Who better to put in charge of post-war Iraq’s agriculture and food supply than the man who was chairman of the AWB when it was the biggest single source of kickbacks to Saddam & Co?
That’s what Alexander Downer did in 2003 – appointed Trevor Flugge as Joint Senior Agriculture Adviser in Iraq. Flugge was AWB chairman when the disgraced company was in the thick of its bribery and kickback phase and he remained involved after departing that position.
As the Cole inquiry heard yesterday, Flugge flew with AWB dead-CEO-walking Andrew Lindberg to Baghdad in 2002 to smooth over relations after Lord Downer told the UN Australia would support the US in a war against Iraq. As a result of this mission, Australian wheat prices were further inflated to channel more money to the Iraqi regime with whom we were about to go to war. For any reader old enough to understand the allusion, it makes Pig Iron Bob look Churchillian.
So what was Lord Downer saying about Trevor in the warm afterglow of Shock and Awe?
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“(Flugge and an American representative) will be responsible in the short term for providing advice and assistance to Iraq, both in terms of the rebuilding of Iraqi agriculture after thirty years of dictatorship, and also they’ll be responsible for ensuring food security and food supply. We’re delighted to have a very senior and experienced Australian play this significant role.
“Australia has long-standing involvement in Iraqi agriculture, not only through providing wheat as we have done for many years, but also we have had dry land farming projects in Iraq and we’ve had other substantial involvement over many years with Iraqi agriculture. So I think Trevor Flugge will be able to play a very substantial role. He is the former Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. He’s on a number of boards, including the board of Wesfarmers. So he’s a distinguished businessman, not just a farmer, who’s been very active in agripolitics in Australia over many years.
“He will go to Iraq fairly soon to make an initial assessment of the needs there. And I know from my own conversations with him in the last couple of weeks that he’s already given a lot of thought to what can be done to help Iraqi agriculture. This is also an area where Australia will be providing substantial assistance to Iraq. Our aid program is going to focus significantly on agriculture, but also of course in other areas such as water and sanitation and the like.
“But agriculture is going to be a real focus of our aid program, and with Trevor Flugge jointly being Senior Adviser for the immediate future on agriculture in Iraq, it gives us an opportunity to make a real contribution to the rehabilitation of that country.”
Just like we made to Saddam’s oppression of it.