AWB started paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime way back in mid-1999. More than eight years, $300 million and a Royal Commission later, we finally have these charges laid against six blokes by ASIC yesterday.

And what a lovely irony that it was only after a change of government that the likes of Trevor Flugge, a big wig in the National Party, will face court, albeit just a civil action to start with.

Flugge was the non-executive chairman and the other five in ASIC’s gun were executives: CEO Andrew Lindberg, trading chief Peter Geary, CFO Paul Ingleby and the two general managers of international sales, Michael Long and Charles Stott.

In terms of mass corporate charges, this will be a big one in 2008, although the ASIC action taken against the entire James Hardie board will also feature prominently.

Ten months after giving the AWB board a bollocking at its 2007 AGM, it is just incredible that the following AWB directors remain on the board:

Brendan Stewart: Queensland grain grower, director since February 2000 and chairman since March 2003. Has signalled his intention to resign but remains chairman of the nomination committee which has rejected wholesale changes.

Warrick McClelland: Victorian grain grower and AWB director since November 1998.

Christopher Moffet: WA grain grower and AWB director since November 1998 who was re-elected in March 2005.

John Simpson: NSW grain grower and AWB director since November 1998.

Now that the big six have been charged, surely it is untenable to have four out of 11 directors who were on the board for the duration of the biggest bribery scandal in Australian history.

If the AWB can’t reform itself, then the Rudd Government needs to step in an abolish the single desk, along with the crazy corporate governance system that sees farmers from prescribed states controlling the board. These farmers failed the governance test miserably yet still have not been cleared out.

It will be very disappointing if they show their faces again at the 2008 AGM in February. Just because you haven’t directly been charged, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the flick or voluntarily walk the plank when some dastardly deed has been done.

For instance, Dick Pratt tried to tough it out after confessing to his cartel conduct, and even agreed to pay the fine for his CEO, Harry Debney.

However, after a bad reaction, Debney did the right thing and resigned within a week. Those long term AWB directors should do the same because, when it comes to boards, ignorance is no excuse.

Today’s Mayne Report video directly responds to Peter Costello’s debt challenge from last Friday’s Higgins declaration victory speech.