The 'Cole report has been handed down and as expected it lets the government off the hook. Having said that, I think there is enough in it to implicate government ministers and their staff. In fact if probably goes a lot further than that, if you only knew, as an insider would.
Below I have copied from The Age newspaper, a few lines quoting legal advisers to the AWB executives who say they didn't do any of the bribery for personal gain, and the government knew of these bribes all along.
I have always disliked people in power misbehaving with our money [taxes] or our trust. In this case one [money] led to the other. The opposition [Labor] are saying it is the biggest scandle in the history of the commonwealth. If it is found to be that the foreign minister [Mr. Downer] or the Prime minister [Mr. Howard] knew anything of this and have lied and purposely restricted the terms of reference for the Cole enquiry then they should go. And in the words of the Cole enquiry, 'They should be subject to the full force of the law'.
The Age 28/11/2006
AWB figures implicated in the Iraq wheat scandal have threatened to call Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer as a witness if they face trial, with one vowing "my QC will rip him to shreds".
With the Cole report yesterday recommending 11 former AWB executives be investigated for possible criminal offences but clearing Howard Government ministers and officials, several wheat board figures embroiled in the scandal hit out at the Coalition.
"The Government knew, and what about the UN? They knew everything," said one AWB figure. "It's like Breaker Morant all over again. If I go to trial, then Downer will be the first witness called, that's a promise. My QC will rip him to shreds."
Another AWB executive said: "This is ridiculous. None of us got any personal profit, it all went to the farmers … everything was approved by the AWB, by our lawyers and the Government."