Michael Pascoe writes:

Another week, 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. Crikey’s timeline and
Saturday’s nice Smage effort by Marian Wilkinson and David Marr illustrate the mess.

However, for those hoping for ministerial blood,
the problem remains that the government is beyond being embarrassed. This is
the DIMA government. There is no reason to expect any other department is
better run or less incompetent than the Vanstone/Ruddock gang that randomly locks up and/or 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 must have known that AWB was bankrolling Saddam long
before Volcker hit the public fan. But that remains the key plank of the
Howard/Downer/Vaile defence: this is not a competent government.

Mike Steketee suggests the reason DFAT went limp on sanction enforcement from 1996 was that
the department was reflecting Downer’s contempt for the UN. Steketee wants
Downer to explain himself to the inquiry as “it would help determine whether
he simply was grossly negligent or made a conscious decision to ignore
Australian law”.

Mike, there’s no question – they’ll end up
pleading negligence in accordance with the evidence as the Cole inquiry has
shown Downer’s DFAT to be as incompetent
as Vanstone’s DIMA.

What’s a tad disappointing is that the
government doesn’t really mind for one key, over-riding and obvious reason: the
electorate doesn’t really mind. Check the polls.

Peter Fray

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