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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

keeping politics and commerce separate « Previous | |Next »
April 15, 2006

I concur with Paul Kelly's judgement in the Weekend Australian when he says:

Forget the claptrap about ministers not reading cables and failing to recollect meetings they would never be expected to recollect; the evidence of John Howard, Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile shows not the stupidity of the Government but its determination to have both its guns and wheat. This was the policy and these were deliberate objectives.

Doing business for Australia means selling wheat and mutton to tyrants and the Howard Governemnt continue keeping politics and commerce separate even though Australia went to war with the Saddam Hussein's regime because of the alliance with the US.

MoirVH8.jpg
Alan Moir

Contrary to what Kelly says we did not have an unresolved policy dispute between chasing and holding the Iraqi wheat market on the one hand and upholding the sanctions system on the other. The former took priority over the latter. When the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) did nothing apart from being a post box it was just following the policy set by its masters: to give a very high priority to defending and protecting the interests of Australian wheat growers.

But it was not business-as usual in the form of inflated contracts.

As David Marr and Marian Wilkinson point out in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Under UN Security Council Resolution 661, Australia was responsible for seeing that no cargo left its shores in breach of sanctions. Regulations introduced in Australia during the first Gulf war banned all shipments to Iraq unless the foreign minister was "satisfied that permitting the exportation will not infringe the international obligations of Australia". Under the oil-for-food program, no wheat could leave without a tick from Alexander Downer. He and his officers would sign off on 292 ships carrying 12 million tonnes of wheat to Iraq worth more than $2 billion. And almost every cargo breached sanctions.

AWB knew its kickbacks were outside the sanctions and tha the inflated contracts were a means for Saddam Hussein to siphon off money for guns from the UN's escrow account, which had been set up to help provide butter for the Iraqi people. Australia's wheat farmers didn't pay a cent as the money was all coming out of the UN's escrow account.

And the Howard Government? Well, they saw nothing, heard nothing, knew nothing, asked nothing, were never shown the cables, couldn't recall anything, thought that AWB was run by good blokes etc They understand this to be be managerial competence.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:54 PM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

Well its looks like the concept of " keeping politics and commerce separate" is hitting the fan. As reported on Landline earlier today, the US has sold over 200 millions dollars of wheat to Iraq since this all blew up, we've sold nil with no sign of an order.

Look for the self-satisfied smirks on the 3 Amigos faces to vanish as this begins to resonate, especially in the NP heartland!

Ian,
the Iraqi's never kept politics and commerce seperate when dealing with the Australian Wheat Board.Nor did the AWB----the monopoly wheat exporter was gungho about making political donations so that it could remain a monopoly wheat exporter.

In find it odd that self-confessed conservatives such as Howard and Downer continue to fool around with liberal illusions that politics and wheat are separate.

It does appear that Australia is seen as the unfair trader engaging in bribery and corruption when everyone else was refusing to do so because they were concerned to upheld the UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.