House debates

Monday, 13 February 2006

Howard Government

Censure Motion

3:01 pm

Photo of Alexander DownerAlexander Downer (Mayo, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

The opposition interjects that it was the policy of the government to support wheat growers. It was presumably therefore the policy of the opposition to oppose wheat growers. Was it? Oh, no, that is silly. On the argument that the government has put forward, the interjections, therefore, fall.

I will make it absolutely clear: the Australian government did not know that the Australian Wheat Board was paying kickbacks. As it became increasingly apparent through the work of the Coalition Provisional Authority that a system of kickbacks had been in place, it was the policy of this government to support the United Nations’ endeavours to get to the heart of it, and we duly did. We provided the Volcker committee with everything that we could usefully find that would help them with their inquiries. If we had known about the kickbacks prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein and we had information that would have helped Volcker, we would have provided it to him, but we did not have the information.

The opposition’s argument is built around the proposition that we should have provided Volcker with information that we simply did not have. We were happy to help Volcker. The Prime Minister gave an instruction in writing that government departments and the government should support and assist Volcker. That was a standing instruction to all relevant government departments, and they duly provided that assistance.

The point here is that the opposition is trying to make an argument they tried desperately to make last week. The argument they tried to make last week was the argument that the Leader of the Opposition put to the National Press Club: that somehow the government is corrupt and individuals in the government are corrupt. That is what he said at the National Press Club.


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