A briskly
worded little memo on the Cole Inquiry whizzed around to every
worker in the Department of Defence yesterday. A brisk little memo talking
about a brisk time frame:

Cole
Commission of Inquiry

You
will be aware that the Government has established the Inquiry to Investigate
Australian Companies in Relation to the United Nations (UN) Oil-for-Food
Programme to Iraq (the Cole Inquiry).

Defence,
like other Government agencies, is obliged to ensure that the Inquiry has access
to all relevant documents. On 17 February 2006 the Inquiry formally requested
Defence to forward documents. The request, which asks for documents in the
period from the start of 1995 to the end of 2005, defines the exact material
the Commission needs and is wide-ranging.

To
ensure a comprehensive response to the Inquiry, Defence has established a team,
led by Mr Stephen Merchant, to collect and deliver all relevant documents to
the Inquiry by 4pm 24 February. The Secretary and CDF have written to Service
Chiefs and Group Heads requesting them to nominate officers from each Group to
search for relevant documents, including individual holdings.

If, in
the course of your duties, you have any documents relating to the UN
Oil-for-Food Programme (including records of conversations, hand-written notes,
formal message traffic or briefs), that are originated by Defence or from any
other source, you are requested to contact the Cole Inquiry – Defence Task
Force on [email protected] as soon as possible.

Brisk
memo, brisk time frame – and a job that can be completed briskly? Well, the
Prime Minister says all the documents have been handed over, so if he’s telling
the truth the answer surely has to be “yes”.

But if
he’s telling the truth, why the memo?

Peter Fray

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