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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6675


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) (1:05 PM) —I think we have just witnessed one of the weakest and most pathetic political attacks ever mounted by an opposition in this parliament. I have spent some time in opposition in this parliament and I have seen some fairly weak attacks, but today just takes the cake. Surely, the Leader of the Opposition must now resign. He has been telling people for weeks that he has the smoking gun. He has been telling senior journalists and senior people in business that he has the smoking gun on the Rudd government. As it turns out, he has been in possession of a fake email. He must pledge today to make available for a police inquiry all of the resources used by the opposition, because it is clear that the grubby opportunism of the Leader of the Opposition knows no bounds.

The person sitting opposite, there, is supposed to be the alternative leader of this country. That is why he is called the Leader of the Opposition, the alternative Prime Minister. What is he doing in the middle of a global financial crisis where jobs are endangered, where there has been a crisis in car financing earlier this year and where there has been a need for urgent action from the Australian government? What does he do? He is just out there with the mud bucket throwing it everywhere and getting involved in all sorts of conspiracies. Many who have known the Leader of the Opposition also know he has been involved in these sorts of nefarious activities before. He has a history, and I believe that history will now haunt him as the events unfold when we look at the creation, obviously, of a fake email. So the clock is ticking for the Leader of the Opposition. If he cannot provide to this parliament some authentication for this email then surely he must resign, particularly in circumstances where his spokesman and he personally have been telling people about the existence of this email. But of course he is the Captain Smear of Australian politics and he has been throwing it around a lot in the last couple of weeks as we on this side of the House attempt to put in place the fundamental supports for the Australian economy to support jobs. It will be shown to be the case that most of the extreme statements they have been making about the Prime Minister and me are simply false.

I want to deal with some of the false statements that have been made by those opposite, particularly regarding what I have done responsibly as the Treasurer of this country. Nothing I have done and nothing that has been said by them or anybody else contradicts anything that I have said to the people of Australia in this parliament. I stand by those statements 100 per cent because at the end of the day Mr Grant received no benefit from OzCar and he received no assistance whatsoever from Ford Credit—no assistance at all—and that is the very basis of the allegation that has been made. We also were confronting a very serious situation where many car dealers were not able to access finance and we took the same steps to help other car dealers that we took in the case of Mr Grant—the same steps. Why did we do this? We did this because jobs were at stake in the community. We did this in an environment where many of the dealers, perhaps half of the dealers in the country, may have been in serious trouble. I will come back to that later on.

I do want to deal with this allegation that somehow there was some extra-special treatment given to one car dealer over another. I want to quote Mr Delaney, the Executive Director of the Motor Trades Association of Australia. He had this to say:

The treatment that Mr Grant, a member of mine, got was no different from the treatment all of my other members got on my intervention on their behalf to Mr Grech.

‘No different’: I will deal with that in a moment. He went on to say:

They were all treated in the same way and for the same good reason—there was no other way to do these things. In fact, I think Mr Grant has been treated less well because he went to the Treasurer.

That is what Mr Delaney had to say. And why is that the case? Because car dealers have been subject to a torrent of abuse from those opposite and dragged into a political situation that they simply do not deserve.

The shadow Treasurer sought to create the impression that no-one else was looked after, just Mr Grant—no-one else received any treatment at all. Let’s deal with Mrs Hull, the member for Riverina. There was an email to my office—


Mr Hockey —Did it go to your home?


Mr SWAN —I will deal with the home fax in a moment, Sloppy Joe. There was an email from Kay Hull on 20 March 2009 at 12.17:

We have a crisis in car dealer finance for many dealers, covering around 80-90 dealers in New South Wales.

It goes on very legitimately to talk about the nature of the problem. That came to my office at 12.17 on 20 March. At 12.28—11 minutes later—the reply goes from my office:

Kay, I will refer your request to the appropriate person in the department who will get in touch with the car dealer—

and so on. There was an immediate reply from Kay, who is also very diligent:

Thank you so much, Amanda—

and so on. The key line is in the next document, which is an email from the treasury department to my office on 23 March at 11.53:

FYI. In case Kay Hull asks you where this is at, I have spoken with the dealer and explained to him where things are at.

The next paragraph is the killer:

I told him to contact Capital Finance and to let me know if he gets resistance.

That was signed by Godwin Grech. That was not even a full working day before Godwin Grech got back to my office, and then there was a flow through to the representation that had been made.

There was some talk before about emails. I will deal with the home fax, because that seems to infatuate those opposite. I suppose they were so lazy when they were in government that they did not use a home fax. They did not have to; they had their weekends off.

I can inform the House that I am advised that two dealers, in fact, had more communications made on their behalf to assist them to secure new financing than did John Grant. In one case a dealer had approximately double the number of communications made on their behalf. I can tell the House that between 15 October last year and 19 June this year, Mr Grech sent around 130 emails to my office. There has been all this conspiracy—that some of the emails went to the Secretary of the Treasury, some of them went to senior members of my staff, and so on. Of these emails, around 80 were copied to the Secretary of the Treasury, some 30-odd contained documents specifically for my attention and around 20 related directly to car dealers. Out of all these 130-odd emails sent to my office, only a handful of the emails related to John Grant.


Mr Perrett interjecting


The SPEAKER —The member for Moreton is warned!


Mr SWAN —During his speech before, the shadow Treasurer made a great deal about the fact that Mr Grech was meeting with Ford Credit, who were talking to OzCar about future arrangements. He then sought to say that there was some special attention paid to Mr Grant in those discussions. Let me take you back to that time, and Mr Delaney did this very well on the radio this morning. There was a massive threat to car dealerships in this country because GE and GMAC were withdrawing and many dealers did not know whether they were going to have finance, and particularly thought that their finance might simply stop in March through a prompt and rapid withdrawal by those two companies. We had decided to set up OzCar, but it had not yet been fully established. And what Mr Grech was simply doing in the case of Mr Grant and others was working as a public servant to put those firms that were already out there with the capacity to fund dealers in contact with dealers who were going to lose their finance. That is what was going on. That email that was referred to before by the shadow Treasurer does at the very beginning refer to the fact that the meeting with Ford Credit had been put in place weeks before the Grant representation had come through. I cannot vouch for everything that Mr Grech was doing but I do know what he was doing in this instance. He was referring dealers who thought that they would not have finance to finance companies that might have provided it. It was standard operating procedure.

I would have thought that as a party that pretends that they have got an interest in small business they would have thought that was a very reasonable thing to do. At the end of the day Mr Grant did not secure finance from Ford Credit and when I told this House that I did not know what the outcome had been of any of those representations I meant it—I did not know. If I had known, where are the rest of the emails that were supposed to have come along to justify the outrageous slurs coming from those opposite? The answer is: there are none. The representation was made. It was put in the hands of Mr Grech and he went off and made representations because that was his job—to help car dealers, to set up OzCar, to talk to Ford Credit and to do all of those things that are so important to be done during such a difficult time, because we had to do something for those dealers.

As it turns out, many of the existing financiers, particularly Esanda and Capital, decided that they were going to expand their books and in the end they took on many of the dealers that were left behind by the finance companies that had withdrawn. That was a terrific thing. It has meant that the OzCar vehicle is smaller than it was otherwise going to be. But it did mean that we were left with a particular problem with Ford Credit, because their international arm was no longer going to support them. We on this side of the House took the responsible decision to involve them in the special purpose vehicle so that 240-odd dealerships, mostly located in regional and rural Australia, would not go to the wall. This lousy mob opposite is seeking to exploit that action and to somehow say that it was sleazy. Shame on you! What this government has been doing honestly and directly and openly is working to solve a problem to support employment amongst small business in the auto industry.

What Mr Delaney said this morning is so true. There was a prospect early this year, upon the withdrawal of those finance companies, that this could have ricocheted right down the supply chain and hit the auto manufacturers themselves. That is what we were looking at earlier this year. So I personally was highly attentive to the needs of the industry. I spent a long time with the Prime Minister in many cabinet meetings and in many working group meetings—in fact some of them went on every day for weeks and weeks and weeks—to see what we could do about supporting this industry. I did spend a lot of time getting regular updates and briefs from officials in the Treasury about the progress of what was going on because I was worried sick that some of these dealerships were going to hit the wall.

I know that those opposite do not understand the nature or the depth of the global recession. You can tell that in their opposition to the stimulus. They do not have a clue about the nature of the economic challenges that have been posed to this country in recent times. It is why they were so opposed to the bank guarantee and the term funding guarantee, which is the single most important decision this government has taken to keep confidence running in our economy. And what did they do to that? It was the same grubby campaign they are running right now. Everybody in this House will remember the grubby campaign on leaked emails run by the Leader of the Opposition against the bank guarantee. It was something that was profoundly destabilising in this country at a very difficult time. He has demonstrated how reckless he is, how irresponsible he is, and now he should resign. (Time expired)