Does The
Australian
‘s George Megalogenis have a crystal ball? He had a cracker
of a piece
on Saturday on sheeting the blame,
on the Howard Government’s unique approach to all the who-knew-what-when issues
that have bedevilled it for most of its life:

Howard must be exhausted by the need to hose
down the impression that incompetence is routine in his administration.

Even so, experience encourages him to declare
his people innocent, just because he can. The cycle of crisis has taught him
that he doesn’t need to dismiss or demote – regardless of how poorly a minister
or official has dispensed his public duties – because voters and the media
eventually switch off.

But each escape increases the risks that a
future Labor prime minister will try to use a royal commission to settle the
historical score. The precedent for retribution was set in 1995 by the former
Western Australian government of Richard Court, which called a royal commission,
ostensibly, into former Labor premier Carmen Lawrence’s memory.

A perfect
intro to the latest news from the Cole inquiry into the AWB!

Cole’s
powers are limited – but could end up wider that any Senate Committee. We saw
the ripples of blame spread at the inquiry into children overboard.
But that was the Senate. Lower house ministers couldn’t be called. Cole could
be different.

In true
Sergeant Schultz style, the Prime Minister has said this morning that he “knew
nothing of bribes”
paid by the AWB. But who did? DFAT surely. And what does that mean for the two
ministers involved, Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile?

The
ripples are spreading.

Peter Fray

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