Monday, June 22, 2009

'Utegate' and Political Accountability

On Saturday, I wrote "A picture of an alleged email appears in The Daily Telegraph today, allegedly from Andrew Charlton (senior economic adviser to Kevin Rudd) to Treasury official Godwin Grech. The image in The Daily Telegraph is, indeed a picture, and pictures can be doctored." On Sunday, Kevin Rudd announced that he matter had been referred to the AFP - a tactic that opened the possibility of police interviews of Opposition members, their staffers and Treasury officials.

Today, Monday, the AFP have released a statement confirming the email was fake, but not who created it. "Preliminary results of those forensic examinations indicate that the email referred to at the centre of this investigation has been created by a person or persons other than the purported author of the email." Some news reports indicate the email originated within Treasury.

And so Parliament played the game of political argy-bargy. Kevin Rudd's government dredged up his alleged involvement in the HIH (insurance company) scandal when (now Opposition Leader) Malcolm Turnbull worked for Goldman Sachs as a merchant banker; and wanted to know Malcolm Turnbull's involvement in the fake email. PM Rudd taunted Mr Turnbull with "The leader of the opposition has his fingerprints all over the promotion of this fake email and he knows it." There were questions about a (recently-left) former staffer for Malcolm Turnbull, Paul Lindwall, and whether the AFP wanted to interview him. He has denied any involvement.

The referral to the AFP appears to have worked for Kevin Rudd. Parliament censured Mr Turnbull today, albeit with a vote on party lines only; and Turnbull has effectively had to drop his attack on Kevin Rudd. The opposition has now turned its attention to Treasurer Wayne Swan, who is alleged to have received a fax about the Ipswich car dealer, John Grant, who provided a ute for Kevin Rudd, and who reportedly asked for assistance getting dealer finance.

Much of the mud appears to have rebounded onto the Opposition, possibly one or more Oppositin staffers, at least one person in Treasury, and The Daily Telegraph.