you hide behind a split hair? They don’t offer much in the way of
protection. National Party leader, Deputy PM and Trade Minister Mark
Vaile may find his words from last Wednesday haunting him.

Back then he said
“I did not mislead the House yesterday. The member for Griffith’s
question referred to the so called kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, not
Iraq. Let us just make it very clear. I also referred in my answer to
the responses that the Minister for Foreign Affairs had given on this
issue. Let us make it very clear. Yesterday you were talking about
ALEA. ALEA surfaced as a result of the Volcker inquiry. Today you were
asking questions about allegations of inflated prices in 2003.”

Will that “so called kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, not Iraq” be enough?

In The Australian
today Vaile’s predecessor Tim Fischer is quoted as saying he is
prepared to testify at the Commission of Inquiry into the wheat sales
scandal, even if current government ministers were not. “Mr Fischer,
who was trade minister when the UN oil-for-food program started in
1996, told The Australian: “If called, of course I’d be willing to testify. I have nothing to hide.”

Howard has restricted the inquiry,to be headed by former NSW judge
Terence Cole, to possible wrongdoing by employees of private companies,
says The Oz. Mr Fischer said he didn’t believe AWB had “gone down the brown paper bag route.”

a big difference between straight-out bribes and what went on here,”
said Fischer. “But it certainly shouldn’t have happened. I know some
big companies – BHP for example – have refused to go down that path (of
paying kickbacks) and have lost business as a result. It’s always the
better option.”

Note that “There’s a big difference between straight-out bribes and what went on here.” Just how hard will it be tested?