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High drama in Canberra as utegate scandal unf -

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High drama in Canberra as utegate scandal unfolds

Broadcast: 22/06/2009

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

The political crisis that has become known as utegate dominated parliament today. With revelations
that an email apparently sent from the Prime Minister's office, the central thesis of the
Opposition's attack has been deemed a fake. The treasury official at the centre of the scandal,
Godwin Grech, has now become the subject of a criminal investigation.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: What an extraordinary day it's been in the national capital. The
political crisis that has become known as "Ute-gate" has blown up in all directions. The man at the
centre of the explosive evidence given to the Senate estimates inquiry on Friday, senior Treasury
official Godwin Grech has today become the subject of a criminal investigation. The central thesis
of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's attack on Kevin Rudd, an email allegedly sent from the
Prime Minister's office has been revealed by Australian Federal Police today to be a fake. The
Opposition has charged that both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have improperly conspired to
assist a car dealer acquaintance of Mr Rudd's to access a Government credit scheme and misled the
Parliament. But today, as news of the Federal Police investigation began to filter out, Mr Turnbull
had swung almost the complete focus of his attack onto Mr Swan. Mr Rudd on the other hand was
demanding Mr Turnbull's apology and resignation. In a moment I'll be talking with both leaders, but
first this report from Political Editor Michael Brissenden.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: He has no alternative now but to stand up, be man enough to apologise
and resign.

JOE HOCKEY, SHADOW TREASURER: He is a man that has lied to the Australian people, he has lied to
this Parliament and the Treasurer now needs to resign.

WAYNE SWAN, TREASURER: What he demonstrated is how reckless he is, how irresponsible he is and how
he should resign.

JULIE BISHOP, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: The Member for Hunter resigned for a lesser offence than
this; the Treasurer should resign.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: Intrigue and outrage have enveloped the politics of the nation as
surely as the shroud of fog that wraps itself around the Parliament on these chilly winter
mornings. An old ute, a mate, the startling evidence of a stressed and finely-drawn public servant,
an email of some highly questionable providence, an industry in crisis and a chain of
correspondence to and from the Treasurer all play a part in this continuing drama. It began with a
pointed question to the Prime Minister some weeks ago about his relationship with the car dealer
John Grant who'd leant him a Mazda ute for campaigning, and was ratcheted up to a feverish new
intensity by this remarkable evidence at Senate estimates on Friday.

GODWIN GRECH, TREASURY OFFICIAL (Last Friday): I certainly had the impression that he wasn't your
average constituent. It was certainly my understanding that the initial contact I had with respect
to John Grant was from the Prime Minister's office.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The revelations of Godwin Grech the Treasury official appeared to contradict
the assurances given to Parliament by both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that they had not
given Mr Grant any special treatment as he attempted to secure emergency finance from the
Government's special OzCar scheme. The initial contact Mr Grech referred to was in the form of an
email that an extensive search initially failed to find. But the contents of which seemed to have
been known by the Opposition for some time. It was quoted from on Friday by Eric Abetz, the senator
leading the Opposition attack in estimates. But by today, it had been unearthed as a fake by
Australian Federal Police investigators, who this morning raided Mr Grech's Canberra home. It's
understood the email was written in the Treasury system, sent to Mr Grech's home account and then
deleted from Treasury computers. The Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader's attack has been
demolished.

KEVIN RUDD: The Member for Wentworth is no longer fit to occupy the office of Leader of the
Opposition because he has actively promoted for political gain the contents of an email purporting
to be from me, my office, that is entirely false, fictitious and a forgery. Not only is the Member
for Wentworth not fit to be Leader of the Opposition, by his actions in this sordid Turnbull email
forgery affair, he has also disqualified himself from ever being fit to serve as leader of this
country. Let us be clear about what is at stake here: this fraudulent email is the entire rock upon
which the Leader of the Opposition has constructed his case against me, the Treasurer and the
Government, and this rock has now disintegrated into sand.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well not entirely. The fake email does take the heat off the Prime Minister -
that much is true. Malcolm Turnbull has overreached on this. How much checking was done on the
veracity of that email, for instance? Has the Opposition seen a copy of it, or are they just
quoting from what they've been told was in it?

But having called on Friday for both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to resign, Mr Turnbull
today turned his full attention to the Treasurer. The key focus of that attack is the claim that
Wayne Swan misled the Parliament when he said Mr Grant was not given any special treatment.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, OPPOSITION LEADER: The louder they scream, the more desperate we see them to be,
as they try to hold up in office a Treasurer who has betrayed the trust of the Australian people
and prostituted his responsibilities by seeking to leverage the power of the Commonwealth to
advantage the Prime Minister's mate.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The central charge against the Treasurer is based on emails tabled by the
Treasury that show that the case of Mr Grant, one of many dealers who had inquired about access to
OzCar finance, was raised directly with Mr Grech by the Treasurer's office. After approaches from,
Queensland backbencher Bernie Ripoll direct to the Treasurer's office, Mr Swan phoned John Grant
and reassured him that his departmental liaison officer would refer the matter to Treasury. Mr
Grech was also encouraged to raise the matter with Ford Credit during a pre-arranged meeting at a
time when Ford Credit was itself seeking half a billion dollars in government assistance to keep
its Australian operations alive. The Grant matter was raised at the Ford Credit meeting and the
Treasurer was informed of this by his DLO via a fax sent to his home - far from ordinary treatment,
according to the Opposition, and Malcolm Turnbull says Wayne Swan should go.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Now the Government can raise distractions about other documents and other emails
as much as they like. Oh, and good, good ...

SPEAKER: Member for Deacon.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: You can talk it up as much as you like, but you cannot escape the fact that
presiding over the finances of the Commonwealth of Australia is a Treasurer who has lied to this
House. He has lied to this House. He said - he said he had no idea of the progress of Mr Grant's
application. He said he was treated like everybody else. There was nobody else treated like this.

WAYNE SWAN: 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. And I stand by those
statements 100 per cent, Mr Speaker. Because at the end of the day, Mr Speaker, Mr Grant received
no benefit from OzCar and he received no assistance whatsoever from Ford Credit.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Mr Swan says he dealt with other members' concerns for car dealers in their
electorates as well. The Member for Riverina Kay Hull passed on one, and that too was dealt with
promptly by his office and forwarded to Godwin Grech. His defence was also helped this morning by
the intervention of Michael Delaney, the head of the Motor Traders Association.

WAYNE SWAN: And 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.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But we're still not sure if any of those car dealers had quite such close
contact with the Treasurer himself, and the Opposition pressed home the point in Question Time
today.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: 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?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So we don't quite know the answer to that one. There are obviously still some
questions the Treasurer is under pressure to answer, and there'll be plenty more of them this week
for sure. But the Opposition Leader is also now looking damaged after basing such a fierce attack
on the Prime Minister on emails that have turned out to be fake. As for the other player in this,
the Treasury official Godwin Grech, it seems the Federal Police are now asking him plenty of
questions as well.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political Editor Michael Brissenden.