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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6669

Mr ALBANESE (Leader of the House) (12:40 PM) —Mr Speaker, I move:

That Mr Rudd be granted an extension of time.

The SPEAKER —Order! The question is that the motion moved by the Leader of the House be agreed to.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Before calling the division, I remind the House, on what might be a testing day, that those that shout the loudest will not win the debate. People are actually interested in the debate and it should be heard in silence.

A division having been called and the bells being rung—

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if we can save some time for the House if the opposition realises that the opposition leader was given 20 minutes. What we are after here in moving this motion is for the Prime Minister to be given equal time to the Leader of the Opposition. They might not know that. In terms of the standing orders, all we are after is equal time between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, which under these circumstances is eminently reasonable, so call it off and get on with it.

The SPEAKER —It being agreed, at the convenience of the House, the division is called off.

Mr RUDD(Extension of time granted) The question at stake here is of course the opposition’s knowledge of the contents of this forged email and their dissemination of it. What we have seen today is yet further evidence on the part of the Leader of the Opposition and his office to brief out a false account of his attempt to intimidate and threaten my senior economic adviser, not having bothered to take the precaution of consulting a third party source—namely, a senior and respected journalist from the Daily Telegraph who was seated at another table and reported on this last Friday.

Beyond that, of course, we have the saga of Senator Abetz in a Senate inquiry—and we are now all too familiar with that—and those two opposite, leader and deputy leader, claiming that Senator Abetz only raised the content of the purported email after seeing it on the front page of the paper, but: ‘Whoops! We forgot that the paper wasn’t out until the next day.’ We then of course have the complete briefings on the part of the opposition to the Press Gallery overnight Friday and Saturday. We have three separate reports in the Australian newspaper and the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 20 June that the opposition, as of then, were maintaining that they still either had, were in possession of, or had sighted this forged email. Paul Kelly in the Australian of 20 June said:

The opposition had sighted the written evidence.

We have Phil Coorey of the SMH on 20 June saying:

No one can find the email. The Coalition claims to be aware of its existence and some say they have read it.

Sid Maher writes in the Australian of 20 June:

… the Coalition last night was maintaining that it had an email from Rudd’s economic adviser Andrew Charlton to Treasury on the Grant affair.

These are the papers on Saturday morning. We can only assume that the Leader of the Opposition, in claiming now to be totally ignorant of this email, is assuming that Mr Kelly, Mr Coorey and Mr Maher are all liars. I happen to know all three of them. That is not my view. Once again, a tangled web of deceit he has sought to weave, trying on the one hand to maintain his charge against my integrity and the Treasurer’s, based on the existence of this email, and then running a million miles away from any direct knowledge of it. The bottom line is this: these facts demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt, any reasonable doubt, that the Leader of the Opposition has been fundamentally untruthful with the Australian people on his knowledge and use of this forged email to serve his political ends.

What checks did we in the government make concerning the accuracy of this email? First, of course, Mr Grant has denied ever having made representations to me on the matter. Second, I know for a fact that I have received no representations from him on this matter. Third, my staff have advised me that they have received no representations from him on this matter. Fourth, my staff have advised me they have made no representations to the Treasury on this matter. Fifth, and most crucially, no record of any such email as that conveyed by the Liberal Party and by the Daily Telegraph in its report could be located. Sixth, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has done an audit of all the emails from and to Charlton on and around the date in question, including deleted items, and has no record of the alleged email ever having existed. Seventh, the Department of the Treasury has done a full audit of all emails to and from Charlton and has found no record of the alleged email to Grech. That is what the government did. Therefore, as I have said throughout this debate, I stand by the answer I gave in parliament on the first day it was raised.

What has become clear since I made those remarks is that the Leader of the Opposition’s entire attack on me and on the Treasurer’s integrity has been based on a forged document from the outset. The Leader of the Opposition has refused to use parliament today to provide this document to the Australian people for authentication. This Leader of the Opposition has, together with his staff, been backgrounding media for weeks, since this matter was first raised more than two weeks ago. They were backgrounding media to say, ‘Here is the smoking gun’—talking it up in the media, saying that there was direct evidence of a communication from my office to the Treasury in support of Mr Grant. This is what they have been doing all along—except, what they were doing was communicating the contents of a forged document, a fake document, a falsified document.

What do we know about the Liberal Party? We know that this is deeply in their DNA. This is the party that gave us ‘children overboard’. This is the party that gave us the misrepresentation of the facts concerning ‘children overboard’. This is the party that specialises in these sorts of activities. This is the party whose activities are being monitored particularly closely at present in terms of what happened in the Lindsay electorate on the eve of the last election. This is the political party whose activities are being equally monitored in terms of recent events in the state of South Australia. This is written deeply into the Liberal Party’s modus operandi.

I would say that the Leader of the Opposition has a fundamental question to answer concerning his integrity. We have given him the opportunity to stand in this place today and to provide the evidence of the existence of this email which he has used to attack the integrity of myself and the Treasurer. The Treasurer’s actions in this entire matter have been entirely professional and appropriate. Those opposite have constructed this farrago of lies based on the existence of this email, based on a proposition that I have provided representations on this matter and caused the Treasurer to act in a particular way. That has been fundamentally demolished, because this email is a complete and utter forgery. The Leader of the Opposition has no option, having raised this matter, called for my resignation, called for the Treasurer’s resignation, to stand in this parliament now, to offer an apology and to—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr RUDD —I notice the member for North Sydney interjects at this point. I would reflect carefully on what the member for North Sydney himself has said in recent days on this matter as well. It goes to the heart of his integrity and any aspirations he may have to lead the Liberal Party. This Leader of the Opposition has been given the opportunity to come into this House and provide the evidence upon which he has called for my resignation and the Treasurer’s resignation. He has failed to do so. He has no alternative now but to stand up, be man enough to apologise and resign.

The SPEAKER —The original question was that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition be agreed to.

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER —To this the Prime Minister has moved as amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the amendment be agreed to.

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Wakefield will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

The member for Wakefield then left the chamber.