John Howard’s revelation in parliament yesterday linking DFAT
to the Australian Wheat Board’s alleged $300 million Iraq kickbacks
should put pressure on his Government to expand the terms of reference
of its Cole inquiry.

Just what role Foreign Affairs played in
the operation is an interesting question, particularly given the role
of middle men and “fixers” in Asian and Middle East trade.

Our
trade sources tell us that companies like the AWB will use brokers from
Australia who originate from the country they’re trying to “penetrate.”
In other words, there are a range of dual-nationality “fixers” here in
Australia from every third world country you care to mention.

What
needs to be asked is: “who were the special friends in Australia” that
AWB used for deals in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Middle East? And what
role – if any – did Australian authorities play in liaising with them?

Here’s
where we’ll find the corruption. Often these middle men (and there are
women) will pay hidden kickbacks, in the form of free holidays, goods
and services – all difficult to trace – to their counterparts here.

But
tracing that would need police or royal commission investigatory
powers. And the hardheads in government turn a blind eye to this,
because they understand how business is done.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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