Reporter: Nick Grimm
KERRY O’BRIEN, 7.30 REPORT PRESENTER: Once an obscure Jordanian-based transport company, Alia is now notorious as the conduit for kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime during the oil-for-food scandal. The Australian Government has maintained the first it heard of Alia was when the United Nations carried out its own inquiry into kickback allegations, which began in 2004. But according to evidence placed before the Cole inquiry, Australian intelligence was aware of kickback allegations surrounding Alia back in 1998.
Where does this leave the Government’s version of events? Former intelligence insiders have told the 7.30 Report it would have been ‘astonishing’ for that sort of intelligence to have been simply ignored. And tonight we can also report new claims about links between Australian intelligence and the monopoly wheat exporter.
KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESPERSON: Mr Howard is a liar, and these documents demonstrate that, pure and simple. Of course, lying doesn’t stop with the Prime Minister. We have the same now with the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister stated last month that no-one in the Government, no minister in the Government, no official in the Government had ever heard of Alia. That was a 100 per cent lie.
The problem has always been that there has never been enough evidence… until now. Elsewhere, Howard has claimed that the “government has been utterly transparent. We established the commission and I think that was the right thing to do and I continue to think that and I think everybody should hold their breath and wait until the commission has brought down its findings.” Being caught out by a commission doesn’t mean you’re being transparent – it just means you mis-judged its diligence and didn’t expect that the evidence would be found.