Far be it for Crikey to run anonymous criticism of senior public servants and an entire department, but there were an intriguing couple of paragraphs tucked away in the “government business” section of Friday’s Financial Review.

Under the Canberra insider heading, ‘twas reported:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s so-called “post-box” defence in the AWB affair may have been accepted by commissioner Terence Cole within his view of what constituted “actual knowledge” of the commonwealth, but there’s no doubt where it stands in the court of public opinion, including senior public service opinion. The long litany of sins of omission on the part of DFAT and the Wheat Export Authority are widely being read as yet another disgraceful chapter in the story of Prime Minister John Howard’s public service.

One colleague suggests that DFAT merits a special “State of the Service” award for its ability to: ignore 35 separate indications of wrongdoing and report that all’s well; to keep an entire cabinet so completely in the dark that they even blink convincingly under a spotlight; and to face with equanimity the shredding of its reputation, apparently in order to keep intact the cover of its ministers.

Gee, I’m glad we never write anything as tough as that.

Peter Fray

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