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Australia: AWB inquiry, Government complicity

AWB inquiry must look at Government complicity

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert today renewed her call for investigation of the role of Government and Government agencies in the AWB scandal.

"Either the terms of reference of the current inquiry need to be expanded to include the role of government, or the Government should now support a Senate Inquiry" said Senator Siewert.

Late last year the Government voted down a referral of the issue by the Greens to a Senate committee for investigation. "It appears likely that at least some people in the Department of Foreign Affairs knew something was amiss," said Senator Siewert. "And if they didn't, we need to know how they missed all the warning signs."

"Isn't the Government interested in knowing why the system failed?".

"Why didn't the Wheat Export Authority (which is meant to oversee the activities of the AWB) know what was going on?"

"This Authority is charged to "...monitor, examine and report on the performance of AWB (International) Ltd..." and has oversight of contracts entered into by AWB," Senator Siewert said.

"I therefore find it remarkable that for several years the AWB avoided telling the regulator that it had spent up to US$221 million on bogus 'transport fees' and 'after sales service'."

"Somehow, a quarter of a billion US dollars flew under this supposed radar, not into the pockets of AWB or Australian wheat growers, but into the bank vaults of Saddam Hussein - who was at the time being accused by our Government of being on the verge of blowing up the world.

"The Government has hamstrung the Inquiry - why? What does it know that we don't?" asked Senator Siewert.

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