Out of the five volumes and more than 2000 pages of the Cole Report, page 22 of Volume Four – Findings – is probably the only one you really need to read:

30.7 It is the actual knowledge of the Commonwealth that the information was false or misleading that is material in considering whether a benefit or advantage was conferred by the Commonwealth by reason of the provision of misleading information. It is immaterial that the Commonwealth may have had the means or ability to find out that the information was misleading, or that it ought reasonably to have known that the information was misleading. It is also immaterial that the Commonwealth, at the time it conferred the benefit or advantage, suspected but did not know that the information was misleading. The question is whether the alleged false or misleading statement operated on the mind of the person to whom it was directed — here, the Commonwealth. Accordingly, the question whether the Commonwealth may have had constructive knowledge (in the sense that it ought reasonably to have known the truth or that it had the means and ability to find out the truth) is immaterial. A false statement may still operate on the mind of a person who merely has constructive knowledge so as to result in the person being misled or deceived.

The question of whether the Government may have constructive knowledge – in the sense that it ought reasonably to have known what was going on with the AWB or had the means and ability to find out – is immaterial.

Immaterial. And breathtaking.

“Railway trains are impartial,” that sagacious civil servant Bernard Woolley once observed, “but if you lay down the lines for them, that’s the way they go”.

Peter Fray

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