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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7216

Mr ABBOTT (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. In asking this question I stress that I am seeking information; I am not making an accusation. Can the Prime Minister confirm that in 2002 Mr John Grant and other members of the 51 Club attended an event to raise funds to repay significant legal costs personally incurred by the Prime Minister?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —Curiously, this question is raised in this honest spirit of inquiry by the opposition when they have been hawking this around the press gallery for several days. That is point 1. So the honesty with which the honourable member puts this question is itself under some scrutiny and he knows it only to be true. Secondly, I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that on 1 August 2003 you have a statement from me to the pecuniary interests register, which says ‘The payment of $28,000 to the Brisbane Airport Corporation by community group Ban Aircraft over Residential Brisbane on 13 June 2003 for a bill received by me by order of the Federal Court for legal costs’ and associated details. It is on the pecuniary interests register and has been there for some time.

Thirdly, I say to the honourable member in response to his question that he should understand the following, as I am best advised. A community group called Ban Aircraft over Residential Brisbane ran a community fundraiser in 2003 to help pay for the legal costs I incurred in my legal battle with the Brisbane Airport Corporation. Furthermore, as I have just indicated, I declared this assistance on the pecuniary interests register at the time, as is appropriate. I also spoke about it in the House. Furthermore, Mr John Grant, a resident of Brisbane’s Southside and who also lives under the flight path, attended that community fundraiser. I say further to the honourable member that tickets for the fundraiser, I understand, were $85.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, on a point of order relating to standing order 104: I asked about an event in 2002.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I wish to speak on the point of order. This week we have now had more than 90 points of order. My point of order is under disruptive conduct.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the House will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is responding to the question and is in order.

Mr RUDD —Furthermore, my understanding is that the tickets to the said dinner, which was attended by, I think, several hundred members of the local community who were affected by the plan of the Brisbane Airport Corporation to put a flight path over Brisbane’s Southside, were in the vicinity of $85. Furthermore, there is some suggestion that Mr Grant would have bought an auction item. I do not know whether he did or whether he did not because the fundraiser was run by the community group in question.

Therefore, I say to the honourable member to first of all consult the pecuniary interests register. That contribution to me is there from the community group called Ban Aircraft over Residential Brisbane, which I have been associated with for a long time acting as a local member to take a case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and, subsequently, to the Federal Court on behalf of my community in an attempt to stop a challenge by the Brisbane Airport Corporation to put a new parallel runway which would have had a direct impact on my community. Furthermore, when I subsequently lost that court case this community organisation—Ban Aircraft over Residential Brisbane—got together and decided to help raise some funds, about which I not only was transparent in this pecuniary interest declaration but also, as I am advised, made a statement to the parliament around that time about what had been done.

Let us go to the absolute core of this continued campaign of political smear. All of this is based on a proposition that I have made a representation on behalf of Mr Grant. That rests in turn on the existence of an email which is now established to be beyond reasonable doubt a forgery, a fake and a false document. Despite that fact, and despite the fact we have been here all week, he stands up here again on the last day of the sitting of this parliament and asks a further question attempting to somehow establish that something improper has occurred here. Let us go to the absolute core of it. The forged document upon which this attack has been based to smear my own reputation and that of the Treasurer has been, shall I say, the subject of some significant engagement on the part of various of those opposite—that is, on how the contents of that email were in fact disseminated—and I notice it is the subject of further commentary in today’s newspapers.

Yet the core proposition in this politics of smear in which the honourable member has just engaged is that, by virtue of this individual being a participant in a community fundraising event for a declared activity on my part to support my community in a fight against the Brisbane Airport Corporation, is of itself somehow improper, he himself being a local resident. Secondly, it is based on a proposition, I assume that they are still arguing, that there is an improper connection between the individual and me, after having established all week, I thought, that the email which underpins this proposition is itself a forgery.

I note further that the Leader of the Opposition, who has run this campaign against me and the Treasurer for some time now, did not have the courage to stand up and ask this question himself. We now have the delegation of a campaign of personal smear against me and others in this place. This local person, Mr Grant, is a member of the local community and runs a business out in Ipswich. I understand the former member for Blair, Mr Cameron Thompson, today said some positive things about him. I am not sure whether that is the case. I do not know exactly what his involvement in the Ipswich business community is. That is not an area in which I am personally resident. I do know, however, that as a local resident in my area he has been concerned about aircraft noise, like others, and therefore chose to come along to that event to support it.

I just suggest to those opposite, as they continue to engage in the politics of smear of this individual—as well as the politics of smear in terms of a purported relationship which is improper between that individual and me—which in turn hangs on the existence of this document, that the honourable member should reflect on the fact that the document on which this entire campaign of personal smear has been based in the course of the last week or so is a forgery, a fake, a false document. I also say to the Leader of the Opposition that he has many, many questions to answer. He has many questions to answer concerning this matter, some of which have been canvassed in today’s newspapers and many of which have not.

I say also to the honourable member the following: it is important at a time like this, when the nation is under grave economic challenge, that those opposite seem to regard the nature of the global recession as somehow irrelevant to their concerns and the concerns of working families across Australia. This government is engaged, with every ounce of effort and every ounce of energy it has, in dedicating its time to implementing our nation building for recovery plan. It seems that what the Leader of the Opposition is doing instead is wasting the nation’s time in campaigns of continued personal smear and fear. In the case of both those campaigns, they are based on absolute falsehood.