Thursday 23rd of January 2020

happy as .....

From the ABC …..

Downer, Vaile willing to take witness stand in AWB inquiry 

Two Federal Government ministers
say they are happy to appear as witnesses before the Cole inquiry if they
are asked. 

Trade Minister Mark Vaile and
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer have until Wednesday to reply to
questions sent out by lawyers. 

Spokesmen for the ministers say the
two will provide statements to the inquiry and are also willing to appear as
witnesses if called. 

A spokesman for Mr Downer says
the development puts a lie to the Labor criticism that the Cole inquiry
cannot investigate the Government. 

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin
Rudd says it is time for complete answers about their knowledge of AWB
kickbacks to the former Iraqi regime. 

"What I call upon the
ministers to do is to explain to the inquiry why they failed to act in
response to the 27 warnings they received," he said. 

But Labor is still pursuing the
Prime Minister over the oil-for-food scandal. 

Mr Rudd says John Howard must
take final responsibility. 

"The Prime Minister has many
questions to answer as well, he runs the show, he took us to war in
Iraq," he said. 

Mr Howard has repeatedly said
that Government ministers would be willing to appear before the inquiry
and has rejected Labor demands to broaden the scope of the investigation.

Who's a funny Polly?

From the Moscow Times

Zhirinovsky Tops Poll of Funniest Politicians

The Moscow Times
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, is the country's wittiest politician, while President Vladimir Putin is a distant second, according to a new poll.

A total of 57 percent of people surveyed by the the state-controlled VTsIOM polling agency said that Zhirinovsky had the best sense of humor of any politician, and 17 percent said the same about Putin.

But 30 percent of respondents said they could not think of any politician who had a sense of humor.


Gus thinks we should have a poll here in Aussielandia to gauge who's our funniest pollie...

Think of daily stand-up routine awarded points for the most porkies pushed with a straight face (dead-pan English humour), some with Bob Hope style delivery (smart one liners) or roll-in-the-aisles president Bush style word mangling of inanities when not reading from the autocue...

Ahah... I can see we've got some winners here....

Happiness is confidential porkies?

From the ABC

Downer, Vaile to deliver submissions to Cole inquiry
Two key federal ministers will today deliver written submissions to the Cole inquiry into the AWB, about whether they had any knowledge of kickbacks paid to the former Iraqi regime.

The inquiry is investigating $290 million in AWB payments to the former Iraqi regime, in breach of United Nations sanctions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has said already he and Trade Minister Mark Vaile did not know there were concerns about AWB until a confidential minute in 2004.

A decision on whether to call both ministers to appear at the inquiry in person will be made after a review of the statements.

Both say they are happy to give evidence.

Mr Downer has declined to elaborate on his evidence.

He says Commissioner Terence Cole should be allowed to deliver his report before further debate.

The details of the statements are expected to remain confidential for the moment.

Secret exhibits on memory lapses?

From the ABC

Lawyers weigh calling Vaile, Downer to AWB inquiry
Lawyers appearing before the oil-for-food inquiry have been given until lunchtime today to apply to question two senior Government ministers.

Lawyers in Sydney have been mulling over the sworn statements of Mark Vaile and Alexander Downer.

Statutory declarations and associated documents from the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister were tabled as confidential exhibits yesterday.

At least one legal team has told the inquiry it would have expected that ministers with ultimate responsibility for approving export contracts will be called.

Counsel assisting the inquiry John Agius has not revealed whether he intends to question the ministers.

The other legal teams have until lunchtime to nominate the subjects which they might canvass with either minister and apply for permission to question them under oath...

Why worry, Mr Newman...

From the BBC, a year and a half ago...
DATE: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:07 GMT

Companies in 'oil-for-food scam'
By Mark Gregory
BBC World Service business correspondent

.... But intriguingly, one prominent businessman told us the corruption on Iraqi contracts had actually got worse since the former Iraqi dictator fell from power.

We also uncovered anecdotal evidence of collusion by international oil companies in sanctions busting.

In a small way, our inquiries confirm the picture of massive abuse of UN sanctions that is emerging from multiple investigations in the United States.

But we also found that the oil-for-food affair is far more complex than is often portrayed.

Splits among the diplomats on the UN security council and flaws in the design of the oil-for-food programme played at least as much a part in what happened as negligence by UN officials or collusion in corruption by foreign firms trading with Iraq.

And it is often forgotten that most of Saddam Hussein's illicit income came from oil smuggling, not kickbacks on UN contracts.


" .... But intriguingly, one prominent businessman told us the corruption on Iraqi contracts had actually got worse since the former Iraqi dictator fell from power."
Gus asks; We are now approaching mid 2006... Is this "corruption" still the case? Is this "flaws in the design of the oil-for-food programme" one of the OUT clauses for our Mr Clowner?

Washington blessings!?

From the ABC
Downer, Vaile to front Cole inquiry
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer and Trade Minister Mark Vaile have been asked to appear at the Cole oil-for-food inquiry in Sydney.

Mr Vaile has been asked to appear on Monday while Mr Downer has been asked to appear on Tuesday.

Counsel assisting the inquiry says the two will give evidence based upon the statements that were tendered to the inquiry yesterday.

Mr Vaile says he has got nothing to hide from the inquiry.

"There is no smoking gun and this is not a victory for the Opposition," he said.

"If there is a victory anywhere it's that the Government from the outset was prepared to establish this inquiry to ensure that the good name of Australia was protected in international circles."

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley has called on Prime Minister John Howard to now front the Cole inquiry into AWB.

Mr Beazley says it is now time for Mr Howard to take responsibility for the issue.

Meanwhile, a key US senator claims the Bush administration has sided with Australia instead of American wheat growers in the oil-for-food scandal and will use the allegation to press for US action.

Just days after asking the Bush administration to probe whether the AWB violated US laws or WTO trade rules, top Senate Agriculture Committee Democrat Tom Harkin has cited US cables first disclosed in the Cole investigation.

"We've now discovered that the Bush administration advised the Australian Government on how to handle the Australian Wheat Board's growing public problems about its dealings in Iraq," he said.

"This is very troubling. It appears the administration, outright dismissed any credibility to the Australian Wheat Board's contributing to the Hussein regime, under the UN's oil-for-food program."

Senator Harkin says he will try to "embarrass" the White House into bringing a WTO complaint or other action against the AWB.

Read more at the ABC

Wheat anyone?

From the ABC

Downer welcomes new Iraqi Government
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has offered his congratulations to Iraq and its Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, on the formation of the country's new government.

Iraq's new administration received the backing from the country's parliament last night.

Mr Downer says the event is a triumph of democracy over the forces of terrorism and violence and is a key turning point in Iraq's history.

He says while the new Iraqi Government faces many challenges, the Australian Government will stand firm in its support for Iraq.

more droppings from the rodent's trail .....

even more flim-flam Gus .....

21 May 2006 


Subjects: Iraqi Prime Minister;
visit to Ireland; nuclear energy; AC Nielsen; media laws; AWB; Indonesian relations;
ABC Managing Director appointment; Indigenous Affairs; John Perrin. 


Well ladies and gentlemen I would first like to congratulate the new Iraqi
Prime Minister, Mr Al-Maliki, on the announcement and ratification of his new
government. This is a true milestone on the hard march of Iraq towards a more
hopeful future. And it's important to note that the people of Iraq have three
times defied the most fearful intimidation to vote in elections. We tend to
forget how long it has taken other societies to fully embrace democracy. We're
too hard on the Iraqi's, the cynics in the West are unreasonable, they're
over-demanding, their expectations are far too high, they forget history and
they forget how long it's taken countries that are now accepted entrenched
democracies to fully embrace it. And I think this is an occasion where the
world should applaud the courage of the Iraqis. They've kept going and I can
only hope that Mr Al-Maliki's, Al-Maliki rather, that his government is successful.  I have written to him today, congratulating him, assuring
him that Australia will go the distance in helping Iraq-and that means that
we're not going to become slaves to artificial deadlines about troop
withdrawals. We will withdraw our forces or reduce them when the circumstances
suggest that that might be possible. But this is a very important day, very
important weekend for the people of Iraq and the world should be a little more
generous in praising them for what they have achieved. A little less critical,
a little less cynical, a little less desirous of finding fault because of its
disagreement with the action of the American led coalition. 

Blah, blah, blah ….. 

As previously observed, our little sneaky is so proud of
the three Iraqi election votes, as if they of themselves have transformed Iraq
into a “modern western democracy”.

Others, including many of
those who participated in those votes, seem far less sanguine about the future
of Iraq’s so-called democracy (how Iraq can be a “democracy” whilst under
foreign military occupation, our little rodent doesn’t bother to explain).

Time Magazine reports …. 

‘“U.S. officials are spinning the formation of Iraq's new
government as a triumph of democracy and the first step toward stabilizing the
civil war-ravaged country. But Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet, sworn
in Saturday after five months of bickering and brinkmanship has been greeted
with a mixture of incredulity and skepticism by many Iraqis. "All that
time spent in negotiations, and they couldn't fill the most important
positions," says schoolteacher Salah Ubeidi, referring to three
security-related posts that have been left vacant for now. "Why should we
trust them to make the important decisions that need to be made?"’ 

Why Iraqis
Aren't Cheering Their New Government

Of course, as long as the sneaky little rodent is
cheering, everything will be fine …..


the rodent's last leg .....

23 May 2006 


Subjects: Australian-Irish
relations; trade; AWB; Iraq; Iran; British Monarchy.



Mr Howard yesterday you said that people should give the fledgling democracy
more time. Given there's a continuous situation, does that timeframe mean that
our troops will be there, not months but years more? 


Well I have steadfastly refused
to commit myself to a timetable. Those who demand on a almost daily basis that
I provide a timetable have the luxury of total lack of responsibility in
relation to the issue-and I'm not talking about journalists, I'm talking about
others-I would never say that in relation to journalists - or don't really
understand the dynamic. I mean we will stay while it is necessary as a
contribution to leaving behind a security force in Iraq which is capable of
maintaining order. And I do think that fledgling democracy's entitled to a lot
more sympathy and understanding than it receives. I mean when you think of the
travail through which mature democracies often go in handling difficult issues,
I only marvel at what the Iraqis have done and the courage that they have
displayed in doing it. And I do think the advent, as the Taoiseach said, the
advent of the new government in Iraq offers real hope. It's a government of national unity, it includes Sunni,
as well as of course retaining the Kurdish President, Talabani. The new Prime
Minister has a reputation for tough decision making, I think he'll be a
purposeful Prime Minister and we'll do everything we can to help. I've written
to him, I've expressed my good wishes and I've said that Australia will stay
the distance in the context of what that means as I've just explained. 

obviously out of step
elsewhere …..

‘British troops will leave Iraq within four
years, officials said yesterday, as Tony Blair arrived in the country to show
support for its new prime minister. 

The deadline of 2010 - given by senior
government sources - was the first time that the British government has set a
timetable for the withdrawal of its troops.’

UK Pledge That Last
British Soldier Will Leave Iraq By 2010

whilst ….. 

‘Japan has begun making
arrangements with the United States, Britain and Australia on a possible
withdrawal of its troops from Iraq
beginning in June, a press report has said.’ 

Making Arrangements On Iraq Troops Pullout

legged it .....

from today's Crikey .....

Now we know why the little rodent came back early ....

Gotta love the irish !!! 

Unclear delegation?

From the ABC

Explanation sought for Iraqi guard's death
Iraq's Trade Minister has lashed out at Australia after escorts guarding an embassy delegation that visited him at his Baghdad office shot dead one of his guards and wounded several others.

"They are trampling on the dignity and sovereignty of Iraqis," Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudany, a member of Parliament's dominant Shiite bloc, said on state television.

"We demand an explanation from the Australian Government for this intentional and unwarranted criminal aggression against members of our protection force.

"It should also compensate the family of the martyr and the wounded."

Salim al-Bahadiry, a bodyguard for Mr Sundany, says the shooting occurred as a convoy from the office followed the delegation's convoy.

"They thought the driver was trying to pass and they shot and killed him and wounded three guards and two civilians," he said.

The Iraqi bodyguards' sports utility vehicle crashed into a pole, its windscreen peppered with bullet holes.

Iraqi police sources say it appears the Australians had mistaken the bodyguards, who were dressed in civilian clothes and armed with AK-47 rifles, for insurgents.

A spokesman for the Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry says he is aware of the incident and that it is being investigated.

It is unclear what the delegation was doing in Baghdad.

However, Australian officials have been working to win back lucrative wheat contracts jeopardised by revelations that wheat exporter AWB had paid $290 million in kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein.


Things are hotting up in Wheatcrop Alley...

Newsfront in the US

From the New York Times

Iraq Minister Threatens Australian Trade Review

Published: June 22, 2006
Filed at 2:33 a.m. ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's trade minister threatened on Thursday to reconsider trade deals with wheat supplier Australia after Australian security guards killed one of his bodyguards in a shooting mishap in the capital.

``The minister holds the Australian government responsible and demands an apology and payment of compensation. If this does not happen he will reconsider trade agreements between the two countries,'' his spokesman Muhammed Hanoun told Reuters.

The Australian defense force confirmed on Thursday that its soldiers had mistakenly opened fire on bodyguards of Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudany in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing one and wounding three people.

``The ADF deeply regrets the injuries and loss of life that has occurred. As with all ADF incidents of this nature the matter will be formally and fully investigated,'' Vice Chief of the Australian Defense Force (ADF), Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie said in a statement.

The shooting took place outside the trade minister's offices in Baghdad's Harthiya district.

Salim al-Bahadiry, a bodyguard for the trade minister, told Reuters at the scene that the Australian convoy left the ministry and an Iraqi convoy followed. The Iraqis then tried to overtake the Australians.

Iraqi police and Interior Ministry sources said it appeared the Australians mistook the bodyguards, who were dressed in civilian clothes and armed with AK-47 rifles, for insurgents and opened fire.

The incident could potentially embarrass Canberra, which has been trying to improve trade ties with Iraq after Baghdad suspended dealings with Australia's monopoly wheat exporter AWB Ltd over a kickbacks scandal...

Dined on raw prawns

From our ABC

AWB told of Iraq sanction breaches, inquiry hears
The Cole inquiry has revealed that AWB was told three years ago that it had breached United Nations' sanctions on Iraq.

The company commissioned legal advice when it was accused of paying kickbacks to Iraq.

Legal firm Blake Dawson Waldron told AWB in August 2003 its transport payments hidden in Iraqi exports did not appear to be genuine.

It said it was possible AWB staff had breached the Commonwealth and Victorian crimes act, as well as pre-war sanctions on Iraq.

The lawyers concluded that the transport payments constituted an offence because they were intended to obtain Iraqi wheat business.

AWB had always claimed its legal advice was that it had done nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, former defence minister Robert Hill has provided a sworn statement about his relationship with a controversial figure mentioned at the Cole inquiry.

Norman Davidson-Kelly is the man from Tigris Petroleum who has not accepted the Cole inquiry's invitation to give evidence.

His company was the ultimate recipient of more than $8 million collected by AWB by artificially inflating an Iraqi wheat contract.

Mr Hill, now the ambassador to the United Nations, has explained that he met Mr Davidson-Kelly nine years ago when he worked for BHP.

Mr Hill dined with Mr Davidson-Kelly twice in London but he says he never discussed his business, the Tigris deal or any service agreement with AWB.


See cartoon up above etc etc...

More fluggy memories lapses and low comprehension

From the ABC

Lawyers informed of AWB's questionable payments
AWB documents made public today have revealed that its lawyers had extensive information about questionable payments to Iraq.

AWB's senior corporate counsel Rosemary Peavey was told four years ago that a company called Ronly was a front for AWB trucking payments.

Ronly's managers said the deal was made by former chairman Trevor Flugge and senior AWB managers.

Ms Peavey cannot remember making many inquiries about the deal.

In 2003 a shipping company wrote and asked her to confirm the legality of it paying trucking fees for AWB via a Hong Kong bank account.

Ms Peavey says she cannot recall investigating why AWB paid trucking costs via a shipping company to a Hong Kong bank.

In 1999 A&O Shipping paid trucking fees to a banking account in the name 'cornflour' in Hong Kong.

Ms Peavey noted 'cornflour' was a front for the Iraqi controlled Alia Trucking, but she says she cannot remember investigating why fees were paid that way.

Counsel assisting the inquiry John Agius replied: "Ah come on, it would be a once in a lifetime inquiry."

But Ms Peavey says she cannot recall inquiring into the payment.

Later an AWB staff member told her that trucking payments were dodgy, but she says she did not know what he meant.

explain and justify those payments?

From our ABC

AWB must justify payouts, says Vaile

Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile says the board of wheat exporter AWB will have to justify multi-million dollar payments to former executives who have been linked to the Iraqi kickbacks scandal.

The company's annual report shows two former executives were given termination payouts totalling $1.25 million last year.

Mr Vaile says it is not for the Government to judge whether or not the payments are appropriate but says the company should explain them.

"But I would say that ultimately the board of AWB will have to justify those payments to their shareholders," he said.

"They have to explain and justify those payments and I'm not going to comment any further on it."

Labor leader Kevin Rudd has denounced the payments and says the Prime Minister, John Howard, must take action.

"AWB then put their hand in the pocket of Australia's hard-working wheat farmers and spend this money on golden handshakes to their own executives," he said.

"This is a national disgrace.

"Mr Howard must take action and action must be taken immediately."


Gus: see cartoon at the top and read all blogs re this entertaining saga... 

"Explain and justify those payments"? Of course the AWB had no choice but to recompense its former execs as they did sell lotsa wheat to Iraq, while the US did not, didn't they? That was a few billion dollar contract, was it not? That the reputation of the AWB, the farmers and Australia in general is been driven through mud is irrelevant since so far NO-ONE has been charged with any wrong-doing despite BLATANT flaunting of the law...

May be one day, they will blame the janitor or one of the secretaries, just to look tough...