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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 36

Mr RUDD (2:52 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the UN’s raising of formal and direct concerns with the Australian government in January 2000 over whether the Wheat Board’s commercial arrangements with the Iraqis were in violation of UN sanctions. I also refer to the fact that the UN’s concerns were raised with the government nine months before the government approved the Wheat Board’s proposal, a decision that resulted in gross violations of UN sanctions. Minister, given that these UN concerns were cabled to your office in Canberra, what action did you take in response to prevent the Wheat Board from paying $300 million to Saddam Hussein—the largest contribution worldwide to Saddam Hussein’s slush fund?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —As the Prime Minister said, all of these issues have been given careful consideration by the Volcker inquiry. We provided every piece of information that we could find to the Volcker inquiry, and quite rightly so. I said to my department quite some time ago that I wanted them to cooperate fully, to pass all documents they could possibly find to the Volcker inquiry and to ensure that our mission in New York and our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra fully cooperated with the Volcker inquiry. The Volcker inquiry has drawn its conclusions, in particular, from our point of view as Australians, in relation to the Australian Wheat Board, and they can be read by honourable members. You can read what the Wheat Board has said, and the Prime Minister, over and above that, has said that—

Mr Rudd —On a point of order, Mr Speaker: there is not one word in the answer that is relevant to the question. Volcker’s terms of reference do not touch the government—

The SPEAKER —The member will resume his seat. Has the minister completed his answer?

Mr Downer —Yes.