17 June 2004

more estimates

There was a further estimates hearing of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. The Hnasard is not available, possibly, the Hansard staff are still cleaning their fans. More when the transcript is available. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Robert Hill sat on his hands. How apt. As Labor's Senate leader, John Faulkner, meticulously detailed all the Government's failures to act on seven months of warnings about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, Hill's body language echoed the central charge of his critics.

He sat on his hands. Slumped over, scowling.

He had just delivered a statement to the Senate that purported to "provide further information in relation to questions I was asked on May 11". May 11 was the day, Hill was confident, the Government would have taken immediate action if it had been "aware that something like this was happening".

But his statement yesterday offered no further explanation beyond "nobody told us", an excuse Faulkner noted was uncannily similar to the one used when the Government misled the public about refugees allegedly throwing their children overboard.

In fact, the only new material Hill provided yesterday served to deepen the mystery of how the Government could have remained unaware. This included a table detailing 25 separate instances in which senior Australian military lawyers in Iraq had reported "detainee concerns and/or meetings with international organisations".

These began on June 11, 2003, and included meetings with Amnesty International, the Red Cross, the UN special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed last year, and the US administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer.

So how could 25 separate reports relating to Abu Ghraib from senior military lawyers become lost in the Defence bureaucracy?

Well, said Hill, sadly his department had "not recognised" the Red Cross's report about abuses in October. He insisted again that he had been misled and had, in turn, misled the Prime Minister, who in turn acted in "good faith" when he misled Parliament on May 27.

Hill gave his statement yesterday.

Faulkner replied today.

I'd be scowling if I were Senator Hill.

No comments: