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Wednesday, 8 February 2006

The Chaser is a TV comedy show that focuses its full, sarcastic attention on political events here. It has been around for a while. Their Web site contains a spoof interview with the foreign minister that's quite amusing. Today, to cap it all off, they waylaid Charles Stott, a witness to the Cole inquiry into the AWB kickbacks, and asked him to sign an enormous, cardboard cheque (such as those used by politicians on the hustings to score points with the public) for $300 million toward Saddam Hussein's defense fund. "You won't do it?" they asked the poor man who, poker-faced, navigated pedestrian traffic in Sydney's city centre, dodging the mock cheque and trying to dodge his tormentor. Why not? would be the next question... "Same old same old" surely, the guy from The Chaser prodded the obviously enraged man. With cameras pointing at him from all sides, there wasn't much he could do in defense. His barrister, however, has referred the incident to the Australian Federal Police, alleging that Stott had been "assaulted". It's unlikely anything will come of their enquiries, I warrant, there being little offense to be taken. Makes for good television, though. To follow it up on the free-to-air news was Norm Coleman, the U.S. senator who has been throwing challenges at the Australian government, saying that he's satisfied with the nature of the Cole enquiry, and would await its findings. Patiently, one hopes.

A government that went to war against Iraq is found to have possibly known of trade breaches leading up to the conflict, under the auspices of the UN's Oil-for-Food Programme, which transferred billions of dollars into a UN escrow account between April 1995 and November 2003 to facilitate transactions between suppliers on both sides. Can't get any more embarrassing than the current situation. Prime Minister Howard and Deputy Prime Minister Vaile had big, sour frowns on their faces in Parliament today. We'll see what comes of all this, as not only AWB but the mining and energy giant BHP Billiton is also implicated.

AWB's Web site says nothing about the Cole inquiry, while BHP's has several posts about it. A different culture, clearly. AWB, previously a government-owned entity called the Australian Wheat Board, was privatised in 1999. BHP Billiton is the world's largest mining company, and its BHP component was incorporated in 1885.

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