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Australia 'beyond reticent' over wheat probe, -

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(generated from captions) Welcome to the program. And the AWB-Iraq kickback scandal in evidence was actually kicked forward at the Cole inquiry in Sydney today. for the first time that With a document that revealed to be pressured the Federal Government had into the kickbacks by the earlier UN inquiry to provide proper cooperation. It was the UN inquiry chairman Paul Volcker chaired by former US Reserve Bank the AWB role that finally confirmed in the oil-for-food scandal late last year. in his report presented many times since, PM John Howard has said fully with the Volcker inquiry. that his Government had cooperated in Canberra But a cable back to his department ambassador to the UN John Dauth from Australia's then in February last year, tabled in the Cole inquiry today, had expressed strong concern reveals that Mr Volcker from the Government, at the lack of cooperation "beyond reticent, even forbidding". which he described as that he had strong evidence Mr Volcker also warned to Saddam Hussein's regime. AWB had paid kickbacks Michael Brissenden. This report from Political Editor

Like a rogue oil well fire, the AWB

scandal just keeps getting bigger

and bigger. If the Government was hoping Terence Cole and his

commission would play Red Adair and

cap the oil-for-food scandal, they

seem to have got it wrong. Day

after day the commission process

keep throwing a up document

keep throwing a up documents that

appear to show a Government

to leave information out. It was appear to show a Government prepared

established after Paul Volcker

handed down his finding last

October. The Government's position

had been that it always cooperated

fully with volume kemplt time and

again both the PM and the Foreign

Minister have given these

assurances. Having received in the

case of Australia, full responses

and cooperation and full

documentation that if there was

anything lacking in the behaviour

Australia in relation to her anything lacking in the behaviour of

obligation, the Volcker Inquiry

would have so reported. The

Government cooperated fully with

Volcker Inquiry, providing all Government cooperated fully with the

information requested by the

committee. Mr Howard and his

ministers have always been

careful with their language. ministers have always been extremely

Transparency and cooperation have

been the important catchphrases.

The Volcker Inquiry began in April

2004. The PM has repeatedly

reassured us that although he had

direct talks with Volcker on the reassured us that although he had no

matter - apart from a casual

chitchat at a Washington function -

the Government provided Volcker

every assistance sought. Well, he the Government provided Volcker with

did express some views through

the'Australian''. He did express

some views to the Government

- I think it would have been some views to the Government through

our embassy in the United Nations - I think it would have been through

the beginning of last year. And my our embassy in the United Nations at

response to that when it was

to my attention was to say that response to that when it was brought

there had to be full transparency

and full cooperation with Mr

Volcker's inquiry. REPORTER: It

didn't raise any alarm bells as to

the way in which AWB was behaving?

I think what I should say in

relation to that what he

communicated to me, I responded

the language that I have just used. communicated to me, I responded with

What did he communicate? Well, I

think that is a matter - the

commission has all the relevant

documentation, so I'll leave it -

What kind of chitchat - was the

inquiry mentioned at all? Chitchat

was chitchat. It was separately.

Just so there's no misunderstanding

about this, I was advised by my

department at the beginning of last

year of some observations of Mr

Volcker's and I responded to those

observations by saying that there

had to be full disclosure and

transparency. I think they were

words that I used. In diplomacy it transparency. I think they were the

seems there's chitchat and then

there's cable speak. Today, the

Cole inquiry revealed just what

those observations were. We know

Volcker was unhappy with some

of the cooperation he was getting. Volcker was unhappy with some levels

But at no stage has the Government

allowed us to know precisely where

this unhappiness lay. Today, the

Cole inquiry told us, with this

cable sent by ambassador Dauth on 7

February, 2005.

The Opposition says the message is

clear. John Howard up until now has

maintained that his Government

cooperated fully with the Volcker

Inquiry, but we now know that that Inquiry, but we now know that that

wasn't the case. Because what was

established today in the inquiry is

that in early '05 the Australian

Embassy in New York sends back a

cable to the Australian Government

in Canberra in which Mr Volcker

complains loud and clear about the

Australian Government's

non-cooperation. So we have the PM

trying to tell the Australian

that he's fully cooperated with Mr trying to tell the Australian people

Volcker and Mr Volcker telling the

Australian Government that they

weren't cooperating at all. But a

spokesman for Alexander Downer says

Volcker sent people to Australia in

February and March 2005. They

interviewed DFAT officials and were

given access to all departmental

documents and took back with them

any documents that they wanted, and

the PM's office says Mr Howard also

spelt it out just this week.

Volcker's concerns in 2005 were met.

At the beginning of 2005 I was told

by my department, and it came out

by my department, and it came out of our mission in the UN in New York,

that Mr Volcker was unhappy with

that Mr Volcker was unhappy with the level of cooperation he was

receiving in relation to his

inquiry, and that he entertained

suspicions about AWB. In response

to that, I gave clear written

instructions immediately that there

had to be full cooperation and full

transparency and full disclosure.

In essence, they were the words

In essence, they were the words that I in fact noted on the minute that

I in fact noted on the minute that I received from my department. And I

also told Mr Vaile that he should

write to the company in the

strongest possible terms saying

strongest possible terms saying that they'd to cooperate in full with

they'd to cooperate in full with the Volcker Inquiry. The trouble with

this is again the apparent grey

this is again the apparent grey area between what we know, what we're

finding out from the Cole inquiry and what the Government seems

prepared to tell us. There's

prepared to tell us. There's wiggle room in there for sure and the

Government seems to be prepared to

use every bit of it while it can.

It's clear, too, that while this

It's clear, too, that while this was an argument about what was done in

response to concerns aired in

February 2005, there seems to be a

significant gap between what they

knew, and the seriousness with

knew, and the seriousness with which they treated it. Here's Alexander

Downer in response to a memo which

showed he was worried about AWB's

activities as early as March 2004,

11 months before the Volcker

criticisms about the Government's

failure to cooperate. I have made

failure to cooperate. I have made it perfectly clear that we hadn't

become aware of the existence of

Alia until we became aware of it in

the context of the Volcker

commission. Now this minute simply

proves the point that until I

received this minute on 30 March, I

wasn't aware of serious concerns

about AWB paying kickbacks. And documents at the Cole commission

also revealed that in November 2004,

Mr Downer agreed to provide

assistance to the UN but wouldn't

allow them to interview officials

allow them to interview officials or have access to classified messages

and that as far back as June 2003,

there was sufficient concern - at

least about press reports about kickback allegations - that

Australia's ambassador in

Australia's ambassador in Washington was making representations to the

was making representations to the US deputy Secretary of State to

reassure him that the reports were

baseless and outrageous. All of

this despite the fact that we now

know that in that same month DFAT's

own representative in Baghdad had

told the Government, from the PM's

office down, that every contract

under the oil-for-food scheme, had

included a kickback to the regime

included a kickback to the regime of between 10 and 19%. At its heart,

this isn't simply a who knew what

when conundrum. The concern was

what was done with the information.

We now know the Government was

concerned about AWB's activities in

early 2004. And the Government

early 2004. And the Government says it fully cooperated with Mr Volcker.

But we also now know that for at

least 10 month of his inquiry Mr

Volcker didn't think that was the

case. The Government's approach