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AWB lessons still not learned.

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Robert McClelland MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Federal Member for Barton

4 May 2007


If ever the Australian electorate needed evidence that the Howard Government haven’t learnt the necessary lessons of the shameful $300 million AWB scandal they only need look at today’s comments by ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries.

Senator Humphries reckons military people in the electorate of Eden Monaro “don't like people who blow the whistle”.

I would suggest that unlike Senator Humphries ADF personnel know well and truly the difference between ‘blowing the whistle’ and carrying out orders in accordance with their public duty.

Colonel Mike Kelly is an outstanding candidate for Eden Monaro precisely because he fulfilled his duties in providing honest advice without fear or favour.

He is not a whistleblower.

He provided information to the Cole Royal Commission as was required by departmental direction.

The information that he passed through the chain of command that related to the detainee issues in Iraq and the breeching of UN sanctions by AWB was a weekly reporting process that was part of Colonel Kelly’s duties as an officer serving in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

The information provided to the Cole Inquiry was part of the Defence Department assistance to the Inquiry as directed by the Defence Minister.

Any suggestion by Senator Humphries or anyone else that Colonel Kelly should have kept quiet is offensive and negligent in the extreme. To suggest he ought to have done anything other than report his recommendations and observations fearlessly and frankly would have been contrary to the traditions and training of the Australian Army.

Colonel Kelly was an Australian Army officer doing his job - plain and simple.

Senator Humphries comments suggest not only a failure by the Government of learning the blunt lessons of the AWB disgrace, but a lack of appreciation of what constitutes dedicated public service.

Contact: Tom Cameron 0417 147 932