Modia Minotaur

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Friday, January 20, 2006

AWB: `A Whole New Class of Evil'

There was a certain je ne sais quoi about Kevin Rudd as he made his major media debut for this year on last night's 7.30 Report. Somehow, he gave the impression that nobody would be calling him Pixie in 2006.

Of course, he was assisted in this by the issue he was on the show to discuss - the increasingly, incredibly grubby Australian Wheat Board scandal.

When the scandal first broke, I expressed some doubt that it would be able to take root in the imagination of the wider public. I still hold those doubts. Whereas something like the Schapelle Corby case captured the (forgive me) hearts and minds of many ordinary Australians as they could presumably picture themselves in her position, there's very little for Average Joe to latch onto in the AWB case. Were Australia suffering the same sorts of casualties as Britain (or indeed, America) in Iraq, the situation may be different. Were it also still travelling on the sheep's back, it may also be different - the grain farmers who grew the wheat, the sale of which ended up being spent on Saddam Hussein's palaces, are already extremely angry about the whole affair, as they well and truly have a right to be. As AWB is a monopoly, they have no choice but to deal with the company or go out of business. There can be no question of ethical boycotts.

One such farmer summed up the situation on the 7:30 Report last night very well:
What the AWB has done is to defrauded a humanitarian program, which was designed to assist the Iraqi people, who were suffering under Saddam Hussein, and they've actually given the money to Saddam Hussein. So, this is simply not in the same category as a whole new class of evil, I suppose.

There's really no getting around it - the whole thing not only stinks to high heaven, but it is also becoming clear that the rot goes right to the top. While Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile may be directly or indirectly culpable, the enquiry that has been set up has been set up (as all good enquiries are) in such a way as to deliberately shield those who need to be shielded. But the fact remains that a government body handed money to the Hussein regime with one hand, while ordering Australian troops to depose this regime with the other. That no ministerial heads will roll over this is a deep indictment of the state of ministerial responsibility under the Howard Government.

As Rudd said, it has a way to go. Exactly how far remains to be seen.

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