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Here is how Wikipedia summarises the Cole Inquiry:
- The Cole Inquiry or more properly the Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-For-Food Programme is an inquiry set up by the Government of Australia under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 in November 2005 to inquire "whether decisions, actions, conduct or payments by Australian companies mentioned in the Final Report (“Manipulation of the Oil-for-Food Programme by the Iraqi Regime”) of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme breached any Federal, State or Territory law.'
- The Royal Commissioner is Terence Cole QC a former Judge of Appeal of the New South Wales Supreme Court. Cole is supported by John Agius SC, Counsel Assisting and three other barristers, Gregory Nell, Michael Wigney and Miles Condon.
Wikinews Australia coverage
December 8, 2005
- Opposition motions in Australian House of Representatives attempts to bring Government to account on last sitting day of year
- The motions to suspend standing orders was first put by Wayne Swan (the shadow Treasurer) dealt with the Treasurer Peter Costello, calling on him to release documents and information regarding Robert Gerard; the following two put by Kevin Rudd (the shadow Foreign Minister) and (the member for Corio) dealt with the Government's involvement in the Australian Wheat Board inadvertently paying money to a front business of Saddam Hussein.
December 25, 2005
- The Australian Wheat Board (AWB), the primary economic authority for Australian wheat export is set to lose its long-standing trade contract with Iraq worth $270m/annum to United States exporters after a deal was struck with Iraqi Wheat Board for a majority share of the $500m wheat market. Aggressive lobbying by United States trade diplomats used the imminent uncovering of AWB involvement in the Oil for Wheat incident as fodder in their recent negotiations. The AWB's previous arrangement saw the use of Alia, a Jordanian based transport corporation owned by the wealthy Al-Khawam family, to transport their wheat to Umm Qasr, a southern sea port in Iraq.
January 20, 2006
- An inquiry began this week in Sydney into whether Australian companies paid bribes to Saddam Hussein during the UN Oil-for-food programme. The inquiry was set up by Prime Minister John Howard, after allegations last year that the Australian Wheat Board paid US$220m in bribes to the Iraqi government. The terms of reference of the inquiry are restricted to the AWB and two other companies.
February 28, 2006
- It has been revealed at the Cole inquiry that former Australian Wheat Board chairman Trevor Flugge was paid almost $1,000,000 by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to provide "agricultural assistance" to Iraq for less than one year. The Prime Minister today defended the payment, saying that Mr Flugge's background and experience justified the sum.
April 11, 2006
- The activist organisation AID/WATCH staged a protest outside the inquiry on Tuesday. In press release, Kate Wheen of AID/WATCH attacked the government over the scandal, claiming that foreign aid is being used to benefit Australian businesses rather than those in need. "It’s scandalous that AWB was paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime, but it is unethical, immoral and possibly illegal that our government can ruthlessly support Australian business whilst so many in Iraq remain in such great need," she said.
- Yesterday, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Vaile, appeared before the Cole Inquiry into kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime. It is the first time in over a decade that a senior government official has been called to give evidence before a royal commission in Australia. The inquiry heard that Mr Vaile could not recall being told any specific details of the allegations made against the wheat exporter AWB before 2003, and despite his department receiving information about the allegations, it came as no surprise that he was not informed as he held no responsibility for the UN Oil-for-Food program.
April 12, 2006
- Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign affairs minister told the Cole Inquiry yesterday that it was not his department's job to investigate claims that wheat exporter AWB was paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Mr Downer, who entered the inquiry via a back entrance to avoid the crowd waiting outside told the inquiry numerous times that he did not read a series of diplomatic cables which raised concerns about AWB in Iraq. Mr Downer admitted that he did not have the time to read diplomatic cables and the only time he did so was when he is "stuck on a plane" and has nothing else to read.
- Australian Prime Minister John Howard will face the Cole inquiry into Iraqi kickbacks by wheat exporter AWB on Thursday. Mr Howard said in a statement that he has been asked to appear at the inquiry. "The Cole Commission of Inquiry has requested that I appear at its hearings" he said.
April 14, 2006
- Australian Prime Minister, John Howard appeared before the Cole inquiry on Thursday, the first time an Australian Prime Minister has appeared before an inquiry with royal commission powers since 1983. Unlike his foreign minister Alexander Downer who gave evidence before the inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Howard entered through the front door where he gave a brief address. He told the press that his government is being open about the Iraqi kickback affair. " just want to make one point and that is that the appearance by me, earlier this week by the Foreign Minister and also by the Trade Minister, demonstrates absolutely how open and transparent and accountable the Government is being in relation to this matter" Mr Howard said to reporters.
November 25, 2006
- The report from the Cole Inquiry has been handed down to Governor-General Michael Jeffrey. The inquiry which was announced by the Howard government just over twelve months ago was to investigate claims of corruption in relation to the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program.
- The report will be made public next week.
- Mainstream media has speculated that the report will recommend a string of charges against former AWB executives. It is believed that around AUD$222 million of illegal payments were made to a Jordanian trucking company partly owned by Hussein's Iraqi regime. AWB executives claim it was a victim of the Iraq government's corruption.