Saturday, February 11, 2006

AWB Kickbacks

Man this makes me angry, when something like this happens from people in public office should be met by an extreme example of jail time so that anyone else in public office who even contemplates breaking the law is aware of the consequences.

If something like this happened in private industry jail time would be a given.

Howards response so far has been straight out of the George W book of deny deny deny.

Whether you believe the Food for Oil program was politically correct or not (or a sham from the very beginning) this example of government slush funds leads me to believe the wool is being pull over someones eyes yet again (the public or joe government for thinking we still believe them? who knows)

Ful background article below but a pretty good video compilation is available in the article as well.,10117,18086345-37435,00.html

AWB engulfs third minister
By Steve Lewis and Cath HartFebruary 09, 2006

Police inquiry... after The Chaser satirists pursued a witness.
A THIRD senior minister, Warren Truss, has been dragged into the wheat scandal, following revelations that a commonwealth agency examined the illegal kickbacks to Iraq in 2004.As Labor continued to pursue the Government over the oil-for-food affair, the Wheat Export Authority was forced to admit that despite earlier denials it was aware of the commercial arrangements between AWB and a sham trucking company.
The admission prompted Labor demands to know what Mr Truss was told, because he was the minister for agriculture at the time and the WEA was a government body that reported to him.

WEA chairman Tim Besley, a well-known business figure who chaired the 2000 inquiry into bush phone services, admitted the Government agency examined the alleged "kickbacks" in 2004 as part of its regular performance monitoring activities.
But AWB - which paid $300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime - "denied any wrong" when grilled by WEA staff, Mr Besley said.
Instead, AWB staff told the agency of the "unique circumstances of Iraq sales ... to explain why it was necessary to pay a Jordanian trucking company and why prices may appear above global benchmarks".
Mr Besley, a former chairman of the Commonwealth Bank, originally gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry in November last year. He told the Senate committee on rural and regional affairs there was "no evidence" of commercial arrangements between AWB and Alia based "on the documents we saw".
But in a letter sent this week to committee chairman, Liberal senator Bill Heffernan, Mr Besley admitted his answer in November was "factually incomplete". He said the agency's 2004 monitoring included examining "agency facilitation payments". But the WEA found "no payments recorded for Iraq wheat sales".
Last night, Mr Besley - who chaired a WEA board meeting in Adelaide yesterday - denied the agency was negligent for failing to identify the kickbacks.
Asked if he believed the agency had been misled by the AWB, Mr Besley said: "I have been turning that over in my mind ... I have been considering that."
Established in 1999, the WEA monitors AWB's performance.
Mr Besley's embarrassing about-face triggered a fresh bout of claims the Coalition must have known of the kickbacks paid by AWB. Greens senator Rachel Siewert, who grilled Mr Besley during the November hearings, yesterday said the WEA's admission "puts the problem clearly on the minister's desk".
"Here again is a Government agency which heard of allegations of kickbacks and knew of the payments to Alia," Senator Siewert said. "Did they tell the minister? And if not, why not?"
Mr Truss, now Transport Minister, last night declined to comment on whether he received advice from the agency about AWB arrangements. But Labor said Mr Truss and current Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran both had a case to answer.
"(Mr McGauran) and ... Warren Truss must come clean on what they were told by the WEA," Labor's agriculture spokesman Gavin O'Connor said.
Mr O'Connor said it "defied belief" that the ministers were not made aware of the payments to Alia. But Mr Besley said the information given to the minister contained no evidence of wrongdoing. Instead, the minister was told the WEA had given AWB a "clean bill of health".
In a statement last night, Mr McGauran said all relevant documents - between the WEA and AWB - had been provided to the Cole inquiry.
The minister said the WEA report, sent to Mr Truss, was confidential because it contained market-sensitive material.
The Opposition has been labouring to find evidence of a "smoking gun", showing that the Government knew of AWB's kickbacks to Saddam's regime.
In parliament yesterday, Labor focussed on allegations Trade Minister Mark Vaile and members of his department had met with AWB and BHP over a "donation" to Iraq through an AWB subsidiary called Tigris.
Mr Howard staunchly defended Mr Vaile and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer over other allegations bureaucrats approved AWB's use of Jordanian trucking company Alia to pay transport fees - a company now believed to be a front for bribes.
"I'm confident what (Mr Vaile) said is true and I'm confident what Mr Downer said is true," Mr Howard said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has rejected suggestions raised at the Cole inquiry that former bureaucrat Jane Drake-Brockman had told AWB the department had looked into Alia.
Ms Drake-Brockman has given evidence to the Cole inquiry in secret and has refused to comment directly. At her home yesterday a friend said Ms Drake-Brockman's only comment was "she strongly believed in letting the process take its course".

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