The Cole
inquiry hasn’t had much of a look in during Budget week – and provided Dolly
Downer with the excuse for his
“I have sat in this Parliament for 21 years and I have never seen an Opposition
give up on Question Time on the Budget after just six questions” dummy spit on
Wednesday.

But it’s
still a problem for the government – and could be more of a problem, with
Parliament up for the Budget hard sell and the PM off overseas.

United Nations customs official Felicity Johnston has been giving
evidence
this morning. She insists that she warned the Howard Government six years ago that AWB
might have paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime through the trucking
company Alia.

She has told the inquiry she stands by claims she made on ABC TV last month
that she told DFAT official Bronte Moules in January 2000 about concerns
regarding AWB’s wheat contracts with Iraq.

“I shared all aspects of the information available to me including
inland transportation costs,” Johnston told the
inquiry via video link from Washington. “I did disclose the information regarding inland transportation.”

Once again, though, there’s no smoking gun. Johnston says she does
not have any notes of the conversation to back her claims. Moules has been recalled to the inquiry’s witness box to give further
evidence today.

The Government may yet fall down the Cole hole.

Peter Fray

Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey.

This extraordinary year is almost at an end. But we know that time waits for no one, and we won’t either. This is the time to get on board with Crikey.

For a limited time only, choose what you pay for a year of Crikey.

Save up to 50% or dig deeper so we can dig deeper.

See you in 2021.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

SAVE 50%