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New questions for Trade Minister as cost of AWB corruption mounts.

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Kelvin Thomson MP Shadow Minister for Public Accountability Shadow Minister for Human Services Friday, 20 October 2006

New questions for Trade Minister as cost of AWB corruption mounts

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has spent more than $1.28 million on external legal advice related to the Cole Inquiry in the seven months to June.

This figure was revealed in response to a Question in Writing I submitted to Minister Downer earlier last month. In the answer, Minister Downer refused to reveal the costs of external legal advice relating to the AWB generally.

This legal bill is just the tip of the iceberg. Taxpayers will have every reason to be disgusted when the full cost of AWB corruption and monumental Howard Government incompetence is finally revealed.

This cost is only for Foreign Affairs and Trade - it doesn’t include the legal costs for other Government Departments like Prime Minister and Cabinet or Attorney-Generals, it doesn’t include AWB’s legal costs, and it certainly doesn’t include the costs of the Cole Inquiry.

Taxpayers might wonder just what this legal advice was for - basically it’s just part of the cost to taxpayers of a Government desperately seeking a clean bill of health from the Cole Inquiry.

Meanwhile, Trade Minister Warren Truss has more questions to answer about his relationships with AWB when he was Agriculture Minister.

In September 2002, he and his wife attended both the North Melbourne Grand Final Breakfast and the AFL Grand Final as guests of AWB Chief Executive Andrew Lindberg, who had just returned from Iraq having spoken to the Iraqi Trade Minister about Tigris.

Just one month earlier, in August 2002, Ray Brooks, one of southern Australia’s largest private grain merchants, warned Mr Truss at a Mallee Machinery Field Day in Speed, Victoria, of allegations that AWB was

paying kickbacks to the Iraqi Government.

Did Mr Truss raise those allegations with Mr Lindberg at the Grand Final? He certainly should have.

Contact: Kelvin Thomson: 0419 594 882 Patrick Pantano: 0403 502 071