Jun 22, 2009

Utegate explained

Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane lays out the Utegate scandal with easy-to-understand cast notes and diagrams.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The cast:
John Grant: Brisbane car dealer and neighbourhood friend of Kevin Rudd and occasional attendee at John Howard events. Donated a 1996 Mazda Bravo to Rudd in 2007, lobbied MP Bernie Ripoll for assistance in the face of the GFC. Godwin Grech: Principal Adviser, Financial Systems Division, Treasury. Former PM&C officer and workaholic SES Band 1 officer and long-serving Treasury bureaucrat, charged with the implementation of the OzCar initiative. Steve Lewis: Veteran Press Gallery figure, political journalist for 17 years, at The Australian until 2007 when editor Chris Mitchell moved him on. Now one of the nation’s most widely-read political journalists via News Ltd tabloids. Andrew Charlton: Prime Ministerial adviser. Economist, author of, inter alia, Ozonomics and apparently possessor of an ego the size of Rudd’s and Turnbull’s. Said to have been a big fan of Turnbull’s until he decided the ALP was his path to the Prime Ministership. Discussed OzCar with Turnbull at MidWinter Ball, later claimed Turnbull had threatened him. David Martine: Head of the Financial Systems Division – Band 2 SES officer and Grech’s supervisor; moved from Finance to Treasury in 2001. Advised both the Senate inquiry and the Treasurer’s office that the Charlton email had not been found. Mike Mrdak: Deputy Secretary, PM&C, incoming Secretary of Department of Infrastructure. Mrdak has an impeccable record and a strong reputation for probity. Oversaw the search for the Charlton email in PM&C and advised it had not been found. Michael Delaney: Long-time head of the Motor Trades Association of Australia, Labor staffer in a distant previous life, heavily involved in coordinating work with Treasury in support of car dealers in the face of the withdrawal of GE Money Motor Solutions and GMAC from the car dealership finance market. OzCar: Special Purpose Vehicle to provide Big Bank support to motor vehicle dealer financiers using a part-Government guarantee. Still not in existence.
The claims: 1) Kevin Rudd sought preferential treatment for John Grant as part of the OzCar implementation
Malcolm Turnbull 19 June: "The Prime Minister and Treasurer have used their offices and taxpayers’ resources to seek advantage for one of their mates, and then lied about it to the Parliament." Eric Abetz 4 June, in Estimates: "Minister, can you also take on notice for us whether the standards of ministerial ethics include in paragraph 2.17:Ministers shall ensure they do not come under any financial or other obligations to individuals or organisations to the extent that they may appear improperly influenced in the performance of their official duties as Minister. "I would have thought that might apply even more so to the Prime Minister... he only responds to some [letters], like people that give him a private car." The evidence: For:
  • Grech says he was contacted by the PMO in relation to John Grant, although his recollection may be faulty.
  • Grech’s manager, David Martine, and Labor senators vigorously, and successfully, acted to prevent Grech from answering a question at the Senate inquiry about whether it was Andrew Charlton, at least giving the impression there was something to hide.
  • The text of a 19 February email purportedly from Charlton to Grech has been circulated: "Hi Godwin, the PM has asked if the car dealer financing vehicle is available to assist a Queenslander 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."
  • Rudd and his office deny being contacted by Grant or making representations for him. John Grant says ""I've never spoken to Kevin Rudd or anyone of his staff [regarding] the SPV, or now called OzCar... Never asked him for anything."
  • PM&C and Treasury have advised the Charlton-Grech email has not been found in either system.
  • Grech says he does not have an email, and told the Senate hearing on Friday that he told Lewis he didn’t have an email. The permanent erasure of an email from two separate IT systems is extremely difficult.
Who’s right? The AFP will be able to conduct a more forensic investigation than PM&C and Treasury’s IT providers undertook on Friday afternoon, and the issue will not be resolved until then, if at all. The absence of the email from both Treasury and PM&C systems can only be accounted for by deliberate erasure. But a cover-up of the email would require a conspiracy at the highest level between the PMO and Treasury and perhaps PM&C, and their IT providers, and Grech and Martine. The only available evidence is therefore Grech’s caveated evidence to the inquiry, and doubts have been cast on Grech’s evidence by the head of the Motor Trades Association. In the absence of the increasingly-unlikely email, not guilty.

2) Wayne Swan sought preferential treatment for John Grant

Malcolm Turnbull 19 June: "The Prime Minister and Treasurer have used their offices and taxpayers’ resources to seek advantage for one of their mates, and then lied about it to the Parliament."

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7 thoughts on “Utegate explained

  1. j-boy57

    and this would appear to leave Malcolm Turnbull looking about as forensic as the still surviving senator Heffernan
    after his homophobic attack on Kirby, any chance of a whoo-hoo Malcolm, the winner here is Craig Motors the losers
    would be the uteless Lib/nats Bravo Fella’s

  2. RuddIsACommunist

    Rudd and Swan are GUILTY.

    This issue is NOT about an email, it is about the fraud on seret backroom deals and favours and liars covering their ar*ces.

    Labour and Kevin ‘bully’ Rude’s private paid PR spin team can put all the smokes and screen diversion tricks up, coz Kevin ‘BULLY’ RUDE knows he is a goner and his reptutation shot…. he cried communist red tears last night, coz his globalist dream of being head of the United Nations Security Council is slippin away 🙂

    Rude and his Canberra flat mate of 10 years aka ‘Australian Treasurer’ Wayne Swan are in deep deep trouble over a scandal of favours for business dealings that could see both of them SACKED from Parliament, it has been labled as ‘Utegate’.

    In Kevin Rudd’s bid to dodge fire, deflect and confuse the media reporting on the truth, he is firing furfy’s back at the main accuser Turnbull and getting his team to throw curve balls that looks like keystone cops with contradictory statements of fact and fiction.

    One of them must go – Kevin Rudd or Wayne Swan.

    It may be a dead swan song final curtain call to take the fall for his Kevin bloody Rude.

    This is the Scandal of the Century as it involes LIES, DECEPTION, COVER UPS, FRAUD and PROPAGANDA SPIN at its Ruddy Best.

  3. Heathdon McGregor

    I think that the libs used this as a test run, to see the automatic fallback position of Mr Rudd and Mr Swann. As probably predicted the fall back was partial denial, full deflection and weasel words. Mr Swann’s interview with Mr Oakes was like listening to Howard. Q. Did he get special treatment? Do you monitor other applicants as closely? A. He didn’t get the credit so how could i have assisted? I get faxes all the time? Anything but answering the question.

    Why didn’t Mr Rudd just say my office never sent the email as opposed to We cannot locate any evidence. Were they, as Mr Abbot alluded making sure the email could not be found?

    If the Libs have something on the Prime Wowser and 3dub(www) Swann then they simply need top allude to it in future and watch them weasel word their way into trouble.

    (www = weasel words wayne)

  4. David1

    Bernard I think I understood you correctly when you state….Steve Lewis: Veteran Press Gallery figure, political journalist for 17 years, at The Australian until 2007 when editor Chris Mitchell moved him on. Now one of the nation’s most widely-read political journalists via News Ltd tabloids…..be interested to know where you received your information re Mr Lewis being so widely read. Is that since his discord on the now disgraced, fake email or before? I have never seen figures published or spoken regarding his readership numbers.

  5. Venise Alstergren

    Since when does Crikey allow identical comments to be posted on different sections of these hallowed pages?
    I refer of course, to Ruddisnotacommunist.

  6. David1

    Ditto. if the ignoramus cannot bother to construct another contribution, albeit an insignificant pack of nonsense and stupidity, he/she/it should be tossed.

  7. AR

    As usual, the magisterially omniscient, rabble-soothing, derailling trolls like ‘Rud…nist’ raqnts contain no typos, are constructed with correct, if latinate, grammar.
    This is not common with yer avraj RWDB.

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