Former AWB chairman paid almost $1,000,000 by AusAID

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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

It has been revealed at the Cole inquiry that former Australian Wheat Board chairman Trevor Flugge was paid almost AU$1,000,000 by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to provide "agricultural assistance" to Iraq for less than one year. The Prime Minister today defended the payment, saying that Mr Flugge's background and experience justified the sum.

The Opposition attacked the government over the issue, suggesting that the money was wasted and could have been better spent helping children.

"AusAid is now tied up in the wheat for weapons scandal, [having] spent almost $700,000 sending Trevor Flugge off to Iraq to take photos of himself with guns," said Bob Sercombe, Labor spokesman on overseas aid and Pacific Island affairs.

"Every dollar spent on Trevor Flugge is one less dollar for spending on children in developing countries."

During an interview today Prime Minister John Howard defended the payment of money to Mr Flugge, arguing that he had the appropriate skills.

"Well you have to look at the availability of people, you have to look at the fact that we wanted to have somebody in that position who knew a lot about the wheat industry generally, about agriculture and certainly somebody who on his track record to them was somebody who would look to the interests of the Australian wheat industry. When you know and appreciate and acknowledge the value of wheat exports to this country, having somebody with the background that Flugge had in the wheat industry able to look after Australia's interests," Mr Howard said.

It was also revealed at a recent Senate estimates hearing that ninety percent of Australia's foreign aid budget goes to Australian companies. The revelation was made by an AusAID official, Dereck Rooken-Smith.

According to Tim O'Conner of AID/WATCH, the news comes as no surprise. "For ten years now the Howard government has focused on advancing business and strategic interests through the aid program," he said.