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Investigative process shown to be flawed

ANALYSIS

AROUND time of the Iraq kickbacks scandal, the Foreign Affairs department quietly decided to shake its files and see what other gremlins might fall out. Officials did not want to be caught out with inside knowledge about dodgy Australian business deals overseas.

The result of that internal investigation has never been made public. Doing so would be a good start for repairing Australia's tarnished reputation after repeated scandals — illegal payments to Saddam Hussein by the Australian Wheat Board, suspect payments by a Rio executive in China and a splash for cash by the plastic note makers.

You might expect the government would demand a full reckoning, to stop the seedy behaviour of a powerful few tainting the rest. There was a Royal Commission on AWB, while a Rio Tinto executive was dragged through a flawed Chinese investigation.

But on the Securrency scandal, with allegations an Australian company with intimate ties to the Reserve Bank paid bribes to corrupt officials overseas, Labor seems afraid to lift the lid, preferring to leave the stink to fester in the dark.

Why? What harm could come of asking questions? If the fear is further damage to Australia's business abroad, truth will out eventually and the feigned ignorance will look worse. And if the problem is confined, then trust can be quickly restored.

But Australia's investigative process has been shown up as flawed. There is almost no political will to find answers to this abuse that goes to the heart of Australia's financial system. Nor does there appear a concern for the wider national interest in exposing bad practices. What a contrast to when self interest is involved.

Kevin Rudd was a Labor politician on the make when he used the AWB kickbacks as a battering ram against the Howard government, a platform to at once expose a wrong and stand on a stage himself. But no politician has taken up cudgels over Securency.

Perhaps it is the connection to the Reserve Bank, a fear of rot at the core, or possibly because both sides of politics appear culpable in turning a blind eye.

The country's reputation suffers as a result. Australians deserve more for their money.

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