Godwin Grech, the former senior bureaucrat at the centre of the so-called Utegate scandal three years ago, struck a chord in conservative circles yesterday with a suggestion that John Howard should be Australia’s next Governor-General.
Normally, anything the discredited Grech said would matter little.
In the same magazine article for example, the Liberal Party’s Treasury mole, who for years supplied leaked documents to help damage the Labor Government, complained about a lack of “apolitical public service professionals”.
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The Punch has now closed a piece it published during the Utegate affair involving Paul Lindwall, a former senior member of Malcom Turnbull’s team.
I also want to apologise to Mr Lindwall for any embarrassment or distress the piece caused him. The background is as follows: on the Monday after Treasury official Godwin Grech gave what is now acknowledged as confected testimony to the Senate hearing on the Utegate affair, there was much speculation as to what the subsequent AFP investigation would unearth.
I was told by several sources that the AFP wanted to establish who in Mr Turnbull’s office had been talking to Godwin Grech, and Mr Lindwall was named as that person.
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Everyone tells small lies all the time. Most of us know when it’s time to come clean, or at least change the subject.
Others take small lies, like, “I wasn’t driving at the time”, and turn it into a big lie, like, “I know two female academics of the same name and got them mixed up”, and end up in jail like Marcus Einfeld.
There are deliberate hoaxers who lie to sell books or get ahead in their careers, like Helen Darville, aka Helen Demidenko.
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One would think that Brisbane car dealer John Grant would have enough of the bloody ute that he lent Kevin Rudd - apparently not, because he’s trying to hock it off to the National Museum.
The Punch can reveal that Grant has been in discussions with the National Museum of Australia to hand the infamous 1996 Mazda ute to the national institution’s permanent collection.
But it seems that the museum is not as keen on the ute being on display as John Grant because the directors don’t really think it should be there.
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Last night the Senate voted in favour of referring Senator Eric Abetz to a special committee over his role in the Utegate affair and things are about to get a bit awkward for all parties involved.
For starters a fellow Liberal Senator George Brandis will be in charge of the inquiry, which is bound to make people wonder whether this is going to be a fair dinkum examination of Abetz’s role in the fake email/Utegate/OzCar affair.
On the other side, Labor Senators on the privileges committee that will be questioning Abetz’s role in the shonky Godwin Grech testimony (specifically his handling of the email and whether it was a manipulation of the Senate committee) will have to be pretty careful about who and what they start demanding from the Liberal Senator - especially if it comes to calling public servants and journalists in front of the committee.
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On the eve of the Auditor-General’s report into the Utegate affair, the senior Treasury official at the centre of the scandal has revealed why he fabricated the email. The exclusive interview with Treasury’s OzCar scheme director Godwin Grech in today’s Australian has the potential to inflict new damage on the fragile leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, as it shows Grech believes he was used by the Liberals for political gain.
With today’s A-G’s report set to clear Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan of any wrongdoing over their association with Ipswich car dealer John Grant, the Grech interview will compound Turnbull’s headaches because it goes to suggestions of pressure and manipulation, which Paul Colgan canvasses in the post below over the Opposition Leader’s Australian Story appearance last night.
Speaking from a hospital in Canberra where he is under psychiatric care, Grech tells The Australian he only co-operated with the Opposition over the email because he believed they were set to oppose the OzCar finance bill resulting in 2000 job losses. It’s a claim the Liberals deny, saying they were always going to support the bill, and that it was Grech who pestered them for meetings, not the other way around. But their denials will struggle to be heard above quotes from Grech such as these:
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Online discussions are immeasurably enriched by anonymity.
There is no doubt that the capacity to have people from the broader community contribute to discussions of a contentious nature, without fear of reprisal, has energised the political landscape and has, perhaps, even furthered our democracy.
Recall the adage, ‘it takes all sorts to make a world’.
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One of the most exciting periods in politics for a long time began on Friday the 19th of June when little-known Treasury official Godwin Grech turned up for a Senate inquiry into the Ozcar affair. His sensational testimony led to him being chased through Parliament House. He was followed into a lift and to his car by a horde of media.
It was the start of a frenzied week in politics, when the news from Parliament House was interesting again, and Question Time became the best show in town. It swung wildly from Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull calling for Kevin Rudd to resign to the Liberal leader being under all the pressure.
The first photo is of Treasury official Godwin Grech under pressure and showing it in the Senate inquiry. When he was giving his evidence there was a crackling in the air – you knew it would be an all-in when he left the room.
I was one of the first into the lift and a bunch of others piled in. Others were much closer to his face, but by reaching up and shoot downwards I was able to capture the swarm of media around him.
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Grammar narcs and fans of convoluted construction should do themselves a favour, as Molly would say, and log on to the terrific little blog site http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/.
Proving that every interest, however esoteric or marginal, can find a home online, the site posts images of hand-written signs from small businesses and community notice-boards where rogue quotation marks have dramatically altered the author’s intended meaning.
The consequences are often sinister.
A sign at a ferry wharf in the US reads: “Parents” do not leave your children unattended at any time on this dock or vessel.
A courtesy note snapped inside a hotel room says: This room was made up especially for you by “The Housekeepers”, who end up sounding less like a couple of nice Mexican ladies and more like something out of a Steven King novel.
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Update 10.55pm: On Lateline tonight Joe Hockey did his best to turn the issue back onto Wayne Swan and the media, but confused things further when he refused to acknowledge the smoking gun email was a fake. When Tony Jones asked him if it was fabricated, Hockey said: “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know.” He also said: “We have no greater insight into the source of the alleged email than anyone else.”
As if Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t copping it enough from across the Chamber on his major Ute-gate fumblings, tonight one of his own picked up the ball and handed it to the other side.
The ABC’s Chris Uhlmann reported the Australian Federal Police intended to question public servant Godwin Grech over a string of leaks from the Treasury Department, other than the now infamous fake email allegedly found on his home computer.
According to Uhlmann, more than one Liberal told him they believed Grech had been supplying information to the Coalition, and Turnbull in particular “off-line” since the time of the Howard Government.
One of them said to the ABC political editor: “He (Grech) has been sympathetic to us for some time.”
As the revelations about Mr Grech continue at such a rapid pace, and coming from inside the Coalition no less, Turnbull’s judgement, and position, is looking more and more fragile.
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