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Tuesday, 28 November 2006
Page: 39

Senator McGAURAN (3:20 PM) —One of the features of this inquiry of some 12 months with regard to the wheat scandal—and it is a scandal; it is properly dubbed one of Australia’s worst corruption scandals—has been the Labor Party’s shift from allegation to claim to assertion, and the previous speaker epitomises that. When each one was proven false along the way, they have found another reason to whip up an issue, exaggerate—indeed, slur—give false witness and, in fact, lie all along the way. The previous speaker, who is in great denial—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator McGauran, I think you should withdraw that.

Senator McGAURAN —That she is in denial?


Senator McGAURAN —The Labor Party—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Just withdraw.

Senator McGAURAN —I withdraw and replace it with: many untruths were given and false witness was borne by the Labor Party along the way during this 12-month inquiry. As I said, the previous speaker epitomises all of this. We will have a different opinion, no doubt, about how the Australian people will judge this. I have no doubt that the Australian people have not been fooled by the shrill other side over the past 12 months and will not be fooled now that the report has been handed down.

What the Australian people demand of any government is transparency. The establishment of a commission of inquiry was the government’s bona fides in relation to this issue. The Volcker inquiry established that over 2,000 companies in 66 countries prima facie had been rorting the UN oil for food program. So the government acted. Only three countries established an inquiry. No other country, only Australia, established an inquiry with the powers of a royal commission. Australia stands alone in having established an inquiry with the greatest powers of investigation of any.

This claim that the inquiry did not have the terms of reference to rope in the government, if you like, is absolute rubbish. The Cole inquiry changed the terms of reference some five times along the way, and Mr Cole said that he was not constrained by the terms of reference from investigating the government’s and the department’s involvement in all this. Have you conveniently forgotten all of that? Is that why you have dropped it out of your speeches today? I repeat: Mr Cole said clearly that he was not constrained by the terms of reference with regard to investigating the government’s, any minister’s or any department’s apparent involvement in this oil for food scandal. Moreover, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Foreign Affairs all fronted the Cole inquiry—voluntarily, I should add—to answer questions.

From the time the Volcker inquiry set up a prima facie case with regard to corruption, this government has continued to act with transparency and vigilance right up to the release of the recommendations today. Rest assured, the recommendations handed down by the Cole inquiry will be acted upon speedily and vigorously implemented.

We know the Labor Party never found their smoking gun during the last 12 months, and now they have the audacity, as shown by the previous speaker, to still try and link the government with this corruption case, regardless of what Mr Cole himself has put in writing. I wonder if they have even read the report. They do not want to read it. I recommend that the other side read the findings of the Cole inquiry. If they do, they will find, quite clearly, quote after quote—like those I have before me—that the government did not, in the words of Mr Cole, ‘turn a blind eye’. In fact, at no time did AWB tell the Australian government or the United Nations of the true arrangements: they were deceived. They are the words in the findings of the Cole royal commission. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.