Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6681

Mr ALBANESE (Leader of the House) (1:35 PM) —Last Friday the Leader of the Opposition stood at a press conference and said that the Prime Minister of this nation should resign. He stood at a press conference and said that the Treasurer of this nation should resign. He effectively accused them of engaging in corrupt conduct to help a mate—on the basis of an email which we know is fake. Today the opposition came into this chamber over this issue, which just one working day ago was serious enough to call for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer—something that does not happen every day—and they failed to even move a censure let alone a call for resignation.

This was like being told that you are being sent out to bat against Brett Lee and, when you front up, you get John Howard in the Middle East. That is what it was like—all pop and no bang from those opposite, because they have got nothing. There was no ‘chk-chk-boom’ moment from those opposite—none whatsoever. It has just been vicious slur and smear against the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of this nation—a smear without concern of the consequences for the national interest; a smear that those opposite have walked away from. The member for Dickson took this so seriously that he did a press conference on alcopops while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking on this matter. That is how seriously he took it. He was out there talking about their backflip on alcopops. After having a campaign day after day to run fear on the economy, those opposite had a change of tactics when it was determined that we were not in a recession. For those opposite, it is all about tactics, never about strategy. It is always about the next 24 hours. Their changing of tactics was about personal smear to replace the campaign of economic fear.

The Leader of the Opposition claimed on Friday: ‘The Prime Minister and Treasurer have used their offices and taxpayers’ resources to seek advantage for one of their mates and they’ve lied about it to the parliament.’ He made the most serious allegation possible against the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and called for them to resign. There have been reports in the last hour that this ‘email’ is a forgery. We know that it is a forgery. We know that Mr Andrew Charlton, a person of integrity, says that it is a forgery. The Leader of the Opposition and his office have a lot of questions to answer now. They have been pushing this email around for weeks, trying to smear the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.

The opposition must explain where, when and in what circumstances they came into contact with this email. They must detail all their involvement in the creation, distribution and promotion of this email. The opposition must today commit to fully cooperate with the Australian Federal Police by making their computer systems available. They must fully cooperate with the AFP investigation, because they have got form, and the Leader of the Opposition in particular has form. During the legal action related to the Costigan royal commission, the Leader of the Opposition made a series of ‘provocative claims in the press, including an interview in which he claimed to have significant evidence’. This was all documented in Annabel Crabb’s recent article. That evidence was never produced. In the same proceedings, the Age newspaper, on 17 December 1984 reported that Turnbull ‘publicly boasted of having evidence against a participant in the legal case and released a “press statement announcing that other information was available”.’ The judge in the case—and I quote from the judge—said that Turnbull’s ‘failure to give those particulars has never been explained nor have the particulars ever been supplied’ Packer v Marr 1984. Sound familiar? The judge condemned Turnbull’s tactics, saying that his statements to the media had ‘managed effectively to poison the fountain of justice immediately before the commencement of the present proceedings’. That was Justice Hunt, quoted once again by Annabel Crabb. This is very serious indeed. The journalist receiving leaks from the Costigan commission claimed that Turnbull was lying about having information about the source of leaks from the commission. The journalist, Brian Toohey, said at the time—and I quote from the Age on 10 December 1984: ‘Malcolm Turnbull is not aware of any source of any story I have ever written. I am astonished that he should pretend to know.’ The Leader of the Opposition has form.

There are more quotes. In the Australian on 20 June 2009, Paul Kelly writes, ‘The opposition had sighted the written evidence.’ In the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 June, Phil Coorey writes, ‘No-one can find the email. The coalition claims to be aware of its existence and some say they have read it.’ Do you think Phil Coorey made that up? Do you think he just decided to make that up? Sid Marr, in the Australian on 20 June, writes: ‘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 all very serious, experienced journalists on integrity. I might not agree with everything they ever write but I would not question the integrity of Paul Kelly, Phil Coorey or Sid Marr. On 20 June 2009, Mark Riley on Seven news said, ‘Certainly those people in the Liberal Party who were telling me yesterday that either they knew of its existence or its contents are certainly running away at 100 miles and hour.’

This morning we heard the clanger from the Leader of the Opposition on the Alan Jones program when he said, ‘Well, Eric Abetz, he was just quoting from a newspaper report.’ No, he was not. The newspaper was not out yet. It was Friday and the newspaper came out on Saturday. Today, on Sky News, Helen McCabe said, ‘I guess to be completely frank today, we were under the impression that the email existed and under the impression that the opposition had it.’ That is what she said today on Sky News. You had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition saying today with great clarity, ‘Well, I don’t know that an email doesn’t exist.’ That is her position: ‘I don’t know what I don’t know.’ Yet, this is an issue that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should resign over. This is an issue that should bring down a government. What a farce. When the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have been dealing with the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s and have been putting Australia in a position to move forward when the rest of the world is moving backwards, I will tell those opposite what their contribution has been: you are a dead weight on the national interest of this country trying to hold us back.

We will not be deterred by the politics of smear from those opposite and we will not be bullied either, because the Leader of the Opposition has form when it comes to bullying. During his Wentworth preselection battle with Peter King—remember Peter, his opponent?—he called a 23-year-old member of Peter King’s staff at home. That staff member has written a book. In the book he said—and I ask you to think about the comments between the Leader of the Opposition and Dr Charlton last Wednesday at the press gallery ball: ‘You lied, John. You have got to tell the truth. People could go to jail. Just tell me the truth. It’s so important to tell the truth.’ What were those comments last Wednesday night at the press gallery ball: ‘You have lied, Andrew. Integrity is the most important thing in a man’s career. This could be very damaging for you.’

This is all about the email which they now say they never said existed. They now say it has nothing to do with them. We will see how they go. I again call for them to open up their computer systems and their processes to the AFP investigation. There is also form on bullying public officials because in 1984, Mr Turnbull launched a legal action against an assistant to the Costigan royal commission asserting the assistant had leaked commission documents to the media. The presiding judge later said that the action launched by Turnbull was a bullying technique designed to put pressure on the official. Justice Hunt said Turnbull’s actions were ‘no more than a ploy’—this is a judge—and ‘clearly enough calculated to prejudice the defendant in his conduct of the present proceedings’. In the judgment, Justice Hunt described Turnbull’s actions as—and I quote from the Age on 17 December 1984—‘an abuse of legal process’.

Annabel Crabb nailed the Leader of the Opposition by talking to some of the people in the party room, some of those people who were sitting up the back or holding press conferences, anywhere but, distancing themselves from the Leader of the Opposition. A Liberal Party member described the Leader of the Opposition’s character as follows:

I do not think any of us have any illusions about Malcolm. I mean, he would destroy you if you got in his way and think absolutely nothing of it.

She quoted a former employee as well:

He just worked to bully them into getting the job done. If they were inappropriate for the job, he’d just keep bashing them against a rock until they were finished.

That was one of his former staff members.

It is very clear that this is an opposition leader who will not think for one second about whether he is prepared to put his own cheap political interests before the national interest. He has been exposed by this fake email scandal as a grubby opportunist who will do anything to get into office, just as he would do anything to knock off Peter King, a sitting member from the Liberal Party, just as he would do anything to destroy people in the ARM. What a success that was! He had the majority of the Australian public supporting a republic and he managed to lead the ARM to defeat. They should think about that. They should think about what happened in the internal dynamics of the ARM under his leadership because this is a man who is prepared to put himself first, second and third. This is a man whose only interest is his own interests. He will stop at nothing to gain political power and that is why he deserves to be censured before this parliament today.

I note that the original motion censures nobody because they are embarrassed and humiliated—some of them at least—by their actions over recent days. The Treasurer outlined quite clearly why there has been no misleading of the parliament. The bottom line of all this is: what did this great mate get? Nothing, not a zack, unlike the mates of the Liberal Party and the National Party year after year, rort after rort, abuse of government process after abuse of government process. The Leader of the Opposition has been exposed for his involvement in a fake email and this is why the Leader of the Opposition should simply resign—because he is unfit for public office, he is unfit to be the alternate Prime Minister of this nation and he is unfit to be the Leader of the Opposition. (Time expired)