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Turnbull in the hot seat -

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Turnbull in the hot seat

Broadcast: 22/06/2009

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull joins The 7.30 Report live, following an explosive day in
parliament as the utegate scandal unfolded.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: A short time ago, I spoke with the Prime Minister. He was in his
Parliament House office.

Kevin Rudd, on radio this morning and in the Parliament today you were keen to argue that the
entire Opposition case against you and the Treasurer rested on the contents of an email that you
branded as a forgery. But you know that that's not the only basis for concern about your
Treasurer's assistance for the Queensland car dealer John Grant who is an acquaintance or friend of
yours. You know that that's not the only basis, don't you?

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: I fundamentally disagree with you, Kerry. Let me go to the heart of the
proposition. Mr Turnbull, the Liberal Party's out there accusing myself as Prime Minister and the
Treasurer of corruption. What's his basis for saying that? He has said that I have made a
communication on behalf of Mr Grant to the Australian Treasury, and as a consequence have caused
the Treasurer to act in a way to support Mr Grant's interests which would not otherwise normally
occur - that's the essence of it. So therefore the core of this entire argument rests on the
alleged communication between myself, or my office, and the Treasury on Mr Grant's behalf. And here
are the facts: one, Mr Grant has said he's never discussed the matter with me nor asked me for
representations - that's true. Secondly, I have not had any dealings with Mr Grant on this matter
to make representations for him. Three, neither have my staff. But four, what Mr Turnbull and the
Liberal Opposition have said: there's this smoking gun, this email which exists between myself, my
office and the Treasury asking for representations to be made. That was exploded today and in terms
of the statements I've made over the course of the weekend, because the document in question, the
email, is a fake, it's a forgery, it is fraudulent. And we have - we have ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But as you know, Mr Rudd ...

KEVIN RUDD: We have the alternative Prime Minister of Australia making an accusation against the
serving Prime Minister of corruption based on this document which is a forgery, and him and his
staff using the opportunity to convey the contents of that document around to various media
outlets.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But as you know, Mr Turnbull also based his charges against you on the verbal
evidence given by the public servant Mr Grech in the Senate on Friday where he said - and he
acknowledged his memory might be faulty - but he said he had a recollection that an email had come
to him from your office about Mr Grant. So that was part of the reason for Mr - on which Malcolm
Turnbull based his claims. Another part was a series of faxes involving Mr Swan's office and Mr
Grech.

KEVIN RUDD: Let me go to the point that you've just raised in terms of what Mr Grech, the public
servant, had to say last Friday. You're correct to say that in his evidence he said that his
recollection might be false or faulty. Can I also say that after he delivered that evidence, both
the Prime Minister's department and the Treasury department conducted independent IT audits to
establish whether or not an email had been exchanged between Mr Grech in the Treasury and my senior
economic advisor Dr Charlton. Both those searches by independent public service departments found
zero. On the basis of that, I then went out late on Friday, after the news bulletins had gone to
bed, and said, "Based on this search I can only conclude that this document is false." But despite
that, despite that, you had Mr Turnbull go out there and call for my resignation as Prime Minister
of Australia, alleging corruption in my case. And he did so as we now all know on the basis of a
forged document, and beyond that, for some weeks had been seeking to convey the contents of this
document to news outlets in order to excite their interest. I believe, therefore ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: How credible are the sources who have told you that? Has it been other journalists
who've told you that Mr Turnbull's been going around?

KEVIN RUDD: Um, Kerry, you should know that here in Canberra, the corridors of power and the media
talk a lot, and they talk a lot off the record, and this has been one the worst kept secrets in
Canberra over the last couple of weeks, this is precisely what's been going on. And for Mr Turnbull
as the alternative Prime Minister, and as a person trained as a lawyer, not to administer any basic
due diligence to this document, this forged email, and to mount a capital case against the Prime
Minister of the day, calling for him to resign, accusing him of being corrupt, shows such a lack of
judgment on his part that he is no longer fit to occupy the office of Leader of the Opposition.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The Opposition has challenged Mr Swan today on several fronts to test whether he
gave John Grant assistance, more assistance than he gave to other car dealers in similar trouble.
He was asked directly in the Parliament whether he had personally rung other car dealers to talk
about their problems as he had rung Mr Grant. Mr Swan ignored that question, yet wouldn't you agree
that the Parliament deserves that answer? And have you asked Mr Swan why he wasn't prepared to give
that answer?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, you know, Kerry, we have an Opposition today whose credibility is in absolute
tatters because they have made things up. And not just your ordinary garden variety making of
things up. Making up an allegation based on a made-up email which goes to an allegation of
corruption about the Prime Minister and about the Treasurer. These are no small trifling matters.
They're credibility's in absolute tatters. And you go to this question about individual car
dealerships. Can I just quote to you from the Motor Trades Association of Australia. Let me just
lay this one the line for your viewers. This is quoting from them, Mr Michael Delaney, the
Executive Director: he says, "... the treatment that Mr Grant, a member of mine, got was no
different from the treatment of all of my other members on my intervention on their behalf to Mr
Grech. They were all treated in the same way and for the same good reason. There was no other way
to do these things. He goes on to say ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: With respect, Mr Rudd, Mr Delaney isn't expected to know everything that passes in
private involving bureaucrats in Treasury, or Mr Swan - phone calls, emails or whatever. And can I
draw your attention ...

KEVIN RUDD: Let me go on to a second point on that, Kerry, which is the number of other
representations Mr Swan as Treasurer. He was acting on behalf of representations from a number of
members of Parliament. There was some 130, I think Mr Swan said today, emails from Mr Grech to his
office concerning these matters over time, a handful of which dealt with the matter of Mr Grant and
there are at least two other car dealerships which involved a greater volume of email
correspondence. Now this seems to be of no relevance to the continued campaign of personal smear
which Mr Turnbull and the Liberals are engaged in against the Treasurer. It's time - they had the
opportunity today to put up or shut up when it came to providing their documentary evidence, in
terms of this email. They failed, and in fact the email proved to be an absolute forgery.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, when the Opposition says that Wayne Swan rang Mr Grant personally and then
asked him whether any other car dealers who he was treating equally that he also rang, Mr Swan
ignored the answer. He didn't say yes or no, he ignored it.

KEVIN RUDD: Kerry, Kerry, you could pluck 1,000 questions out of the air on any day about multiple
transactions between the Government, the Treasurer's office and the entire car dealership industry
which this special purpose vehicle has been created to support. Remember, why does this vehicle
exist, this financing vehicle? Because the industry was in diabolical trouble at the end of last
year because of the global financial crisis, and it was intended to support the impending
withdrawal of 40 per cent of car dealership finance from the market through the return back
overseas of two major car dealership finance companies. It was established as an industry-wide
measure. That is why the evidence I've just referred to then by the head of the Motor Trades (sic)
Association is highly relevant. It's designed for the entire industry. So you can have Malcolm
Turnbull cherrypick one argument or one aspect of this after another as he seeks desperately to
cover up for the fact that his credibility is in tatters because of this forged email upon which
he's based his attack on me.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But Mr Rudd, with respect, it wasn't just the forged email, there was - the imagery
that came out of that Senate committee last Friday was absolutely graphic. There was a senior
public servant under pressure who was saying things like, "I think, I can recall an email from the
Prime Minister's office asking for assistance for Mr Grant." He also said that he had the clear
impression that Mr Grant was a special case. And the Opposition is alleging that Mr Swan has
essentially got Treasury via Mr Godwin Grech to intercede with Ford Credit on behalf of John Grant
as a personal favour to your mate, even to the point of providing Ford Credit's chief executive
with Mr Grant's mobile phone number. Now, was that kind of assistance afforded to other car
dealers?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, what you seem to have neglected in your question, Kerry, was that the same Mr
Grech in the same testimony said that his recollection could've been entirely false oor faulty.
That's what he said himself. It seems to be missing from the general commentary here. The second
point I'd make back to you is that in terms of these other car dealerships who are dealing from
time to time with the Treasurer's office, there are at least two sets of cases which involved a
larger volume of transactions or email communications in order to obtain results. One of - another
case related to a car dealership in the electorate, I think, of Kay Hulls, the National Party
Member for Riverina, who was exceptionally satisfied, I understand, by the service and support she
got from Mr Swan's office.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But just on that very case, Mr Rudd, I've had a look at the emails that were tabled
in the Senate.

KEVIN RUDD: Let me go to the question of Mr Swan's character here. That's what you're seeking to go
after. And what I'm saying I know Mr Swan very well. He is a diligent and exceptionally upstanding
Treasurer who is seeking to work across the industry here to provide appropriate support in a time
of great economic crisis. And can I say on a day when the Leader of the Opposition's credibility
has gone up in a huge explosion, it is remarkable that the Liberal Party can continue to mount a
campaign against Mr Swan, when, frankly, the senior members of that party, the elder statesman,
Senator Minchin and other, Mr Costello, Mr Nelson, should be tapping Mr Turnbull on the shoulder
and saying, "Frankly, you don't have the quality of temperament to occupy this office of leadership
of the Opposition."

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Rudd, thanks for talking with us.

KEVIN RUDD: Pleasure to be with you.