Wheat Wars

The slow but steady revelations from the Cole Royal Commission are gradually revealing the bleeding obvious – if Government Ministers did not know that AWB were paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in direct contravention of the UN Oil for Food program, it is because they were absolutely determined not to know.

Even though the scandal doesn’t relate to the wheat export monopoly arrangements (although one could argue that a monopoly position in itself creates a culture that makes corruption more likely), it has also led to an outbreak of hostilities in the agri-politics sector about whether the single desk selling arrangement should remain in place.

One telling aspect of this scandal is that The Australian newspaper, whose editorial line normally stridently spruiks John Howard’s neo-conservative ideology, is the media outlet running the strongest attacks on the feeble defence being offered up by Mr Howard and his government. Their front-page headline yesterday – “Everyone in Canberra Knew of Kickbacks” – doesn’t exactly pull any punches. I’m not sure why this is – maybe they find the old style agrarian socialism of the AWB’s export monopoly offensive.

Other pieces from The Australian which detail the evidence that backs up their criticisms, can be found “here – Dodging the real issue – and here – “Early plan to tell Downer”. That’s not to say that other papers are ignoring the issue. This piece from The Age – “PM warned of kickback demands” – details some of the facts.

As for the future of the single desk, I’ve been getting media releases and letters from a wide array of grower groups, farmer bodies and assorted produce groups all with differing views about what should happen with the current arrangements.

Michelle Grattan analyses the issue in this piece – Pressure pushing the lid off marketing debate – and The Australian suggests that “change is inevitable”.

It would be best for this issue to be sorted out once the dust settles from the Cole Inquiry, but given that may not happen for a while yet, the pressure to consider changes to the single desk may need to be resolved before then.

ELSEWHERE: Some coverage of the issue on the blogospehre as well:

A lot of detail and further comments at The Road to Surfdom.

A good piece by economist Nicholas Gruen at Club Troppo. It includes the following statement (which I am somewhat sceptical about, but it is none the less worth noting that such a view is held):

today I was rung by a jouno in Honkers from the Wall St journal who commented that this was the biggest scandal of its kind EVER. The journo was amazed that it wasn’t being taken more seriously in Oz

Like & share:


  1. JWH must have upset Uncle Rupert – whose side is Piers on is usually the best barometer. Or perhaps the domestic US political scene is far more important to News Corp than old OZ right now

  2. The slow but steady revelations from the Cole Royal Commission are gradually revealing the bleeding obvious – if Government Ministers did not know that AWB were paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in direct contravention of the UN Oil for Food program, it is because they were absolutely determined not to know.

    Prove it. Don’t insinuate, prove that allegation!

  3. pc police, I think Andrew’s point is that the commission itself has uncovered substantial proofs of precisely that allegation. The proof is there and Andrew is merely commenting on what it indicates.

  4. It is either the Government are not capable of running the country or they knew. Either way its all bad news.If they didnt know its their job to know isnt it. The Company is the AWB. Australian Wheat Board. Anybody who followed Dowener and vaile could work it out for themselves at any rate. Andrew is doing his job in regards to this matter.Just as well some people in parliment are looking at this from a open angle. So what are you saying/Poor john Howard Vaile Downer are victims. Do you really think the public are that stupid.How much more proof do you want that this is an absolute discrace under this Government!

  5. This is the most corrupt government in Australian history. Of that I no longer have any doubt – witness the entire world of croneyism and money politics the AWB scandal has blown the lid on. And stealing from the people of Iraq via the UN to give to the tyrant and enrich the friends of the Nats is pretty low.

    I cannot yet decide if it is also the most incompetent government in Australian history, as Whitlam was incredible that way, but JWH and co. have spread their incompetence over a longer timeframe, so it adds up eventually.

    You know, I wish the Dems and ALP had blocked supply and forced an election on the war and credibility issue earlier. People just get the impression it’s ‘business as usual’ rather than the crisis-riden, money-grubbing and criminal government that it is.

  6. I suspect that either some of the mud is beginning to stick, or somebody is expecting some concrete proof of govt knowledge to surface fairly soon. When this govt starts worrying about something (IR legislation for example) they respond by diverting attention to something more emotive.

    In one week Howard, and now Costello, have been publicly picking at their Muslim scabs again. We managed to avoid the rioting other countries have experienced. What better way to divert attention from the naughty Cole problem than a major social disturbance?

  7. Youre really good at closing topics when you don’t seem to be hearing what you want to Andrew.

    So I have to resort to posting on another topic to answer your disingenous assertions… How unusual.

    Yes I’ve been asked it before and I’ve answered it before.

    Funnily enough only those I’ve asked to answer their own questions have failed.

    I gather your lack of an answer means you don’t think we have a culture either??????

  8. Australian Ministers, their staff and staff from their departments must be compelled to give evidence to the Cole Commission.

    Most of all, the Government shouldn’t gag public servants from giving evidence on the issue at Senate Estimates.

  9. I can’t really think of a bigger scandal in modern history.

    Obviously, I can think of worse things that have happened, but in the true sense of the word “scandal”, I can’t think of anything bigger than this.

    Stealing $300,000,000 (not including the BHP money) from the oppressed citizens of Iraq (via the United Nations), giving it to a tyrant so that he’ll pay you millions of dollars for your wheat. A tyrant, I might add, that was so evil the government felt justified in LYING to the people about going to WAR (war being the most serious decision you can make).

    Although in Howard’s defence people did re-elect him after the WMD thing turned out to be false, so I guess that’s a minor part of the scandal.

    (Also that brief summary does not mention the many layers to each of those steps. ARGH!)

    Would be interested to hear other people’s “greatest scandals” of all time.

    And by scandal I mean “widely publicized incident involving allegations of wrong-doing, disgrace, or moral outrage”. I guess Enron and Clearstream are pretty big. McCarthy was big, as was Watergate, etc, etc…

  10. But Dodgyville, those things were not about stealing from innocent men, women and children through a humanitarian program were they?

  11. Andrew.

    Please clarify your position on the Armenian genocide. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Professor Penfold Krackerbarral

  12. I can’t really think of a bigger scandal in modern history.

    You’re obviously not very well informed, then.

    The $300 million AWB scandal is just a small, obscure part of the $20,000 million United Nations oil-for-food scandal.

    The media are just beating it up to distract us from significant issues like the war on terrorism.

  13. Mr Bartlett Did you have an active interest in the corrupted UN oil for food program before this? Or is this like your ‘free speech’ advocacy only when politicly expedient.

    “I can’t really think of a bigger scandal in modern history.”–dodgyville

    Well globally the UN oil for food program should be on the list. But don’t expect calls for reform NoNo! it the UN after all.

  14. Seems that we’ve been paying “kick-backs” to Saddam in one form or another since the 1970’s.

    I believe there will be an article in the print media today about this.

  15. I read that Geoff and it put a whole new light on things didn’t it. Some people are still trashing Gough Whitlam for almost accepting a $500,000 political donation from Saddam Hussein when he was an ally but they failed to notice that under Malcolm Fraser and John Howard the Baath party set up a regime of bribes Baathist right here in Australia under their very noses.

    I wonder if that is why Howard is so determined that he knew nothing ever when in fact he was the treasurer when it was all happening.

    Interesting too that Anderson claims he wasn’t tipped off to sell his shares by Downer. Don’t any of those so-called well informed and intelligent chaps ever speak to each other?

    Flugge will be interesting – and people why are you blaming the UN? It was the AWB who deliberately subverted the system not them.

    This anti-UN rant is deranged. Who the hell do you people think the UN are? A rang of aliens from outer space or something?

    It would seem on the evidence that the whole world knew that Saddam was demanding bribes except the Australian government.

    I want to know how we can have such an utterly clueless government that then claims to be efficient.

  16. Hey no love loss between me and Fraser Marilyn.
    Not a Whitlam faeither, butI do think medicare was a good idea even though the current version sux a bit.
    No Howard fan either, too free-market, and business oriented for me.
    And yes I know my History… the point being there have been many governments involved in Kickbacks… I note that the AWB is no longer government controlled as it once was…
    Also that a kickback would be a kickback whether or not we were “allies”… which is debateable since we never went to war with the Iraqis that I can remember.

    I wouldn’t slander or libel Anderson if I was you he might sue. Sometimes things are just coincidences.

    Why blame the UN? Excuse me? :roll:
    The UN is a joke.

  17. How interesting, Marilyn. You have waxed hysterical on other sites about how wicked it was to remove a classic fascist dictator and his truly odious (and murderous) government. Your support for national socialism is well-known among the blognescenti.

    Yet, it was this removal which allowed us to see the true extent of the corruption of the UN in their food-for-palaces-and-bribes program. I mean the secretary general of the UN was on the take, here. The largest corruption scandal in history was run from HIS OWN OFFICE, and under his own hand.

    And it was the liberation of Iraq which showed us that the AWB too was corrupted. That is where the documents came from.

    How thoroughly distasteful it is to see you continue to opine on the evils of removing murderous tyrants and trying to birth new democracies, while gloatingly hopeful that the same removal might embarrass those who supported the tyrants removal.


  18. Mark what a stupid load of crap. WE blew up Iraq and her people killing tens of thousands of them so we could see how corrupt the oil for food program was? Give me a bloody break.

    When have I ever said I don’t want tyrants removed? What about I wanted Saddam Hussein removed in 1990 but the US didn’t have the guts so the Iraqi people had to put up with the monster for another 13 years.

    How about Halabja when the US and the world did and said nothing while he gassed 5,000 people, or the Shia uprising when the US sat over the hill and watched the massacres?

    What about all the other monsters who are worse than Saddam? Like Mugabe, or Kim Il Jong? Shall we go and blow up tens of thousands of innocent people to “topple” them? Don’t see it happening do you .

    You are contemptible actually, ignorant and ill bred.

    What an absurd argument – Saddam was corrupting the food for oil, we were doing most of it and paying him to build palaces and buy bloody bombs.

    Jesus wept, I have read some rot in my life but you really, really take the biscuit.

  19. So Marilyn. You “wanted Saddam Hussein removed in 1990 1991″ by “killing tens of thousands” of its citizens and braking the UN mandate.

  20. Geoff did I say that hundreds of thousands of people should be killed to get Saddam Hussein – didn’t you notice that about 1.3 million people have been killed because they didn’t get him?

    I swear the mindless tripe some of you write.

    Now to some facts – Downer was told but didn’t do anything.
    Howard says it was OK because it was only a competitor complaining.
    Kofi Annan has not been found guilty of anything at all – how scurrilous. His son was but that is not him.
    This circular, right wing argument is madness.

    Why is it every one else’s fault that the AWB were criminals and the Australian government were told over and over again and did nothing?

  21. Huh???????
    Please explain?
    What post are you referring to Marilyn?

    BTW, Marilyn… the AWB (both of them)isn’t a Government instrumentality
    It’s not government owned or run.
    Why should it be responsible for corporate it’s behaviour?

  22. Geoff, Marilyn is not connected with reality in any way. it is how her brain can contain spiteful condemnation of western ideals, and praise islamic fascism to the skies. You don’t really expect anything rational from her, do you?


  23. MarkL, you are a lunatic. You should tell us who you really are instead of adding absolutely nothing to anything.

    Mark Vaile belled the cat today in the parliament when he stated clearly “of course the government knew in 2000 about AWB, DFAT were investigating them”. The only thing a person can take from that bizarre statement after months of denials is that the government was quite prepared to allow the kickbacks to continue unabated rather than allow those evil Canadians to get “our” wheat market. Of course it only stayed ours because Saddam was getting fatter and richer. Downer even signed off on a $45 million kickback after the war in the name of “charity”.

    I wish though mark you could point to one place I have praised islamic fundamentalism. Or any fundamentalism. Bush is the world’s greatest and stupidest fundamentalist in the world today.

  24. Well marilyn… here’s Hansard, now what were you referring to exactly?



    Mr VAILE—The Leader of the Opposition is so
    fixated about times and dates. As I was beginning to
    say, the AWB sought advice on port fees. Advice was
    given. After seeking that advice from the UN Sanctions
    Committee, the issue was resolved to DFAT’s knowl-
    edge and the AWB advised that the Iraqi demands were
    dropped. That is the essence of the issue. If you want
    me to check my records, I will check my records.



    is that the point you are making? :roll:

Comments are closed.