The news that a former AWB Chairman was paid nearly $680 000 a year from our overseas aid budget for the purposes of protecting our wheat export market to Iraq is perhaps the most galling piece of information to surface yet from the Oil for Food/Wheat for Weapons/Wheatgate/Wheat Overboard scandal
While the amount of money seems exorbitant, I can understand the value in trying to protect an export market. But to take that money from funds meant to be used for overseas development assistance is just a disgrace.
John Howard made no bones about the purpose of the payment – “It was because our principal concern at that time was to stop American wheat growers from getting our markets. We thought Mr Flugge would fight hard for the Australian wheat industry.”
Quite what that has to do with overseas development assistance to poor countries is beyond me – let alone a country that we have to help rebuild because we’ve just invaded it.
Using the aid budget to pay for some of the costs of imprisoning refugees on Nauru was bad enough, but at least some of that money went into the island’s economy – albeit in a completely short-term, unsustainable non-developmental way.
Leaving aside all the other arguments about the AWB-Saddam kickback scandal, as someone who has long called for our aid budget to be significantly increased, I am majorly peeved that even the relatively small amounts we are currently spending is being misused so grotesquely – and shamelessly.