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The old rusty ute

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Saturday, 20 June 2009 17:23 by Ad astra

‘Where there’s smoke there’s fire’ might have been more apt as a title, but no one will mistake what ‘The old rusty ute’ is about.  But as we know, it’s not really about the ute at all.  Those who know the story well might wish to skip to the analysis at the end.

John Grant runs an Ipswich car dealership.  He is a neighbour of Kevin Rudd, a friend and a political donor.  He loaned the ute, said to be valued at around $5000, to Rudd for campaign purposes.  Presumably it was used as a mobile campaign vehicle during the last election, and probably never since.  Rudd declared this loaned vehicle on his parliamentary register of pecuniary interests before he became Labor leader.  Malcolm Turnbull likes to describe this second-hand vehicle as ‘a valuable gift’, but his attempt to berate Rudd for accepting the loan on the grounds he could afford a dozen utes, sounds phoney.  Of course he could, but if a friend offers electorate assistance in this way, why reject it?  The pious, like Bob Brown and some journalists, say it’s ‘not a good look’.  That simply means they don’t approve.  So what?

The nub of the issue is whether Rudd mislead parliament when, in answer to a Turnbull question in QT, he said that neither he nor his staff had ever acted as an advocate for John Grant who had made enquiries about the OzCar scheme created by the Government at a time when GMAC and GE pulled out of financing car dealerships in Australia.  In a piece in today’s Australian, Canberra chat no longer safe: John GrantGrant says “...dealers didn't know what was going on, the government came up with a package, and vehicle dealers wanted to know what was happening with it.”   He went on to say: “I did ring to find out what the program was about and I found out that it couldn't be drawn down by the dealers; it could only be drawn down by the finance companies and banks.  They were the only people who could access the fund, so as a dealer I could get no favours at all. I didn't ask for any favours, and quite frankly I'm still with the financier I started with so nothing's changed for me in my life."  Talking about Kevin Rudd, Grant said “He is my friend; I have not asked for any special treatment and I have not gained any special treatment. I never spoke to Kevin Rudd about it." Pretty straight forward.

But where there’s smoke there’s fire.  The fact the Grant loaned a ute to Rudd and then made enquiries about a Government scheme to support car dealership finance, in the minds of Turnbull and his Coalition members fans the smoke into fire, which they hope will consume Rudd and Wayne Swan as well.

I was watching QT when the original question on this matter was asked by Turnbull.  Rudd was surprised, astonished at this question from left field.  Some say he was ‘rattled’.  His answer was brief.  He said he had no knowledge of the matter.  Shortly after, then briefed by his staff, he vigorously denied that he or his office had lobbied on behalf of Grant, and berated Turnbull for turning the Coalition’s ‘fear campaign into a smear campaign’.  Similar questions to Wayne Swan, and a week or two later to them both, signalled that the Opposition thought it was onto something.  The barrister in Turnbull was clearly setting them up, and the smirk on the faces of Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey and other front-benchers pointed to the pleasure they were enjoying at Rudd’s discomfiture. They had information they judged detrimental to Rudd.  One sensed they were waiting to go in for the kill at the Treasury Senate Estimates hearings.

The first hearing exposed a tentative witness, Godwin Grech, the Treasury official in charge of OzCar matters.  He seemed unable to answer questions, no matter how straightforward, without interminable hesitation and rambling preambles.  His second appearance, yesterday, was even worse.  He was nervous, distressed, hesitant, almost in tears, and at time unwilling to answer.  His state of mind might have been partly due to several conversations he had had the previous day with journalist Steve Lewis of The Daily Telegraph, who claimed to have a copy of a brief email to Grech from Andrew Charlton, economics advisor in Rudd’s office that implied that Rudd’s office had lobbied on Grant’s behalf, contradicting Rudd’s assertion that no such lobbying had occurred.  It remains a mystery why Grech was so hesitant, so nervous, and so unforthcoming. He is said to have denied to Lewis that he received such an email, yet when the Coalition’s attack dog Eric Abtez specifically asked had he received the email he could or would not answer directly, saying instead "My recollection may be totally false but my recollection is that there was a short email from the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) to me which very simply alerted me to the case of John Grant, but I don't have the email,".   He also intimated that he had the impression that Grant was no ordinary constituent.  He was finally protected from further questions by his senior David Martine and the Estimates chair.

His painful performance, which I watched throughout, gave credence to the feeling that he was trying to hide the existence of the email, although he said he had denied this in his conversations with Lewis.  Only the Auditor General’s enquiry, which Rudd established that evening, is likely to resolve the confusion.  But his demeanour certainly fuelled ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’.

Let’s rewind a few hours to the revelation by Swan that at the Midwinter ball last Wednesday Turnbull had approached Charlton about the email, which Turnbull believed he had authored, and gave him fatherly advice not to lie about it or it could damage a promising career.  Swan called it bullying.  It was only when Charlton published his file note of the incident that we saw the interchange between them.  Turnbull must have felt pretty sure Charlton was the author to conduct himself in the way Charlton portrayed.  Of course Turnbull denied bullying, but the Swan announcement put him somewhat on the back foot.  It’s hard to believe that Charlton would reveal his file note if he had in fact been the author.  He’s a young man hardly likely to have the chutzpah to publically lie on this matter.  As Bushfire Bill, blogging late last night on The Poll Bludger, says: “Why did Charlton go public yesterday after his run in with Turnbull? There was absolutely no reason to over-egg the situation if he knew he was guilty. He’d be running for cover instead.  The whole thing rings of a setup.”

So what did this February 19 email actually say?  According to Lewis, the transcript, without header, reads: "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. A,". 

Not much to hang your hat on there.  And why doesn’t Lewis reveal the header?  If it supported Charlton as the originator, wouldn’t that reinforce his case?  BB has a view about how Lewis got the ‘email’: “It’s easy… Grech could have made it up and read the fake text to him over the phone. That fits Lewis not printing the header.”

BB went on to make this assessment: “What strikes me about the alleged email is that it’s just too pat. Starting out with “Hi Godwin…” and detailing every Coalition allegation like a tick-list is too much of a set-up.  No-one in their right mind would send a dodgy request to a very senior public servant in that tone, and in fact would not send such a message in a permanent form like an email at all. If you want to put the fix in, and for there to be no record of it, you use the telephone or arrange lunch. Anyone who works or has worked in an office knows Outlook emails can’t be deleted. It’s Rule No. 1. You pick up your phone (or preferably someone else’s) and dial. It’s just too pat. I believe the email’s a fake.”   BB adds: “And I’m fairly confident that someone suspected Grech was the Treasury leaker they’ve been looking for for months.”   In another post he says: “And you have to ask yourself: would anyone at all be so stupid as to commit a request for special...treatment for a constituent in these circumstances to a traceable, un-erasable, fully auditable written medium?"

Sounds logical to me.

So from where did the email emanate?  Having searched computers in his office, in Treasury and specifically Grech’s and finding no trace of it, Rudd labelled it a fake.  Lindsay Tanner followed suit on Lateline, and today Swan is insisting that Malcolm Turnbull reveal the information he purports to have, how he came to see it, and where it came from.  The Government is now asking if it is the product of the Liberal Party, forcing Turnbull onto the back foot in denial.

Having received many emails from banks, we all know that phishing, a criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity, is rife, and many are deceived by it.  So notwithstanding an email’s header, it can be from any computer and purport to be from another.  Again BB, addressing the question of the authenticity of the email, had this to say: “There is actually quite a lot to suggest it’s a fabrication, to wit, two major searches - one of PMO and one of Treasury’s email records. Rudd is sticking to his story. Tanner has gone on the offensive claiming outright it’s a fabrication. Rudd too.  A weaker pointer is that the Coalition has a habit of fabricating documents as evidenced by the recent SA scandal, and the fake dodgers in Penrith last election”.

Turning to Wayne Swan, some columnists, for example Lenore Taylor, sees him more at risk than Rudd, because of Grech’s evidence that emails on progress had been sent to Swan’s office, even to his home fax, seemingly contradicting that he did not now know the outcome of the referral of Grant’s request to OzCar.  But sending faxes on this matter to Swan, even at home, does not assure that they were read.  Swan has much more to think about that such trivia.  Presumably they were sent to him by zealous public servants because Grant is a constituent of Swan, and doing so might curry favour.  Swan, even today, insists he was not aware of the outcome.

All day today the ABC news has run the ‘fake email’ story and the Coalition as a possible source, complete with Turnbull denials.  The papers are running it too, and despite a piece by Steve Lewis pushing his line in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, its banner headline read ‘Dirty Tricks’.

So where does this leave us?  What are Turnbull’s tactics?  It may be a coincidence, but since Peter Costello bowed out last Monday, Turnbull seems to be even more aggressive than usual, maybe feeling that without Costello looking over his shoulder, he can revert to his usual combative style.  He harangued business leaders at a meeting of the Business Council earlier this week to support him over the ETS and not ‘cosy-up’ with the Government, and now he’s going full bore over the ute affair, arguing Rudd and Swan have mislead parliament.  Turnbull has form on running interference in such matters.  Annabelle Crabb in her Quarterly Essay about Turnbull Stop at Nothing, recalls that during the run-up to the Spycatcher case, Turnbull and his British colleague, suspecting that their phones were being tapped by British intelligence, “...devised complicated techniques to unnerve intelligence agencies and Mrs Thatcher’s government...They staged elaborately hoaxed discussions to keep spooks guessing.”  She goes on to record some actual conversations.  So we should not be surprised at any technique Turnbull uses to achieve his ends.  He is prepared to ‘stop at nothing’.

Turning to Rudd, does anyone except rabid Rudd-haters believe that he or Swan would be stupid enough to give unfair advantage to a constituent over such an insignificant matter as referring them to OzCar, knowing that individual dealers were not eligible for funds from that scheme, and then deliberately lie to the parliament about their actions, and run the risk of the dire consequences?  It just doesn’t make sense.  In response to another blogger, BB has this to say on the issue: “...It comes down to whether you think Rudd is dishonest. ...I don’t think you’d say, in your heart of hearts, that Rudd is a dishonest (as in corrupt) type of person. He certainly would not risk everything he has worked for for the bribe of a second hand ute, especially as he is independently wealthy into the bargain. That is inconceivable.”   I agree.

So we have Turnbull seemingly trying to have Rudd and Swan found guilty of misleading parliament and resigning.  He knows that’s not going to happen, but he hopes that in the process of trying to nail them, some ignominy will stick and demean them both in the eyes of the electorate, diminish their approval ratings, and enhance his own.   He runs the risk of that tactic backfiring, especially if the public gets a sniff of dirty tricks.  The Government is hitting back hard and just now has referred ‘the alleged fake email’ to the Australian Federal Police, on the grounds that impersonating a person in public office (such as seems to be the case with someone impersonating Charlton) is a criminal offence.  So far it looks like a nil-all draw. 

But where there’s smoke there’s fire.  There seems to be a lot of smoke emanating from both sides; the question is who’s going to get burnt.

What do you think?

Comments (39) -

June 20. 2009 06:46 PM

Just Me

I think that the auditor's report will be embarrassing for the Coalition, and will mark a new low point in their fortunes. Few social offences are held more in contempt by the general community than a knowingly fraudulent smear campaign against an innocent person, even in politics.

Just Me

June 20. 2009 07:00 PM


I think Truffles deserves to be burned to a crisp and ought to be well and truely tangled up in a raft of defamation suits to keep him busy for a long time.

I am gobsmacked that Truffles had the absolute hide to intimidate Andrew Charlton at a social function.  Surely at best it was an unwise tactic given he was not protected by parliamentary privelege and leaves himself exposed to a defamation suit; but then, Truffles being Truffles who thinks he's better than anyone else possibly feels his barrister skills will get him out of trouble.  Then he strides arrogantly and purposefully to his waiting press gallery and declares Rudd has misled parliament etc. etc and calls for both Rudd and Swann to resign.

Later he does a bit of a backflip and declares he hasn't seen an email but that neither he or the Coalition are responsible for constructing it.  It seems the press didn't ask him what documentary evidence he was beating Dr Charlton over the head with.

Yes, where there is smoke there is fire and it appears to be coming from Truffles' camp or somewhere very close to it.  I am inclined to believe that there was no email, that the wretched Grech has been duped, manipulated and used by someone very clever.  I am also inclined to believe that this faux scandal was never meant to turn into such a furore and that it was Truffles' dumb tactic to bully Charlton at the ball that sent the whole business spiralling out of control.  


June 20. 2009 07:38 PM

Ad astra reply

Just Me, janice
I agree.  This evening's turn of events should show Turnbull that if he plays with fire, he'll get burnt.  Rudd's move to call in the AFP has boxed Turnbull into a corner, and on ABC TV he looked boxed in.  Now would you believe he says he hasn't seen the 'email', nor has his shadow ministers!  He'll now have to reveal his evidence or shut up.  The events of today prove the adage: 'a day is a long while in politics'.  The tables have been turned on Turnbull.  Let's see how he squirms.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2009 07:58 PM

Just Me

Later he does a bit of a backflip and declares he hasn't seen an email but that neither he or the Coalition are responsible for constructing it.

In other words, the smear has failed and they are now backing down (without admitting they are actually backing down, of course).

Just Me

June 20. 2009 08:09 PM

Ad astra reply

Just Me,
You're right, and now Possum has placed a piece on Pollytics where he gives links to two interesting emails via Twitter http://twitpic.com/7sfyu and http://twitpic.com/7sfxb

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2009 10:17 PM


This is posted elsewhere ... thought I'd get some comment from here as well......

The thread that runs through all of these is the attempt to remove Turnbull.

Here's my conceited hypothesis. The pro-Howard forces don't like the direction Turnbull is taking the party so they need to set Turnbull up for a fall. Now, knowing MT's impetuosity, his disdain of Rudd and his drive to be PM they set a trap.

Enter Utegate, Emailgate, Ruddgate.....whatever.

So, methinks the plan is to get MT to explode over the half-truths planted using Godwin Grech and Steve Lewis. Have the half-truths/lies/concoctions exposed by Rudd/Auditor-General/AFP...

Then they can install their puppet - that is for someone else to ramble on about.

Anyway, following are the pieces of my jigsaw that make up this conceited hypothesis.

Liberal Hit List:


This is take-no-prisoner


Eric Abetz's form


Eric Abetz is not on Turnbull's side


The use of Steve Lewis by Howard


Please note the seriousness of it - 2 years

Impersonation of a public official



June 21. 2009 10:39 AM

Bushfire Bill

I can't believe that something as simple as a second-hand ute is being used to try to bring down the Prime Minister.

The argument is that by taking a ute the PM - a multi-millionaire - felt forever beholden to Grant, and caused the entire economic machinery of government (corrupting the Treasurer on the way) to improperly assist him in his quest for credit to support his car franchise.

The reason the PM took the ute is because if he didn't this would make it harder for those lower down - backbenchers in particular - to accept donations, as it would raise the ethical bar for such things.

The same goes for Rudd's accepting a salary. What is the alternative? That politicians salaries be means-tested? It's too stupid for words. The senior guys have a responsibility to do their bit for their more junior colleagues. Senior politicians should be able to pass on references just like anybody else.

It seems to me that, in the present case, Grech made his own decision to press matters to a larger extent than he otherwise might have. This happens in any hierarchy. If the boss wants something special done - or if the employee thinks the boss wants it - the employee makes an extra effort to do it, and to be seen to be doing it.

Swan and Rudd should confront this attack head-on. They should point out that both sides of politics do this. The hypocrisy of Turnbull, who did a favour for a mate to the tune of $12 million dollars against the advice of his department, in the caretaker period of the 2007 election no less - is breathtaking.

Gillard made a good start on Insiders this morning, but it should be followed up. I am sick and tired of seeing fat cat journalists - taking perks left, right and centre on their own behalf - passing moral judgement on politicians as if the politicians were merely kiddies in the journalists' personal sandpit.

Turnbull is going around on a wrecking mission. Everything he touches becomes a drama designed to provide a situation where Malcolm The Great can be seen to be the winner. He is attempting to trash the economy, trash reputations and do anything else that will get him to his goal. The Liberals should be very careful about Turnbull. He is a dangerous force to both friend and foe. What he would do to the country if he ever got his hands on the reins of power, or even truly on those of his own party boggles the mind. He feeds off confrontation and aggression. He will not allow anything he says to ever be contradicted. He is a giant ego running around destroying, regardless of the consequences, anything and everything that gets in his way.

Bushfire Bill

June 21. 2009 11:09 AM

Bushfire Bill

As a PS: Cassidy claimed that whether the email is fake or not is a smoke-screen.

Turnbull, the wrecker, touting a fake email around to the press gallery to make his point is irrelevant?

To Cassidy's mind nothing Turnbull has done is in any way questionable as to judgement, probity or due diligence. The Insiders can freely discuss Turnbull's bull-in-a-china-shop approach as if it's completely understandable, even laudable. Likewise his threats to Packer, his back-street dealings with the Broadcasting Authority over Fairfax. Mention was made of what a poor politician Turnbull was on Insiders also, in his dealings with the Business Council. If this had been Rudd they would have been tut-tutting about "judgement" and "fitness for high office". Not a word of it about Turnbull. In their quest to get at Rudd, they forgive anything and everything Turnbull does, yet concentrate on the minutae of a phonety scandal generated out of a fake email as if that's a mere bagatelle.

Simply awful.

Bushfire Bill

June 21. 2009 12:09 PM

Ad astra reply

Welcome to The Political Sword.

Your hypothesis is fascinating and your links most informative.  Thank you.

The Milne article highlights the deadwood in the Liberal Party and the desire of some elements of the party to get rid of them.  The transcript of the press conference of George Bush and John Howard before the 2004 election refreshes my memory of that event; what I did not know was that it was Steve Lewis of The Australian who was primed to ask Bush that Dorothy Dixer about the effect of Latham bringing troops home from Iraq.  That places Lewis firmly in the Howard/Coalition camp.

The reference to the laws surrounding impersonating a public official is revealing.  The penalties of two to five years imprisonment should put the wind up anyone who has attempted impersonation, such as via a fake email.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2009 03:16 PM

Ad astra reply

The pious indignation of the media is breathtaking.  Journalists lack the modesty to contemplate that their opinions are just that, not holy writ.  So they write pieces that tell us that ‘Swan’s defence beggars belief’ and ‘Swan must be dreading Parliament this week’ (Milne), his position is ‘hanging by a thread’, that he is about to take a ‘Swan dive’ that he is the one most at risk, and that he may get the first bullet.  All built upon their learned assessment of the evidence, none of which in my opinion shows Swan’s statements to Parliament were misleading.  I was pleased to see him so assertive today in the Channel Nine Laurie Oakes interview, where he said calls to resign were ‘absurd’, which they are.  Journalists behave like judge and jury, and counsel for the prosecution as well.  I wonder do they realize how poorly they are regarded, as shown by the June 2009 Morgan poll which showed those polled rated them 28th out of 30 on honesty and ethical standards, with only advertising people and care salesmen below them.  They scored a meagre 9%, down 5% from the previous year.  http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2009/4387/   They occupy one of the most powerful positions to influence public opinion in the community, yet so many recklessly abuse that trust.

Today’s Insiders was disappointing in that the emphasis was almost solely on Rudd and Swan, embellished with all the Estimates footage, and almost none on Turnbull and the dilemma he faces.  The news was full of Rudd’s demand that Turnbull cough up the email, or apologize and resign, but Insiders scarcely discussed how Turnbull might respond.  I guess we have to remind ourselves that journalists, like all observers of phenomena, are not independent, objective and unbiased.  For example George Megalogenis, a top flight columnist, because he works for The Australian, which is running a concerted anti-schools stimulus campaign, is unlikely to say anything to the contrary, and will likely find reasons to go along with the ‘waste’ storyline The Australian is running, which is what he did today, even although Barrie Cassidy challenged him with the triviality of some of the complaints the paper had publicized.  It’s hard to be unbiased when your employment builds bias into your work.  I thought Misha Schubert was the most balanced of the three panellists this morning.

Julia Gillard’s performance was, as we’ve come to expect, superb.  Clear, strong, assertive and straight down the line.  This should be the pattern for all Government spokespersons.  Like you, I’m tired of pussyfooting around with someone as aggressive and arrogant as Turnbull.

Paul Kelly, in The Weekend Australian argues that with Costello’s shadow removed, Turnbull will ‘probe the jugular’, which this week he’s done in earnest.  This morning he cautioned Turnbull, and Rudd for that matter, not to ‘over-reach’.   This is good advice, but also good insurance for Kelly.  Journalists of his seniority enjoy the sage-like image afforded them.  They like to be right and are less inclined to make risky predictions that the young, the tempestuous and shameless Milnes of this world are ready to do.  So they couch their ‘predictions’, such as they are, in terms that allow them wriggle room.  So for example if Turnbull flames out over this issue, Kelly will be able to say he ‘over-reached’ himself.  So increasingly I’m treating the utterances of even senior journalists with suspicion, wondering how their inbuilt biases might be operating, and how the preservation of their reputations might be influencing their words.

So what will happen this week?  Will Rudd challenge Turnbull in the Parliament to produce the evidence or apologize and resign?  He might, but already Joe Hockey has signalled the Opposition’s line, namely that the Opposition will cooperate with any enquiry about the email, and that it would not pre-empt the outcome by commenting beforehand.  So I doubt if Rudd will get anywhere with his challenge, and Turnbull certainly won’t resign, never.  So if I were Rudd I’d be cautious about giving Turnbull any chance to turn the attack, as he will want to do, especially on Swan, whom he will see as wounded and ready for the kill.

The possibility of Rudd being pinged and resigning is infinitesimal, and the probability that he will sacrifice Swan as some journalists are urging, negligible.  Why would he sacrifice Swan and give Turnbull a scalp?  Even if the evidence against Swan was at all persuasive, which to date it isn’t, he just has to do ‘a John Howard’ and refuse to remove him in spite of Opposition and media baying – end of story.   Rudd and Turnbull are in mortal combat and neither will give any quarter.

As Paul Kelly said there will be ‘a new level of brinkmanship in national politics’.  On that he’s right.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2009 06:34 PM

Just Me

So what will happen this week? Will Rudd challenge Turnbull in the Parliament to produce the evidence or apologize and resign? He might, but already Joe Hockey has signalled the Opposition’s line, namely that the Opposition will cooperate with any enquiry about the email, and that it would not pre-empt the outcome by commenting beforehand. So I doubt if Rudd will get anywhere with his challenge, and Turnbull certainly won’t resign, never. So if I were Rudd I’d be cautious about giving Turnbull any chance to turn the attack, as he will want to do, especially on Swan, whom he will see as wounded and ready for the kill.

Too late!

OPPOSITION Leader Malcolm Turnbull has 24 hours to produce the alleged email at the centre of the OzCar affair or resign, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.


It's on.

Just Me

June 22. 2009 12:25 AM


Andrew Elder has now written an excellent response to the Christian Kerr complaint.

The current "ute" episode is perhaps providing KR with the ideal opportunity to clean out the white ants which have been a repetative distraction since his election. This might focus national political debate on the significant issues we face instead of the smear and innuendo reporting of a Grub Street MSM.


June 22. 2009 02:39 AM


It occurs to me that it could well be Malcolm Turnbull who is really the one being set up here.
He is unforgivably naive to rant about this email, call for resignations,  and then admit he has never even seen it!
So, who wants his job now that Costello is no longer a danger?
If I was Malcolm I'd be looking long and hard at the original source of this story (who he is not publically naming).

My thoughts are here: http://www.oakwebdesign.com.au/blog/?p=171


June 22. 2009 08:12 AM


No one will go, but the media appear to be gunning for Swan.
The best thing about this is as BB says, it shows Malcolm to be completely out of his depth. Any time in the future he asks a question of the PM all Kev has to do is ask him if the evidence is forged or not, thus negating any attack he may want to run. Pure Gold.
Cheers Eb.


June 22. 2009 09:05 AM

Bushfire Bill

Jane, I read your post and it was a good one. Very clear and to the point.

In the last few days Malcolm Turnbull has sought to introduce a New Puritanism into Australian politics. We are supposed to ignore the fact that he has set up a special foundation in his own electorate to collect and channel donations from wealthy benefactors to his electoral campaigns. we are being invited to put aside the basic tenet of democracy that voters are allowed to make donations to parties - from all sides of politics - as long as they abide by the rules of disclosure. Few make such donations because they expect special favours in return. Mostly they just want their side to prosper and win the election because they believe in their side's view of the world.

Of course there will be some who think they are buying access, or currying favour. This is what the disclosure laws are for. But who was it that raised the disclosure level from $1,500 to $10,000? It was the Liberals, when in office! If they are suddenly so concerned about electoral proprietry, why did they do that? The hypocrisy is rank, yet they seek to feed off the innate conservatism and envy that lurks in every true Aussie's heart to make any sorts of donations into bribes. This is the New Puritanism and it is a hollow, shallow travesty that the Coalition tries to push as a standard of decency.

The minute senior politicians - even the PM - start to refuse donations, or means-test their salaries (another recent suggestion), it makes it harder for the troops lower down the chain to raise funds for their party. Why? Because with the senior people disallowed from accepting donations, or forwarding on references on behalf of constituents, it won't be long until someone lower down is "caught scamming". Then the bar will be raised even higher, eventually making it impossible for the normal, reasonable, rational and wholly honest donors to support the party of their choice.

Bushfire Bill

June 22. 2009 10:42 AM


Jane, thanks for the link to your site - your thoughts are logical and insightful.  If I was Malcolm Turnbull though, I would shut my big mouth until such time that I possessed irrefutable evidence and not rely on hearsay and innuendo.  Even if he was set-up as you suggest, he has only himself to blame for willing to be so easily hoodwinked into carrying out such a blatant scam in order to bring down a PM as well as the nation's Treasurer.  He is intelligent, a barrister and an ex banker who aspires to hold the top job in the land and therefore cannot excuse the use of these dirty rotten tactics to make his dream come true.  

I still have the feeling that this scandal was never meant to go this far and the fact that it has grown to such mammoth heights has taken the wind out of the sails of the anti-government media as well as the Opposition.  The media and the Opposition have been bleating on about 'who is the real Rudd' ever since he became Leader of the Labor Party - he has been an enigma to them because he does not behave as they expect him to and therefore he can't be real because he simply doesn't fit into the box they think he should be in.

The reason this scandal has gone further than anyone expected is because the Rudd we've been seeing all along is the real Rudd and he has no intention of allowing his integrity and honesty to be shot to bits on the whims or aspirations of his political opponents or an anti-Rudd media.  After this is all over and calm is once again restored, I suspect there might just be a new respect for our Pm while a lot of the gutter journalists will crawl back into the holes from whence they came.


June 22. 2009 11:44 AM

Bushfire Bill

AA wrote: "I still have the feeling that this scandal was never meant to go this far and the fact that it has grown to such mammoth heights has taken the wind out of the sails of the anti-government media as well as the Opposition."

I agree on the first point. I don't think they expected Rudd to fight back. This is an example, if true, of their misunderstanding of the man. I think also that someone must have advised Rudd to stop the rot, to stop allowing Turnbull to push him on the back foot.

At the heart of this is perhaps a feeling among the general public that they would rather their Prime Minister and Treasurer were not corrupt Tammamy Hall types of politicians. People make up their minds about their leaders and vote for them on this basis, and if questioned by an opinion poll, receive an opportunity to express their views a second time. The polls have shown consistently that appreciation of what Rudd is trying to do has been high. It has become the norm, established thought amongst a substantial majority of voters.

Turnbull, on the other hand, has never been nearly as well received, especially as leader of the country.

Take these two perceptions and - in one week of melodrama involving (as now seems clear) fake documents - additional appraisals of character will be formed. Will the people support Rudd - the man they have been personally surrporting strongly for nearly three years - or Turnbull, the smartarse? Will they change their minds this quickly?

The likes of Akerman and Milne have been - as predicted many times - collating all the supposed "scandals" of Rudd's past (you know the list) and using this last one as a kind of straw that broke the camel's back (Akerman even brought up Heiner again at the weekend!). Although none of these "scandals" have delivered the goods (in fact they have increased Rudd's popularity), the hope sems to have been they they would reside in the background, subliminally eroding away at his standing in the community, ready for the day when The Big One, the "gotcha" story comes to the surface. Then they could all be trotted out to form a continuum, a timeline of character assassination, leaving Rudd destroyed.

Well, maybe it won't work. In his haste to assert his supremacy over the party after Costello's departure (and has anyone ever shown such shocking political timing as Peter Costello?) Turnbull has brought a three or four week old series of Question Time innuendos to the boil. He denies there has been a campaign to set up Rudd. Claims it all came out in the newspapers first... but it did not. Today has seen Rudd point out that Turnbull's claim he read it in the papers would have needed a time machine to propel him a day forward to Saturday to when the "email" actually did first appear in print. Lewis the tame journalist tried gamely this morning in the Daily Telegraph to make out this all happened just last week. But it is clear he has been feeding the Coalition information for weeks. It's all falling apart. The public, exhausted by Turnbull's macho bullying may just make their final decisions on his character in the next few days, and I have trouble seeing how that decision will be a pretty one.

But for the press and media, it is a different story. This "scandal", like all the others will be filed away, ready for the day they go for Rudd next. It will be trotted out, like all the others have been as evidence of a "pattern" of behavior in Rudd. No one "scandal" has been a hanghing offence, but taken together (or so the theory goes) enough doubt will be placed in the public's mind to skewer the Prime Minister. The journalists won't back down. They'll just retreat for a while, and it could well be a very short while. They have been stung by the government's counter attack on them, and they don't want the public to think they'll cop this one sweet. There's too much hatred out there for some to simmer down.

As for the people, I think they want calm and good governance at the top, and from there all the way down... on both sides of politics. They don't want their country to lurch from crisis to manufactured crisis. Accordingly, their appreciation of Rudd will be confirmed by this week's proceedings. I expect a boost to his poll ratings. Their appreciation of Turnbull (what little of it there is) will diminish. They want their politics at elections, through proper process, not through phoney scandals based upon fake emails that are used by their perpetrators to usurp and peremptorily truncate, or even abort the normal political process. Turnbull is now saying, "Forget about the fake email and concentrate on my next point... forget about Rudd resigning and now set your sights on Swan... I was wrong, big deal!" like a barrister who has several arguments - weak and strong - to use to support his case. If not X, then Y, it doesn't matter which argument gets up. ll of this assumes the public is prepared to listen. The public is exhausted by Turnbull, as is (or so I hear) just about everyone who has anything to do with him in public or private life. He is a professional stirrer, an agitator who is prepared to stop at nothing to get his way. He is not a fighter. He is a brawler. People, as a rule, don't like bovver boys.

Bushfire Bill

June 22. 2009 01:13 PM

Bushfire Bill

I can't believe it. Hock in the debate is saying that because a fake email exists, this means there is an email.

Since when is a fake email an "email"?

Bushfire Bill

June 22. 2009 01:44 PM


No doubt you read Shaun Carney's piece 'The Bruiser, The Boofhead and The Bore'.  I think at least some of the journalists are turning to the side of credibility and attempting to stand aloof from the mud slinging.  I cannot but agree with the points you make re the media, Bushfire Bill, but a tiny little voice keeps telling me that while the sleeze bags will crawl away to fight another day, a good many others will opt to be truer to themselves and be less inclined to jump onto the dirt bandwagons (that is, without evidence that there is a case to answer).


June 22. 2009 04:59 PM

Just Me

Sleaze in politics may wax and wane, but it never completely goes out of style.

Just Me

June 22. 2009 06:10 PM

Ad astra reply

Thank you folks for your comments, and apologies for the delay in responding; I’ve been transfixed by the House of Representatives debate since noon.  I wanted to see the outcome before replying.

Just Me, tweetiepie,
Thank you for the links and reference to Andrew Elder’s good piece,

Welcome to The Political Sword.  I followed your link and read your site with interest - a perceptive post.  You say “If the email is a fake Malcolm Turnbull’s integrity is shot to hell.”  Well it is, and now The Punch is saying that there may be a link to an ex-staffer of Malcolm Turnbull who once worked in Treasury, but that person has denied any knowledge of it.  Although Turnbull, who always attacks as the best form of defence and has been attacking Wayne Swan all day on the grounds he gave improper assistance to John Grant, he’s made little headway, and stands exposed over the fake email, which he has been toting around the media for weeks.  A censure motion against him was passed, but that won’t make him resign.  Only his party can force that.  

But who would replace him?  The only rational possibility was Peter Costello, but he’s now ruled himself out.  Julie Bishop would be unlikely to get party room support because of her poor efforts as Shadow Treasurer.  Once I thought Joe Hockey might be suitable, but lately he’s performed badly and is looking more and more like a loudmouthed clown.  Tony Abbott is a possibility, but is deeply unpopular with the punters.  Christopher Pyne seems not to have the necessary gravitas and is often a laughing stock in parliament.  The youngsters like Steve Ciobo and Greg Hunt would be out of their depth.  Andrew Robb is probably the best of a mediocre bunch,; he’s balanced but is pretty droll.  Nick Minchin might be OK; he’s leader of the Opposition, but in the Senate.  So on the basis of almost no decent replacement, Turnbull looks safe.  He will bat on as if nothing has happened – doing what his father advised – just keep punching, but his credibility must take dive, even if the media doesn’t give him a drubbing, which it is unlikely to do.

Yes the media is still gunning for Swan; it will be interesting to see how the media reacts tomorrow after the confirmation of the falsity of the email and its connection with Godwin Grech.  Will it still go after Swan or give Turnbull a serve?  What it does will tell us whether the media has abandoned objectivity and is supporting Turnbull and the Coalition no matter what.

janice, BB,
Thank you for your posts and insightful comments.

I hope this episode will erode what little support Turnbull has.  He is exhausting and his unbridled arrogance and belligerence will eventually wear out the public’s interest and patience.  Not that that will stop him – he’ll go on banging on until someone knocks him off – but who can or will?

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June 22. 2009 06:18 PM


After being incomunicardo all day I have only just got home and caught the News. I find it hard to see now after the revelations of today how Turnbull could possibly stay as Opposition Leader. Still the man has no integrity so I doubt he will fall on his "Political Sword".
Hockey just proving why he is complete to*l.


June 22. 2009 06:42 PM

Bushfire Bill

All in all a wonderful day, and more revelations to come.... who sent the email?

Rudd was brilliant, in a live interview on 9 News. He said that Turnbull has no character, backing up Albanese this afternoon in the debate when he asserted that Turnbull is not fit for public office. I heartily agree.

It all came out today: HIH, the Republic Referendum disappointment, the Wentworth preselection (where Turnbull heavied one of his opponent's advisors), the Charlton incident (where Turnbull heavied one of Rudd's advisors), the $12 million dollar Rainmaker scam (where Turnbull granted one of his chief fundraisers and next door neighbour money for a crackpot rain generating machine against departmental advice) and even his heavying of a consultant to the Costigan Commission in 1984 got a gong. None of this will be reported in any depth on the TV news, of course, but it made me feel proud that Labor finally has let the dogs loose. Albanese was practically creaming his jeans. He would have been lobbying hard for Rudd to let him go the rat.

Rudd ended the live interview on 9 News by saying that the Australian people want good governance, not perpetual crisis and scandal, especially when they are manufactured. He advised the harder and wiser heads in the Liberal Party to "tap Turnbull on the shoulder" and tell him the game is up as Leader.

Good advice and, delivered direct to 9's large audience, an emphatically resonant one I would think.

Paul Bongiorno advised on 10 News that there is no depth in Liberal leadership stakes apart from Turnbull, so they probably won't go ahead and do the dirty deed to get rid of him. But he is damaged goods, and rightly so.

All in all, as I said, a wonderful day.

Bushfire Bill

June 22. 2009 07:03 PM

Just Me

Andrew Robb is probably the best of a mediocre bunch,; he’s balanced but is pretty droll.

Surely you mean 'dull'?

Just Me

June 22. 2009 08:38 PM

Ad astra reply

Turnbull won't fall on his 'Political Sword'; he's shameless, arrogant and stubborn.  And no one in the party has the guts to up-end him.

I missed the Ten and Seven News, but Nine was good with Laurie Oakes.  I did notice that even SBS and ABC's Chris Uhlmann were disinclined to give Turnbull the full monty, focussing on Swan and 'all the explaining he still has to do'.  ABC’s Greg Jennett gave the best summary.  On the 7.30 Report Kerry O'Brien hammered both Rudd and Turnbull.  Although both deflected some questions, the thing that struck me was the way Turnbull ignored damaging accusations by O'Brien over the fake email, even insisting that since this had been generated in Swan's department it was up to him to resolve, and had nothing to do with Turnbull.  Despite many attempts to get Turnbull to address how he had used the fake email with the media and in the Senate hearing, he deflected discussion away even right to the end when O'Brien confronted him with a question about how he had used the email for his political ends.  He never did answer this.  He did look unsettled a couple times as he was challenged to explain awkward facts, such as his prior knowledge of the email, and how he knew about it before it was published in the press.  He even made light of his mistake this morning when he claimed Eric Abetz knew about it because it had been published, when it hadn’t.  He’s almost incapable of showing embarrassment.  

We should note today's performance by Turnbull, who no matter what the evidence, no matter how damaging is the case against him, carries on as if he has nothing to answer.  This explains why he was a successful barrister.  Facts, arguments, logical reasons and compelling arguments are simply discarded as irrelevant, leaving him to pursue his adversary uninhibited by any embarrassment or sense of decency.  I think Rudd now realizes Turnbull's modus operandi; I was pleased to see him turn the attack back on Turnbull with vigour and give him as much as he dished out.

Tomorrow's media will tell us how much credibility the media thinks Turnbull has lost.  I'm not all that hopeful we'll see much of a turn-around despite today's confirmation of the fake email; after all, much of the print media are up to their collective ears in this in support of Turnbull, and being the egotistical lot they are, will be reluctant to do a mea culpa.

Just Me,
I meant droll, but 'dull' is a more apt description.

Ad astra reply

June 22. 2009 10:11 PM

Just Me

the thing that struck me was the way Turnbull ignored damaging accusations by O'Brien over the fake email, even insisting that since this had been generated in Swan's department it was up to him to resolve, and had nothing to do with Turnbull.

That was pretty amazing cheek from Turnbull.

And Greg Jennet is a reasonable political reporter.

Just Me

June 22. 2009 11:45 PM


Having only just watched the 7.30 interviews, what struck me was the way Turnbull had to read transcripts of what he actually said in the last few days. This to me is the actions of a person trying to make sure he does not slip up on his manufactured deceptions. I also note he did not read the text from Abetz senate question relaiting to the wording of the fake email, he just skiped that bit.


June 23. 2009 11:20 AM

Bushfire Bill

I had to laugh at one of the columnists this morning, saying we were seeing a "new side of Kevin Rudd". I thought he wasn't allowed to have new sides?

Where does one begin with counting the ways this has backfired all over the Coalition and all over the cocksure media, so certain they finally had the smoking gun? Perhaps a post I made to Malcolm Farr's blog this morning sets out what I wanted to say:

"Gee, I hate to say I told you so Malcolm, but this affair did not result in the fall of the government. I can understand your column of last Friday being written in an over-excited frame of mind. We were all a bit like that, but thank God wiser heads have prevailed. I'm not accusing you personally of any wrongdoing. You just (as many others did) let it all go to your head a little.

But some of your colleagues - Akerman, Milne and company, and especially Steve Lewis - do not get off the hook so easily.

An attempt to being down the government of Australia has failed, because the Leader of the Opposition was peddling a fake email around the traps. Turnbull clearly had the email well in advance of Grech's testimony, as did your colleague Steve Lewis.

I find it astonishing that Steve Lewsis' role in this terrible attempt to subvert our democracy with fraudulent documents is not being examined closer. He seems to have gotten off scott free, to lick his wounds until the next dodgy scam falls into his in-tray. Lewis admits to, even boasts about being a player in all this. He has made several calls to Grech before and after Grech gave evidence. Yet he is allowed to melt away into the background without censure to plan his next attempt.

The "reproduction" of the email in last Saturday's Telegraph was fabricated, in that it had "To: Godwin GRANT" as the recipient, confusing Grech's Christian name with Grant's surname. The Telegraph not only published a bogus email, it even screwed up the embellishments that were designed to make it appear superficially genuine. Is there nothing your scrappy rag will not sink to, to put the boot into this government (or to anyone else they don't like: remember the fake photographs of Pauline Hanson?)

Rudd's only mistake in this whole affair is giving oxygen to the preposterous contention that any political donor or acquaintance of a senior politician is automatically disqualified from receiving help by a government department on any issue. I fear the next scam will be better constructed, the frame-up will be more plausible, the net more tightly drawn.

I can only hope that you, as a man of integrity and professionalism, caution your colleagues against their reckless disregard for the truth in the pursuit of shady political goals, and if you can't achieve this, tell us the truth about it, instead of being swept up in the media hysteria and groupthink as you were last Friday.

Bushfire Bill

June 23. 2009 01:23 PM


Am I correct in thinking that at the very least News Limited would have to print a retraction of the article with the Email and apologize to the PM, or is this just wishful thinking.


June 23. 2009 03:29 PM

Ad astra reply

Great comment and I see that it has been posted on the Malcolm Farr blog.  When Farr wrote his piece on 21 June he seemed to be going well out on a limb, almost anticipating disaster for Rudd and Swan.  At least he’s been man enough to write something very different this time, unlike some columnists who still hope that Swan will get his comeuppance over the OzCar affair.

Question Time today has been a particularly nasty affair with the Opposition still persisting with the ‘favoured treatment’ line against Swan and even Rudd over the Bennelong car dealer, and the Government going in boots and all to discredit Turnbull and the Opposition.  There's been lots of spurious points of order to try to shut up the Government's comments.  I’ll be glad when QT is all over for a while in two days.

Ad astra reply

June 23. 2009 04:03 PM

Ad astra reply

In today's Crikey there's a article: The verdict is clear - Turnbull the big loser from utegate by Richard Farmer.  If you've got a Crikey subscription, it's at www.crikey.com.au/.../

As one might expect The Daily Telegraph editorial doesn't concede much and still is pushing the anti-Swan case.  I've included the link to that at the appropriate place.

The following are the headings in that piece.

Ute gate stories

Malcolm Turnbull censured after email turns out to be fake - Adelaide Advertiser

Ute affair backfires on shaken Turnbull - Sydney Morning Herald.

New emails show other car dealers helped too - Sydney Morning Herald reports on the release by Treasurer Wayne Swan of a fresh batch of emails last night that showed other car dealers seeking finance were given a similar level of attention as John Grant, the Ipswich dealer who gave Kevin Rudd a free ute.

Turnbull wounded as Utegate email exposed as fake - Sydney Daily Telegraph

Fake email trips Turnbull - Melbourne Age

Police investigate mild-mannered bureaucrat - Godwin Grech, writes Michelle Grattan in the Melbourne Age,  must be the least likely character to be at the centre of this extraordinary affair. On all accounts the 42-year-old public servant who has worked in the Prime Minister’s Department, as well as Treasury, is diligent, loyal, punctilious about his work.

OzCar official Godwin Grech worked for Joe Hockey - was his departmental liason officer a decade ago - The Australian

Unsettled outlook, and some running for cover - in politics, half the battle turns on winning the contest to define the battleground. By the day’s close, the ground had shifted decisively in the Government’s favour - Melbourne Age

Emails fly as Swan fights back - Melbourne Age

Ute-gate fake email backfires on Malcolm Turnbull - Melbourne Herald Sun

Former Turnbull adviser Paul Lindwall denies ute-gate email connection - Melbourne Herald Sun

Malcolm Turnbull’s fake email nightmare as Liberals’ attack blunted - The Australian

New Swan messages ‘special treatment’ - Last night, the Treasurer’s office released a swag of emails concerning the cases of two other dealers, which Swan said proved those dealers had received “as much, if not more attention from the Treasury” than Grant did - The Australian

Fake email turns the tables on embattled Malcolm Turnbull - Brisbane Courier Mail

Following the tracks in Utegate - how events have unfolded - Brisbane Courier Mail

Ute gate opinion

Leader who cried wolf gets caught by the crowd - says Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Shock: car salesman gives PM a reference - Annabel Crabb in the Sydney Morning Herald .

Trap for novices: beware of geeks bearing gifts - Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Close the gate on the beaut ute - Gerard Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald believes that despite all the current excitement, it seems likely that this controversy will pass without any political fatalities.

Fake or not, perception is all in politics - Joo-cheong Tham in the Melbourne Age questions why were the Treasurer and his staff so intimately involved in this application by Brisbane’s John Grant motors.

Spycatcher star flounders in world of bent truths - Tony Wright in the Melbourne Age

Hunt leaves Turnbull and Swan stranded in woods - Michelle Grattan in the Melbourne Age.

Tackling the tax system - Tim Colebatch in the Melbourne Age sees utegate showing one of the sad truths about Australia: the smaller the scandal, the bigger the coverage it gets. He argues that if we want to focus on improprieties, let’s focus on something big, not a car dealer who ended up with nothing.

Wayne Swan has questions to answer but Malcolm Turnbull under fire - Michel Harvey in the Melbourne Herald Sun

Coalition deals itself mortal wound - concludes Dennis Shanahan in The Australian. The Prime Minister is now in the clear, the Treasurer will survive and the Leader of the Opposition’s character and political judgment are being seriously questioned. The Coalition has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory - an overreaching has led to a disastrous shortfall.

PM forges victory message - Christian Kerr in The Australian on the media capturing tactics of the day

Rudd’s steel as Turnbull brings spoon to a knife fight - Malcolm Farr in the Sydney Daily Telegraph

Australian politics a game of cheap point scoring - Paul Syvret writes in the Brisbane Courier Mail that Kevin Rudd has friends. Hold the front page. Surely this is the single greatest revelation to emerge so far from the so-called utegate affair.

Ute gate editorials

Forged email unravels the Opposition’s case - The episode lends weight to the view that the Opposition Leader is impatient, impetuous and prone to lapses of judgment - Melbourne Age

Turnbull stunned by runaway ute - though Mr Turnbull emerges diminished from this affair, the Government does not get off scot-free either - Sydney Morning Herald

Business assistance must be hands off - The fake email has tarnished the opposition’s case. Labor’s interventionist approach will leave it open, as opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said last week, to claims of being “under enormous pressure to do specific deals for favoured friends” - The Australian

In the middle of maelstrom - Turnbull needs to review his methods of establishing whether evidence before him is accurate. But that does not let the Government off the hook when it comes to other evidence, which is known to be genuine - Sydney Daily Telegraph www.news.com.au/.../...49,25675014-5001030,00.html

Wayne Swan must learn from ute debacle - says Brisbane Courier Mail

Smoking gun has backfired - Melbourne Herald Sun

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June 23. 2009 05:39 PM

Just Me

Hmm, that worked out real well for the opposition.

Or maybe not.

The mysterious bit is what exactly was Grech's role in all this? He does not strike me as somebody who would jeopardise a solid career and reputation over a bit of sensationalist partisan fluff. Is he an unwitting, and possibly somewhat naive patsy?

Just Me

June 23. 2009 05:40 PM

Just Me

Oh, and nice round-up of the media. Saves us lesser mortals from the pain.

Just Me

June 23. 2009 07:56 PM

Bushfire Bill

Holy willikers! I was a tiny bit embarrassed with AA quoting me on "poor Godwin" in his post.

I oughta hire myself out as a gumshoe.

Bushfire Bill

June 23. 2009 08:43 PM

el nino

Grech? Urn Malley made him do it


el nino

July 18. 2009 02:06 AM


Great writeup.. I guess you summed it all up.. Cheers


July 18. 2009 02:06 AM

Lån Online

Nice way of summing it up.. cheers

Lån Online

July 21. 2009 12:00 PM


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