Modia Minotaur

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

AWB: Where Will It End?

As the tabling of letters written by the Prime Minister at the Oil for Food enquiry yesterday shows - and as I wrote earlier - it appears the AWB scandal touches on the highest echelons of government. And though, as always, the chair of the enquiry is hand picked by the government, it appears that Michael Cole QC is no government patsy. To play the devil's advocate for a moment - and not to allow Howard to do his usual I Was Not Informed, Don't Blame Me routine, or to circumvent the fact that the buck stops at the top - it would perhaps be wrong to focus too much on the culpability of the Prime Minister without examining the role of Mark Vaile and Alexander Downer, given that it was their respective departments who approved of the AWB deal. (Kevin Rudd would certainly disagree that the Prime Minister has nothing to answer to - in fact, in one of those exciting radio moments, he rang ABC's AM programme live on air yesterday to tell them exactly what he thought of Howard's comments on the letters (which can be read here

Even removing the component of paying kickbacks to the same bloodthirsty regime that it was supposed to be ousting, the enquiry is uncovering some pretty startling stuff. For example, since when is the fact that a monopoly exporter was `only' inflating its prices to recover a multimillion dollar debt for a massive corporation (BHP) `the good news'?

But where will this all end up? Naturally, were I writing pre-July 2005, the preparations would already be being made for a Senate enquiry, and what a humdinger it would be too (the Opposition have already pledged to launch a parliamentary enquiry after the next election - presuming they win it, of course).

There is talk of criminal charges against AWB executives, but this is cold comfort when we know that the ministers who allowed this corporation to misbehave on the massive scale that they did will, as usual, get off scot free.

Mind you, with all the thrills and spills going on in the National Party at the moment, Mark Vaile might be pleased to walk the plank ...


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