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Labor demands Royal Commission into Saddam's $300 million Aussie slush fund.

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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security 1 November 2005


Between 2000 and 2003 the Howard Government allowed $300 million to be paid illegally to Saddam Hussein.

This slush fund is still available to the Iraqi insurgency and poses a continuing threat to Australian troops in Iraq. As a consequence this matter demands nothing short of a Royal Commission.

Since 1999 the Australian Government has had an unambiguous legal responsibility under UN sanctions to ensure that Australian companies were not funnelling money to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The Australian Government failed to discharge that responsibility.

Each individual contract between the AWB and the Iraq Grain Board during the period in question was subjected to detailed scrutiny by Mr Downer’s Department - in Mr Downer’s own words to ensure that the Government was

“satisfied” that these transactions did not infringe the UN sanctions regime.

A Royal Commission into this matter must have the power to:

1. Investigate the Australian Government’s adherence to its obligations under international law and the United Nations sanctions regime against Iraq; and investigate the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other Government agencies in the examination, scrutiny and approval of contracts between the AWB and the Iraq Grain Board - and the extent to which the Government through DFAT executed its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 661.

2. Investigate whether any Australian citizen, corporation or agency was involved in any breach of Australian law, or the laws of other relevant jurisdictions.

3. Subpoena witnesses - including current and former AWB employees and current and former Australian Government officials involved in the preparation, examination, scrutiny and approval of contracts between the AWB and the Iraq Grain Board. In addition it needs the capacity to subpoena witnesses and evidence from individuals, companies and agencies in foreign jurisdictions.

4. Be headed by a serving or retired judge of high standing in the legal community and of unimpeachable political independence.

5. Conduct its hearings publicly, release interim and final reports publicly and without vetting or oversight by the Government.

It is a matter of urgency that this Royal Commission be established. John Howard’s normal political form of setting up an internal administrative inquiry which meets in secret and has narrow terms of reference that place the Government beyond any form of scrutiny would be totally unsustainable given the magnitude of this Saddam Hussein slush fund scandal.

Ends. 1 November 2005

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823