Michael Pascoe writes:

A favoured traditional method of laundering
dirty money is to pop down to the local casino and give it a spin through the
roulette wheel. Yes, there’s a hefty charge for the wash, but it comes out clean.

It’s much the same with dirty documents –
only in this case you need to use a lawyer instead of a casino. Throw all the
incriminating figures, files and faxes in a laundry bag and drop them on the
legal mercenary of your choice for an opinion. You might even choose to use the
lawyer’s storage facility. The documents
won’t be cleansed, but the idea is to effectively sterilise them. Legal
privilege, old chap.

That’s pretty much what the opposition
legal affairs spokesperson Nicola Roxon is suggesting in The Oz as part of Caroline Overington’s coverage of the latest footnote in the AWB
saga. Three major firms – Blakes, Minters and Arnold Bloch Leibler – are
fronting the Federal Court in an attempt to keep 1,240 AWB documents out of
Commissioner Cole’s grasp.

“This is a very serious thing,” says Roxon. “Legal professional privilege is there for the public good. We
don’t want people to use privilege to cover up their mistakes, or protect
themselves from an inquiry. We need good lawyers to stand up and say: this is
not what privilege is for. If those documents weren’t honestly produced for
legal advice, they should not be privileged.”

There are several interesting aspects to
those 1,240 documents. Some of them have
been sitting in the lawyers’ safes since 2003 – well before the Iraq
kickbacks hit the public fan, back when the AWB was still pretending it never
done nuffink. That might make a cynical mind wonder about the contents.

There’s also the little matter that
everyone who’s ever bought a loaf of bread is already supposed to have given
Cole any and all documents that might be interesting. The thing about documents
is that they are generally created by one party to give to another – I wonder
who the counter-parties might have been for those 1,240.

And then there’s the civil action started
by the North American wheat farmers against AWB. One might wonder if some of
the documents might refer to what might have been happening in Yemen or Pakistan.

The civil case is another shoe dropping for
AWB. Their big problem is that the monster slipping off the footwear is a
centipede.

Peter Fray

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