AWB Fiasco III
Greg Sheridan in the Australian.
I THINK it’s time we all took a cold shower on AWB (formerly the Australian Wheat Board) and its participation in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal. According to the Volcker inquiry, about 2253 companies from 66 countries were involved in paying kickbacks to the Saddam Hussein regime as part of their trade under oil-for-food.My thoughts exactly. If you do business in this part of the world you pay bakshees. If you don’t pay you don’t sell. Would ‘Tricky’ Rudd or Beasley have compensated the thousands of Australian wheat growers for loss of sales if the crop stayed in the bins? No way. Australians see that it’s all about the ALP trying to score a strike against the government; that the government most probably didn’t know about the details of the case and that after all, the AWB did what it was chartered to do – sell the wheat crop in extremely difficult circumstances. As well as getting money to the wheat growers for their efforts they most probably saved lives in Iraq. Kids had food for a change. I guess that in the total absence of any coherent policies the ALP can not hope to win power; they can only hope to bring the government down by a technicality.
The broader question of corruption is very slippery. When people are accused of corruption, this normally means acting dishonestly, stealing money for themselves. Many people connected to the UN, such as Kofi Annan’s son Koji, made a lot of money personally through oil-for-food. No one is alleging that folks at AWB were improperly pocketing money themselves.It’s not about the AWB, they are just the catalyst for the ALP to attack. There will be any amount of Australian companys who will have paid ‘fees’ to get goods over the wharves in Indonesia, through customs in some South African excuse for a country or even into a European market. It just happens and the only difference is the actual word used to describe the ‘fees’. In fact, if any company tells you they don’t pay ‘fees’ to get goods into Indonesia I would say they are telling porkies. The ABC, SBS and ALP should get over it and start acting as a constructive opposition. There are plenty of bills to debate and the AWB will not cost Howard any votes.