Michael Pascoe writes:

Another day, another truckload of
embarrassment for the federal government over its cosy relationship
with its AWB cronies and the whole septic tank of incompetence
surrounding the Iraqi kickbacks.

However, for those calling for
ministerial heads, the problem remains that this government is beyond
being embarrassed. This is the DIMA government. There is no reason to
expect that any other department is better run or less incompetent than
the Vanstone gang that randomly locks up and deports Australians
without any apparent punishment.

When DIMA heads are made
ambassadors and the relevant minister gets away with mouthing
platitudes disaster after disaster, why should anyone expect
responsibility might be taken for not adding one and one together over
AWB?

Yes, the evidence continues to mount that a competent
government would have known that AWB was bankrolling Saddam long before
Volcker made it official. But that remains the key plank of the
Howard/Downer/Vaile defence – this is not a competent government.

Meanwhile,
it’s nice to see the Prime Minister’s handlers taking their strategy
leads from Crikey. Just as we first suggested that calling the Cole
inquiry would be a major part of Howard’s early innocence plea, our
suggestion that “national security” would be next has come to fruition.

As AAP reports this morning:

Prime Minister John Howard has defended Australia’s
cooperation with the Volcker inquiry, saying the government could not
just hand over classified intelligence to other countries.

The
Cole inquiry into AWB’s $300 million kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s
regime has heard Foreign Minister Alexander Downer tried to block UN
investigators from interviewing key government witnesses about the
scandal last year.

But Mr Howard defended Mr Downer’s actions.

“The basis on which he did that was quite valid,” Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

“The
cooperation didn’t extend to just arbitrarily handing over classified
documents which were the intelligence of foreign countries.”

Yep,
saw that coming. And we can expect more of it. Something we don’t
expect to see is Cole inquiring into how our spooks knew so much about
the Jordanian trucking company AWB was using and exactly how the
kickback racket worked. Too much “national security” involved in that.

Peter Fray

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