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Alexander Downer: AWB's man-in-the-government.

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

28 March 2006


Foreign Minister Downer was repeatedly questioned in Parliament again today on evidence presented to the Cole Inquiry that he told the AWB, through its CEO Andrew Lindberg, that AWB “can’t be responsible for what happened to the money after it was paid to Alia”.

Mr Downer refused to deny the accuracy of the evidence.

Mr Downer’s ongoing collusion with AWB through 2004 and 2005 raises serious questions over his performance as Foreign Minister.

By the time Mr Downer told AWB it did not matter what had happened to the $300 million it paid to the Jordanian company Alia, the Australian Government had already received intelligence reports in 1998, the first quarter of 2000, November 2000 and September 2001 confirming that Alia was a front for Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In addition to Mr Downer’s words of comfort to AWB in his conversation with Mr Lindberg, further evidence in the Cole Inquiry today underlines his soft approach to AWB during the course of the Volcker Inquiry. In AWB records of conversation tabled in the Cole Inquiry from mid-2005 Mr Downer is referred to by AWB as “delighted with AWB’s cooperation” with Volcker and that AWB had been “exemplarily”.

Mr Downer had a moral duty to take every reasonable measure to ensure that AWB was not violating UN sanctions. He also had formal legal obligations under Australian domestic and international law to enforce UN sanctions against Iraq. Instead he told AWB they didn’t have to worry about where the money went after they handed it over to Saddam’s front company.

Mr Downer’s advice to AWB demonstrates that he had become AWB’s man-in-the-government - arguing AWB’s case to the Volcker Inquiry, providing tactical advice to AWB for its dealings with the Volcker Inquiry and acting with reckless disregard to his own obligations under Australia law.

Ends. 28 March 2006

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823