THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO THE AUSTRALIAN WHEAT BOARD – [oil for food Scandal]
Prime Minister John Howard in lieu of putting a serving judge or a retired judge to be the Commissioner of the Royal Commission, he appointed his friend Terence Cole QC, a lawyer to chair inquiry. Terms set for the inquiry set by Mr. Howard and his Govt were indeed anorexic at best.
Although the AWB inquiry opened on Monday, January 16, 2006, his Senior Ministers Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, National Party Leader John Anderson, John Cobb, Ian MacFarlone, Bill Heffernan, Christopher Pyne, Bruce Scott and backbencher Barry Wakelink tendered a letter on Sunday March 12, 2006, to Prime Minister Howard declaring that they had overlooked to declare their pecuniary interests as owner of A-Shares in the AWB.
We will highlight some of the evidence that was given at the Cole Royal Commission.
Former Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officer, Warren Reid, said it would be impossible for the Federal Government not to know kickbacks were being paid by the AWB to Saddam Hussein’s regime. “In fact, if you look at the core part of the Governmental System in Canberra – that’s geared to knowing these things,” he said.
January 31, 2006, Foreign Minister Downer, was again drawn into the “oil-for-food” scandal when it emerged his department saw details of dealings between the AWB and Iraqi officials. AWB Head of International Sales and Marketing, Michael Long, said the exporter regularly sent “long form” contracts to Mr. Downer’s department for authorisation.
Insiders bombshell on AWB. Silence on a notorious street, Bribe warning went to the top –Prime Minister’s office, was told years ago.
Cole inquiry, Tuesday February 7, 2006, Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Vaile, became the first Government (Govt) Minister to be implicated in the Iraqi kickbacks scandal – on the same day Saddam Hussein’s personal involvement was also at least made clear. Mr. Vaile was named as having met with executives linked to BHP and the AWB at the time the bribes to Saddam’s regime were allegedly taking place.
An email was presented to the Cole inquiry into Iraqi kickbacks by former BHP executive Norman Davidson, whose company Tigris Petroleum inherited recovery of a BHP debt from Saddam’s regime. The inquiry has recently been expended to probe the role of BHP as well as AWB. In a message sent on September 15, 2000, Mr. Davidson told AWB rural services manager, Charles Stott, that he had “friends” in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT). “It was good to see you, Mark Vaile and Bob Bowker in Melbourne yesterday,” he wrote.
Mr Vaile strongly denied any knowledge of the scandal. “I have never met anyone from BHP, Tigris Petroleum or AWB to discuss the Tigris issue,” he said. He said he was in Sydney, not Melbourne, on September 14 2000.
We find it strange that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Vaile had memory loss on at least 29 occasions when he appeared at the Cole Inquiry on Monday, April 10, 2006, and yet on Tuesday, February 7, 2006 Mr. Vaile could remember where he was on September 14, 2000. Curious, to say the least.
Thursday, February 9, 2006 – Managing Director and CEO of AWB, Andrew Lindberg resigned. The Iraq wheat scandal on Friday, February 10, 2006, caused further problems for former Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, with a firm claim he knew of kickbacks to Iraq as early as 2002. Leading Victorian grain merchant, Ray Brooks, said Mr. Truss ignored his warning in 2002 that AWB was paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“He didn’t want to know,” Mr Brooks said . He added that he heard of AWB’s behaviour from Canadian and American wheat traders, furious they had been shut out of the Iraqi market by what they claimed were AWB slings to Iraqi officials. Mr Brooks said he passed on the information to Mr. Truss during a meeting at the Mallee Machinery Field Days in northwestern Victoria in August 2002, but was told by Mr. Truss to stop “peddling stories like that around.” According to Mr. Brooks, Mr. Truss told him, “Ray don’t give me that bull: The Wheat Board is run by farmers of great integrity and honesty; they wouldn’t do that sort of thing.” Therefore we could match up this evidence given on February 10, 2006, with that of the AWB’s former Wheat Board’s Public Affairs Manager’s testimony on Monday, April 3, 2006.
Daryl Hockey told the Cole Inquiry he was at an August 2002 meeting where his bosses told Prime Minister Howard the Iraqis objected to Australia’s foreign policy. Mr. Hockey said the meeting took place in Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer’s Parliament House office. AWB Chief, Andrew Lindberg, Chairman Brendan Stewart and Mr Hockey were present, along with other AWB and Government staff, Mr. Lindberg, who had just returned from a trip to Baghdad to save the contract, told Mr. Howard and Mr. Downer the Iraqi.
On Sunday, March 12, 2006, Prime Minister Howard defended six of his Senior Government M.P.s, including the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, who are accused of failing to properly declare their shares in embattled wheat exporter AWB. “There’s nothing wrong with having shares in AWB, and the rule is that, if you are a wheat grower, you have to have a voting share in AWB, otherwise you effectively can’t participate,” said John Howard. “My understanding, as far as the Ministers are concerned, is that everything is in order. The six Coalition members were identified on this morning’s Sunday programme as having failed their declaration duties in regard to AWB shares.”
The Community Services Minister, John Cobb, said he had “inadvertently omitted to declare ownership of an A-class share in AWB, but had written to Mr. Howard and Parliament yesterday to correct the error.
Senator Bill Heffernan, known as the Liberal head-kicker in NSW and a former Cabinet Secretary, admitted to the programme that he owned $4,000 in AWB shares, but had not declared them on his Parliamentary pecuniary interests register. Conflict of interest issues have been raised. Last October (2005) the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, sold AWB shares – 2 months prior to the United Nations” report by Paul Volcker made damning accusations of $300 million in AWB kick-backs to Saddam Hussein in exchange for lucrative wheat sales. Terence Cole Q.C. is investigating these apparent breaches of the U.N.’s oil-for-food programme in Iraq.
Mr. Anderson previously acknowledged not notifying Parliament of the share sale for 4 months, but insists he was never tipped off on the controversy about to hit the AWB. ‘Sunday’ said Mr. Anderson had not continued ownership of an A-class share in AWB. These voting right shares were issued to wheat farmers when the AWB was privatised in 1999. They cannot be sold or transferred, and are redeemed automatically when the shareholder ceases as a wheat grower. The former Veterans Affairs minister, Bruce Scott, the Queensland president of the National Party, said his failure to list AWB shares was not a breach of disclosure rules because he ceased to be a Director of the holding company in 1990, and any income from it went to his wife and children.
Mr. Downer and another Liberal M.P., Christopher Pyne, had money in the investment company Argo, which held AWB shares for a short time in 2002.Mr. Downer said, “I’ve never owned AWB shares – I don’t know what Argo invest in. To suggest that they may have had shares in AWB Limited for 2 weeks or something – that raises questions of my interests in AWB, that’s pretty much the longest bow I’ve ever seen drawn in my years in politics.” Is Mr Downer aware that investment shares are taxable income and you must declare and name your investment company? I hope Mr. Downer, by admitting you never knew you had an investment in the AWB, that you have not inadvertently confessed to being a tax evader!
The following list of concerns by our members regarding the Terence Cole Q.C. Inquiry into the AWB’s “oil-for-food programme” and the $300 million kick-back scam to Saddam Hussein are listed below:
1. That the Cole Inquiry appears to have been professionally orchestrated, in that corroborating evidence was stretched to both ends of the Inquiry, maybe in the hope that the truth would be lost in the mire.
2. A possible conflict by Commissioner Cole, who had already had already been criticised for being a long-time friend of 2006. Cole refused to allow Terry Forrest Q.C. to ask Mr Howard about a bundle of top-secret intelligence reports sent to his office. Lachlan Carter, also representing the AWB, was also refused leave to cross examine Mr. Howard. Mr. Cole’s behaviour is not only undemocratic, but very suspicious to say the least.
3. Former Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) Officer, Warren Reid, said it would be impossible for the Federal Government not to know kick-backs were being paid by the AWB to Saddam Hussein’s regime. “In fact if you look at the core part of the Governmental system Canberra – that’s geared to knowing these things,” he said.
4. Deputy-Prime Minister and Trade Minister Mark Vaile had a memory loss on at least 29 occasions when he appeared at the Cole Inquiry on Monday, April 10, 2006. And yet on February 7, 2006, Mr. Vaile was named in an Email as being present at a meeting in Melbourne on September 14, 2000 with AWB Rural Services Manager Charles Stott, and Foreign Affairs Middle East Chief Bob Bowker. In response to this accusation, without missing a beat, Mr. Vaile said, “I have never met anyone from BHP, Tigris Petroleum or AWB to discuss the Tigris issue.” He added that he ‘was in Sydney, not Melbourne, on September 14, 2000.” One must not forget part of Mr. Vaile’s evidence included, “You can’t trust Americans.”
January 27, 2006, Foreign Minister
Downer said his department had co-operated fully with the Cole Inquiry into AWB
kick-backs to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Mr downer said that the Inquiry’s terms
of reference were broad, and did not need to be widen. “My department has not
only provided all the documents that the Cole Inquiry wanted, officials have
also been interviewed,” Mr. Downer said.
Thursday, February 9, 2006, Managing director and CEO of AWB, Andrew Lindberg resigned. The Iraq wheat scandal on Friday February 10, 2006 caused further problems for former Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, with a firm claim he knew of kick-backs to Iraq as early as 2002. Leading Victorian grain merchant, Ray Brooks, said that Mr. Truss ignored his warning in 2002 that AWB was paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime. “He didn’t want to know,” Mr. Brooks said. He added that he heard of AWB’s behaviour from Canadian and American wheat traders, furious they had been shut out of the Iraq market by what they claimed were AWB slings to Iraqi officials. Mr. Brooks said he passed on the information to Mr. Truss during a meeting at the Mallee Machinery Field Days in Northwestern Victoria in August 2002, but was told by Mr. Truss to stop “peddling stories like that around.” According to Mr. Brooks, Mr. Truss told him, “Ray, don’t give me that bull. The Wheat Board is run by farmers of great integrity and honesty; they wouldn’t do that sort of thing.”
Therefore we could match up this evidence given on February 10, 2006, with that of the AWB’s former Wheat Board’s Public Affairs Manager’s testimony on Monday, April 3, 2006.
Confirmation of Daryl Hockey’s evidence can be found in the Email we sent on Saturday, April 15, 2006.
6. Tuesday, February 21, 2006, Mr. Howard confessed that U.N. investigator, Paul Volcker, a former U.S. Federal Reserve Chief, raised concerns about AWB more than a year ago during his investigation into kick-backs paid under the U.N.’s “oil-for-food programme.” Mr. Cole’s investigators had received a previously secret Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) report from 2001 which details efforts by Saddam’s regime to corrupt the U.N. “oil-for-food programme” by collecting kick-backs. The report declassified by DFAT a month ago contains an impressive distribution list that includes the offices of Mr. Howard, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Trade minister Mark Vaile and the then Agriculture Minister Warren Truss.
It was also copied to two intelligence Agencies –the Office of National Assessments and the Defence Intelligence Organisation – the Departments of Prime minister and Cabinet, Defence, Industry, Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Following are our gravest concerns that we would like to especially highlight regarding Cole Inquiry:
We have to correct an early mistake
made by us, regarding the period in which the Howard Government appointed Wheat
Board regulator Tim Besly,
who was sacked in early 1982, and not the 1970’s. He was dismissed as the CEO of
Customs for lying to a Federal Senate Committee for perverting the course of
justice by protecting the then colleagues of our present Prime Minister John
Howard, who was then Treasurer in the Howard’s colleagues were sacked as
Ministers in March 1982, followed by Tim Besley’s dismissal in April 1982.
Although both the Howard Government and the Opposition parties were aware of
Tim Besley’s abominable record, their silence was deafening when he was
appointed CEO to oversee and regulate the AWB as part of his responsibility.
We have no doubt the friendship of Commissioner Cole and Prime Minister Howard will survive the Inquiry in that we believe Mr. Cole will at worst give the Australian Government a little slap on the wrist, while at best he will use one of the AWB’s executives as a scapegoat, who will cop the full brunt of the blame. We have no doubt that the result of the Cole Inquiry will make the Watergate scandal look like a kindergarten picnic.
b. We find it both suspicious and coincidental that eight elected members of the Howard Government had past or present A-shares in the AWB, and not one of these members declared their pecuniary interest to the Parliamentary Registrar, as is required by Parliamentary rule.
c. We also find it most coincidental that president Bush sent his U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to Australia to meet with Prime Minister Howard and his Senior Ministers, and was followed shortly afterwards by a visit to our country by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Was this for the purpose of displaying support for John Howard and his Government during difficult times with the ongoing Cole inquiry?
d. How big is the cover-up regarding the “oil-for-food programme” kick-back scam to Saddam Hussein?
e. Did the bush and Blair Governments turn a blind eye to the kick-back scams?
f. Surely they had to know that part of the $300 million Kick-backs to Saddam Hussein’s regime went towards buying weapons to fight the American, British and Australian defence forces, as well as paying suicide bomber’s families $25,000 rewards for murderous services rendered.
g. Why have the Bush and Blair Governments remained silent on the kick-back scams?
h. Does George W. Bush and his Government care that 2,000 plus Americans have lost their lives fighting in Iraq? If they did, surely they would hold an American Congress Inquiry into how high up the AWB kick-back scam goes. And how high the cover-ups went. This applies to the Blair British Government as well.
i. Failing to do otherwise could amount to an act of Sedition.
Undemocratically legislated to exempt public figures such as businessman, police, public servants and politicians. Why? This is the type of protection granted by Communist Govts. Is it possible the AFP could be covering up what appears to be a major cover-up.
On Wednesday night, April 26, 2006, George Negus hosted his program Dateline regarding the Royal Commission into kickback payments to the Saddam Hussein’s regime, involving “oil-for-food scandal.
Thomas Cook, a promising young journalist, was sent to Jordan to interview the General Manager of Alia Trucking Company, Othman Al-Absi.
Mr. Al-Absi, with his interview by Thomas provided a Statutory Declaration with his interview. Mr. Al-Absi said, 49% of the Alia Trucking Company was owned by Saddam Hussein and his regime and add that the Australian Govt were aware of kickback payment to his company in 1995 and 1996.
It is worth noting that in 1995, Labor’s Paul Keating was Prime Minister, whereas in 1996 John Howard was Prime Minister.
Thomas Cook also interviewed the CEO of Jordan’s biggest Company, Cessco Chemical Supplies, Dr. Labib Kamhawi, who stressed that everyone knew about the kickback payments.
Prior to closing the show, George Negus stated, we have had a little excitement tonight, the commissioner order the AFP to seize the tape of the aforementioned interview.
With the exception of SBS, the mainstream Australian media (Print, Radio and Television) failed to mention the Dateline-Interview. Why?
** NOTE: VIDEO – AWB INQUIRY , GO TO U TUBE Type in AWB OIL FOR FOOD