Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer and Trade Minister Mark Vaile
were warned two years ago that trucking firm Alia may have funnelled money to
Saddam Hussein’s regime in breach of UN sanctions, according to evidence
presented to the Cole inquiry yesterday. And the SMHreports an interesting name:

An AWB
executive, Darryl Hockey, had also warned [senior Foreign Affairs official, Zena Armstrong],”the Australian Government
would be party to [AWB’s] defence” if there was an investigation because
the allegations went back to 1999, when AWB was the Australian Wheat Board, a
government body…

Darryl Hockey, of course, is a former senior adviser to John Anderson
and chief of staff to former South Australian Liberal deputy premier Rob Kerin.
He worked for the Government in Iraq in 2004, through AusAid.

Hockey’s name has come up at Cole before. In February, The Age reported:

In
another example of the close relationship between AWB and the Federal
Government regarding Iraqi wheat sales, documents released by the inquiry
reveal AWB asked the ministers’ offices to treat the December 2002 Iraq wheat
contracts as “commercial-in-confidence”.

It is
often common for the trade minister’s office to issue a media release when AWB
secures a substantial wheat contract…

“I
would caution against media comment as the last thing we need is for them (Mr
Downer and Mr Vaile) to get drawn into saying anything,” wrote AWB’s
general manager of public affairs, Darryl Hockey, in a December 11, 2002, email
to colleagues.

Mr
Vaile and Mr Downer, who in August 2002 were widely quoted in the media
congratulating AWB on resolving a stand-off with Iraq over the quality of wheat
shipments, did not release media statements about AWB’s December 2002
contracts.

His former Coalition colleagues have certainly been talking about him in
the corridors of Canberra since Cole got underway.

Peter Fray

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