Saturday, February 04, 2006

What's in it for you, Alexander?

The commentary below, written in yesterday's Australian by the Foreign Minister, comes from a hard-done-by man at the centre of a media witch-hunt... and a bloody good spin-doctor in his office.
Last year's ambassador to New York is now Senior Veep to an investment group with assets of $750 billion dollars... and was prepared to risk his street-cred over a paltry 300 million of bribe payments. Why? Because of the promise of the next job I'm guessing.

Downer was touted by the Bush administration to head the IAEA. In this capacity he would have been currently publicly leading the world into war with Iran. What would your next career move be after something like that?

However, that employment path didn't occur, and now Downer is whining from his corner about the perpetration of unfair tactics against him and hs goons. Poor baby. You'll be strong and powerful again one day, unfortunately.

[extract from The Oz]

There can be no more serious charge than to suggest the Government was aware of kickbacks and acted to cover them up. Yet this is the claim being made by Labor's Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd -- without any evidence. These men, who aspire to lead this country, are suggesting my colleagues and I are dishonest and corrupt. It is an intemperate and demeaning approach to political debate. But what is worse is that the same slur is made against the many diplomats and officials who work diligently in my department.

It is astonishing that such an allegation is being peddled by Beazley and Rudd without any supporting evidence. As they well know, written communications are the norm in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Records of conversation, cables and emails detail myriad negotiations, conversations, briefings and instructions from post to post around the world and back to Canberra every day. The Cole inquiry has access to all DFAT's staff and records.

The Government has always maintained that we had no knowledge of AWB being involved in kickbacks. Allegations from its commercial rivals had been put to AWB and referred to the UN (which oversaw the program and its contracts) and we received assurances at the time that the claims were baseless. For all the political and media ruckus of recent times, this reality has not changed. Yet Beazley and Rudd continue with their smear, regardless.

The corruption of the UN's oil-for-food program is a major international scandal. It was uncovered by the Volcker inquiry following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In 2003, Labor's advice was that we leave Saddam in power and continue to rely on the UN's sanction regime to keep him under pressure. In other words, the Labor plan would have seen the corrupted sanctions regime still in operation.

The Australian Government fully supported the Volcker inquiry and instructed our departments to provide it with all the necessary assistance. We also urged Australian companies, including AWB Ltd, to co-operate fully.

As confronting as Paul Volcker's report was late last year, we are better for the knowledge of what went on. In response, we established the Cole inquiry to investigate the allegations that Australian companies, including AWB, could have wittingly or unwittingly paid kickbacks to the Iraqi regime under the oil-for-food program. The public hearings of the Cole inquiry have resulted already in many disturbing revelations. The inquiry is doing precisely what the Government asked it to do - get to the heart of what actually happened.

The inquiry has access to whatever documents or witnesses it requires. We expect nothing other than a thorough investigation and fearless findings. As commissioner Terence Cole said, he has the power to look into the level of knowledge within the Government. He also said he would ask for an extension of his terms of reference if there was evidence that commonwealth officers had been implicated in the commission of any offence - but he has also said that stage has not been reached.

Natural justice requires that we all suspend judgment on AWB, other companies and their staff until the inquiry hears all of its evidence and makes its findings. We should not indulge in trial by media, which leads to the hanging, drawing and quartering of parties before the inquiry process is complete.


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