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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 77

Mr BEAZLEY (2:25 PM) —If the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations took any sort of shower, we would all be grateful! I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm evidence presented to the Cole inquiry that his own senior adviser on international policy at the time, Paul O’Sullivan, coached the AWB on its dealings with Volcker as late as June 2005 to ‘keep your responses narrow and technical’ and ‘complain about the process’? Prime Minister, why did your own office encourage and assist the AWB to evade the proper scrutiny of the Volcker inquiry, restrict the amount of information provided to the inquiry and cover up this ‘wheat for weapons’ scandal? Doesn’t this private advice contradict your public statements made only four months earlier that the government would fully cooperate with Volcker?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I am not in a position to give any independent verification. The fact is that material has been presented to the Cole inquiry. The material to which the honourable member refers is clearly, as he would know, in the realm of hearsay. It will be for the commissioner, a very learned person, a very professional person, as acknowledged by the member for Griffith this morning, to make judgments. As I have said before, I say again: let us wait and allow the commissioner to sift through these matters and make his judgment. But, in answer to the question regarding the determination on my part for cooperation and transparency, that remains the case, and I do not believe anything has countermanded that.