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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6722

Mr HOCKEY (4:35 PM) —Madam Deputy Speaker, I second the motion. Today we ask the first of many questions that we will be asking of the Treasurer about this matter, particularly in relation to John Grant. The first question here is:

Will the Treasurer advise the House how many other car dealers he spoke with directly on the telephone before referring them to Treasury for assistance?

No answer.

Will the Treasurer advise the House how many other car dealers had updates on their cases faxed directly to his home?

No answer.

Can the Treasurer confirm that at a meeting between Treasury officials and … Ford Credit … [that a] mobile telephone number handed over by Treasury officials in the full knowledge of both the Treasurer and his office?

No answer.

Can the Treasurer confirm that Treasury officials told Ford Credit that Mr Grant was ‘an acquaintance’ of the Prime Minister, whom he knew from his dealings in Queensland?

No answer. And that is in the Senate Hansard. Ford Credit: they do not have any particular motive. In fact, they came to this government asking for $½ billion to keep their business afloat, and now they are saying that they were told unequivocally: ‘This man—here is his mobile phone number—needs your help. He is a friend of the Prime Minister and we are thinking of giving you $½ billion to keep your business afloat’. What does that smell of?

You know what? If it quacks, waddles, sounds like a duck, looks like a duck and behaves like a duck, it is a duck. The Treasurer had the audacity to walk into this place and say that this is an entirely normal situation. It is entirely normal that a company on its hands and knees comes to the government and asks the government to change the rules for a $2 billion fund so it can access half a billion dollars to keep its business afloat. The Treasury emails say unequivocally: ‘Ford Credit will shut down the business if it cannot secure access to capital.’ So Ford Credit came to the government with a begging bowl. In that discussion they were told by the Treasury official, ‘There’s someone that we really want you to help. He’s not a Ford dealer; he’s not a Volvo dealer; he’s got no relationship with you guys and we know that you don’t actually provide credit to these sorts of people. We know that, but we want you to have a good look at this case of Mr John Grant, a friend of the Prime Minister’s from Queensland. Here is his mobile phone number. Please ring him.’ No wonder Ford rang that day—the cheapest half a billion dollar phone call it ever made. I say to the member for Dunkley and the member for Murray, ‘Why didn’t you call Wayne’s World? He’ll ring you back straightaway. He’ll ring the dealer straightaway. You can get half a billion dollars of credit immediately—no problems.’

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member will refer to members appropriately.

Mr HOCKEY —The interesting thing is that John Grant was only asking for $1½ million—a small amount of money.

An opposition member interjecting—

Mr HOCKEY —That is right. A tiny amount of money. Do you know what is interesting? John Grant does not even sell Fords. He does not sell Fords; he does not sell Volvos. He sells Kias, and second-hand Toyota HiLuxes to the Treasurer. We will have a few questions on that as well. You see, there is a political strategy by the government, and it should not surprise anyone: they will say that the best form of defence is attack. When a Treasury official is shut down by Labor senators in not one but two Senate hearings—during estimates and again last Friday—and shut down by senior Treasury officials, instinctively you know something smells. All of us on this side know it, and you know what? Everyone out there knows it: something smells with the Treasurer. It is just unbelievable, and he says that this man was treated just like everybody else.

We will not let this rest. You can have all the diversions and distractions and all the inquiries you like, but we are going to point out to the Australian people unequivocally that the Treasurer is not only lying to the Australian people but engaged in conduct unbecoming of a Treasurer.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney will withdraw the last comment. The House is debating a motion to suspend standing orders.

Mr HOCKEY —I am happy to withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thank the member for his assistance.