Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ozpolitic: AWB corruption

Yesterday Mark Vaile, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the federal National party and federal Minister for Trade, gave evidence at the Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating allegations about corruption at the Australian Wheat Board. The major allegation is that under the UN oil-for-food programme (queue the howls of criticisms about multi-lateralism), AWB was exporting wheat to Iraq and that over a number of years, it paid $300 million in kick-backs to a dummy company that siphoned money to Saddam's family.

Vaile appeared because some 21 cables were sent to his office alerting him to concerns about AWB. Vaile's evidence at the Royal Commission was classic stone-walling. According to media reports, Vaile effectively said he didn't recall the content of any of the cables and wasn't aware of concerns. Apparently, he used the terms "I don't know" and "I have no recollection" more than 20 times during his testimony.

Today is Foriegn Minister Alexander Downer's turn. As foolish as Vaile looks, Downer's situation is worse since he's said he did read some of the cables and was aware of the concerns. If Downer does a good job, Howard may not have to appear however he was he already spinning this morning on ABC radio, comparing his potential appearance with Hawke's appearance in the early 80s which occurred in Hawke's first year as PM...

Some are comparing the situation with Nixon's sacking of Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigations.

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