Michael Pascoe writes:

DFAT’s first two witnesses on Terence Cole’s Iraqi kickbacks stand have
joined the procession before them on the slippery slope of forgetfulness and
incompetence, but in the process we’ve been given a glimpse of what’s likely to
be AWB’s final line of defence.

It’s the standard and predictable one, of
course – send the Indians for slaughter while protecting the chiefs.

Yesterday’s efforts had Bronte Moules
forgetting when questioned by the UN
that she had ever heard of anything untoward about AWB – a touch of amnesia
that’s amazing even by this inquiry’s standards – and Australia’s current Ambassador
to Egypt, Bob Bowker, explaining how a phone call to AWB’s government lobbyist
was enough to convince him that all was ship-shape with the company.

Well, who would ever think PR folk and
lobbyists might not tell the complete truth?

The real value in the exchanges, though, was
the line pursued by AWB’s lawyer, James Judd. The AFR reports him as saying of
Bowker: “Had he asked someone else, he may well
have gotten a different answer. It might be expected that if the matters had
been addressed properly, then the conduct which has become the subject of
this inquiry might have been nipped in
the bud.”

So there – it’s DFAT’s fault. By
implication, the problem was all down the bottom of the AWB chain and if only
someone had told the wonderful chaps at the top, well, they simply wouldn’t
have tolerated that sort of thing. Simply not cricket. Nip in the bud indeed.

Unfortunately for AWB though, Terence Cole
probably isn’t entirely stupid. And on something as clearly dodgy as the Tigris deal, we’ve already
heard evidence that the board was told lots about it and washed its hands of
thing, leaving it to those splendid chaps in senior management to get on with
inflating wheat prices in their Iraqi tradition.

But if the AWB Indians hadn’t already
twigged to which way their chiefs were likely to steer the company’s defence,
it should be a most timely wake-up call.

Peter Fray

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