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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6665

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (12:25 PM) —I move:

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“that this House censures the Leader of the Opposition for relying on, actively communicating and promoting the contents of a fake email to attack the integrity of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer”.

After calling on the Prime Minister of Australia to resign, after calling on the Treasurer to resign, this Leader of the Opposition comes into this House today and says that he has concerns. But he does not actually take the action of moving a motion of censure. We have been told that we should resign from our offices because it is such a matter of grave public importance. Yet he comes in here and does not even have the courage to move a motion of censure. Why has he failed to do so? He has had an opportunity today in this debate to produce the email upon which his entire case depends. Where is the email? We are waiting for this email to be produced. Why has he not produced this email? Because the alleged email between my office and the Treasury does not exist. The entire case advanced by the Leader of the Opposition rests on a forgery. This Leader of the Opposition has gone out there and mounted an attack on the Treasurer and me based on a document which is a forgery.

This censure motion of the Leader of the Opposition becomes necessary because 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 my office, that is entirely false, fictitious and a forgery. The member for Wentworth is not only not fit to be Leader of the Opposition by his actions in this sordid Turnbull email forgery affair but 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.

His charge was as crude as this: that I, the Prime Minister, had directed my staff to make representations on behalf of Mr John Grant to the Treasury for access to the OzCar program and as a consequence caused the Treasurer to intervene on my behalf to assist Mr Grant. That is the charge. This entire charge, therefore, against me and the Treasurer turns entirely on whether I have so directed my staff, for which the single piece of evidence offered is an alleged email between Dr Charlton of my office and Mr Godwin Grech of the Treasury—an email that the opposition purported to quote in the Senate last Friday; an email that the opposition boasted to have in its possession to multiple members of the press gallery in recent days; documentary evidence that the Leader of the Opposition claimed to possess in multiple representations to News Ltd editors in the course of recent weeks; documentary evidence that the Leader of the Opposition claimed existed when he threatened Dr Charlton of my office last Wednesday night. Yet when today he was asked in parliament to produce the evidence of this email—an alleged email that goes to the absolute core of his charge against me and the Treasurer—he says that he has never had it and he refuses now to answer questions as to whether he has ever seen it.

Today, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have made it much worse for themselves, as they have tried desperately to cover their tracks on this matter. Today, Alan Jones asked the Leader of the Opposition on radio the following:

But someone in the Opposition obviously believe they had seen the email because Senator Abetz, your opposition industry spokesman, read out its text during the Senate inquiry on Friday.

To which the Leader of the Opposition replied:

That had been published, I believe, in the Telegraph.

To which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition then added on ABC radio this morning:

It is perfectly legitimate for senators to put information that has been published on the front pages of the newspaper that day regarding the content of an email.

But here is the core problem: the Daily Telegraph did not publicise its alleged email until Saturday. The Senate inquiry was held on Friday. In fact, it was not until after the Senate inquiry had concluded that Mr Lewis of News Ltd sent the following to my office:

News Ltd plans to publish the following email sent by Andrew Charlton from the Prime Minister’s office to Treasury official Godwin Grech. The email was sent on 19 February. It says:

Hi Godwin, the PM has asked if the car dealer financing vehicle is available to assist a Queensland dealership, John Grant Motors, who seems to be having trouble getting finance. If you can follow up on this asap that would be very useful. Happy to discuss.

The email from Mr Lewis to my office continued:

Given the emergence of this email, hasn’t the Prime Minister misled the Parliament when he said that neither he nor his office had intervened on behalf of Mr Grant?

Then, despite my response later on Friday night, based on independent IT audits by the Public Service that no such email existed and that it was in fact false, the Daily Telegraph proceeded to publish this alleged email on Saturday. In their mock-up of this false email, the Telegraph typed it up, by the way, as an email from my office to ‘Godwin Grant’, not Godwin Grech. But, by this stage, who cares about accuracy? The core point is this: both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have said their senator raised it in the Senate inquiry on Friday because it had already been published in the Telegraph. The truth is it had not.

What a tangled web we weave. So desperate are they to cover up the traces concerning their access to the contents of this forged email that today they try to reinvent the chronology to blame News Ltd for their own culpability. May we ask: why are they so desperate to distance themselves from this false and fake email? It goes to the question of the opposition’s active participation in communicating the contents of an email forgery or even worse, which is why the Leader of the Opposition must commit in parliament today to making fully available the opposition’s computer systems and staff to the AFP inquiry that is underway concerning this matter under the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act. It is for these reasons that the Leader of the Opposition has tried in the last 48 hours to run a million miles an hour away from this false email on which he has based his entire case against me, the Treasurer and the government. This is a most serious matter which goes to the integrity of the man who purports to be the alternative Prime Minister of Australia. It goes to the destruction of his credibility in this place, which is why it is no longer tenable for him to occupy the position of Leader of the Opposition.

The Daily Telegraph ran on its front page last Saturday the following story under Mr Lewis’s by-line:

THE Rudd Government was in crisis last night amid calls for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan to resign over allegations they misled Federal Parliament.

An explosive email, which has been read to the Daily Telegraph, reveals the Prime Minister “asked” if a $2 billion scheme could be made available to help his friend, Queensland car dealer John Grant.

I state again to the parliament that this email is a forgery. The Daily Telegraph’s reporting of it by Mr Lewis in the article I have just read is totally false. I repeat: it was also produced by Mr Lewis and reported by the Daily Telegraph following the comprehensive denial of its accuracy the night before. Of course, the standards they apply to proper journalism is a matter for News Ltd to attend to. What is relevant here today in this censure debate is the honesty of the Leader of the Opposition and his fitness to continue to hold this office.

The Leader of the Opposition has his fingerprints all over the promotion of this fake email—and he knows it. For weeks he has been talking up this alleged smoking gun to editors around the country. When he raised questions in parliament last week concerning my assurances to the House about any communications between my office and the Treasury on this matter, both he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition lent across the chamber and began shaking their fingers at Dr Charlton, who sits in the advisers box. That was last Monday. Then we come to the extraordinary events of last Wednesday night, when he sought to threaten Dr Charlton from my office. Dr Charlton then produced a record of conversation.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order!

Mr RUDD —Dr Charlton states:

On Wednesday 17 June I attended the Press Gallery’s Mid Winter Ball. I was seated at a table adjacent to the table at which Malcolm Turnbull was seated, and our seats were close together.

During the main course Malcolm Turnbull turned around to initiate a conversation with the person seated beside me.

He then turned his seat in my direction and initiated the following conversation:

Turnbull: Hello. You are Andrew Charlton.

Charlton: Hello.

Turnbull: You are friends with [he then mentioned the name of a person known to us both].

Charlton: Yes, I know [I mentioned that person’s name].

Turnbull: Let me give you some advice because I think you have a very promising career ahead of you.

Integrity is the most important thing in the career of a young man.

[A short conversation ensued on a different subject related to our mutual acquaintance … ]

Turnbull: Andrew, integrity is the most important thing in a man’s career.

That is why I encourage you, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the pressure, not to lie.

Charlton: Thank you for the advice. I don’t feel any pressure to lie.

Turnbull: This whole Ozcar issue will be very damaging for you.

Let me just give you some friendly advice.

You should not lie to protect your boss.

Charlton: I have not.

Turnbull: You know and I know there is documentary evidence that you have lied.

Charlton: There is not.

Turnbull: Andrew, you know that there is documentary evidence. This could be very damaging for you.

Charlton: I have not had any contact with Mr Grant.

Turnbull: Ah well, I advise you to consider your actions very carefully.

At the conclusion of the conversation, Dr Charlton went outside and reported this conversation to a fellow member of staff.

On this note, I note that the Leader of the Opposition, this time using Glenn Milne of News Ltd, has briefed out the following today:

MALCOLM Turnbull has told close colleagues the prime ministerial adviser at the centre of the ute affair admitted to him he was troubled and had not been able to sleep.

According to colleagues briefed on the Opposition Leader’s version of his conversation with Andrew Charlton at last week’s press gallery Midwinter Ball, it was Charlton—not Turnbull—who raised his own role.

The two men were seated next to each other … After talking about a mutual friend, Turnbull says he gave the generic career advice as “one old man to one young man; always tell the truth”.

According to Turnbull’s version of events it was Charlton who admitted to worrying about the advice he had given Kevin Rudd.

Charlton was—

according to Glenn Milne, briefed by the Leader of the Opposition—

“clearly anxious and stressed” but concluded he had given the Prime Minister the correct advice on OzCar.

What a tangled web they weave. I note for the record that Dr Charlton’s signed file note on this was released last Friday morning, and it has not been until the implosion of the integrity of the email that the Leader of the Opposition has chosen a journalist of choice to brief out a different version of events who once again places much distance between himself and the false email saga.

I also note that in the Leader of the Opposition’s briefed out version, through Mr Milne today, he says ‘it was Charlton—not Turnbull—who raised’ this. Once again, a tangled web, because neither he nor, it seems, Mr Milne, bothered to consult the report last Friday in the Daily Telegraph by Malcolm Farr, who wrote:

MALCOLM Turnbull, wife Lucy next to him, asked his dining companions on table 27 at the Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball if anyone knew where Andrew Charlton was placed.

…            …            …

Back on VIP table 27, which had a tall centrepiece … as did the Rudd’s table 26 across the aisle, lists were consulted to answer Mr Turnbull’s inquiry.

… Mr Turnbull turned to talk to him …

That is the account of Malcolm Farr from the Daily Telegraph, sitting at an adjacent table. In other words, there is a third party witness, from the Press Gallery himself, saying that the Leader of the Opposition turned to speak to Dr Charlton—not the reverse. A desperate Leader of the Opposition sought to brief out a contrary version of events through Mr Milne in today’s paper.

We then add the saga of Senator Abetz, and then we have three separate reports—(Time expired)