Christian
Kerr writes:

The
Canberra Times
really deserves a wider audience. Take these observations on the
Cole Inquiry from Paul Malone on the role of Foreign Affairs in the scandal:

So far we have had relatively junior officers –
Executive Level 1s and 2s – and the odd branch head called. But when will we
hear from the division heads, deputy secretaries and secretaries who are paid
to take responsibility for programs and departments?

Take one small example. In March 2004 Alexander
Downer and Mark Vaile were informed that the UN was to establish an independent
inquiry into the oil-for-food program and that the AWB was the largest single
supplier under the program.

I would like to know precisely what Alexander
Downer meant when he wrote in response to this ministerial brief: ”This
worries me, how were AWB prices set and who set them? I want to know about
this.” What did the secretary of the day, Dr Ashton Calvert, do in response to
his note?

From my experience in the public service, when
a minister writes, ”This worries me”, departments jump, and not just at the
junior levels…

DFAT is in
an interesting position. Crikey understands that there is a serious split
inside the department over its dealings with the media in relation to Cole. DFAT
doesn’t seem to have a spin-doctor able to play hardball. Instead, all it’s
been able to do in response to Cole is play dead.

As a
result, Cole coverage lacks proper context. Reports and analysis have to be
based solely on the Cole transcripts. Alexander
Downer and Mark Vaile are already feeling enough heat. Their department isn’t
helping.

Peter Fray

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