Michael Pascoe writes:

The grilling of DFAT officials starts at the Cole inquiry today. One trusts the public servants have had time to read today’s Smage first as Marian Wilkinson’s story about them not surrendering relevant documents to the inquiry is something they should be forewarned about:

The documents not so far produced to the commissioner,
Terence Cole, QC, include daily internal Foreign Affairs reports
summarising highly classified “Category A” cables for the relevant
dates in the AWB kickback scandal.

They
also include weekly briefs, called policy information reports, for the
times when the Government was responding to allegations that AWB was
involved in kickbacks in Iraq.

The highly classified policy
information reports usually summarise discussions of hot topics by
senior departmental officers about key priorities and unexpected
developments. The reports are designed as a digest for busy senior
ministers and officials who do not have time to read the thousands of
cables flooding their office.

Well, maybe they are
irrelevant then – it seems no busy senior ministers or officials ever
read anything that they didn’t want to know anyway.

The second most curious thing that struck me about last week’s episodes of Terence Cole’s Dancing with Desperate Lost Executives
was the relatively close involvement of DFAT in the little matter of
BHP’s US$5 million wheat “gift” compared with AWB’s billions of dollars
in Iraqi shipments. It seemed DFAT was all over the BHP proposal – an
impression we haven’t been given about the AWB deals. Maybe the
bureaucrats will correct that this week.

The most curious effort though was the headlines putting words into Tezza Cole’s mouth, for example, the SMH‘s “Cole accuses BHP of bribing Saddam“.
He didn’t. He certainly asked BHP’s former lawyer in reference to the
deal: “Why is that not a soft bribe?” But asking is a big difference
from declaring it such a thing – as every banker and property developer
shelling out $10K for dinner with John Howard or more generous gifts
for various State political parties could certainly explain.

The Cole inquiry is so incredibly ripe with misfits, mischief and misdeeds there is no need to exaggerate anything.

Peter Fray

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