Michael Pascoe

“(A) Trade Commissioner in a posting like Jordan
would be focussing entirely on the major item of trade, which would be wheat.
When I say ‘entirely’ he’d be focussing a lot of his time on selling
wheat. He’d also be looking for new markets, but he’d be looking to increase
the range of his contacts within the community in order to hold that market.
He’d be trying to find out where the competition was coming from and he would
be putting in place measures to try and meet that competition.”

So said former Australian ambassador Bruce
Haigh on the 7.30 Report last night. His comments have been largely overlooked by this morning’s press which
focuses on what the Austrade man in Jordan
knew about Alia.

The Alia boss’s claims of a reasonably close
relationship with the embassy in general, and Austrade in particular, comes down
to his word against DFAT’s stonewall, but Haigh confirms what other grain trade
professionals have told us – AWB and DFAT were pretty much the same animal in
those funny parts of the world, where Australia’s perceived interests were
pretty much AWB’s.

Haigh again: “An Australian Trade
Commissioner in a post like Jordan would have made it or should have made it
his business to know about a company like Alia and if he didn’t, then he was
not carrying out his functions properly.”

And again: “It would be very surprising if
staff at the embassy, including the most senior staff, hadn’t had contact with
people like Alia. It’s part of their job and of necessity they must. When
you’re overseas you have to get to know all of the players in whatever market
or whatever political environment you’re operating in.”

The other key interest in AWB’s Middle East world remains with
the spooks. And, no, we certainly haven’t been told all about that. Stay tuned.