The Cole
inquiry hasn’t been in the headlines this week – but “what ifs” are dominating
discussion in political circles.

We’ve already had the Prime Minister’s premature verdict that his
Foreign Affairs and his Trade Minister have done nothing wrong
– an, implicitly, that he has behaved above reproach.

This has lead to further speculation. What if Commissioner Cole
recommends that AWB executives go to trial? What if, when they have their day
in court, their defence barristers call public servants and ministerial
advisers from Howard’s and Downer’s and Vaile’s offices? What if they even call
Howard, Downer and Vaile themselves for the cross examination that was not
allowed by Cole?

What if –
because of natural justice – any immunity they had from cross examination at
the inquiry disappears? And what if some niggling discrepancy appears in their
story? What then?