Alexander Downer wants the Lowy Institute to ask different questions: “Does the sun rise in the east? Most Australians would answer ‘yes’. See, the answer is yes, we’re right to invade Iraq.” But he also might not like a legal question that could be raised if Terrence Cole recommends AWB or some of its officers should be charged with anti-terrorism laws.

The possibility was canvassed as his hearings rushed to a close. As the Oz reported in part:

Mr Cole has been asked to consider the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism Act, which makes it a crime to provide funds, even indirectly, to regimes that support terrorism.

The criminal offence also applies “where the person is reckless as to whether those funds will be used to facilitate a terrorist act”.

There are more than enough common or garden variety criminal and civil breaches for Cole to think about over the next two months, but the terrorism stuff would be interesting. The problem for Downer might be whether Iraq under Saddam was a terrorist regime. Terrifying and terrible, yes, but terrorist? That might be interesting.

After inventing spurious reasons for invading the place and then constantly lying about the results of that invasion, the Australian government might have to prove that giving a lump sum to the families of suicide bombers – a sort of Legacy for the Middle East – was supporting terrorism.

It’s not exactly the stuff of World Trade Centres, but it’s the worst the Oz could come up with. Oh, Saddam also allegedly supported Hamas, but so do most Palestinians according to the ballot box.

Saddam did terrible things to his own people – but so do plenty of other dictators and despots we’re happy to do business with. You’d have to suspect Attorney-General Ruddock and Foreign Affairs Minister Downer would prefer Tezza Cole to stay well clear of any funny terrorism laws.

Peter Fray

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