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Thursday, November 02, 2006

FOI application thwarted but new oil-for-food allegations now out in open

News reports reveal that the Australian Federal Police are investigating 7 allegations that Australian firms breached UN sanctions over the Iraq oil-for-food program that are outside the terms of reference of the Cole inquiry.

This all followed an exchange in Federal Parliament on Tuesday when the Foreign Minister first claimed no knowledge of an alleged illegal importation of oil from Iraq, then returned to Parliament to correct the record.

The ABC 7.30 Report included a segment on this. Reporter Michael Brissenden said that the program, following a tip from a source in Customs, sought access to documents under FOI in May this year.
"We were told that while there were 15 documents that fell within the terms of our requests, they would not be released as it wouldn't be in the public interest to disclose them".
I'm sure there were more detailed reasons given than this, but it's not a good look, now that some information has been forced out of the Government, to see that FOI again failed to produce documents about a matter of great public significance.

Mark Day in "Truth lies in detail-wary Downer's too-hard basket" in today's Australian says that the media played the major role in initially bringing the AWB wheat scandal to public attention, despite Government attempts to stare down those who dared to question.

Day comments that over the last few days Foreign Minister Downer has sought to stonewall and fob off obvious and important questions on the basis that these are complex stories and too detailed to discuss in public. Day says
"if ever there were a case for the media to fulfill its role as the public watchdog, this is it. Politicians simply cannot be allowed to dismiss inquiries into allegations of wrong doing on an international scale by declaring that it's all too complex and detailed for us to be bothered about it".
NSW Crown Solicitor Ian Knight probably sees no worthy purpose to be achieved by this prying, and would no doubt dismiss it all as evidence of the media "lust" for information.

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