Monday 4th of December 2023

Downer Gives Chief Of Staff AWB Kickback, Makes Him Consul General Of Los Angeles

 Downer must be beginning to panic that his chief of staff might be implicated in the kickback scam... he's getting him out of the country pronto!

From the office of Lord Alex Of Australia- I have today announced the appointment of Innes Willox as Consul-General of Australia in Los Angeles.  He will succeed John Olsen.  Mr Willox is expected to take up his appointment in September 2006.

The Los Angeles Consulate-General takes in southern California and the adjoining south-western states of the United States, an area that is equivalent to the world’s fifth largest economy and a major centre for the global entertainment and technology industries. 

The Consulate is the focal point of our national efforts to promote Australian interests in business, tourism and education, and further develop the robust cultural linkages we enjoy with the west coast of the United States.  California is home to the largest population of Australian expatriates in the United States and Los Angeles is the first port of call for many Australians travelling to the United States.

Australia’s trade and investment ties with the west coast of the United States are strong, with over A$4.8 billion in Australian merchandise exports destined for California or transiting the state each year.  The market-opening impact of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement has been instrumental in developing new commercial prospects in a diverse range of goods and services where US trade barriers have been eliminated.  Similarly, two-way investment flows are positive as demonstrated by the fact that there are major Californian investments in Australia’s manufacturing and services sectors, and Australia is the eighth largest foreign investor in California.

Mr Willox has served as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2004 to the present.  In this position Mr Willox is the principal adviser to the Minister on all policy and political matters across the portfolio, as well as having direct policy responsibility for Australia’s relations with the United States and international crime and terrorism issues.  Mr Willox is responsible for policy co‑ordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other government departments and agencies.  He is also a member of the Federal Government’s Foreign Affairs Council.

Prior to taking up his current post Mr Willox held a number of private sector and government positions including Senior Manager Public Affairs (International and Corporate) with Singapore Airlines (2000-04), Senior adviser and media adviser to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (1997-2000), federal political correspondent, The Age, (1993-97), Chief of Staff, The Age (1991-93).  Sections Editor, The Age (1991-1993), and Deputy News Editor, The Age (1987-1989).


From ABC News, April 10

Conflicting evidence

Meanwhile, major differences emerged at the Cole inquiry between the recollections of a ministerial staffer and AWB's former managing director, Andrew Lindberg.

The differences relate to a June 2005 meeting between Mr Lindberg and Mr Downer about a UN inquiry that was expected to find that AWB had paid kickbacks to Iraq.

Mr Lindberg reportedly told AWB colleagues that Mr Downer was delighted with AWB's cooperation and had described the grains trader's actions as exemplary.

He also reported that Mr Downer said AWB could not be held responsible for what happened to money it paid to the partially Iraqi owned Alia trucking company.

In the witness stand today, the minister's chief of staff Innes Willox said no-one, including Mr Lindberg, took notes at the meeting.

He wrote notes of the encounter 10 days ago, and they do not include either statement by Mr Downer.

real "free" trade .....

on the subject of "free" trade Richard .....

‘"Free trade" is just jingoism. It means nothing. Free trade is just a mantra created by the multi-national corporations and their friends in politics to describe an opportunity to ship American jobs overseas.

Trade agreement after trade agreement is unfair to our country ….. we have to create rules that are fair, rules that lift us up rather than push us down.’  

US Senator Byron Dorgan (D - North Dakota)

Senator Byron L. Dorgan Sounds The Alarm On Corporate Greed & The Selling Out Of The American Worker 

Willox AWB Inquiry Transcript

Page 1 .11/4/06 (64) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 648 INQUIRY INTO CERTAIN AUSTRALIAN COMPANIES IN RELATION TO THE UN OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAMME Before The Hon TRH Cole AO RFD QC Held at Court 2, Level 5, 55 Market Street, Sydney On Tuesday, 11 April 2006, at 10am

r t<INNES ALEXANDER WILLOX, on former oath: [10.05am] <EXAMINATION BY MR ALLEN: MR ALLEN: Q. Mr Willox, since yesterday have you made any further inquiries or have you thought any more about Page 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Allen) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6486 whether or not you were aware of a conversation between Mr Downer and Mr Lindberg by telephone on or about 7 March 2005? A. Since yesterday I have thought back through. I cannot recall that telephone conversation. Q. So your evidence is essentially still the same as it was yesterday, that if it took place, you might have been in the parliament or somewhere else? A. That's correct. THE COMMISSIONER: Just remind me. Is there a suggestion that the conversation was with this gentleman, or with Mr Downer? MR ALLEN: With Mr Downer on the phone. It is a question of whether he was present or whether he was aware that it had taken place. THE COMMISSIONER: Yes. MR ALLEN: Q. On that note, were you informed by Mr Downer that he had spoken to Mr Lindberg on or about 7 March? A. I cannot recall being informed by him of a conversation. Q. When you say that, you are not saying that you weren't, but, rather, that you can't recall whether you were or not; is that a fair way to put it? A. I cannot recall being informed by him of such conversation. Q. But you are not positively stating that you were not informed, are you? A. I don't believe that I was informed of a conversation having - if it took place, assuming it took place, I can't recall being advised by him that it had taken place. Q. All right. As far as the meeting of 1 June was concerned, you gave evidence yesterday that it was a short meeting, arranged, you thought, at very late notice. In fact, I think you told the Commissioner it was arranged on the day; that on 1 June you received a phone call saying that Mr Lindberg was in town and would the minister have time to see him, something to that effect? A. I think I said it was arranged at short notice. Page 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Allen) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6487 Q. You wouldn't dispute that the meeting was arranged at least two days earlier, would you? A. I cannot recall that. What I was intending through that statement was that it was arranged at relatively late notice. I mean, some meetings are organised up to a month, six weeks in advance. This one was done the day before, perhaps. Q. Or two days before? THE COMMISSIONER: I don't think it matters whether it was one or two. MR ALLEN: No, I think, Commissioner, the only point about this is, as you know, exhibit 500 indicates that the meeting was arranged at least by 30 May - that is, two days earlier. If there is no issue about that, I will move on. Q. The meeting took about half an hour; is that right? A. Less. Q. It was booked in for half an hour, wasn't it? A. That's correct - as are all meetings. Q. You say you have got a clear recollection of this meeting? A. I don't think I said I had a clear recollection. I think I said I had some recollection. Q. I suggest to you that the meeting went for, if not half an hour, nearly half an hour. Are you able to positively dispute that? A. I would like to look at my statement again, in which I recall that meeting. I think it gives you my answer. Q. The meeting is not referred to in your statement. A. No, in the supplementary statement to which I was questioned on yesterday. Q. Could the witness be shown exhibit 763 - that's DFT.0028.0113. Is that document there on your screen? A. Not yet. Q. This is an accurate statement, in your recollection, isn't it - this record? A. No, this - the one I have been handed isn't my Page 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Allen) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6488 statement. Q. I might have the wrong number. I am sorry. DFT.0028.0113. I might be able to cut this short. I will just read to you a sentence from the document, and it would seem that we are not at odds with one another. You say in this record, which you prepared about 10 days ago: The meeting with Mr Downer lasted about 25 minutes. A. Yes, that would be - that's correct. That's my recollection. Q. Thank you. During the course of that meeting you didn't take any notes? A. That's correct. Q. No-one on Mr Downer's side took any notes? A. Not to my recollection. Q. Is that unusual? A. No. It depends on the meeting, what is discussed. I think, as I went through yesterday, I was aware that Mr Lindberg was having other meetings with other people at the time. Q. Is it your evidence that if Mr Lindberg is having meetings with other people on the same day that's a reason for not taking notes? A. No, I'm aware that Mr Lindberg and others with him were meeting others that day. As I explained yesterday, I was also aware that Mr Lindberg was meeting Mr L'Estrange. Q. Yes, later in the afternoon. What's that got to do with whether or not notes were taken? MR ROBERTSON: Can I object to that. Was that last observation a question? MR ALLEN: I thought that was his evidence. THE COMMISSIONER: Can we come to the substance of it? MR ALLEN: Yes, sir. Page 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Allen) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6489 Q. You were shown Mr L'Estrange's notes of the conversation when you made your record 10 days ago or so; is that true? THE COMMISSIONER: Mr L'Estrange's notes are of a different conversation. MR ALLEN: That's right, Mr Commissioner. We all understand that. Yes, thank you, sir. Q. Were you shown Mr L'Estrange's -- A. Not at the time I made my record. I was aware of Mr L'Estrange's record from earlier. Q. When did you see Mr L'Estrange's record of the conversation? A. I first saw it on 2 June. Q. And not since? A. I have seen it since, as part of preparation for this inquiry. Q. Did you look at it before you prepared your recent record of the conversation of 1 June? A. Not immediately before. Q. How long before - would it be weeks or days or hours? A. I may have seen it - well, a week or so before, perhaps. Q. When you looked at that record of the conversation that Mr L'Estrange had made of his meeting with Mr Stewart and Mr Lindberg and Mr Trewin, did you note that there were matters set out in his document that you could not recall having been mentioned during the meeting between Mr Downer and Mr Lindberg? A. As I think I said yesterday, I think the conversation from the note with Mr L'Estrange indicated that that conversation went into a little bit more detail than the conversation with Mr Downer. Q. When you looked at the document before you made your record 10 days ago, were you conscious of your belief that there were things in the L'Estrange document which were not things that you could recall having been said by Mr Lindberg to Mr Downer? A. Yes, there appeared to be some things there that were Page 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Allen) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6490 not said in the conversation. Q. Did you make any reference to those differences in your record which was provided 10 days ago? A. No, I did not. Q. And why not? A. Because I was asked to provide a recollection or a record of the discussion between Mr Downer and Mr Lindberg. Q. In your record you say the note from Mr L'Estrange closely followed the same points? A. Familiar territory. Q. I am reading from it. MR ROBERTSON: Perhaps the witness might be shown it, if we are going to spend time on this, Mr Commissioner. MR ALLEN: Yes. Could that be done? Q. Could you go to the last paragraph and read the first sentence: Given that the note from Mr L'Estrange closely followed the same points as covered in the conversation, I did not write a separate record of the meeting. A. That's the broad, same points I am referring to. Q. I take it that since June last year you have been present during many, many meetings between Mr Downer and other people? A. Correct. Q. You have been present during numerous meetings when the subject of the Volcker Inquiry has been discussed with Mr Downer? A. Just with Mr Downer? Q. And others - various people? A. Yes. Q. Do you say that you are able now to recall precisely what was and was not said to Mr Downer in June last year, notwithstanding what's happened since and the number of Page 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Allen) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6491 meetings you have had, or been present at? A. I am able to recall the broad nature of the discussion. Q. Mr Downer was told during the meeting on 1 June, wasn't he, that the thrust of the Volcker investigation was whether the AWB had paid money to Alia which had made its way to the old Iraqi regime, or something along those lines? A. I don't recall that second part of the proposition that you put forward. Q. When you say you don't recall the second part of the proposition, you are not saying that it was not said, but, rather, you cannot recall that being said; is that right? A. That's correct. Q. And Mr Lindberg also indicated to Mr Downer that the AWB had only become aware that Alia may have been part owned by the Iraqi Ministry of Transport at some time in 2004, didn't he? A. I don't recall. Q. You are not saying that Mr Lindberg did not say that, are you, but, rather, you can't recall him saying it? A. I don't recall that issue coming up in the conversation. Q. Would you agree that the main focus of this meeting was the Volcker Inquiry and AWB's response to it and what it was about and what the potential concerns were? A. It turned out to be a discussion which covered the Volcker Inquiry. There were other issues that we believed were going to be discussed, some problems that the AWB was having with some shipments at that time, those sorts of issues. I think they also came up. Q. But as it turned out, most of the time was spent discussing the Volcker Inquiry issues, wasn't it? A. I would agree with that. Q. Mr Lindberg told Mr Downer something to the effect that the AWB had no choice, so they had believed, but to use Alia, and that during the Oil-for-Food Program, as he understood it, no concerns had been raised about that, didn't he? A. My recollection is that Mr Lindberg said that AWB had Page 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Robertson) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6492 been using Alia for quite some time, that it was a legitimate trucking company, that they needed to use trucks to ship wheat from port to destination, and there was no other way of doing it, obviously. Q. Yes. Of course, you are not saying that's all he said, but that's something -- A. No, that's the gist of what he said. Q. Thank you. During the course of the conversation Mr Downer responded to what he was being told by Mr Lindberg by saying something to the effect of "AWB can't be responsible for the money after it was paid to Alia"? A. I do not recall him saying that. Q. Are you saying that he did not say that? A. My recollection is that that was not said by Mr Downer. Q. Or anyone else at the meeting? A. Well, the only - well, the only two people who spoke, or three people spoke, were Mr Downer, Mr Lindberg and Mr Stewart to a lesser extent. Let me put it to you this way: I just do not recall Mr Downer saying that. Q. Do you recall anyone saying it? A. No, not those words. MR ALLEN: Thank you very much. THE COMMISSIONER: Mr Wigney? MR WIGNEY: Nothing arising. MR ROBERTSON: Could I, Mr Commissioner, ask one question? THE COMMISSIONER: I am sorry, Mr Robertson, yes. <EXAMINATION BY MR ROBERTSON: MR ROBERTSON: Q. Mr Willox, in relation to the 7 March telephone conversation, one of your answers was - and this is at transcript 6486, Commissioner - that you don't believe you were notified of the telephone conversation by Mr Downer - do you recall saying that? A. Yes. Page 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 .11/4/06 (64) I A WILLOX (Mr Robertson) Transcript produced by ComputerReporters 6493 Q. What's the basis for that belief on your part? A. Well, my belief is that if the conversation took place I may well have been elsewhere, either in the office or in the building, at the time. The general procedure that we follow is that if there is any need for follow-up or follow-through action, or a problem arising, then Mr Downer would advise me and I would take the necessary action that he required, and there was no such request put to me. MR ROBERTSON: Thank you, Mr Willox. Thank you, Commissioner. THE COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Mr Willox, you are excused. THE WITNESS: Thank you. <THE WITNESS WITHDREW