Friday 24th of May 2024

Yes, Minister- Three Points Of View

This sounds like the kind of conversation probably occurring in DFAT round about now

"There is the excuse we used for the Munich Agreement: It occurred
before certain important facts were known, and couldn't happen again."

"What important facts?"

"Well, that Hitler wanted to conquer Europe."

"I thought that everybody knew that."

"Not the Foreign Office."

-from "Yes, Minister" (Season two, episode 7


It's not so amusing when you read the synopsis of tonight's episode of SBS's The Cutting Edge.


In 1990 the relationship between America and Iraq took another turn when Hussein invaded Kuwait. In fact the program argues that America, following the ending of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, had begun to
distance itself from Hussein. When Iraq, already in debt, was
economically disadvantaged by a sudden hike in Kuwaiti oil prices,
Hussein misread his relationship with the US, believing they would remain neutral in the face of an invasion.

Following his defeat in this first Gulf War Hussein looked
extremely vulnerable but when America failed to support an uprising in Iraq’s south the resulting bloodbath, in which 150,000 people were killed, bolstered Hussein’s regime of terror.

According to the program America did not want to finally crush
Hussein but to “contain” him, including with the use of sanctions. This
was the situation before the September 11 attacks after which the
American administration felt it was finally time to eliminate Hussein.

In December 2001 the Bush Regime's thinktank Project For A New American Century released a memorandum claiming that "The nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction
makes the removal of Saddam key to success in the overal war on
terrorism, and a matter of considerable urgency"

[extract from speech to Grain Growers Association, February 2003]

I'd like to put the debate over our wheat trade with Iraq into perspective.

Australia has been a reliable and long-standing supplier of quality wheat to Iraq, including in times of political difference and actual military hostilities.

We recognise the need to ensure a reliable food supply to the Iraqi people, notwithstanding our differences with Saddam's regime.

We were disappointed by the Iraqi threats last year to reduce their wheat imports from Australia.

The Iraqi Government has announced it will resume normal trade with AWB; I am waiting to hear just what is meant by this.

If this results in further contracts then that is a good thing for AWB and
wheat growers.

But whatever they do, either doubling or halving wheat sales or both - they will not change the policy of Australia towards the Iraqi Government.

The facts are these.

  • Iraq had a bumper wheat harvest in 2001, estimated by the UN at around 2.1 million tonnes – compared to
    600,000 tonnes of wheat in 2000, thus they could probably get away with
    buying less wheat than usual.
  • AWB Ltd signed a new contract for wheat last June, under the UN's Oil-for-Food program.
  • And, in December,
    AWB Ltd announced that it had secured further contracts. 

Our wheat trade with Iraq – given the current circumstance of global political tensions and a difficult production and trading environment for grain growers – continues.

AWB Ltd has a number of shipments in the UN Oil for Food pipeline - and the Government will be working to make sure our wheat trade continues no matter what happens in Iraq.

-Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaille

Yes, Minister.