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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The heat is on and so is the game at the Cole Inquiry

"The heat is on" says the song and, now that Ministers have to make statements to the Cole Inquiry into AWB's dealings with Iraq on wheat contracts, things are hotting up. Last night, the Prime Minister on the 7.30 Report said

it stands to reason that if Cole finds that Downer or Howard were told by AWB that it was paying kickbacks and we did nothing about it, it would be game over.

Kevin Rudd and people associated with him have been sitting in the inquiry keeping count. To-day, Kim Beazley said in the House of Representatives that the Cole Inquiry had been told of 27 occasions when the Australian Government had been told of AWB kickbacks to Iraq. Beazley then declared the game "on".

Miss Eagle thinks that perhaps The Hon Terence Cole AO QC is miffed or at least Counsel assisting the Inquiry, John Agius SC, is. Miss Eagle thinks he is miffed at Howard's hide in the Kerry O'Brien interview last night. Then the "game over" attitude blew out courtesy of Beazley to-day to "game on".

It is clear that Howard is not going to volunteer a further extension of the Terms of Reference to the Inquiry and Cole, who appears to be the essence of propriety, is not going to stretch the situation beyond the norm to pointedly request an extension of the Terms. But Cole is not only a man of integrity. He is a man of intelligence. He has played his cards as they have come but in a well prepared and searching way. The mountain of evidence requires ministerial input before the Inquiry. So it begins with the obvious suspects - Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mark Vaile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade.

Miss Eagle will be using her eagle eyes to see if the Downer and Vaile statements exhibit ministerial and departmental self-justification and to assess the accuracy and alertness and overall quality of their individual (surely they would not collude) memories.

The heat is on. The game is on. Bring it on!