Terence is not a name I’d choose for myself or any of my future children. Nor is it a name I’d ascribe to a dog, a cray fish or a cockroach. One must, when one meets a Terence, enquire as to why they chose not to adopt the more acceptable Terry – or even Tezza… but I digress.
Terence Cole was the man responsible for the “Cole Report” the document produced following a $10 million inquiry into the so called “AWB scandal” – the biggest piece of politically charged controversy since the children overboard fiasco. The Australian Wheat Board – or the wheat mafia – is the organisation which represents Australian farmers to ensure they get the best possible price for exported wheat. The AWB decided that the Iraqi wheat market was particularly lucrative due to UN imposed trade sanctions – and sought to secure the Iraq contract by providing “payments” to the Hussein regime. These payments were worth $290 million and were reportedly used to supply Hussein’s soldiers (heretofore referred to as Moustache Petes*) with weapons of individual destruction (ie guns). (Sidenote – if I was going to start selling miracle weightloss pills I would call them weapons of mass destruction). Somebody flipped the lid – blew the whistle – or revealed what was going on and the whole thing created a public furore… well actually it didn’t. It should have. But the whole issue hasn’t really engaged with the public at all. The Australian gradually moved the AWB scandal coverage from the front page to the middle – in a surefire sign that the issue wasn’t moving any more papers. It hasn’t had an adverse affect on the government’s popularity – which should be at record lows according to the media’s protests over changes to industrial relations laws, media ownership and this scandal.
The problem – perhaps epitomised best by the actual report – is that no mud from this situation is sticking on John Howard’s Teflon ministers. Once upon a time ministers were called on to resign at even the whiff of a scandal. Now the government prefers to take to the trenches and sit out the public furore before making any moves. The fact that the memos made their way to Alexander Downer’s department – but were not read by the minister – suggests a gross failure on behalf of the bureaucrats involved. Labor tried laboriously to labour home the point – but failed to score – with John Howard now winning the PR battle by calling for apologies to all the senior ministers who were so spuriously burdened with the weight of the opposition’s aspersions. But really – who cares? Nobody. And we should – on one hand we’re off liberating the Iraqis (a concept I’m not entirely opposed to provided the traditional interpretation of “liberating” is adhered to and not the Bush government’s – which requires the carpet bombing of “liberated” areas to truly ensure the “liberated” state is reached.) – and on the other we’re putting guns in their hands. Surely we could have supplied them with water pistols, or something slightly less deadly. Perhaps water pistols should be standard issue weaponry in all wars – then Pte Kovco’s mother would not have to attack the government for any form of cover up over his death in Iraq.
And finally, I’ll be in Brisbane from tomorrow until Monday – if you’d like to see me please contact my agent to negotiate an exorbitant appearance fee.
* I’ve never mentioned the moustache Petes before – I just wanted to use the word heretofore – I will also hereafter refer to said shady characters as moustache Petes – particularly in this month of “Movember”**
** A stupid concept.