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(generated from captions) 28 years, my second 26, "Kid, my first chisel lasted me will see me out." "so I guess this one a bit cheaper down the road. Ah, no. I'm afraid they're

I'll just take these, thanks. Uh-huh. Hey, hey, hey, hey! Theirs are rubbish. by dedicated craftsmen. This chisel is hand-tooled Bad shopkeeper! Easy, Kenny! Bad shopkeeper! Never chisel a customer. Put him down, Kenneth. about it one day! (Laughs) Hey...um, don't sue. You'll laugh You're just a weirdo. Come on, you don't have 5,000 quid. I thought you might say that. the rest when you start. That's ?1,000. I'll give you blow it all on a slap-up meal? Are you sure you don't wanna Why don't you sleep on it? OK.

You're very beautiful.

(Clears throat) I've had a bit of a think. naked for you for my bus fare. And I'm prepared to pose

Run along now and get me some toast. OK, you're my best friend! I can't bear this, Kenny! I know, what does that say about me? look for another job, OK? But, look, I'm gonna Michael... means this much to you. No, no, no! The work obviously You stay and I will leave. OK? Oh...cheers, Mike. That's great! I accept your offer!

What? Thanks! But... Hmm? No, "Thanks, but..." No, just...thanks! Right. So, have you thought about

do with yourself, job-wise? what you're gonna Um... a completely empty gesture, I was obviously just making takes me seriously! like friends do, and the bastard Rex would rather keep you on, love. You know I like Kenny, you'd back away from at parties. but, well, he is the kind of guy Well, it doesn't matter. it was a legally binding offer. Kenny insisted getting his maracas back. Well, he's not No, love. to carry it FLAT! Flat! Flat! You're supposed Not upright! It's not toast! Mike. to move on. Maybe now is the right time supposed to be a summer job I mean, you said it was only for, what - 37 years? and you've been there Yeah, I... Can you...? Can you do that thing I like? Oh... Oh! think I should pose nude for him. I told the artist guy that we didn't Oh, God, thank you. to ?5,000. So he increased his offer He did. He didn't. And you said...? No. think about this for a minute. Uh-huh. Let's just What? Well, we are short of cash. Yeah, I'm not a prostitute. and prostitution for ?5,000? (Laughs) Why is it art for ?1,000 Because now it's creepy, but not OK for one grand? and why is it OK for five grand a decent car! No, not that. Because now we could afford Not that! Um...because it means he's obviously serious about his art. and respect is worth to you? OK, so is that how much my dignity You think we should push for ?7,000. OK. naked subject to the following. " (Reads) "Anne Spinks agreed to pose than 'naked'? Is there a more professional word OK, OK. Butt-naked? All-nudie? What? See definition overleaf. Right, "One, nothing mucky. "Two, Mike Dunkly to be present "unless he's really busy doing something else."

Mr Dunkly promises not to chat. or make faces. He promises not to chat Point taken. "Three, must be nice and warm white and veiny and porridgey." "so skin doesn't look all sort of Yeah. of Miss Spinks's position "Four any altering herself or Mr Dunkly." "to be carried out by Miss Spinks I'm not so bothered about that. refuses to go on all fours." And, "Five, Miss Spinks I'm on my fifth dribbly pensioner! What time do you call this?! Sorry! We had to prepare something. Wanted to be ready for Daniel. I told him to piss off. He's already been in. He was a freak! Hey, you what? treating you like a piece of meat! Oh, come on, Anne, keep up! He was Actually, maybe he was. No, 5,000 quid for a few hours work, to treat you how he likes. he's entitled Let's cash in now! at a long, slow trip south, love. Your body is looking there, for a minute. Sorry, I turned into Rex What I meant was that's fine! We don't need five grand! Have you got his phone number at all? No? Right, good. No problem. No! were how rude to him, exactly? Let's just let it go. And you it'll be with the police. If he comes back at all

Good, great, so I've got no job and we're broke. It's all going...very well. That's good. or you're looking at a nightmare. Put the grommets on last

Yes. And a bag of sharp, coming up.

So, do it in the evening and if you're still sticky in the morning you're a lucky man. (Laughs)

and harden it up. No, just turn up the heating Hey, missus, me and my dirty mouth. been doing with it, eh? Why - what have I

does a beep-beep-beep-beep noise. OK, now, that one a waw-waw-waw-waw-waw. This one's more of And what about that one?

Oh, that? Beep-ba-ba-b... there's all these people here? Sorry. Steve, how come at the DIY Superstore last night. Apparently, there was a fire for months. Apparently, it's gonna be closed So it's lucky, eh?

Yeah. Quiet night in last night, Kenny? Hey!

Me? Yeah, TV. Uh-huh. What did you watch? Oh, er...what was it called? Um... Oh, yeah, the...news...and weather. Mm-hm.

to the DIY Superstore at all? You didn't pop out and set fire

No! No, I don't think so. No, I didn't, no. No. Why would I wanna do that? To keep me in a job? what you're talking about. I don't know Jeez, Kenny, have you got any idea you have just put out of work? how many blameless people I mean, come on! (Both laugh madly) (Both grunt) Who's next? Anyone need serving? Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd

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This program is not subtitled Tonight -

the PM minister takes the stand, but he's spared any cross-examination by AWB's lawyers. By establishing this inquiry and appearing, by having two senior ministers appear, this Government has demonstrated its transparancy, its accountability. John Howard, like Pontius Pilate, wants to wash his hands of this sorry scandal. This program is captioned live. Good evening. Welcome to Lateline. I'm Maxine McKew. And on the program tonight - a view from inside the Cole comission and what it's all adding up to from journalists David Marr and Matt Price.

Their comments shortly, but first, to the headlines. The offshore solution - the Government's new plan for the handling of all new boat-arrival asylum seekers. The demons of September 11 - new disease fears for thousands exposed to the toxic dust of the Twin Towers' collapse. And the power of thorium - scientists weigh the benefits of a plentiful, and relatively safe, alternative to uranium. There was tight security and standing room only, when the PM, John Howard, made his much-anticipated appearance at the Cole inquiry in Sydney today. In testimony lasting less than an hour, the PM said that as early as 2002 he suspected Iraq was rorting the Oil-For-Food Program, but never considered that AWB was part of it. He defended his advisers for not bringing to his attention a series of diplomatic cables warning of kickback allegations dating back to the year 2000. Michael Edwards has this report. If John Howard was nervous this morning, he wasn't showing it. CROWD CHANTS: Johnny's a liar! Out! Out! Out! But a lone protester did try to unsettle proceedings. MAN: Just remember - we remember children overboard! It's time for John Howard to go overboard! WOMAN: Stop the killing, stop the lies! The third and final member of his Government to front the inquiry, Mr Howard was questioned about a speech he gave in March 2003, during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. He has cruelly and cynically manipulated the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program. He's rorted it to buy weapons, to support...his...designs at the expense of the wellbeing of his people. John Agius, the counsel assisting the inquiry, asked the Prime Minister: Mr Howard replied: The Federal Government says In 42 minutes of evidence, Mr Howard testified he didn't become aware of the allegations against AWB until 2005. During the course of the Cole inquiry, a series of diplomatic cables have emerged. These warned the Government as early as 2000 that kickbacks were being paid. Mark Vaile and Alexander Downer had trouble recalling the cables. John Howard said his advisers had read some of them, but hadn't brought them to his attention. John Howard told the inquiry he never suspected AWB was paying kickbacks because he'd never been presented with any evidence of wrongdoing. And, like his ministers, he believed in AWB's then good reputation. Other lawyers at the inquiry were prevented from cross-examining the Prime Minister. At a press conference afterwards, Mr Howard said his appearance proves the Government's got nothing to hide. By appearing, by establishing the inquiry, by appearing, by seeing two senior ministers appear, this Government has demonstrated its transparency. But he did concede any adverse findings against his ministers would have serious consequences and assessments of the evidence would come from a range of quarters. It is for a commission such as Mr Cole's commission to establish whether there've been breaches of the law and to make findings of fact. It is for the political process and for you, ladies and gentlemen, and for the parliamentary process to deal with issues of ministerial competence. The Opposition's still far from convinced. John Howard knows that this commission of inquiry Has no powers whatsoever to make any determinations concerning his ministers performing their duties under Australian law. This commission of inquiry only has powers to determine whether or not the AWB should be charged with criminal offences. That's the bottom line here and John Howard knows it. Echoing the Opposition's calls is a group of lawyers who've written a letter Attorney-General calling for a widening of the terms of reference. Michael Edwards, Lateline. The Federal Government says that from today no unauthorised boat arrivals will have their refugee claims processed on the mainland. Instead they'll be shipped off to Manus Island or Nauru. The Opposition has accused the government of caving in to Indonesian pressure and tonight there are signs Jakarta may be ready to reconcile with Canberra.

Craig McMurtrie reports. The government denies that it's a concession to Indonesia, but Jakarta was advised in advance of the announcement. If it makes a contribution to the bilateral relationship, that is a very good thing. And it's now waiting on a special envoy from Canberra to provide further details. It may well be that a senior person, probably not a minister, goes to Jakarta

and we have some further discussions. Our policy has been changed, not on a deliberation related to the Australian national interest, but on the complaints of another country. Now, that's not good enough. Indonesia was infuriated by last month's decision to grant 42 Papuans temporary protection visas. In response, the government's turning again to the Pacific solution.

We'll decide who comes here

and the circumstances under which they come. The Immigration Minister says processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island could come out of mothballs. That boat that arrived in late January was a warning sign that further boats may come. And in a new, uncompromising policy, all unauthorised boat arrivals will be processed offshore, even if they reach the mainland. Amanda Vanstone wants anyone found to be a refugee to be taken by another country. REPORTER: Will it be the first preference to resettle them to a third country or will the first preference be to resettle asylum seekers in Australia? No. The press release says what it means - they'll be resettled to a third country. That's clearly the first preference. Though, the PM chose a different emphasis. Australia, of course, is a third country because the offshore processing will, in most cases, not occur in Australian territory. All of this will be consistent with our international obligations. The move blocks access to Australian courts. The refugee advocate who acted for the 42 Papuans is appalled. It's an extraordinary and shocking move. It's, in fact, even worse than the 'Tampa'. It is a clear indication that the Australian Government has signalled it's prepared to cave in to pressure from a foreign country to discard our own laws. Amnesty International believes Australia's breaching its obligations under the Refugee Convention. People who arrive undocumented are being penalised

and being sent offshore. The Convention clearly states you cannot penalise people based on their mode of arrival. Indonesia has cautiously welcomed the decision. The Republic of Indonesia appreciates

the plan or the decision. Let the special envoy arrive first in Jakarta, let him discuss this with the officials in Jakarta and then we will see. With a diplomatic thaw now in prospect and fears of of other boats from Papua, patrols in Australia's northern waters will be increased. New legislation has to wait on Parliament's return next month, but the new regime would apply from today. Craig McMurtrie, Lateline. In London, a British court martial has found

an Australian-born Royal Air Force doctor guilty of five charges arising from his refusal to serve in Iraq. Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who holds British and New Zealand citizenship, refused orders to go to Iraq on the grounds that US actions there were "on a par with Nazi Germany".

He's been sentenced to eight months in prison. There are growing concerns in New York that the dust released by the collapse of the Twin Towers may have poisoned thousands of people involved in the rescue and clean-up effort. With news that a coroner there has directly linked the death of a New York policeman to a respiratory disease contracted in the wake of September 11, the path is now clear for up to 15,000 people to file a class action suit, claiming that they were misled into believing the site was safe. Stephen McDonell reports. After hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Centre in 2001, the collapse of two giant towers filled Lower Manhattan with dust. The billions of microscopic particles contained asbestos from the tower structures, lead from 50,000 computers and dangerous levels of alkaline from concrete. Though emergency workers had respirators, there were not enough, and tens of thousands of people breathed in the deadly dust. Today, thousands are being treated

for so-called 'World Trade Centre cough', and ominously, a coroner declared this week that police officer James Zadroga's death was "directly linked" to his exposure to September 11 dust. It is felt, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident. He gave his life for this city for this country. No-one would believe him that he was in constant pain.

New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center has a World Trade Centre Screening Program of 16,000 people. Half of those, about 8,000, currently need treatment. A further 7,000 firefighters are recorded as having a wide range of medical problems. This makes 15,000 people receiving treatment. But the number could go much higher with 30,000 to 50,000 people exposed to Ground Zero's dust - many who'd come to the site to try and help. who've lost their homes. I have patients who've lost their families as a result of what they went through - doing nothing more than trying to be of help to others. In the days following the attacks, the head of the Environmental Protection Authority declared that monitoring revealed "air safe to breathe". As a morale booster for the whole country, authorities re-opened Wall Street. But could this have been premature? Last month, a judge described the EPA reassurance as "misleading". They decided that giving people assurances and giving the financial system stability was worth sacrificing a few thousand lives. REPORTER: You're really saying they put the financial gain of reopening Wall Street ahead of public health concern? Absolutely, there's no question about that. The US Federal Court has cleared the way for dust inhalation victims to file a lawsuit against government authorities. They'll argue they were given false assurances they could return to the city and that this directly lead to large-scale respiratory illness. Stephen McDonell, Lateline. A day after Iran declared itself a member of the nuclear club, the head of the world's nuclear watchdog has visited Tehran to pressure leaders there to drop their nuclear ambitions. Tehran's government-controlled newspapers happily trumpeted yesterday's announcement, but the head of the International Aomic Energy Agency , Mohommed ElBaradei, is still hoping Iran will bow to international pressure. I still believe that the time is ripe for a political solution. But the mood at the UN headquarters in New York was less conciliatory, particularly among members of the Security Council. If there is no compliance, it will be our intention to take forward a resolution within the council which would make compulsory what is at the moment an urging by the council. Iran has until the end of the month to convince the Security Council its nuclear plans are peaceful. Well, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Australia's decision last week to sell uranium to China, have thrust the nuclear energy debate very much back into the spotlight. Now some energy experts are urging the world to look to an alternative fuel that could make nuclear power safer. Thorium is three times more abundant than uranium - Australia has the world's largest reserves of it and its supporters claim it could be the fuel source for a truly clean and green nuclear industry. Brett Evans has the story. Mention nuclear power, and many Australians think of Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl. NEWSREEL: The fire following a meltdown of nuclear fuel at a power station in the Soviet Union is still burning intensely. And many also assume that uranium is the only source of energy available to this controversial industry. This is, for example, thorium oxide - it is a radioactive material but is very safe to hold it in your hand. REPORTER: And that's the stuff that's going to revolutionise the nuclear power industry? That's correct. This is the future of the energy in the world. Energy without greenhouse gas production. According to Australia's leading expert on the element, thorium has all of the benefits of uranium as a nuclear fuel, but none of the drawbacks. It can generate power without emitting greenhouse gases,

it can be used to incinerate the world's stockpiles of plutonium

and its waste would only remain radioactive for 500 years - not the tens of thousands that uranium by-products remain active. In fact, the green movement must come behind this project, because we are moving in a direction to destroy all these existing nuclear wastes, to prevent nuclear weapons production, to produce Chernobyl accident happening again.

Unlike uranium, thorium is not fissile, meaning it must be coaxed into a chain reaction. At present, there are two methods of achieving this - a mixed fuel thorium reactor, which uses a small amount of uranium to kick-start the nuclear reaction, and then there's the project that Dr Hashemi-Nezhad is working on. A particle accelerator is coupled with a nuclear reactor. Beam of protons sent from the accelerator heats a heavy metallic target, such as lead, and produce huge number of neutrons. These neutrons start the chain reaction in the reactor and once you switch off the accelerator, everything dies down. Another bonus - the thorium reactor being proposed by Dr Hashemi Nezhad can be switched off immediately in the event of an accident - an option not available in conventional reactors. But if thorium is so good,

why didn't the nuclear industry adopt it decades ago? In the 1950s, during the Eisenhower Administration in the US, it was decided to go with the uranium option because you had the capability of the reactors to create fissionable output - in other words, output that's suitable for nuclear weapons. Greg Copley heads the think tank Future Directions International and he argues that thorium is the answer to many of Australia's energy problems. You could be producing energy

with small 50 megawatt reactors dispersed around the country where they can provide community electrical power as well as desalination capabilities and industrial power for other energy uses. With global warming under way, its a seductive vision - for some. Well, thorium has some advantages over uranium but in a sense it's like being run over by a diesel train instead of a steam train. The environment movement says, don't believe the hype. It's true that the period of danger of radioactive waste from thorium reactors - if the design can be worked up and proven - would be hundreds of years rather than hundreds of thousands of years, but we're still talking about very long life times. The Australian Conservation Foundation says nuclear power is still a long way from becoming clean and green, even with thorium. If we spent as much as we spend every year on nuclear research on renewable energy, we wouldn't be talking about this issue. We'd have had enough solar and wind and other forms of renewable energy

to give us clean energy solutions for the entire future. So, what is Australia's energy future? A mini-thorium reactor in every town or hillsides of wind turbines spinning in the breeze? Brett Evans, Lateline. Returning now to the week's big story,

the appearance of two ministers, along with the PM before Commissioner Cole

to face questions over the extent of Government knowledge of AWB's activities.

Trade Minister Mark Vaile led off Affairs to check on AWB. and said it was up to Foreign was asked about this, When Alexander Downer he in turn, said it was the UN's job oil-for-food contracts. to supervise As for the PM, the commission today well, as we've heard, he told that AWB would behave corruptly. that it had never crossed his mind was relaxed and comfortable The Government, it seems, in the face of mounting evidence to Saddam Hussein. that AWB was paying kickbacks of ministerial responsibility, So where does this leave the notion Commissioner Cole constrained and to what extent is of the matter? from getting to the heart on these questions, To help shed some light by David Marr, I've been joined tonight for the 'Sydney Morning Herald' who's been covering the hearings since day one, sketch writer for 'The Australian', and by Matt Price, the parliamentary

the toughest editorial line The newspaper that has taken on ministerial negligence. of you. Thanks for joining us. Gentlemen, welcome to both What we saw today, I think it's fair to say, hearing room, in Commissioner Cole's than a thorough interrogation was something less of prime ministerial knowledge. about the limits what was the point? So, David Marr, what was it,

came to the inquiry today Well, the point is that Howard terms of reference. protected by his own He'd written them. can investigate with Howard And all Cole and Agius

is what he knew. AWB people, Now when they're interrogating

of criminal behaviour, they're looking for signs every step of the way they're absolutely scrutinising over the years. all the things they did But the Government? and that means bureaucrats as well - All they can ask of the Government - is what did you know? Now that's not a simple question, to go deep into the behaviour but it doesn't give them the leeway was running up this gigantic scam. of all those years when AWB as comfortable as he did? So that explains why the PM looked been questioned Well, I think he could still have a lot more toughly. for detail. Of course, we're all hungry We want to know a great deal more. the incongruity of his position Agius did map out pretty clearly when Howard says for AWB that the issue of culpability only came onto his radar in 2005, you start wondering, well, did nothing filter up out of Baghdad from 2003 from the reports coming that AWB had been paying kickbacks? Apparently not. Matt Price, what about you? by the questioning this morning? Were you unsurprised No, I was unsurprised over the last few days because you just got the feeling a fairly easy time for it. that the ministers were going to get that Howard - I was surprised, though, sort of came in, Mark Vaile on the first day

the big media crew out the front ran the gauntlet of and got sort of accosted. through a back door. Next day Alexander Downer came in his office about 300m or 400m, But Howard today walked from waving to the crowd. It was a sort of triumphal march with all the security he has - and wound up - he got a fairly clear run and I thought he sailed through it. The most damaging image I think were expressly stopped was when the lawyers for AWB by Commissioner Cole

from cross-examining. Most of them didn't bother there's not much point because, as David said, are so narrow. because the terms of reference to Commissioner Cole, But a couple of them ventured who's a fearsome figure, a hell of a hard time and he gave them

to question him and they still tried and in the end didn't.

would have been thinking, And I'm sure the PM I'll bat this off easily." "I hope he let's me because But he didn't the image or the criticism and I just thought that cemented is very, very restricted. that the questioning of ministers

Yes, David, what about that?

Well, this is - fireproofing the PM And is Commissioner Cole actually and, to a certain extent, the other ministers who appeared this week? From the start with the inquiry

on the part of the Commissioner you could see this special alertness came to be mentioned. when the Government were breaking When those first stories

that came back to Canberra about the cables where nothing particularly happened of people were being alerted, and yet it was clear that all sorts Cole was fiercely questioning, to question people. he would fiercely intervene that's testing people's recollection Now you could say that the Government is absolutely firm. to make sure that criticism of But there was also this sense very far here. that we were not going to stray he made this public announcement And that's why after a few weeks wider terms of reference saying, "I don't need at the knowledge of the Government." "because I do have to look that looked pretty good. And for a while,

an inquiry that allowed him to do. And then you realised how limited And there was always this sense that an executive from AWB the Department of Foreign Affairs and an executive from were not going to be treated of rigorous scepticism with the same kind of the two were different. because the questions being asked There was a cracking moment attempted to be cross-examined when Downer was being - and they did allow a few questions, a very strict time limit. but it was under And one of the lawyers said, "We started to go into areas was very wary about." "that Commissioner Cole basically that, you're wasting our time." And Commissioner Cole said, "Stop "Well, hang on," And the lawyer said, it was Lindberg's lawyer who said, for four days." "My client was cross-examined had 10 minutes from one lawyer I think Alexander Downer and 15 minutes from the other.

And there was a palpable feeling - a lot longer than I - and David has been there of frustration but a palpable feeling for people other than politicians. among many of the the counsels I don't think you can say the Commissioner was protecting them so much as he was operating within the strict terms of reference. It's no use, really -

he's got a limited amount of time and definitely a limited amount of patience. He wasn't going to let the hares run. He probably could have done it a little gentler and maybe let it go a little more widely. He definitely was not going to let it happen. 'Protect' is the wrong word. I think he was just operating - But it was frustrating for us. Oh, incredibly. Because there's this guy, John Agius, the counsel assisting - he's this huge forensic engine but he wasn't running and the fun we could have had if he had just put down that blunt head of his and gone the PM in the way he's gone - Equally, though, we saw Terry Forrest get up, who's acting on behalf of two of the AWB executives, in the agonisingly slow deferential manner ask to be able to put questions to the PM. Yes, terrible, wasn't it? This was shut down. Commissioner Cole would be excruciatingly conscious here of an accusation of bias? I think he would be indifferent to it

because his answer would be, "Terms of reference, can't go there." Like, as Matt was saying, this amazing moment the other day when Downer was being asked a question we all want him to answer: Did he really think back in 2001, one phone call from one of his diplomats to AWB and AWB said, "Oh, those Canadian complaints are bullshit." That one phone call was really enough? Was it really enough, Mr Downer? Do you really approve of that as a high-level inquiry into possible wrongdoing? And that's when the whole thing just shut, because Downer's stupidity does not come within the terms of reference. It was very interesting, though, Mark Vaile who is by far - well comfortably the least eloquent.

If he set the bar, he essentially buried the performance bar for the rest of them. They couldn't have done any worse. He's not an eloquent fellow and didn't answer very convincingly. He definitely got a tougher grilling from Agius. He got asked some tough questions. At one stage after he'd done a press release appraising the AWB, the question was put to him, "When you're putting out a press release on behalf of yourself, "you're putting your name to it, "you're also putting the country's reputation to it." Which is a good question. Very good question. Got him a little bit awkward and I thought, my sense of it was OK, this is not going to be as easy as some of the ministers think. That same question could have been done to the PM and to Alexander Downer. But that kind of questioning - and that was just one example that I can quickly remember - and there was a lot more for Mr Vaile, that kind of disappeared. Now, I suspect his very ordinary performance contributed to that. Everyone got a little bit frustrated with the "I don't recalls" and the blather which, when you've seen him in Parliament, wasn't extraordinary,

it's just that his schtick. I suspect at the end of the week he's thinking, "Dear me, I wish I wasn't first." Of course, we also had the prime ministerial definition to that today,

No longer "I don't recall", but "Not necessarily". There was, as far as I can tell, only one moment when the PM said, "I can't recall," but it was actually on a point where he had every right not to recall. Exactly, it was a genuine "I can't recall", "to the best of my belief". Let's look at what the PM did say. He was referred to the National Press Club address that he made in March of 2003 where, of course, he lambasted Saddam Hussein for his flouting of the UN Oil-for-Food Program but said, of course, that he made no link at that time with any possible Australian company. So who was he flouting it with? This is the question - was this a reasonable defence that he said, "Absolutely not,"

when he said did not make any link with AWB. Maxine, you've got to understand what those three ministers were there in the room for this week. They were all there to prove that they were duped. That's what they have to do, because otherwise they were conniving. There are only two choices in all of this. The stupider they look, the better for the Government. They're the ground rules of the interrogation this week. And I think that's reasonable, David. Well, if they look stupid, how can they be running the Government? That's a different issue, of course. But for the tactics of this week it doesn't matter whether Howard is particularly convincing on the point that a few days before we went to war he placed amongst the important reasons for entering that war the flouting by Saddam Hussein of the Oil-for-Food Program. Hang on, what do you mean when you say, "He doesn't have to be convincing?" I would prefer him to be convincing but I'm not convinced by his notion that he left it to his scriptwriter to see if that point was true.

I think you're being harsh. Never looked at the material himself and just once again, with so many of the crises that seem to engulf his office, it's always somebody else doing the checking and not him. And it's just balderdash, really. I think they were duped. Most of the evidence is that they were duped. The connivance, certainly the direct connivance, it doesn't bear scrutiny, I think, or bear thinking about. I do think you have to go back to when he made that speech. They were going to go to war, in my opinion. They were piling up the evidence and that paragraph about the Oil-for-Food Program would have been in there with all the weapons of mass destruction stuff. Howard said today - and I think this essentially explains everything. He said today, "Listen, I had no qualms about thinking the worst of Iraq "and I believed everything I half-heard and read and saw "and I didn't need convincing "that he was shonky and corrupt on the oil-for-food." And then he said, when asked, "Well, I thought well of AWB. "I had no concept that they would be corrupt." Fast-forward then to after the ouster of Saddam Hussein and, of course, that cable comes through from the US Army officer working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, makes it clear what the kickback program was all about. Oh, absolutely. And still the PM says, "He wouldn't necessarily have seen that." This is what got me.

This is what absolutely staggered me is that Downer, in particular, and DFAT - and David knows the chain much better than I -

but all along these cables, this intelligence, "Oh, it's been missed, it's gone crazily wrong." Yet, the day before when Downer was giving evidence, he'd sort of sailed through reasonably well and at the end he gave this triumphal tribute to his department. I think everyone in Australia now courtesy of the massive coverage accepts that this has been a massive cock-up. But you're listening to this mob and DFAT are the most professional, "No, we wouldn't have done anything wrong," and "With hindsight..." That just staggers me. I can't work it out. Let me ask you to make this connection. David, I'll put this question to you. At the same time, here we've got Matt saying now it's a cock-up. But what is very odd, at the same time you apparently have indifference in Canberra - and this is as I say June of 2003, after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Over in Washington you've got Australia's ambassador Michael Thorley actively barracking on behalf of AWB. Now, this is out of patriotism or he simply refuses to ask any questions about AWB? And what's more - Aren't these two things at odds? What's more, the talking points that the ambassador has when he goes in to confront people in Washington. The talking points are prepared by AWB and - Everything was prepared by AWB. Thorley was quite successful We didn't - AWB didn't get the grief We had friends in Washington. We had friends in Washington. the grief in Washington We didn't - AWB didn't get that it deserved to get there. because there was some protection couldn't deal with What the Australian Government was the American wheat lobby and the American wheat lobby, over in Baghdad now, together with Ahmed Chalabi,

between them Oil-for-Food Program, were determined to prove that the out of, which the Americans had been locked was rotten. and that's what we couldn't stop. And they were right, able to use the diplomats quite well And even though the Government was to keep a lid on it, in the United States what finally blew the lid of the wheat lobby and the neocons was that coalition and, in particular, in our huge narrative of this as we explain Marian Wilkinson and I over this weekend. in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' David, yes. Which we will all eagerly read, The particular tipping point no weapons of mass destruction, was when they discovered there was had to find some other target because the neocons then they really went for and that's when

under oil-for-food. the shonky deals And it was from that point no longer ultimately protect AWB, that the Australian Government could for at least another year. though God knows they tried

I want to come back, Matt Price, Just in the time we've got left

of this. I suppose the political damage distinction The PM made an interesting after the hearings today at his press conference is one thing, and that is the judicial process it's up to the Parliament, but as he said indeed the fourth estate, competence or otherwise. to make the case about ministerial

That being the case, process leaves Alexander Downer, where do you think this whole in particular? it's your newspaper And, of course, successive editorials against him? that has launched some pretty savage Well I think they'll end up - really seriously damaging findings I can't see Cole making any which would make the PM say, Vaile, Downer, you're gone." "Well open-and-shut case - I just can't see it. I think they'll survive. I think it's been damaging. I think you're right - the 'Sydney Morning Herald', the ABC, the 'Australian', of the news media the pointy end, the broadsheet end for five or six months. has been on this story to being a garage band But this week it's been akin to buy your record. and suddenly everybody wants week for the Government. This has been a potentially damaging and getting not damaged by anything We're so used to them being teflon and, you know, Labor helps that. Let me ask you this, though - after the fuss of this week passes, some sober assessment, if you like, do you think there's going to be performance particularly of Alexander Downer's among his own party colleagues any chances he has and it may in fact cruel of future advancement of Treasury, whether it's in the role deputy prime ministership? No, I don't think so at all. eagerly awaited. I think Cole's report will be There'll be another bout of dissection everywhere of two or three days

the tabloids and the talkback radio and in the popular media, current affairs. and maybe the commercial come out of this, But I think Downer will as other ministers have in the past, and sail on. As long as Howard thinks that - to lose Downer - I mean, he's not going he's his best friend in Government. he's one of his - Minister we've ever had, He regards him as the best Foreign if you believe the PM, in his department and he accepts that everybody has done a great job. and I'm sure he thinks DFAT It defies belief. I would have thought, A little contrition, from somebody, somewhere might help. But it's not going to come. So I could be proved wrong. and maybe Mr Downer will be wounded. Maybe the report will be damaging But I just can't see it. and a brief one if you would? Final word, David Marr, that we live in a country Oh, I think we have to understand

do worse than this to be sacked. where a minister has got to our political system at the moment. That's the reality of Alright, gentlemen - and on the eve of Easter, for your time tonight I do thank you.

David Marr, Matt Price, Thanks. thanks very much. for joining us tonight,

Happy Easter. To the markets now -

more than 7 points behind. the All Ords ended The mining sector was mixed. while Rio Tinto fell. BHP climbed 26 cents

The major banks were also mixed. and the Nikkei are both higher. In the region, the Hang Seng in early trade. In London, the FTSE is ahead On the commodities markets both gold and oil retreated. And the Australian dollar is currently buying US$0.729. Now, to the weather. Rain developing for Melbourne. Showers in Hobart.

A few showers in Adelaide. Afternoon and evening thunderstorms in Darwin. Mainly fine in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra. And fine to begin the holiday weekend in Perth.

And that's all for this evening. If you'd like to look back at tonight's forum or transcripts, or review any of Lateline's stories abc.net.au/lateline. you can visit our website at will be no Lateline in this slot Tomorrow being Good Friday, there Monday, so please join him then. but Tony Jones will be back on enjoy a happy and safe Easter. In the meantime, Goodnight.

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INTRO TO SONG: 'PALACE OF DREAMS'