Saturday 19th of October 2019

Australian Wheat Board- Yes, Prime Minister

This isn't a comedy script.. this is reality.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER
THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP
INTERVIEW WITH NEIL MITCHELL,
RADIO 3AW, MELBOURNE

24 March 2006

MITCHELL: Prime Minister the AWB bribery scandal. Do you think people care about it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I care about it. I want to get to the bottom of
it. That’s why I established the Cole inquiry. This seems to have been
forgotten.

MITCHELL: But what about the electorate? What about the voters?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I mean in the end that’s a matter for
individuals to decide. I’m not going to make a judgement about the
level of interest in the community. But we established the inquiry
because we were concerned about the allegations coming out of the
Volcker inquiry and we have gone further than any government in the
world in trying to get to the bottom of this. And it’s been, for the
Government, it’s been a challenging exercise and inevitably there’s
criticism and because snippets of information are reported out of
context, false impressions are created.

MITCHELL: Well what was the context in this? Both Alexander Downer
and you, you on October 31st last year told the Parliament that the
Government had cooperated fully with the Volcker inquiry. It’s now
obvious that Alexander Downer tried to prevent diplomats speaking to
Volcker and also restricted access to documents. How is that
cooperating fully?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the basis on which he did that was quite valid.

MITCHELL: It’s hardly full cooperation.

PRIME MINISTER: Well hang on. Once again you’ve got to see the
context of this. The cooperation didn’t extend to just arbitrarily
handing over classified documents which were the intelligence of
foreign countries. It’s very interesting that this has come out because
I have got in front of me a newspaper report, Sydney Morning Herald
13th of January 2005, in which a spokesman for the Oil-For-Food
Inquiry, that’s the Volcker inquiry, praised Australia for providing
information that had been helpful and valuable. He went on to say that
the Australians have been expeditious in providing information. He also
said that we had been more helpful than most other countries. Now this
is a spokesman, incidentally, for the food for oil inquiry.
Incidentally that report was written by Caroline Overington who was
then the Herald correspondent in New York and is now the principal
reporter on this issue for The Australian newspaper. Now the point I’m
simply making is that Downer’s concern late in 2004 was that the
inquiry would have access to classified foreign intelligence. I think
that was a legitimate concern.

MITCHELL: What about interviewing people involved?

PRIME MINISTER: Well my understanding is that the differences that
existed at the time were worked out and if you look at the totality of
the Government’s response, there was total cooperation. And certainly
when concerns were raised with me, as appeared in the press this
morning, I in fact wrote on the minute there had to be total
cooperation and transparency.

MITCHELL: Initially there was not total cooperation and transparency was there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the reason for that, the reason for the
reaction, I don’t automatically accept every assessment that was made
by the UN committee. I mean we have to be careful in these situations
that you don’t accept every single claim that is made about the
Government and assume the worst on every occasion about the Government,
you have to look at the context.

MITCHELL: I understand that. But I’m just looking at what’s been
said and both you and Mr Downer have said full and complete
cooperation. Initially there wasn’t.

PRIME MINISTER: Well yes but you have to see that in the context of
Downer’s legitimate concerns about making available foreign
intelligence and that was a reasonable concern. Bear in mind, and these
remarks are not directed at Mr Volcker in anyway, I’ve great regard for
him, but bear in mind that the United Nations itself, in a lot of its
agencies, was up to this thing to its ears.

MITCHELL: Is it an indication that how your office works? June 2003,
the other documents we’ve seen have come through, not drawn to your
attention, this is the eve of when we’re going to invade a country.

PRIME MINISTER: Well actually, no, June was actually three months afterwards. It was March.

MITCHELL: Oh okay, I’m sorry.

PRIME MINISTER: But I mean, look, I understand the point.

MITCHELL: We’re at war, we’ve invaded a country and we’re getting
information here through about bribes being paid and it’s not drawn to
your attention.

PRIME MINISTER: No, well it wasn’t because there are hundreds of
cables every week and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
which was the action department, did not believe the claim that had
been made. I mean we have to cut to the chase on this. The Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on the basis of a number of things, and I
could understand and support the assessment they made at the time. I’m
not dumping on them. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade made
an assessment at the time and it included discussing the matter with
AWB that the allegations were not well founded. Now you can say with
the benefit of hindsight that that judgement was wrong, but it was not
a corrupt judgement, it was not a superficial judgement.

MITCHELL: Well was it a wrong judgement?

PRIME MINISTER: Look we all, with the benefit of hindsight, might say it was.

MITCHELL: I just find it extraordinary the document wasn’t brought to your attention. Are you concerned by that?

PRIME MINISTER: No I’m not concerned about it because at the time
the view very strongly amongst our departmental advisers was that most
of the complaints being made about AWB derived from commercial
competitors and they had reason to have that view. The view inside the
Government was that AWB was a great champion of the Australian wheat
industry and our major preoccupation was not to allow the Americans or
the Canadians to grab our share of the Iraqi wheat market. Now if I am
to be criticised for that, well let people criticise me and if, with
the benefit of hindsight, a wrong judgement was made by the Government,
well we all live in a world where if you had the benefit of hindsight
you’d alter a lot of things. You have to look at the conduct in the
context and I do defend what the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade assessment was at the time. Now you can say well it was wrong,
but that’s with the benefit of hindsight.

MITCHELL: Did Alexander Downer operate properly at all times?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m satisfied he did.

MITCHELL: What about Mark Vaile?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m satisfied he did too. I defend their behaviour.

MITCHELL: None of your Ministers are culpable here?

PRIME MINISTER: There has been no finding by the commission that
anybody’s been culpable at this stage, but I do not believe on what I
have seen that either of those men, and they’re the two people
principally in the firing line, if I can put it like that, either of
them has been culpable. The commission will make a finding in relation
to AWB and the commission will make findings of fact, I believe, in
relation to the conduct of this issue to by the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade, and obviously if the commission wants to talk to any
of us, including me, then we are available.

-Reprinted from The Road To Surfdom 

 

 Isn't Mr Howard lucky that Tony Blair has come along to divert our attention?

And thus spoke our little grocer

No I’m not concerned about it because at the time the view very strongly amongst our departmental advisers was that most of the complaints being made about AWB derived from commercial competitors and they had reason to have that view. The view inside the Government was that AWB was a great champion of the Australian wheat industry and our major preoccupation was not to allow the Americans or the Canadians to grab our share of the Iraqi wheat market.
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Yes, Gus...
Smoke, bull dust, crap, manure, excements, doggy poo and chicken poop hit the ventilation shafts and the electric fans on full setting.

But does the public carer?

No much because of our "newly acquired" wealth comes from manufacturing smoke, bull dust, crap, manure, excements, doggy poo and chicken poop, in our hearts...

We kid ourlseves while we become suspicious, mean and sneakily competitive: if you're not at the front you don't desrve to be in that race.... Ugly, but too true.