Open letter to the people of Australia
There have been a lot of nasty things said about me this last week, so unjust, so scurrilous. You’d expect the Government to indulge in gutter politics, they’re Labor after all, but for journalists and even some of my Coalition colleagues to suggest that I messed up badly is just so unfair. It’s not my fault – so don’t blame me. [more]
Who started it anyway? Kevin Rudd. First of all he had a friend – John Grant. What’s a PM doing having a friend when he’s supposed to be running the country. Never mind that this friend was a Brisbane neighbour, he shouldn’t have time for this friendship stuff. And worse still this friend is a car dealer – a car dealer would you believe. Doesn’t he know that the Morgan study had car salesmen at the bottom of the pile for honesty and ethical standards, a couple of notches below journalists, which shows how badly they’re regarded. What’s worse is that this car dealer had given him a ‘valuable car’, a gift to a wealthy PM who could afford a dozen cars of his own. Never mind that the car is a rusty ute, is on loan, is valued at only $5000 and has been declared on Rudd’s pecuniary interest register over two years ago – it’s still a valuable gift.
Now it’s emerged that, like Grant, Rudd is mixed up with this 51 Club, which looks like a shonky group of Brisbane blokes that meet from time to time, goodness knows for what purpose. Rudd has been to its meetings, a long while ago, at least that’s what he says, and he’s had his photo taken with them and their spouses, I suppose they are spouses, that are splashed all over the weekend papers. Don’t blame me for thinking there must be something going on here. I mean there’s now some talk of Rudd touting for some of them during a China trip when he was in Opposition. Very fishy stuff.
Anyway, having received this valuable gift Rudd felt he owed this Grant fellow something, so when car dealers were having difficulties raising finance – you know these blokes don’t own the cars in their showrooms, finance companies do – and Rudd set up OzCar, a sort of Ruddbank for car sharks, he immediately thought he would get Grant a special deal. So he whispered to Swan, who’s in charge of OzCar, look after my mate John Grant, I need to pay him back because he’s loaned me an old ute for electoral use. So Swan picks up the cue, puts everything else aside and gets to work to look after the boss’s mate. Having stuffed the economy with his reckless spend, spend, spend, Labor style, racking up debt and deficit that our great grandchildren will be paying off, you’d think he’d pay some attention to straightening things out, but no, he drops everything to help Rudd’s mate and benefactor. He made a phone call to Grant, for all of two minutes, and referred his case to the OzCar director in Treasury, a very diligent and highly respected and reliable public servant – we should know, we’ve had leaks from him for years.
Then followed a cascade of emails and faxes, some even sent to Swan’s home fax, at a weekend, imagine that. Swan read all these as if his life depended on it. Grant’s name was even mentioned during an important meeting when a car finance firm was seeking over $500 million of taxpayer’s money, well not really because they were just seeking a guarantee, but it was taxpayer’s money after all. So on it went, with Swan checking every step on the way to look after Rudd’s mate. We’ve got all the documents – Rudd was silly enough to make them public – and we’ve had our people counting, and there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Swan was looking after Grant; it’s a watertight case.
Then when he’s asked about that in the House, he gets up and talks as if he’s hardly heard of Grant, and says he doesn’t know what happened. Give me a break. He tries to look oh so innocent, but underneath that good guy facade who knows what lurks?
Anyway while Swan’s doing his thing, Rudd thinks he’d better do his bit and so on his say so, some staffer in his office, so we thought, sent an email to this OzCar fellow in Treasury asking him to look after Rudd’s mate John Grant.
Now people, this is where things get sticky. We got wind of this email – we’ve got sources you know – and so we set up Rudd and Swan with a series of questions in Question Time in the House, asking them whether they were helping out Rudd’s mate and benefactor with car finance. At first they feigned ignorance of the matter and when they checked they came out full of denial. But we knew better. We knew about the email, and how damning it was, and that it would show both Rudd and Swan had mislead parliament, to put it bluntly they had lied – a capital offence.
When you’ve got information that could, indeed should bring down a Prime Minister and a Treasurer in one shot, it’s exciting. I’ve done this sort of thing before in another life – I was a barrister you know, and I’ve pulled it off, so why not go at this one full bore. In fact I was so excited and so sure I had Rudd and Swan squarely in my sights, I thought there would be no harm in putting the wind up the staffer in Rudd’s office who had sent the email, so I grabbed his attention at the Mid Winter ball and gave him some fatherly advice about telling the truth, and warned him not to jeopardize his career by lying for his boss. He looked mystified, lamely said he hadn’t lied – nice story – and then, being obsessive like his boss, went off and made a file note of the conversation.
All we needed now was the testimony from the Senate hearings to nail Rudd and Swan. We knew what was coming, and come it did – damning evidence based on the email and a couple of other things. Our Treasury contact was pretty nervous but good old Eric (Abetz) hammered him relentlessly until he extracted the damning evidence we wanted – Rudd had asked for help for his mate and benefactor, John Grant.
Why wait any longer? Strike while the iron’s hot. Now I’m a high flyer, just read what I’ve done in the past. So why not shoot for the high-flying bird rather than a gently paddling Swan. So I demanded that unless Rudd and Swan could satisfactorily explain their behaviour, they should both resign immediately. Although I didn’t actually use the words ‘corrupt’ or ‘lying’, that is what I meant, and why I insisted they should resign.
Of course Rudd, tipped off by his staffer, was soon out saying no email had come from his office and that any email that was floating around must be a fake. Of course we knew better, or we thought we did. Some of my colleagues got a bit nervous at this stage. They had suggested beforehand that I check the veracity of the email before using it to bring down the PM and Treasurer, but why wait when you’re sure of your facts. Some people are too timid.
Then Rudd pulled a swifty – he set up an Auditor General’s enquiry, setting the terms of reference himself – he must have learned about that from John Howard, and next thing he’s got the Federal Police, the AFP involved. Now some of my crowd began getting really nervous, but I’m a high-roller, so I stayed as cool as a cucumber. Some in the media thought they had smelt a rat, but they’re always looking for rats.
But others in the media claimed they had a copy of the email, and The Telegraph published the text of it, which I felt stitched up Rudd nicely. People wondered how Steve Lewis got hold of it, but I didn’t comment – it was out there for everyone to see. Some journalists reckoned Rudd was in real strife and could lose his Prime Ministership – it was good reading.
It was a great weekend. I kept thinking about Rudd and Swan plummeting to earth as I gave them both barrels. Why wrench your guts out trying to garner voter support by developing policy to match the Government’s, when with one spectacular shot you can grasp the prize – defeat of the Government and the Holy Grail, Prime Ministership of Australia.
It came as a bit of a shock on Monday morning when the Federal Police said that the email was a fake, just as smart-aleck Rudd had said. How could this be, our Treasury man had always been so reliable? It did take some of the wind out of my sails but I’m not one to take a backward step – my Dad always said ‘keep on punching’. So I did a pretty good job of attacking, particularly Swan, and being a smart operator decided to pull back on Rudd – he could wait for another day. It was very painful, but I had to admit the case against Rudd could not be sustained.
But don’t blame me. How was I supposed to know the email was fake? After all it was generated in Treasury, Swan’s department, so it’s pretty rich shooting in my direction. Swan should really apologize for what someone in Treasury did. He obviously was not keeping an eye on things – spending too much time on John Grant, Rudd’s mate and benefactor, I suppose.
Anyway as the week rolled on we kept attacking Swan in the House because he was obviously guilty, but this Labor rabble, looking for a bar-room fight, came in swinging and called me all sorts of nasty things, referred to events way in the past like the Rainmaker episode when I was Environment and Water Minister, trying to make out I had given favours to a mate just because he was my next-door neighbour and donor to my election campaign – so unfair. They even brought up my Goldman Sachs days, the HIH affair and even some cock and bull story about a dead cat. But worst of all Albo said I reminded him of Mark Latham, can you believe that he would stoop that low? They kept on saying that I should apologize and resign – faint hope of me doing either. But I kept punching, I asked for a judicial inquiry, twice, only to be knocked back, I tried to get a censure motion up against Swan, but that was knocked back, and then would you believe, they censured me!
It was a pretty torrid week, which didn’t improve. Journalists began to question my judgement – the cheek of them. I know when I’m right. Some of my colleagues began to whisper to journalists doubts about my political nous. What loyalty. Even Joe Hockey seemed to be distancing himself.
Then there were all sorts of accusations floating around about meetings that Eric and I were supposed to have had with the Treasury guy before and after the Senate inquiry, in fact one journalist, Dennis Shanahan who’s always been a Coalition supporter, headlined me as ‘muscling the leaker’. What audacity! Being a smart barrister, I just kept mum, not confirming or denying any contacts.
I said we would cooperate fully with the AFP investigation into the fake, but when they came all I gave them was a statement; they needn’t think I’m going to hand over Coalition computers or reveal our sources – we’ve got parliamentary rights you know. They tried to nail Eric in the Senate by setting up an enquiry to see if he had heavied the Treasury witness, but we blocked that with the help of our old mate Steve Fielding. The Greens got exercised and said this was the first time in 108 years that such an enquiry had been blocked, but there’s always a first time and the Greens always make a fuss about such things. But don’t blame me, I’m not in the Senate.
Some of the cartoons have been pretty cruel with guns or cigars blowing up in my face. Very unfair. One had Rudd as Sir Lancelot and me as the Black Knight sans arms and one leg, but the caption said it all – ‘it’s only a flesh wound’. That’s how I operate – keep on punching. After all, it was not my fault, so don’t blame me.
Some of my colleagues have said nice things, how I didn’t flinch, how I’m getting to that period of defiance. Stirring stuff – we need more of that. They haven’t said so outright, but I suspect they’re swelling with pride and admiration at my flawless performance and see me as completely blameless, which of course is true. I had the feeling that you, the good people of Australia, would feel similarly.
So today’s opinion polls came as quite a shock. But this morning good old Tony was right when he said to ABC radio that it was no wonder my approval rating had dropped like a stone after Labor’s shocking, indeed ruthless smear campaign against me all last week, and he patted me on the back for not flinching in the face of that onslaught. He was adamant that it was all Labor’s fault. I agree, it certainly wasn’t my fault, so don’t blame me.
So the winter recess has come and our lot look pretty tired and dispirited and wonder if we have any hope of winning the next election. But give them a break and they’ll come back full of fight and determination to finally nail Swan. I’ll give them a pep talk, not like the pathetic one Brendan Nelson gave after he became leader, and they’ll rally behind me, not that they have any other option - remember TINA – There Is No Alternative to Turnbull.
I’m just hoping the enquiries going on don’t expose any more dirt on our side but find plenty on Rudd’s, otherwise the media mob will turn Utegate into Turnbullgate. But whatever happens, I’m cool. I’ve done it my way, and if someone in the system has stuffed us up, just understand this people, I’m not the one, so don’t blame me.
Your next Prime Minister