The Age reportsthat BHP Billiton vice-president Tom Harley and former Australian ambassador to the US Michael Thawley were among the special guests invited to US President George Bush's official Washington reception in May to honour Prime Minister John Howard. Both men have emerged as key players in the AWB inquiry.
Mr Harley has been central to BHP's push to secure oil fields in Iraq through its controversial affiliate Tigris Petroleum.These are big fish, with even bigger connections. The Cole inquiry could yet become an unpleasantly close-up look at some of the buried realities of our precious Western Democracy. The results may be rather disturbing. They might trigger a massive reappraisal of who we are as a nation, and where we are heading.
Mr Thawley, now working in the private sector, successfully executed the Howard Government's orders to get a US Senate committee to drop its 2004 probe into AWB's payment of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein...
More details about Mr Harley's role in the kickbacks affair emerged yesterday as the Cole inquiry released a new batch of documents, among them a March 2003 BHP position paper detailing plans to secure a lucrative oil field in Iraq as soon as Saddam was out of power.
The paper noted that Mr Harley, an influential behind-the-scenes figure in the Liberal Party, would be "exerting influence" on the "Coalition Governments" involved in the Iraqi invasion. Former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was to monitor political developments for BHP.
In May 2003, the pair briefed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on BHP's and Tigris' oil plans, asking him to lobby the US Government on their behalf.
But, of course, they probably wont.