Australian Prime Minister John Howard is desperately trying to distance himself from the AWB kick back scandal, where there is a judicial inquiry into the legality of kickbacks paid by wheat exporter AWB to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
Howard, despite the fact that the inquiry has yet to report its findings, is blaming the company for the scandal while distancing his government from it.
Howard wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal, which was published this week, in it he said:
"While I don't seek to prejudge the outcome, public evidence suggests behaviour by some within AWB appears to have been designed to mislead not only my government, but the U.N. as well."
However, Howard's efforts may be in vain. An ACNielsen opinion poll of 1,189 respondents taken last week, showed that the issue is starting to bite on the government's credibility.
The report said:
"It found a strong majority of those who were aware of the Cole inquiry didn't believe the government's line that it didn't know of AWB's kickbacks."
The fallout from the collapse of Saddam's regime is engulfing more than Iraq.