John Howard has dismissed speculation Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
might lose his job and force a reshuffle this morning.

The Prime Minister said in an interview with Macquarie Radio
that Downer
clearly did not know that AWB was paying bribes. “If he had he would
have done something about it,” he said. “The same applies with Mark
Vaile. Any suggestion that I have lost any confidence in either of them
is
sadly and totally misplaced.”

Has the Cole Inquiry reported early? Not that we’re aware of. Indeed,
the most recent indications have suggested that it may still hold further
hearings.

So, does that mean the Prime Minister is saying that Downer and Vaile
will keep their jobs regardless of Cole’s findings? Probably. Yet another one
of those great Yes, Minister quotes says you never set up an inquiry unless you
know what the outcomes will be.

But what if Cole strays and decides that the pair were grossly
negligent? The PM is suggesting that they would still keep their jobs.
It’s enough to make one think that Cole’s terms of reference were
designed to deliver such an outcome.

Peter Fray

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