House debates

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Questions without Notice

Oil for Food Program

2:52 pm

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and International Security) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the minister’s advice to AWB last year that AWB ‘can’t be responsible for what happened to the money after it was paid to Alia’. I also refer to Australian government intelligence reports of 1998, the first quarter of 2000, November 2000 and September 2001 that confirmed that Alia was a front for Saddam Hussein’s regime. Why did the minister tell AWB last year that it did not matter where AWB payments to Alia were going when the government already knew that Alia was a fully-fledged front company for the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein?

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

There are a lot of questions in that question. Let me make the simple point—and by the way, I am not verifying the words that have been put in my mouth by counsel representing somebody who is representing someone in the Cole commission; indeed, the last thing I am going to do is get into an ongoing debate with people in the Cole commission about who said what, why, when and where and the exact words they used—that at no time did the government believe, including at that time and including later that year, that AWB Ltd had knowingly and wittingly paid bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime and that by paying the Jordanian trucking company, AWB Ltd had knowingly been doing so in order to pay bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime. They maintained the position that they had not been knowingly doing that right up until the beginning of the Cole commission.