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Court does the right thing on Wheat for Weapons scandal: Howard Government must do the same.

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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security

NICOLA ROXON M.P. Shadow Attorney-General 18 September 2006


Labor welcomes the Federal Court’s decision to reject AWB’s claims of legal professional privilege and order the release of a large number of documents to the Cole Inquiry.

The Federal Court's decision confirms Labor's long-standing concern that AWB has repeatedly relied on legal professional privilege to protect itself from scrutiny, in circumstances that have now been shown to be inappropriate.

This decision is an important reminder to all lawyers to limit their claims of privilege to appropriate documents.

The release of these AWB documents to the Cole Inquiry almost guarantees that the Government will need to extend Commissioner Cole’s reporting deadline.

If Mr Howard has nothing to hide, he will take this opportunity to expand not just Commissioner Cole’s reporting deadline but also his terms of reference to allow him to investigate whether Ministers and officials did their job.

There is already a demonstrable case of gross negligence and collusion on the part of the Howard Government in this scandal. All the while the cost to Australian wheat farmers of the Howard Government’s failure to discharge its duties appropriately has been significant.

Mr Howard must now expand both Commissioner Cole’s reporting deadline and his terms of reference to allow him to make findings about the whole truth of Government’s role in this scandal including:

• Whether Ministers were negligent in their response to multiple warnings from multiple agencies about AWB payments to Saddam Hussein’s regime;

• Whether Ministers upheld their obligations under Australian domestic law to prevent illegal payments to Saddam Hussein under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations;

• Whether Ministers upheld their obligations under international law to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 661 imposing sanctions against the Iraqi regime.

• Whether Ministers attempted to cover-up the AWB’s dealings with Saddam Hussein’s regime in response to a US Senate Inquiry; or

• Whether Ministers attempted to cover-up that AWB’s dealings with the Iraqi regime in the Government’s response to the UN Volcker Inquiry.

Ends 18 September 2006.

Media Contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823 (Mr Rudd) Allison Henry 0417 108 362 (Ms Roxon)