate' kickbacks - this time to the new Iraqi government.

Alkaloids of Australia used a Canadian-based Iraqi man to help them negotiate the sale of one tonne of pharmaceutical raw materials in Iraq. More than $75,000 was added to the price and used to pay off Iraqi officials. Christopher Joyce, a sales agent for Alkaloids of Australia, told the Cole inquiry that he was unconcerned that the 10% bung was added on top of the contract. It was just normal business practice in the region he believed. Obviously no thought was given to whether normal business turns to sanction busting when the UN Security Council says don't funnel money to Saddam.

Ministers with big headaches - Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile

Mr Howard is saying he does not believe that any of the leading players in his Government were aware of the possibility of bribes being involved in the wheat deals. "I did not know," he said. "Mr Downer and [the Trade Minister] Mr Vaile did not know, and on the information that I have and based on the advice, I do not believe that anybody in the departments were told that AWB were paying bribes."

Alexander Downer's big headache is the no win situation DFAT is in. Either they knew about and covered-up the true nature of the bad business done with Baghdad or they failed to heed a series of warnings. From 2000 on, Canada, the US, the UN and Russia all raised concerns about what they understood could be happening - what we now know was happening.

Downer is in denial mode. Had DFAT known the AWB was paying kickbacks "of course" it would have done something about it, Mr Downer says. That still leaves him with a struggle to find a suitable answer to former Democrat leader of the US senate, Tom Daschle, who says Australia's checks and balances have clearly failed - "I would think the Australian Government should have been on this a long time ago. I am still puzzled as to why there was no input, why there was not more effort to find out - why was this happening?"

Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals Mark Vaile must have felt like a winner these past few years, but lately the strain has been showing. If he's involved in covering up what AWB did then as the Trade Minister for the period under scrutiny he's right in the thick of it. It won't be just his hair and a defector (or two) he's likely to lose this year.

On Thursday he tried to play it all down.  He's trying to play the big bluff by saying that no US officials raised the scandal with him last week during trade talks. "I can assure our colleagues in America that that inquiry is being conducted fully, openly, and transparently, and will investigate all facts put before it," Mr Vaile told ABC radio in Rockhampton. "The administration hasn't directly raised this issue with us lately and I was in that circumstance only last weekend ... They are obviously watching the inquiry that is being conducted in Australia and are satisfied - this is my take-out - that the Australian government is doing everything it can and should do in terms of getting to the bottom of the issue and uncovering all the facts."

In fact, there is intense lobbying by US agricultural interests being directed at US Trade Representative Rob Portman in the lead up to the review of the Free Trade Agreement. They want Portman to raise the AWB issue with Vaile in March. The FTA review is now going to be one great big headache for Vaile.

Big trouble with our big trade rival - US Senator Coleman

Americans are beginning to make a big fuss about this for some time. In 2004, when news of the rorts first reached the ears of US politicians with the interests of their own farmers at heart they wanted a Congressional inquiry. The Australian Ambassador to the US, Michael Thawley argued that the allegations of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government were baseless and convinced them to curb that inquiry and not look into the conduct of AWB.

Now that the Cole inquiry has confirmed their initial suspicions, a number of US Senators have questioned the role of the Australian Government and the independence of the inquiry. There's been an angry response from some members of the US Congress and there are growing demands to know why claims AWB paid kickbacks to Saddam were "unequivocally dismissed" by Thawley.

Mr Thawley is no longer our ambassador in America. Dennis Richardson, former head honcho at ASIO has that gig and he's preparing to meet Republican Senator Norman Coleman, the head of the US senate inquiry into the oil-for-food scandal. That preparation better be thorough, as the American senator could well put to Richardson one of the big questions left unanswered to date – Marion Wilkinson's closing question in her piece in the SMH (19/1):

"How did the combined resources of his department and Australia's intelligence agencies fail to notice that AWB was deceiving and manipulating the UN, repeatedly violating sanctions and paying massive kickbacks to a corrupt and dangerous dictatorship in Iraq?"

Regardless of whether that particular question is put to Richardson he's going to need to do some fancy footwork. He'll need to make a big effort to win the trust of Norm Coleman who is already feeling like one Aussie ambassador duping him is one too many. Coleman is certainly not happy, and he has demanded that Mr Thawley appear before a new inquiry committee to explain himself.

Big reasons to beat a fast retreat - Ambassador Michael Thawley

On Thursday in Washington, The Adelaide Advertiser found former Australian ambassador to the U.S. Michael Thawley, who refused to answer allegations he misled the high-powered congressional committee over the issue. He has big reasons to beat a fast retreat.

Thawley is now a man in the centre of a big mess. He was not just John Howard's appointment as Ambassador but also Howard's former foreign policy advisor. As Tony Walker in the Australian Financial Review has written, when cabinet documents are unsealed in 30 years it may well be demonstrated that Thawley's role went beyond that of simply being an advocate on behalf of Australia's interests and was in fact a driver of Australian policy every bit as important as others in the foreign policy establishment, including Downer.

These days Michael Thawley is a Senior Vice President for the Capital Research Management company, a dividend-focused investment group which manages assets worth over US$750 billion. Funds of this size have considerable clout, enough to dictate the activities of the corporations they hold shares in. As an example, Halliburton announced last year that it would not take any new contracts in Iran because it was making a group of pension funds mightily unhappy.

As a representative of a company with more political clout than many national governments, no wonder Thawley doesn't want to comment. $300 million is small potatoes compared to the level of finance that he's involved in now.

Which reminds us: Follow the Big Money, not the little stuff. Perhaps now is a good time to think about where the Oil-for-Food money ended up converted by the CPA into the Iraq Redevelopment Fund, and handed out to US contractors such as Halliburton  to rebuild the country.


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Thanks Robyn

Robyn, I started to respond to you last night and it turned into a new piece... thank you.

Ausaid is a key piece, no doubts about it... a word that many have never heard but are hearing now, not just in the context of the Cole Commission but in Downer's damage control. I just heard it mentioned in a Philippines landslide aid story; whereas usually Downer wouldn't bother with. Information that detracts from his good self.

Anyhow,"'Onwards and inwards,' said Aslan"

Was he telling the truth, or, like everyone involved in the inquiry, lion?

Helping Iraqis the Aussie way

I missed this on Friday, but The Age reported that, after he left the AWB, Trevor Flugge was paid $680,000 in 2003 for a 12 month contract out of the AusAid budget!

Supposedly it was to provide "agricultural assistance" to Iraq, but there were understandable questions asked by Oxfam at the time about how much development assistance could be given to Iraqi farmers by someone whose specialty is actually grain trading.

"I do not disguise for a moment the fact that the Government has sought the involvement of Mr Flugge in post-Saddam Iraq," Mr Howard said. "It was because our principal concern at that time was to stop American wheat growers from getting our markets."

See On Line Opinion for further discussion about how the focus of Australian aid has shifted from the poor in developing countries to the interests of Australians under this government.

Scandal after scandal!

 It looks like Robert Hill

It looks like Robert Hill picked a good time to pack his bags for Washington. Finally we have an admission that Defence knew what was going on.

[from seven.com.au]

Dr Nelson said his department was still checking its files for other documents.

He declined to comment on reports that a defence official warned the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that AWB could be involved in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime.

"We did have some people, a small number, with both the Iraqi Survey Group and also the Coalition Provisional Authority and documents that have been provided back to defence have been forwarded to the Cole inquiry," he said.

"I'm not able to discuss the content of those documents."

He said the notes he had seen relate to establishing the Volker inquiry into the oil-for-food scandal proposed by the United Nations.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said the departments of defence, agriculture, foreign affairs and trade, and the tax office had now been drawn into the scandal.

Will Citizen Hill be called to answer questions on his knowledge of events? Somehow I doubt it.

AWB Files Irony

It would be a raspy twist if the filings put the AWB "behind bars."

[extract from ABC Online]

Council assisting John Agius asked why an email showing the Iraqi Minister of Trade had requested repayment through an inland transport mechanism did not raise alarm bells.

Ms Scales says she did not recall reading the email but she thought whatever action AWB took would have UN approval. She was also questioned about an AWB memorandum proposing repaying the iron filings debt in the way the Iraqi Trade minister had requested.

Commissioner Terrence Cole said the memo showed AWB was contemplating a process that may well have been contrary to UN sanctions and it planned to keep the matter from DFAT and the UN.

Ms Scales told the inquiry she believed Iraq's claims of iron filings in a wheat shipment were bogus.

tax deductable bribes, you and I paid half.

Sounds like the tax deductions of bribes for companies doing overseas business in finally filtering through. Is there no rule that allows a search of tax records among the multinationals and their local branches? I guess here they are called political donations. These non-aligned countries need to sophisticate their accounting. I wonder if Lord Ashcroft of Carlisle was able to claim his. Nice of UK conservatives to care for the conservatives of the colony. Very noble. If there was real will to stop bribery and corruption in the "Third World"... but why should they have open and accountable governments and tax/financial records if we don't?

Hello, hello, hello? What''s this then?

Okay, now here's a weird one.

Celebrity spy Andrew Wilkie reckons Australian intelligence agencies should not have been expected to warn the government of what was going on in Iraq regarding the Australian Wheat Board.

"Not only are the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Defence Signals Directorate, ONA and others stretched already, but for them to also be required to spy and report on the countless Australian interests offshore would be an alarming extension of their powers.

This doesn't mean information bubbling up in the intelligence cycle about Australian misconduct offshore is ignored. Rather, that it is shared with relevant non-intelligence organisations for them to follow up."


Oh, I see. How can we blame the agencies for failure.

But still argue they should be curtailed.

Corrrection to my previous post

Downer was attempting to stress that the AWB money went to the Ministry Of Transport, while Jones was citing the Volcker Reports statement went to to the Ministry of Finance. 

This might seem like hairsplitting until you consider that Transport and Finance evoke entirely different senses of monetary implementattion.  "Transport" doesn't imply supporting Palestinian suicide bombers, bribing international corporate executives and politicians and suchlike. 

"Finance," on the other hand, could be financing the worst possibilities you can imagine.  I can imagine anthrax, Scud launchers,  WMD's, "hush money" for Australian politicians...

The Lateline transcript has arrived.

This is the winsome Lord Downer of Baghdad...

Speaking from the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney, a visibly winsome and charming Alexander Downer portrayed himself on national television as a would be "spin doctor" possessing little command of his facts.

Interviewed on Lateline, Downer's failed attempts to gain the camaraderie of Tony Jones changed from winsome to wheedling as the questions incrementally toughened. At one point, when being asked if there were "good Saddam cronies and bad Saddam cronies" Downer's response of "well, you know how it is" was met with a response that should have told Alexander to play hard.

Instead, he bumbled and flustered in his attempts to distance himself from his department and bring the public service into firing squad range. His careful statement that the Government had "no knowledge of kickbacks” during the period of Saddam's regime left the viewer feeling that Downer may have known all the gory details within the first week of the invasion.

Jones, sensing his confusion, fired questions on knowledge timing that soon landed a strong blow. When Downer stated that the AWB money went to the Iraqi Ministry of Transport, Jones was quick to point out that the Volcker Report said that the money went to the Ministry of Finance. Downer felt compelled to defend himself by saying that

"He might have accessed that money from the Ministry of Finance. he raised money no doubt from many, many, sources. It has of course been claimed that some of the money from AWB limited.... went to the Ministry of Transport.

Mr Downer continued that it was "impossible to know"

During the interview the possibility arose that the new Australian delegation might be dealing with the Iraqi technocrat who former AWB executives, now funded by DFAT's Ausaid, assisted to retain his position after the Regime Change. Downer made the mistake of placing himself at the top of the chain of command (and under a greater onus of Westministerial accountability by saying "They were contractors, of course, so I wasn't their boss in that sense, but I am the boss of Ausaid" It's obvious to the viewer that the sign "the buck stops here" should rest upon Downer’s desk.

Best interview I've seen in ages. Two Thumbs Up.

Craig R.: Richard I really liked the "in the context of the Volker report" twist.  Days ago the winsome one used weasel words to leave some wiggle room, something along the lines of "We only learned of this in the context of the Volker report" leaving those less aware of spin to think that meant after the release of the report.  Then, in response to sharp questions by Tony Jones, we get the twist with the winsome one shifting the 'context' to mean when Volker began his inquiries. You'll notice it in the transript, which I'll post here ASAP.

Guys with guns get jobs done

Remember the photos of the gun totting AWB bad boys, well now it turns out these guys got an Iraqi Grains Ba'athist a top job with the CPA.

The gun with gut guy - Trevor Flugge - was appointed by the Howard Government as lead adviser to the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry and the one smart enough to keep his shirt one - Michael Long - got his mate from the IGB the job.

And they reckon they were looking after grain growers' interests!

"International Aspects"

How to conduct an inquiry... conceal most of the evidence until the witnesses have been and gone. It doesn't look like it's worked with Mr Cole

(ABC extract)

The head of the Inquiry examining AWB's role in the Iraq oil for food scandal says witnesses may now have to be recalled and re-examined, following the production overnight of hundreds more emails from AWB.

Counsel for AWB, James Judd QC, told the inquiry a considerable volume of emails had been reconstructed and recreated from electronic databases in the past 24 hours.

Mr Judd said the material was of significance, including documents from the Wheat Export Authority that arrived this morning.

Commissioner Terence Cole told AWB that the company's delayed production of documents has now created significant problems for his inquiry.

He said there are now international aspects that hinge on the outcome of his report, but he will not compromise the integrity of his inquiry or his report by not properly investigating all matters.

The report says that Mr Vaille is proceeding with his trip to Iraq.

As discussed earlier, US Wheat Associates were pondering the use of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to examine the AWB in both the America and Australia, as the group had companies in both countries. This has left me with a map of money flow whose geography has long since vanished under arrows.

I'll take my favourite company as an easy example. Until 2003 headquarters of divisions were scattered across the globe naval in the UK, infrastructure in Australia etc. These divisions were registered companies of the nations in which they resided. In late2004 the business was reorganised.

Let's say that the infrastructure division was drawing up plans for rebuilding oil wells, road making etc. As the company knew that it had the work before the invasion, wouldn't it be clever enough to start work early. At least have equipment ready and waiting where it was needed?

Through its subsidiaries Ingersoll Rand and Dresser Pump, it appears that Saddam Hussein and Dick Cheney used the Oil-for-Food program to trade oilfield equipment. Under the RIO (Restore Iraqi Oil) contract issued by the Pentagon, Halliburton already had the reconstruction go-ahead before Australian SAS troops were violating George Bush's deadline. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, these are "known knowns".

My question is this: how much responsibility must Halliburton Australia assume for "facilitation" paid by the company in Iraq to implement blueprints created in Adelaide?

I wonder if this might be on of Commissioner Cole's “international aspects"?

One more question: could parts of facilitation payments have been given back by Saddam to their organisers as bonuses? What happened to the 2004 claims by Iraq Governing Councillor Jalal Talabini at a UN news conference news conference that "We have a list of cash paid to journalists, personalities, groups and parties"?

Ooops, another- has the same company now auditing the AWB had any luck yet with the CPA? Accountancy firm KPMG was complaining two years ago that the Bush Administration was hindering its investigation of the implementation of Oil-For-Food money? After the courtroom confession of the CPA infrastructure co-ordinator of receiving cash and sex in a specially prepared villa, there's yet another Pandora's Box to be opened.

When this is all over, we should be ensuring that contracts received by the same multinationals involved in Iraq reconstruction to carry out work in Australia are all "above board"

Mark Vaile

Channel 7 has just run reports that Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile's father died last night after a long illness. Despite my vigour in pointing out the damage Mark Vaile has done to our country over the AWB scandal I am very sorry to hear of his family's loss.

A sad loss at a difficult time

How terribly sad to lose such an important person in your life, and how difficult to bear at such a pressured spotlight time. Easy to forget that people are feeling humans with private lives and traumas. I don't know how pollies cope with the pressure all the time. Reminds me of the wonderful opposition leader NSW used to have. When you're targeted your every fault becomes like an inward pointing sword for your enemies. Brogden, despite his faults - who doesn't have any? - would have been a good leader, methinks.

Sombre cheers.

when ministers' heads must roll

Dr Shergold, secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, yesterday set out what he believed should be the ground rules for when ministers' heads must roll. Shergold says that if a government minister was aware of the AWB kickbacks and failed to stop them he should resign.

There have been a dozen communications to Howard Government ministers and departments since 1999 pointing to 'irregularities' involving the trade of wheat with Iraq. So a Howard Government minister or two must have been aware of allegations of 'irregularities' and if no action or insufficient action was taken to investigate these allegations to the fullest possible extent then that is failing to stop the AWB kickbacks, isn't it?

sword of Damocles,

So, the all powerful OPM secretary is warning ministers of the sword of Damocles. Anyone not toeing the line?

Mr Shergold should be more open himself about he allegations of Mr Wilkie about the manipulation of the Iraq war evidence.

An open enquiry into this would be a cleansing action and maybe prevent us being sucked into another war of convenience by deceit. Or was it just incompetence? Or just disinterest? Was there sharing of the "Downing st memo" orders here as well?

Indeed if ministers are to be held accountable that would be a refreshing deal for this government. If there are to be open and independent enquiries with proper powers (unlike the window dressings we've had) then let's start with... hmm, the list is long, any suggestions?? SievX? Children overboard? Visa payments to liberal party - esp the monastery? Dep immigration abuses (NOT under the current minister)? Intelligence failures/ministry/ONA/DSIS about East Timor, and then Bali blasts and the organised crime passport scandal here picked up by New Zealand, and perversion of intelligence information to make the case for war - including the aluminum tube fiasco, and the 8 BILLION dollar hole in defence  for - what is it now? 3yrs?? What corruption may be hiding there? And of course the Free Trade agreement, now resulting in a greater deficit than ever and more loss of manufacturing locally - just as predicted.

Certainly ministers should be held accountable, but if that had been the policy many of the ministers would have resigned, some investigated by now for possible corruption.

So what is the agenda? And from what one sees with politics of all persuasions there is always an agenda or tradeoff!! Is the sin of sins  not getting with the program, failing to toe the line especially with regard to big business. Aims? Giving the control of buying and selling our wheat to multnational executives? What traitorous action is this that is being called for?? Some backbench wannabe calling the current system "socialist"? Mouthpiece. Where is the country regional representatives.

If Mr Vaile sells out the Australian farmers he sells out the people too. If he doesn't is there going to be sudden memory gain of witnesses before new one week duration jobs at a multinational  wheat marketing company? Are we to see the usual modus operandi as per Defence force contracts? Where is the open invstigation into that?? And the FTA negotiators and the changes to the loopholes in the PBS needed by multinational drug companies.

We talk of the corruption of other countries. Well perhaps the mote from our own eye is blocking our vision. How can we expect third world countries grappling with postwar devastation and enormous corruption and looting of assets, how can we expect them to take us seriously when we seek open and honest and accountable dealings when our own government repeatedly has failed in this over the last 10 years.

If Vaile goes, then an investigation into the conflict over control of the AWB that recently errupted should also be investigated and whether influence has been brought to bear. If Vaile goes then let all be accountable for their office, and those gone prosecuted if corruption is found.

At least we would be left with a core of intelligent and fairly responsible ministers (PM gone, so sad), including Vanstone, Nelson, Costello, ...maybe the wheat scandal will separate the chaff but I doubt such a cleansing would occur unless the time is right for Beazley. If Vaile is able to stand up for Australian farmers then he is a fulfilling his mandate as for the people, by the people, and as such should be acknowledged.

Heavy times. Distracted by the usual divisive agendas of militants and extremists on clerical topics... one should always, with criminals and this government, consider in any action: who benefits?


Gee, Is Mr Vaile strong enough to support the farmers and the single desk or will he give in to the latest pressure to let in the middle men for their skimming pressure. He is to be admired so far for his pro-farmer stance but ... as long as the hypocrisy of this whole adventure continues and other companies and financial dealers continue to quietly lay their "facilitating payments" - and here the tax office can help with the numbers, although not identification by law - then the position of ministers, and others involved in this debarcle, is threatened and thus the persons able to be manipulated.


It's all in the words...

Of course, Craig, Shergold is quoted in that story saying "if a minister had their attention drawn to matters", which means that the Howard Doctrine of (im)plausible deniability is alive and well.

Big Trip to Baghdad

Well it looks like Mark Vaile is off on a big trip to Baghdad. Moments ago in Question Time the Prime Minister answered a dorathy dixer about his meeting with AWB chairman Brendan Stewart. Howard said he'll be sending a delegation to Iraq to try and find a way to get Aussie wheat in Iraqi hands. The delegation will include Vaile, Stewart and representatives of our wheat growers.

AWB not to object

What was a little bizarre was his comment that he had obtained an agreement from the AWB not to veto any arrangement made with the Iraqis. Even if the price is too low, the middlemen skimming off too much, the future kickbacks not checked and addressed? We know that to do deals in such neighbourhoods special arrangements need to be added. The tax office calls these tax deductible arrangements facilitating payments. How open will the arrangements be with Mr Vaille and the other backroom "facilitators" be? Who will scrutinise it? What is the official policy of the Government on facilitator payments and will such bribes be ceased and no longer attain tax deductibility status? Nice question for question time.

Open and accountable export deals benefit the growers and the people paying for the product, and only make trouble for the skimming in-betweeners, also known as bribers and corruptors of governments. The Goldberg enquiry in Africa should be a lesson to us all even if the AWB shows no evidence of any lesson learned, nor evidence of proper examination of government for corrupt dealings. Really why would any government allow such a thing?

One of the greatest problems facing third world countries is the corruption and plundering of assets by those in power. Open bank accounts and open financial dealings would almost eliminate this according to the UN study recently. Our own contributions is rather sad. All responsible in government should be held to account, either for corruption or for blind incompetence. Or do we not have responsible government and ministers as Mr Abbott would like us to believe? There would be no scandal if the government had done its job properly. Something to consider.


AWB shareholders

C Parsons: "I feel sorry for AWB shareholders who will probably lose their equity, and the repercussions will doubtless flow onto wheat farmers and others."

I'm not sure about this but I think that AWB shareholders mostly ARE grain farmers. I've got a feeling they were required to have some sort of financial stake in the bulk-handling infrastructure that was then transferred into shares when it was privatised.

What is this rubbish calling for an end to our single wheat desk

That there is corruption is clear and that there was and still is such a culture for those who do international (and probably local) trade is deplorable but apparently true. Our AWB had contracts during Saddam's era, and I understand that the payments continued after Saddam was gone for at least 10 months (who collected those winnings?). If the executive acted illegally then they must face the music and the RC should consider to what extent this occurs in international trade officially to put it in perspective. Why witch hunt the executives if everyone is doing it? And if even the tax department knows - they have a special phrase for it which escapes me just now....hey that might mean another minister, the minister for Finance should know of this widespread paying of enabling fees by our companies.

Why dismantle the AWB? if it is a damaged business name then just change the name, done all the time in the corporate world. Is the AWB system best for Australia and her farmers? Of course it is, one doesn't need to be an economics guru to see that. Obviously large single desks - or any exporter, perhaps, should have DFAT oversight to prevent such things occurring again. We may not get any contracts as business is a tricky practice but heck we will be cleaner than the politically correct Canadians for once. Pigs might fly.

Do Australian farmers want the AWB? Yep 80% do and recognise the benefits of not competing amongst themselves for contracts. Of course, that limits the collection of kickbacks to one desk and there are plenty of middle-sized and multinationals who would love such lucrative action, while breaking the back of the battling wheat farmer. This is in contrast to the new lobby group Eastern Wheat Growers headed by Chris Kellock - see this report from ABC Rural - which is aiming its guns at the single desk monopoly. Wonder if any traders are behind them? Time will tell. Anyone calling for a loss of such protection is playing straight into this. One might suspect that was the intention the whole time of this government. Big money is in the pot on this one.


US Defence knew of AWB Bribes in 2004

[From the Financial Review]

An American Defence Department report named Australian wheat monopoly exporter AWB as over-pricing its contracts to Iraq almost three years ago, Labor today revealed.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd brandished the document, which went to members of the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority (that included Australia), saying it showed the government was aware of AWB's alleged kickback payments in September 2003.

An inquiry is being held into alleged kickback payments, with AWB at the centre of claims it paid almost $300 million to the regime of Saddam Hussein in breach of United Nations' oil-for-food guidelines.

Mr Rudd said the September 2003 report was proof the government was aware of claims surrounding AWB well before it launched the current inquiry more than two years later.

Watch out when Downer starts using lines such as the one he used today to counter the Opposition's censure motion:

"As if we would want to pay kickbacks to the Saddam regime when we wanted to get rid of them. No one in the Australian community would believe that." does not deny that anything untoward happened, only that it would not be believed. Such "semantic insurance" is a sign that Mr Downer thinks he might soon need to defend himself and his department much more vigorously.

Malcolm Maiden on BHP

Malcolm Maiden in today's SMH Business section provides an insightful look  at BHP's involvement in what is potentially a sanction busting activity with AWB:

BHP's "third party cash payment" acquisition of the wheat, and its shipment to Iraq, appears to have been approved by the Federal Government late in 1995. Early the next year BHP executives proposed that the financing terms of the deal be changed, to create a debt to BHP. The refinancing idea was rejected outright by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which told BHP that the shipment had cleared United Nations sanctions against Iraq because it was a gift, and the terms could not be altered.

By 2000 however, the head of BHP's oil and gas division, Phil Aiken, signed a letter that advised that BHP's "commercial interests" in Iraq were being transferred to Tigris Petroleum, a company associated with just-departed BHP executive Norman Davidson Kelly, and that the interest being transferred included BHP's "rights to receive value" for the 1996 grain shipment.

The Cole inquiry has heard that Tigris approached the AWB in 2001 seeking repayment of the "Grain Board Receivable", as the letter Aiken signed in 2000 described it, and that AWB responded by inflating the contract price of wheat it subsequently sold to Iraq to recoup this so-called receivable.

The reputation of Australia's biggest company now rests on how BHP's gift became a debt.

John Howard attack as defense

John Howard is now using attack as a form of defence by targeting the Opposition for doing its job of holding his government accountable.

Labor's attacks on the federal government over the AWB kickback scandal could do serious damage to Australian wheat growers in the international market, he says.

Well he really should have had the potential for damage to our growers top of mind a long time ago and instructed his ministers to make every effort to ensure no sanction busting by Australian companies occurred and to investigate any and all kickback claims to the fullest.

Iraqi Grain Board Halts AWB Trade

Iraq will not trade witth the Australian wheat industry until the Cole Inquiry concludes, according to ABC News.

The Iraqi authority has notified the Australian Stock Exchange of its decision.

This is just the beginning.... 

Get rid of it

Undoubtedly, the only plausible response is to break up the AWB.

The outcome of the Cole inquiry might suggest a formula for doing that.

I feel sorry for AWB shareholders who will probably lose their equity, and the repercussions will doubtless flow onto wheat farmers and others.

"AUSTRALIAN Treasury officials working in the US-led occupation government in Baghdad warned Canberra more than two years ago of corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food program that required contractors to pay 10 per cent kickbacks to the Iraqi regime."

Now, who other than the AWB and BHP was involved I wonder?

We sell locally made cars over there, don't we?

Mitsubishis, no?

More evidence Howard's Government knew of kickbacks

Fairfax newspapers report today that Australian Treasury officials working in the US-led occupation government in Iraq warned the federal government more than two years ago of corruption in the UN's oil-for-food program that required contractors to pay kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime. Treasury officials warned Canberra in 2003 that the kickbacks were used in "maintaining and developing" Saddam's military capability and warranted "further investigation", but they didn't specifically name AWB.

Of course they didn't need to name AWB for it to be obvious that an investigation should ensue.  All the Australian companies taking on UN Oil-for-Food program contracts were known, so all should have been investigated.


Many of the comments in this Chaser interview were exact responses given by Downer... some have undergone a touch of "poetic license," while others are complete fiction. It's up to you to sort the wheat from the chaff (why haven't we seen that headline yet?).


NewsJunkie: And, as Minister, what did you do when these allegations came up?

Downer: Well, of course, we took it very seriously.

NewsJunkie: What does that mean?

Downer: We asked the Wheat Board whether they were true. Pretty sharply, I might add. Very stern conversation, as I recall.

NewsJunkie: And do you recall it?

Downer: Oh, lord no. I had absolutely no idea it was going on. But I’m confident the conversation took place. Responsible government demanded no less. After all, we were at war.

NewsJunkie: And what did they say?

Downer: Well, they ummed and ahhed for a bit, then sort of looked at their shoes and then told us that everything was OK. And that we could trust them to be true-blue, and that Weetabix are made from wheat, and that nothing was more Australian than the wind rustling through fields of golden wheat … ahh, the wheat … the golden sheaves of wheat … [he drifts off in a reverie]

Sometimes fiction can be more truthful than truth.

That headline Richard

Here is that headline used Richard - Sorting AWB wheat from the scandal chaff by James Kirby editor of the Eureka Report writing in The Age Business section on 5 February.

Another headline, Richard

Elizabeth Knight's column in the business section of today's SMH using the headline Monopoly: AWB can kiss it all goodbye brings to mind a headline we can look forward to sometime in late March or early April after the Cole inquiry delivers its report:

Wheat monopoly players told, "Go straight to gaol, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 dollars."

Another whistleblower of the same tune

This time it's a former senior ASIS officer with 10 years of experience with Asia and the Middle East. 

 [extracts from ABC Online]

"It's absolutely impossible that they didn't know,"

"In fact, if you look at the core part of the governmental system in Canberra, Foreign Affairs, Defence, even eavesdropping, the whole intelligence apparatus, that's geared to knowing these things.

"And if they didn't know, they weren't charged specifically by ministers in the government with knowing, people like (then Trade Minister) Mark Vaile, the Prime Minister (John Howard) and (Foreign Minister) Alexander Downer, then they should be shot at dawn."

"Particularly Mr Downer, who's in charge of our foreign intelligence services, the Government has an obligation, a very clear one, to police that situation so that Australia does not end up in this very messy public situation, so the Government did know," he said.

"And really, I would defy the Prime Minister on oath to say he'd never heard anything about it, he had no knowledge that this could occur."

These comments seem to have hit a nerve, with the Downer rushing in to smear... at a distance, via a spokesperson, that "The man has not worked for the government for about 20 years and could not and would not know anything about this subject," and that "What he says is absolute nonsense. Hissy-fits like this can't be good for Mr D's perceived credibility.

The SMH story talking about Howard discussing the matter at COAG seems to have struck a nerve with Mr Howard.  He released this statement yesterday

 [from the Prime Minister's Website]

The claim in today’s Sydney Morning Herald (page 1) that the Government is “firmly committed” to ending AWB Limited’s wheat export monopoly is quite wrong.

Contrary to the Herald report the issue was not raised during my talks yesterday with Premiers and Chief Ministers.

There has, understandably, been some public debate recently about the single desk policy.

No decision, however, has been taken by the Government to change that policy.

Under current principles of national competition policy the Government is obliged, periodically, to review the legislation which established the single desk. That will continue to be the case in the future.

That obligation to review the legislation does not, of itself, imply any future change in policy

Back over at the real game the US has just announced a $725 billion trade deficit.- almost exactly the capital base of the company Ex-Ambassador Thawley now vice-presides over.   The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "even the US farm sector, traditionally a net exporter, recorded a $4 billion deficit in 2005 "

Here's some words of wisdom... you'll be suprised at the author.

"What matters most to us now and in coming decades, whether or not a multipolar world eventuates, is to influence how other powers behave. This in reality can be done only in conjunction with the US.

Often the extent of US power seems to worry commentators. My view is that we ought to worry more about the trouble the US is having solving its big social and economic problems at home. If it fails to make the necessary reforms, its power and international leadership will be badly damaged and the consequences for Australia and its other friends would be profound".

 -Ex Ambassador Thawley, The Age, 9/11/2005

Trust Truss?

Craig Shearborne writes in the Herald Sun today:

THE wheat scandal has taken a startling turn with a claim that Howard Government minister Warren Truss was warned of kickbacks to Iraq as early as 2002.

Leading Victorian grain merchant Ray Brooks said yesterday Mr Truss ignored his warning that AWB was paying bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime.

"He didn't want to know," Mr Brooks said.

Warren Truss, a man of "incredible" integrity according to Nats MP Paul Neville, is using what we might now call the Lindberg line - "I don't recall".

Dodging responsibility

Writing in The Age today, columnist Kenneth Davidson describes how the Howard Government is set upon hanging AWB out to dry in order to dodge its own responsibility for policing the UN-sponsored sanctions.

Since parliament resumed Howard has daily denied the responsibility of his ministers - of his government - to ensure that sanctions were not busted and insisted that no evidence has been produced to show they knew about the sanction busting practices of AWB, Rhine Ruhr, Alkaloids of Australia, and possibly BHP.

As Davidson says:

"The Howard Government has developed the process of quarantining ministers from unwelcome news by surrounding them with political advisers able to block written or oral briefings from reaching the minister.

"One of the iron laws of politics is for governments never to initiate an inquiry unless the outcome is known and the person conducting the inquiry is seen as reliable. The main purpose of the Cole inquiry into the AWB's marketing of wheat in Iraq, as far as the Government is concerned, is to find that there is no proof that the Government knew that the AWB was offering kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime to sustain its 60 per cent share of the lucrative Iraqi wheat market in the face of UN-sponsored sanctions."

Yet the Howard Government's responsibility is very clear. Davidson makes a very strong case:

"Alexander Downer's department is known as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Throughout this time DFAT had a trade commissioner in Baghdad. One of his jobs is to gather intelligence on the wheat trade through contacts in the relevant Iraqi ministries and AWB executives passing through Baghdad. There are desk officers in DFAT and the Department of Agriculture whose job it is to monitor commodity prices and who could not have avoided seeing the divergence between the prices received by AWB compared with market prices. It is their job to find out why the price discrepancies occurred and to pass that information to the minister."

"As well, there is provision under the AWB act for a government-appointed director on the AWB whose job essentially involves being the eyes and ears of Trade Minister Mark Vaile. If he did not do his job, the responsibility lies with the Government, not the AWB."

"Wheat sales to Iraq were insured through the Export Finance Insurance Corporation under "national interest" cover in which the risk is transferred to the taxpayer through the government as a whole. According to a former deputy secretary of the Finance Department, Stephen Bartos, approval for this type of cover involves Treasury and Finance as well as DFAT and Agriculture departmental officials and usually results in disagreement that has to be resolved at the ministerial level."

Add in the responsibility of our intelligence agencies watching Saddam's regime and the Wheat Export Authority watching AWB. 

It is no wonder most people who have an opinion believe the Government did not act ethically.

Australian hospitality

"But when asked whether he recalled a meeting in 2000 with Mr Lindberg and former chairman Trevor Flugge at which complaints by the Canadian Government were apparently raised, the Trade Minister had this response:
"No, no, not to my recollection - I haven't and I'll have to check records of conversation if I had meetings back then."

For sheer chutzpah, you couldn't go past Saddam, hey?.

It turns out the Canadians knew about the kickbacks because the Iraqis complained to them it wasn't fair the Kanuks weren't paying the bribes too because, after all, the Aussies were only willing.

This was reported in air this morning at the ABC

In other words, there was a public auction underway for wheat contracts in Iraq.

I'm begining to think my suggestion that "not only Australia's, but various other nations' intelligence agencies were deliberately letting this thing run out" (February 9, 2006 - 7:55am) may be crediting our foreign office and intelligence agencies with more cunning than justified.

I wouldn't mind betting that your typical taxi driver or hotel receptionists in Um Qasr or Tikrit would have known about it by 2000.

The AWB should be broken up, its directors jailed, Mark Vaile impeached and Trevor Flugge handed over to the Iraqi authorities for collaborating with the Ba'athists.

Actually, it's not even a question of whether or not our government knew.

It's actually even more disturbing to think they didn't know about something so important to our national interest when practically everyone with any contact with Iraq was in the loop.

At very least, this was a massive intelligence failure with no too few implications for our core alliances and national security.

What a pack of losers.

Interesting that the Americans didn't openly complain about it in the way the Canadians did.

Maybe, and I hate to have to admit this, it may actually explain why the Australians were so staunch in their support for George W over Iraq.

To paraphrase LBJ, they probably figured "it's better to have George  Dubbya in our tent pissing out, than outisde pissing in."

And after September 11, perhaps the Americans were prepared to turn a blind eye to it?

Who knows? And I suspect we will never know.

As Andrew Lindberg tumbles

As Andrew Lindberg tumbles from the scrum while his AWB team navel-gazes  now's a good time to look at the "game-plan" of the opponents.

[from the US Wheat Associates' website 

Ambassador Richard T. Crowder is responsible for directing all U.S. agricultural trade negotiations, including multi-lateral negotiations in the World Trade Organization, as well as regional and bilateral negotiations. USW president Alan Tracy and WETEC executive director Barbara Spangler congratulated Mr. Crowder on his recent appointment and heard his statements of continuing support for eliminating export subsidies over a fixed time frame and leveling the playing field.

The two wheat leaders reminded Mr. Crowder that removing tariffs is not the sole answer to leveling the market access playing field for wheat.

"Removing the ability of our competitors to undermine us through monopoly trading practices is an important part of the wheat industry’s focus in the WTO negotiations," Mr. Tracy and Ms. Spangler wrote in a follow-up letter. "As we have expressed before, it is our belief that fair trade cannot be achieved unless our competitors open their wheat industry to competition with the United States and the rest of the world."

"Australia and Canada must agree to eliminate export monopoly trading practices and allow for open competition within their wheat markets," they wrote.

"As you know, the AWB LTD’s monopoly power is antithetical to the operation of a free and open market system," the letter said. "This is even more troubling as the AWB now operates its monopoly trading through offices in the U.S. and Switzerland, where monopolies are illegal. These offices trade world wheat as fully independent multinational trading companies, but with the ability to manipulate market prices as only a monopoly can. At the same time, neither the U.S. nor any other country has the same opportunity to trade in Australia."

Mr. Tracy and Ms. Spangler alerted Ambassador Crowder to another opportunity, beyond WTO negotiations, to remind the Australian government of its commitments: the U.S. - Australian FTA review.

"We urge you to use this opportunity to strongly remind the Australian government of their commitment to 'work together in the WTO process to …, develop disciplines that eliminate restrictions on an entity’s right to export, …' This would in effect remove export monopoly powers."

The Regime Change Of Trade.  Enightened souls protecting the world.

With such well-honed rhetoric flowing from their pens, it can only be assumed that destruction of the AWB has been on US Wheat's wishlist for some time.

Andrew Lindberg, on the other hand, views US domination of the wheat trade market as a deviance requiring connection.  His speech notes from last year paint a picture not as an evil aide of Saddam but as a battler for our farmers' livelihoods against an intended Regime Change.

 [From Andrew Lindberg's speaking notes 5/4/5]

World Trading System - Subsidies

  • Of course international politics has a significant influence over our export program – everyone here knows we face a world market distorted by the world’s three richest economies – the US , the EU and Japan – that pay $1 billion a day in subsidies to their farmers.

  • It is extremely hard to Australian growers to compete with their US and European counterparts who receive more than half of their income in the form of government payments.

  • The WTO represents the best opportunity to address this subsidy problem.  But the current Doha WTO Round is slow going and will not result in the complete elimination of subsidies – this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

  • However, there are some signs recently that point towards some improvements in this area.

  • Government budgets are increasingly under pressure, especially in the US where they face multi-trillion deficits over the next few years.  The recent budget proposal from the Bush Administration for 2006 recognises this and seeks to cut farmer payments – only by about 2.5% but at least it’s a start.

  • On top of this Brazil recently won its WTO case that US cotton subsides were in breach of existing WTO rules – this too helps build the pressure for change.

  • The Doha Round made a good step forward with the completion to the framework agreement last year.  We need to build on the growing recognition of the need for reform to finish the Round and address the root cause of distortions in the world market – farmer subsidies and quotas in rich countries.

  • Fortunately, the Australian government recognises the importance of this and Australia has continued its leadership role as the Head of the Cairns Group in pushing for global agricultural trade reform.

Opportunities for Growth – Ethanol

  • Australian agriculture must not only focus on improving what it already delivers by targeting it to specific end-uses.  It must also to prepare itself for producing for new end uses. 

  • Increasingly agricultural crops are being produced not necessarily for food but as input in producing industrial or consumer goods. 

  • An important example of this is ethanol. In the past 10 years, ethanol production in the US has tripled.  Ethanol production in the US now utilises 11% of their corn crop and 12% of sorghum.

  • Several American state governments now have mandated compulsory ethanol blends for petrol on sale in their state.

  • This is an important form of value-adding, adding 25-50 US cents to the value of a bushel of corn, or as much as US$5.5 billion over the entire corn crop.

  • An interesting aspect of the ethanol boom in the US is that to date it has been largely farmer driven.  Since 1990, farmer-owned cooperatives are responsible for the majority of new ethanol production capacity.

  • With world oil prices high and likely to remain so (even production of it would exceed $US100 per barrel), the use of alternative fuels such as ethanol is likely only to increase.

 Will perversion of the FTA leave Australia eating US Wheat and growing US motor fuel? 

Does that funny taste in your mouth affect your morning coffee-and-newspaper ?

Rule AK-47

Mr Parsons, in taking into account the possibility of other nations' intelligence agencies "deliberately letting this thing run out as a means of penetrating Iraqi assets."

Three really interesting things occurred in the middle of last year.. Thawley was promoted, Sheridan was promoted, Nick Warner was promoted.

The manner of Warner's promotion gave him lots of publicity in the US.  Promoted "in the field" as the hero in Wood's rescue, Warner was the Australian spokesman in the US, hailing the feat as a success-story for the Coalition"s Operation Lightning.  Wood's statements backed this story, and Wood, via handshake from PM Howard, made it along the publicity track as far as the NBC Today Show, though his request for a handshake with Dubya didn't happen.  Dubya extolled Operation Lightning, perceived as the teaching of military independance to Iraq, as an outstanding success. 

It's my belief that the Wood story was being framed for "feel-good international co-operation" TV bites, evidence Bush could take to the people that they were participating in a truly international exercise. The fact that Bush didn't use it doesn't denigrate Nick Warner's efforts.

Warner is at one end of the foodchain, Thawley, the man who averted the US inquiry, at the other. Large US centred operations are in the middle, and ASIO is being "promoted." Why? What else to the international treatment of both the AWB and the cirumstances of Wood's release have in common?

Supportive documentation for this line of questioning can be found in my blog of the Wood release here.


There's so much stuff around, one can only assume that not only Australia's, but various other nations' intelligence agencies were deliberately letting this thing run out as a means of penetrating Iraqi assets.

That could be the only possible explanation for this thing being allowed to run as far as it has.

If that's not the case, then we should be also sacking the top layer of ASIO and our defense chiefs.

Uhhuh. .Logic unravels all lies.

Amazing that they should "let this run" without informing or keeping the government of the day up to date from the relevent department or even NSA, which gives the daily or near such briefs to the PM group.

Such poor communication over so many years would suggest ASIO etc need an overhaul as are operating too autonomically and as such are a danger to us.

Or do you think they may have communicated? Gee that means our gov is lying. So is it dangerously autonomous ASIO or lying incompetent government? Nice choice at a time of war.


Beazley on ASIS and ASIO

Exploring this line of whether ASIS or ASIO failed to pick up on AWB's dealings with the Iraqi dictatorship it is worth looking back at what was said by Kim Beazley on Lateline on Monday night :

TONY JONES: Alright. Now back in 2003, just before the war in fact, the PM told the Press Club pretty much on the eve of the war that Saddam Hussein had cruelly and cynically rorted and UN Oil-for-Food Program to buy weapons. Now clearly that information came from intelligence sources. Did Australia's intelligence community fail this Government, fail Australia by not finding out that AWB was part of that rorted system?

KIM BEAZLEY: No, the intelligence community didn't fail it, the Government failed it.

Look, coming through or to DFAT, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, coming through to Austrade was information from the United Nations and other sources that there was a serious problem in potential with the contracts that AWB was signing. A minuscule amount of inquiries having received that heads-up from reputable bodies would have caused the Government itself to arrive at different conclusions about how the program was operating.

It's no good going into - it's not ASIO's business or ASIS's business to discover that - they're looking at other things.

What the Government had to hand was control of the contracts. They had to sign off on the contracts. It was to them the opportunity to inform themselves of what those contracts meant.

It's like you Tony, somebody tells me that you've committed an act of murder and I just say, "Tony's a friend of mine, I'll just ring him up. " "Tony, did you commit an act of murder?" "Oh no," you say. And I say, "Well, that's alright. No need for any enquiries. We'll just leave it at that and move on."

TONY JONES: Let's do that, let's move on before you have me convicted on camera.

I agree with Mr Beazley's assessment of the Howard Government's responsibility to properly follow-up the information it received from the UN and other sources rather than just dismiss such information as the work of commercial rivals.

However, with an eye to the ASIS and ASIO question, I wonder could this just be Bomber Beazley being by nature protective of our spooks or is it entirely correct that these agencies would not have kept an eye on what Australian businesses were doing in Iraq at a time when there were strict sanctions on doing business with Iraq? AWB's Charles Stott certainly thought they were keeping an eye on payments.  And if it is true they were not tasked with that mission, I wonder why? Isn't it important to ensure Australian businesses are providing information, funds, goods or expertise to the countries we are about to go to war with?

ASIS more than ASIO

I'm not sure it is the only possible explanation Chris, although I do agree that it is a plausible possible scenario. Of course it would be ASIS we need to tackle over the intelligence failing as much or more so than ASIO.

Interesting that former head of ASIO Dennis Richardson stressed to US senator Norman Coleman that AWB executives had misled him. What? He was chief spook and he can't tell when someone is lying?

who benfits from this inquiry and Alex's usual gaffs

Hi Craig, I heard his interview.

Ambassador Richardson, formerly head of ASIO, he "was not aware of any evidence available" that the government knew of the corruption. Doesn't he do the Howard  speak stuff so well. Off course he knew. I challenge him under oath to say "I and ASIO did not know that such dealings were going on." In fact didn't Alia or the BHP Biliton subsidiary involved in the kickbacks give ASIO/ASIS Saddam information??

In Wilkie's book he deals with the briefings NSA gave Mr Howard. Howard refused to listen to certain items, especially international. How can one do that? Why would one do that?

That is the modus operandi of this government, they somehow think that if they don't know what goes on under their leadership they have no political punishment. That depends upon whether one expects one's government to be competent and efficient, something one would think was very important in these days of "terrorism" and Long War". Do we want an incompetent government in charge of our security??

That would be so easy to spin for the last election for the Labor party. And the next. All the "I didn't know" ministers.

Imagine what would happen at the corporate level. Immediate removal of such incompetent management or eventual later gaoliing as the corruption is exposed with huge financial damage to the company. Is that what will happen to company Australia with such incompetent and deceptive management? Does Economic rationalism also mean information rationalism and unaccountability?

Remember the 60s comedy show?? "AAAHHHH know nuzzinggg" is now how I think of Mr Howard, a boof Seargent Shulz. I hope it doesn't bother the little man to be portrayed as a fool who keeps his head in the sand if it looks too difficult, a character from a TV series from his favourite era. If it does perhaps he could change his government's modus operandi. Actually idiotic Klink isn't so far from Bush.

If we may consider, back to the "who knew what". The previous Ambassador to US had told the US Senator that HE HAD LOOKED INTO IT and he could assure them there was no corruption. So he had looked into it?

So the question is: to exactly what level did the DFAT look into it as requested by the Ambassador to the US? It must have been thorough if one is assuring one's superpower ally that one is competent and truthful. which one then is it? Incomepetent of untruthful?? What must the Americans think? As our former amabassador is now a private consultant in Washingotn perhaps he can be asked that in the enquiry?

How about Mr Downers comment, how he didn't gag form the leather rubbing his tonsils I don't know - that the DFAT opposed the US Senate enquiry as it would be "influenced by commercial interests of their farmers."

EXCUSE ME? Our foreign minister saying the US Senate is corrupted by financial consderations? Is that from personal experience? Are our senate enquiries so corrupted? What does out Allie's system of government think of such an allegation against their representatives? The man and his advisers are behaving as complete fools insulting our allies. Truly, despite his illustrious powerful parliamentary geneology and fanciful ideas about fishing equipment as dress, truly this man is a liability and an example of gross incompetence and hand and foot in mouth disease. Luaghable if it wasn't so internationally embarassing.

It is interesting that the powerful US senator has toned down his outrage. Was it because upon the coming breaking up of the wheatboard there will be real "opportunities" for US grain growers and multinational companies who earlier failed to gain control over the wheat board. Remember the recent battle for control of the AWB?

we are one of the few non-GM producers in the world. GM companies are some of the most powerful on the planet. Something to consider in this unprecedented and uncharactersic seeking of accountability from a corporation by the Howard government.

Who benefits?

Real enquiries would not limit to just private companies. Real enquiries would force the governments to release the held documents and have ex-staff testify under oath. Seek the agenda as there always is one with this government. It is usually to benefit the monied or power players in some way.


Wheat Export Authority admits tip off

The Age has reported today that Wheat Export Authority chairman Tim Besley has directly contradicted his evidence to a Senate estimates committee last November when he denied knowing that AWB had entered into commercial arrangements with Jordanian trucking company Alia.

He now says that the WEA, which reports to the agriculture minister [Warren Truss at the time], launched an investigation into why AWB was using Alia and why its prices were above global prices.

They must have investigated to the extent Mark Sergeant suggested earlier.

It's time to start looking at Mr Truss.

It's also time to look again at Mark Vaile's diary.  Yesterday, in an attempt to evade what was exposed in that embarrassing email, he used that cute defence once used by his old boss John Anderson - "my diary says I wasn't there that day".

"I have checked my records and can confirm I was not in Melbourne on the 14th or 15th of September," Mr Vaile said on Wednesday.

Mr Vaile said he had attended the World Economic Forum in Melbourne on September 13, 2000.

Entries from Mr Stott's diary given in evidence to the inquiry showed that he had a meeting with Mr Bowker at 8.30am on September 13.

So Stott's embarrassing email is corroborated as far as Mr Bowker's attendance at the meeting is concerned and let's just think about this: how many times would you write an email to a business contact you'd had a meeting with that lists others in attendance at that meeting when they weren't there? You'd look like a stupid git wouldn't you? Now how often might you make a simple mistake about the date of the meeting? More often surely.

Does Mark Vaile think the Australian people are thick as bricks? Does he really think the 'my diary says' defence is going to work?

BHP man central to the scandal

Peter Wilson, Europe correspondent for The Australian, provides a background piece today on Norman Davidson Kelly the former BHP executive who played a key role in the mining giant's dealings with Saddam Hussein's regime.

We are sure to hear more about Mr Davidson Kelly, if not hear him answer questions at the Cole inquiry. As a foreign citizen he can escape the subpoena powers of an Australian royal commission.

Questions from Time Magazine

Ambassador Richardson did well to hush up Senator Coleman before Time Magazine started asking questions of his predecessor.

 Time's Tom Dusevic asks:


Why did Ambassador Thawley lobby the U.S. Congress to drop its investigations into AWB, a private company? What did DFAT officials know about the wheat exporter's activities in Iraq? What - and when - did they tell their political masters? The cumulative effect of the revelations is a sense of how could the Howard government and its officials not know. Then again, the paradox of this government has been its ability to micro-manage all aspects of policy while retaining a plausible degree of ministerial deniability.

Perhaps, if Senator Coleman is going quiet, AWB US, as a corporate citizen of the Land Of The Free, might be investigateed by the US Department of Justice for violation of that country's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.   Saddam certainly qualifies as a foreign public official, and given that Lindberg is king of the Hill in AWB USA

As US Wheat puts it:

USW has no information that U.S. investigators have requested documents from AWB staff in the U.S., but we have expressed our belief that the U.S. may have jurisdiction in that AWB operates a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, AWB (USA) LTD, which is registered with USDA as an authorized exporter of U.S. commodities. As such, AWB USA is subject to U.S. laws and regulations.

US Wheat also quotes a report by law firm Chevaliar and Miller

Oil for Food investigations will proliferate around the world in 2006. U.S. investigators are getting involved, the firm says.

"Because Iraq (while subject to UN embargo) elected to do business primarily with countries that resisted the UN sanctions, relatively few American companies were listed in the IIC’ report," according to the report.

"However, U.S. companies have received document requests from U.S. investigators, who can be expected to look for grounds to assert jurisdiction over not only U.S. companies or nationals that may have been involved, but also foreign affiliates of U.S. companies and unrelated foreign companies where there exists some jurisdictional nexus to the United States."

 Why does it take a magazine of the stature of Time to question Ambassador Thawley's involvement? Perhaps, like Alia, Thawley could send a statement to the Cole Inquiry?

Richardson meets Coleman; Coleman cools it

Dennis Richardson, Australia's current ambassador to the US has held that much-anticipated meeting with US Senator Norm Coleman who had been "deeply troubled" by the representations made to him by former Australian ambassador Michael Thawley.

And it seems that in a businesslike fashion Richardson has had Coleman backdown on his demand that Thawley front up and explain why he had "unequivocally dismissed" claims Australian wheat exporter, AWB, was making illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq when it is now clear that is exactly what they were doing. 

Richardson said the senator is no longer requesting the meeting with Thawley. "The upshot of the meeting was Senator Coleman said he accepted the assurances that I have provided about Ambassador Thawley's representations being made in good faith," said Richardson, ""He said he would continue to follow the Cole Commission closely and he would also follow closely the Australian government's follow-up to the recommendations ... I said we could understand that and I assured him that the government has stated publicly that it would follow up quickly on any recommendations made by the commission."

Austere Alia

Maybe you're right, Mark, but Alia were quite happy to volunteer as "honest traders" of the AWB's kickbacks.

Did anyone see Lateline tonight? Mr Downer appears to be attempting to distance himelf from his own department. Anybody who thought that when Downer referred to DFAT he was talking about himself "in the third person" would have felt relieved when the interview ended. How many times did Downer say the (note:not "his) department's name in full - nine, ten? Can't wait for the transcript.

This would be a new low in Howard Government avoidance of Ministerial Responsibility. Running out the media talking about your department as 'someone else' should not reduce the impact of perceived accountability under whatever shreds we have left of the Westminster System.

"Did any one see Lateline tonight...?"

Tonkin continues: "...and Mr Downer appears to be attempting to distance himself from his own department".

Of course. As with Kids Overboard, numerous other DIMIA antics and other examples of departments contaminated by the virus imposed on open government by the likes of Moore-Wilton, such as endemic rorting, from early in Howard's regime (and since, well-imitated by many state ALP governments).

Does anyone, really, still believe that these high-paid quasi officials at the Wheat Board, or the DFAT lackeys, would have dared breach the tacit understanding in place, that firewalls the government from being held actually responsible for its decisions, for fear of their jobs.

They now have a good employ as scapegoats and patsies, but what is happening here, has happened too many times already elsewhere and despite all the privatising-as distancing, commercial-in confidence and bodgy employment contracts, people still know who is ultimately really responsible.

Once again, also, democracy-loving Australians are forced to mourn the loss of the Senate as a means for imposing a little accountability, thanks to so many STUPID Australian people who wasted their senate vote at the 2004 election!!

Craig R Ed.: Yes I saw Lateline and Tony Jones' interviewing of Alexander Downer. I thought Downer was putting on a very brave face and was interested in the way he is in almost all interviews now making it a point to define and redefine what he means when he says "we" or "the government" - sometimes it means the inner cabinet, sometimes all of cabinet, sometimes the elected members of government plus all the public servants working under their direction. We'll post a transcript when it is available.

Lateline Transcript - Downer denials

Lateline Transcript - Tony Jones interviews Alexander Downer (7 February 2006):

No evidence to support Alia claims, says Downer
Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Well, just a short time ago I spoke with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer. He was in our Parliament House studios. Alexander Downer, thanks for joining us.


TONY JONES: Did you mislead Parliament when you said the Government's first knowledge of Alia and concerns relating to the AWB's use of the company was in the context of the Volker Inquiry?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, I did not mislead the Parliament. That is absolutely true. And this statement today by Mr Stott from AWB Limited has been very firmly contradicted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And, let me say it's very unusual for a Government department itself to put out a statement, but they have put out, I think, a very unequivocal statement. But, look, the beauty of this process is that we do have the Cole Commission. People are able to make statements in the Cole Commission, but it is, of course, the task of Mr Justice Cole to draw conclusions. And the person in question here in relation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, although she's resigned from the department some time ago - but she will have the opportunity to appear before the Cole Commission if Mr Justice Cole wants to call her and she'll have the opportunity to put her case.

TONY JONES: We'll come back to that in a moment. Just to confirm, your statement there seems to suggest the Government had never heard of Alia before the Volker Inquiry. Is that correct?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: That's right. When I talk about the Government, too - just so this is made absolutely clear - I don't just mean the Prime Minister, the Trade Minister and myself as the ministers, but also the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, officials within the department. That's the advice they've given me and nothing that has happened in recent weeks, well, you know since I made those statements in the Parliament and I think Mr Vaile probably did as well, um, nothing that has happened in the subsequent period has led us to revise that, or led the department to revise that advice.

TONY JONES: Alright. Mr Stott's statement says one of your officials, Jane Drake-Brockman, whom you were referring to earlier, wrote to him on 2nd November, 2000, granting DFAT's approval to go ahead - that is, to go ahead with the trucking arrangements with Alia. Is DFAT claiming that letter does not exist?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No. No, I don't think they are claiming she didn't write a letter. I think that's been out there in the public debate for quite some time. She wrote a letter. But, as the department has explained in the past - and let me not hesitate in explaining it again - the department was asked a question as to whether it would be appropriate for a Jordanian trucking company to be used, was that consistent with the UN sanctions? And the department's advice was that a Jordanian trucking company would be consistent with the UN sanctions, but there was no mention of Alia. All of that correspondence has been given to the Cole Commission. Look, the beauty of this is instead of having the usual low-grade debate we sometimes have in Australia where the Government is portrayed as the epitome of all evil and lies and cheats and so on, all of this material has gone to the Cole Commission and Mr Justice Cole will be able to draw conclusions and we'll all be able to read those conclusions at the end of March.

TONY JONES: Yes, but Mr Stott's statement also says that after this letter, which none of us, of course, have seen, so we don't know if it mentions Alia or not, though, presumably, he'll have to produce...

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I mean, some people have seen it, yeah. You can't say, "None of us have seen it." I've seen it.

TONY JONES: You've seen it? And it doesn't mention the word "Alia", is that what you are saying?


TONY JONES: But it mentions Jordanian trucking companies. Mr Stott's statement also says after the letter he had further discussions with Miss Jane Drake-Brockman and she told him that, "DFAT had looked into Alia." Now, is Jane Drake-Brockman denying any recollection of that conversation or is she denying the conversation ever took place?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I'd leave her to talk for herself. I don't want to put words into her mouth, but the department, through all its examination of these issues and Jane Drake-Brockman, has been interviewed by the Cole Commission already. But the department through all of his examination of these issues has not a scintilla of evidence to support the proposition that Mr Stott at any time mentioned Alia and, certainly, that the department at any time conducted due diligence. As a matter of fact, what is especially suspicious here, if I may say so, is that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is not established to conduct due diligence into foreign companies, it wouldn't have conducted due diligence. If it had been asked to do so and had endeavoured to try to do so it would be something that would very much be in the corporate memory. They have absolutely no memory of this at all.

TONY JONES: Well, perhaps the corporate memory doesn't include Miss Jane Drake-Brockman's recollections.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, no, but, as I said...

TONY JONES: You see, Mr Stott...


TONY JONES: Let me just finish the point, though. Mr Stott is soon going to be cross-examined about his statement. It seems likely, if he sticks to what he's said, there'll be a conflict between two versions of what happened here. He'll be saying, presumably, if he sticks to his statement, Jane Brockman told him she'll have to come on, in order to defend DFAT and say, "This never happened," or she doesn't recollect.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, that's the beauty of the process. Instead of having the usual low-grade hysterical claims of the Opposition that we're all criminals and should be in jail and we're in bed with Saddam Hussein - as if that were true, because, after all, we helped to rid of him over the objections of the Opposition - you've got Mr Justice Cole who is able to in a more dispassionate and objective way to look at all of the material. He's able to interview witness - well, his counsel is able to interview witnesses - and they'll be able to establish what they perceive to be the truth of this. You are quite right. I mean, Mr Stott says this and the department says that and what Jane Brockman will eventually say, if she's called before the Cole Commission, well, if she denies what Mr Stott says, I suppose that won't be a lead story on the national news or in the newspapers, but anyway...

TONY JONES: Or if she says she has no recollection, you'll have someone with a clear recollection and a statement conflicting with someone from your department formerly, who has no recollection.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: She hasn't even appeared.

TONY JONES: You don't know what she's going to say.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: (Laughs) I've no idea what she'll say, but whatever she says, we'll wait and see. But I'm just making the point that it is very unusual for a government department to issue a statement of this kind, and here is a government department issuing a statement saying that nobody who is involved in this issue at the time in the department has any recollection of this, nor is there any record of any kind of this conversation or of this due diligence being done into Alia. The point I'd make is, when you're talking about government departments, let's understand this - these are not party political figures, these are not political figures at all. They are Australian public servants and in my experience - and I've been a minister for 10 years - they are people of enormous integrity. Sure, they can make mistakes like any human being, but they are people of great integrity. I don't think for a minute they would have told me, Mark Vaile, the Prime Minister and issued a statement which was completely misleading, deliberately misleading and obviously they wouldn't be prepared to issue a statement, that was sort of politically cooked up by ministers.

TONY JONES: Alexander Downer, we will have to leave it there. We're out of time. We thank you very much for coming in to talk to us tonight.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: It's always a pleasure.

AWB et al raises questions

Questions of legitimacy and consistency

The Cole enquiry into the payment of bribes to Suddam Hussein's regime for wheat shipments raises a number of questions, and issues, well beyond the pragmatics of how world trade works.

  1. Australia donated well over $1,000,000,000 to Asian governments for the tsunami. When it was discovered that our aid was being creamed off by political and business interests we were incensed. The Australian government has long argued that our aid is being misused. Yet when Australian commercial entities behave unethically and engage in greasing the palms of the business and political interests of countries, to further our trade, that is the way business is done. It is justifiable least we lose trade and business. People, justifying trade at whatever price, tell us that only fools try and set an example in being ethical if it costs.
  2. The Australian government has made security and the war against terror a platform of their superior performance in government. If that is the case why would they ignore warnings on this issue from the United Nations, the United States Congress, Canadian Wheat Board and others? The payment of $300M contravenes the interational strategy, and complementary legislation by Australia, to track, and stop, the funding of terrorists and money laundering
  3. The competency of the adminstration of government, Attorney General, Ministry and Department, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry and Department
  4. Why have legislation, in Australia, that makes the payment of bribes a criminal offence if an acceptable justification is to be a pragmatic,"that is how things are done and it is okay?"
  5. Why have ethical codes of conduct for the Australian Public Service and published standards for corporations and other legislation if pragmatism makes them irrelevant and avoidable?
  6. What is impact, on the quality and outcomes of our democracy, of unelected political advisers, and senior public servants, second guessing Ministers and deciding what Ministers, governments and the public should know
  7. Senator Coleman from Minnesota, in the USA, is angry that Australia's former ambassador influenced him to cease an investigation into the payment of bribes by Australian wheat interests. The US is dribbling on about charging Australian business interests, and other people, with breaking US laws. Is the Honourable Senator willing to investigate his own country's corporate, and political interests, so assiduously? Do members of the US Congress think that thinking people, in the USA and around the world, are not aware of US hypocrisy, and sanctimonious, harping and lecturing? Many in the US seem to occupy a unique universe of their own fantasy.

Hypocrisy and Cant

Extract from the web site of AWB, taken February 7, 2006.

"Corporate Ethics and Code of Conduct

The Boards of AWB Limited and AWB (International) Limited are committed to clearly promoting and demonstrating that their business affairs and operations are at all times being conducted legally, ethically and in accordance with the highest standards of integrity and propriety. The AWB Code of Conduct policy is based on this principle and its observance provides the foundation on which the Company's reputation with growers, customers, suppliers and stakeholders is based.

The Code of Conduct policy sets out the values, responsibilities and obligations of all Board members and all people employed, contracted by, associated with or acting on behalf of the AWB Group."

View AWB's Corporate Ethics (pdf document)

Updated August, 2005

The Australian Wheat Board and management, agencies such as Foreign Affairs and Trade, Immigration and the Ministers of the Crown protected by firewalls from accountabity and the doctrine of plausible denial, more than adequately demonstrate the decline in political and corporate ethics, and standards of honesty and integrity, in Australia.

KEVINRBECK, Owner of the Mosaic Portal on the web http://users.bigpond.com/KEVINRBECK/default.htm

Beck and call.

PS, regarding Kevin Beck's comments concerning Coleman and US mendacity. "Dateline" ran a good segment on this issue ( also featuring an interview with a clearly-discomforted Bill Heffernan ). Dateline visited the cross-pond cousins on their "home" turf to discuss the issue. After much huffing, puffing and sanctiminious moralising, the American interests bolted like kids in a crowded swinmming pool ducking a turd, when the reporter finally, slyly, introduced the subject of the massively-subsidised, US wheat industry.

So much for real Free Trade. Why won't Rudd question the underlying system and conditions by which the AWB and others have been forced, in general,  to operate and attempt to compete, and who can or cannot move the goalposts? Time for a look in closer detail at the opaqued  terms and conditions of the AUSFTA, negotiated by one Mark Vaille?

As for Rowley's comments about Alexander Downer, my appendix as per this would be the irritating example of the Trade minister, Vaille, yet AGAIN ducking an invitation for an interview on 7.30 Report, along with his his dumb-insolent refusal to respond appropriately to reasonable questions asked by Rudd, in Parliament today.

Embarrassing emails

Email from Norman Davidson-Kelly (BHP) to Charles Stott (AWB) dated 15 September 2000:

"Charles, FYI Tigris is an Aussie registered company and enjoys the support of our friends at DFAT who, as I told you, are interested in the outcome fo the discussions to recover obligation. It was good to see you, Mark Vaile and Bob Bowker."

An investigative enquiry

Perhaps DFAT rang Alia and asked "Are you bad guys?" and they answered "No".

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