Thursday, March 30, 2006
Australia is and has been a staunch ally of the United States for many years, but they weren't exempt from oil-for-food scandals in Iraq. The more this goes on and the more that's uncovered I'm really starting to believe the "war for oil" crowd. They didn't want anything that was going to get in the way of their corrupt oil deals.
John Howard has promised to make ministers available to the inquiry if called.
Commissioner Terence Cole's inquiry has been criticised for taking a soft line with government employees while mauling the wheat exporter, AWB, for propping up Saddam's regime in the years before the 2003 Iraq war with kickbacks in breach of the UN's oil-for-food program.
The federal Opposition released a letter from the commission on Wednesday saying it did not have the power to make findings about whether ministers had breached their duty to protect Australia's international obligations.
The Opposition says the Howard Government deliberately "rorted" the inquiry's terms of reference to prevent proper analysis of the Government's role.
Evidence already presented to the inquiry suggests Mr Downer and Mr Vaile were warned AWB was engaged in corrupt behaviour in Iraq, but neither minister acted on those warnings. Both deny they knew of the kickbacks, saying the Government accepted AWB's assurances that it was not corrupting the UN program. But the Opposition says the Government is guilty of a cover-up, or turned a blind eye to the kickbacks, even while sending Australian troops to Iraq to topple Saddam's regime.
"Mr Downer and Mr Vaile have serious questions to answer concerning the adequacy of their response to the 27 separate warnings they received on what AWB was up to in Iraq," Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said last night.