Australian wheat kickback report handed to Governor-General

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Cole Inquiry

The report from the Cole Inquiry has been handed down to Governor-General Michael Jeffrey. The inquiry was setup by the Howard government just over twelve months ago to investigate claims of corruption in relation to the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program.

The report will be made public next week.

Mainstream media has speculated that the report will recommend a string of charges against former AWB executives. It is believed that around AUD$222 million of illegal payments were made to a Jordanian trucking company partly owned by Hussein's Iraqi regime. AWB executives claim it was a victim of the Iraq government's corruption.

The Australian government has also come under scrutiny for failing to investigate reports of the AWB breaching UN sanctions against Iraq. It is expected that the report will contain little about the government's role as that is outside the inquiry's terms of reference.

The opposition is expected to attack the government when the report is tabled in parliament this week. Opposition spokesman for Public Accountability, Kelvin Thomson said the inquiry was set up to return a verdict wanted by the government and that the terms of reference were deliberately narrow.

"The inquiry has been given rorted terms of reference. It has been limited to reporting on the conduct of AWB, it has not been allowed to make findings concerning the conduct of Howard Government ministers."

"The Opposition expressly raised this with Commissioner Cole earlier this year and this was Commissioner Cole's response."

"So all along, the Howard Government has been seeking a verdict of AWB guilty, Government innocent," said Mr Thomson.

Former chairman of AWB, Trevor Flugge said he will not read the report when it is released and said he has done nothing wrong but fears going to gaol.

Speaking to The Australian newspaper, Mr Flugge said he had no interest in reading the Cole report because the case has been built against him from the outset.

"My public life is obviously over. And I can't honestly say that I miss it," Mr Flugge said.