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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6672

Mr HOCKEY (12:50 PM) —Mr Speaker, I should inform the House of a news report on the ABC Broadcasting site which is headlined, ‘Australian Federal Police descend on Grech’s house’, and states:

Australian Federal Police have executed a search warrant at the house of the Treasury official at the centre of the OzCar affair.

The report goes on to say the ‘police are now interviewing Mr Grech about the email which appears to have been concocted inside the Treasury Department.’ It also states:

Mr Grech told the inquiry on Friday that his recollection was that a staffer of the Prime Minister sent him an email about Mr Grant …

He also told the inquiry that Treasury officials gave him the impression that Mr Grant “wasn’t your average constituent”.

So, an email does exist, according to this report. The Prime Minister said there was no email, and yet evidence today from a Federal Police investigation suggests that an email—

Mr Symon interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! I remind the member for Deakin of his status.

Mr HOCKEY —Evidence from an emerging report suggests, firstly, that an email does exist, which contradicts what the Prime Minister said on Friday night, that an extensive search of the computer systems of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as well as the Treasury department said no email exists. There is now a report that says that there is an email on the Treasury department IT system. Secondly, in relation to the Senate hearing—

The SPEAKER —The member for Longman!

Mr HOCKEY —I refer the House to the words of Senator Abetz before the Senate inquiry on Friday: ‘A person, a journalist in fact, has suggested to me that there may have been a communication from the Prime Minister’s office.’ He went on to ask about that communication. He finished by saying, ‘This is what has been suggested to me by somebody, and there is of course the suggestion in today’s media that such a document exists.’ That is point 2. So, firstly, the Prime Minister said that there is no email and that there is no email on the computer system of the government. It now emerges that there are reports that the email exists. That is point 1. Point 2: the report suggests that the email was concocted within the Treasury department. Point 3: the Prime Minister said, with some measure of authority, that somehow he knows, before the Federal Police, that the email is a forgery. Before the Federal Police have completed their investigations, the Prime Minister knows that it is a forgery.

There is one thing about this whole matter that we will not be distracted from and it is this: the integrity of the Treasurer. The Prime Minister can have the diversion of an email—an alleged email or an email—that is now reported to be real. He can have that distraction, but I will tell you that we are not going to let Wayne Swan off the hook. We are not going to let the Treasurer off the hook. I will tell you why: because the Treasurer stated in this place with absolute conviction that Mr Grant was being treated ‘just like everybody else’. He said it was an entirely normal situation the way that Mr Grant was being treated. And he had the audacity to repeat it in an interview with Laurie Oakes yesterday on Channel 9, where he stated:

And in the case of Mr Grant, he was not treated any differently from any other car dealer.

Not treated any differently—just a normal run-of-the-mill case. And what is irrefutable is the evidence that has been presented to the Senate by the Treasury. But ironically it was Labor Party senators that tabled the emails—not even the treasury department tabled those emails—that belled the cat in relation to the Treasurer’s lies to this parliament. The truth of the matter is that this all started with our Prime Minister receiving a free motor vehicle from a car dealer. Our Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, was in receipt of a car from John Grant. That is the first moment of compromise of our Prime Minister. Secondly, our Prime Minister and the Treasurer stood in this place and said—

Mr Hale interjecting

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

The member for Solomon then left the chamber

Mr HOCKEY —there was nothing out of the ordinary in the treatment of the man that had given a car to the Prime Minister. Well, I am about to contend that there is something different about John Grant. It comes down to the authoritative information that has been presented, not just by the Treasury but also by the Treasurer himself over the last few days. Firstly, how is it just an ordinary occurrence in the treatment of a constituent matter that the Treasurer on one day took a phone call from Mr John Grant—you would believe that in the ordinary course of business the Treasurer speaks to every constituent referral by a member of parliament—but Bernie Ripoll rang up the Treasurer and said, ‘I have a real problem with one of my constituents.’ Oh! if we could all have that response from the Treasurer about our constituents. But the Treasurer on this one day—on 20 February—rang up Mr John Grant on the mobile phone. There was a conversation with Mr John Grant. It was a conversation that the Treasurer omitted from his statement in parliament. He was treating Mr Grant as an ordinary person but he omitted to mention a mobile phone conversation with Mr Grant.

Secondly, on that day Mr Swan, the Treasurer, referred the matter within his office—quite appropriate. It went to Godwin Grech in the Treasury—all on the one day. The Treasury official then rang Mr Grant. Oh! if we could all have that sort of constituent response from the Treasurer—any Treasurer; we do not mind who the Treasurer is. All this activity on just one day, but Mr Grant is not being treated any differently to any other constituent! Mr Grech contacted Mr Grant and provided feedback on his discussion at 5.19 pm on a Friday. That is pretty efficient from Treasury. And do you know what? Not only does he provide that feedback, at 5.19 pm on a Friday, which is impressive all the same, but the email traffic continues with copies to Mr Thomas, Mr Jim Chalmers, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Treasurer—keen interest in this matter—and Mr Matthew Coghlan, the senior media adviser in the Treasurer’s office. Why did so many people have this interest in an ordinary constituent? Just another ordinary case but yet all these officials seem to have a keen interest! But it did not end there. This was a long day. At 7.27 pm, on a Friday, Mr Andrew Thomas provides an update on the issue to the Treasurer at his home fax. Amazing! Normally home faxes would have emails and facsimiles from the head of the IMF or the World Bank or even the Secretary of the Treasurer but, no, this ordinary constituent has his details sent to the Treasurer’s home fax, which the Treasurer omitted from his statement in parliament. The Treasurer was asked in a doorstop, ‘Why was this sent to your home fax?’ and he went on to say: ‘Well, it was not faxed specifically to my home at my request. All sorts of things come to my home fax machine. There can be hundreds of pages of material on the fax. On a rare night in Brisbane it could be out of paper.’

A few days later, on the Monday, there is the key event. The Treasury official goes into a meeting with Ford Credit. Ford Credit had been unable to access $2 billion of funds. At this point in time—and this is the most telling line—Godwin Grech, from the treasury department, sends an email to the Treasurer at his home, to the chief of staff, to the deputy chief of staff and to the secretary of the treasury department, who now has an interest in this ordinary constituent matter. In that email, the Treasury official states:

… Ford Credit will shut down the business if they cannot secure access to capital.

So Ford Credit, which needs half a billion dollars from this government and needs this government to change the terms of OzCar, is on its hands and knees to the government and yet, in a meeting with the Treasury official the following day, that Treasury official raises the issue of an acquaintance of the Prime Minister—

An opposition member—The ordinary man.

Mr HOCKEY —the ordinary man, the everyday man, the everyday constituent. When a company is desperate for half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, all of a sudden the Treasury official not only raises John Grant with the Ford Credit people but, interestingly, hands over Mr Grant’s private mobile phone number. You know what? Ford Credit had not, at this stage, been able to change the rules. Ford Credit had not been given an indication that they would get half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, but here is a Treasury official handing over the mobile phone number of a person who he described as an acquaintance of the Prime Minister and someone whose interests had had the direct involvement of the Treasurer. And Ford Credit were expected to just treat that like any other constituent!

This is the damning moment for the Treasurer because the Treasurer stated in this place that it is an entirely normal situation. He is expecting us to believe that it is an entirely normal situation to ask a company that is desperate for half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money to help out a mate of the Prime Minister. He expects that is an entirely normal situation. I will tell you what: that is not an entirely normal situation. The best defence this Treasurer can come up with is that the money did not, in the end, come from Ford Credit. The Treasurer has engaged in a conspiracy to murder but there is no body—that is what he is saying—and therefore there is no crime. Well, there is a crime. There are two crimes. Firstly, the Treasurer has misled the Australian people and that is a heinous crime. Secondly, this weak and insipid Treasurer is taking care of the Prime Minister’s mate with taxpayers’ money. That is our contention. The Treasurer has gone too far. The bill for all of this is undoubtedly being paid by the Australian taxpayers.

How revealing it is that, from the very start of this entire debate, the Prime Minister goes into denial about everything. He is seeking to provide aerial protection for his Treasurer. But I tell you what: we are not going to let the Treasurer off the hook. There are lots of questions that need to be answered. When did you first meet John Grant? It emerges the Treasurer purchased a car from John Grant Motors. It also emerges that there is a little club that John Grant is a member of that provides support to the Labor Party and may even provide support to the Treasurer. There are many questions to be answered, but I want to make this point: it is perfectly clear John Grant received preferential treatment directly as a result of the Treasurer’s involvement. There is now a correspondence trail between the Treasurer and Treasury officials. Of course, the Treasurer said it was only a one-off. Four separate emails go to the Treasurer’s home, and the Treasurer says: ‘I don’t know what happened in that case; I wasn’t informed. It was arms-length.’ What a fool. It is the case that the Treasurer’s bravado has got ahead of him. He is a man who has lied to the Australian people, he has lied to this parliament and the Treasurer now needs to resign.