August 4, 2009 10:04:36 am
A government-commissioned inquiry on Tuesday cleared Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of accusations that he lied to Parliament about giving preferential treatment to a campaign supporter.
Observers agreed that if substantiated,the dishonesty charge could have brought down Rudd’s 21-month-old leadership.
In June,Rudd commissioned Auditor-General Ian McPhee to investigate whether he or Treasurer Wayne Swan had intervened on behalf of car dealer John Grant earlier this year in Grant’s quest for government credit to keep his business afloat during the global credit squeeze.
Grant had given Rudd a pickup truck to use for campaigning ahead of the last election in 2007 that swept his Labor Party to power. Swan once bought a used car from Grant.
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The investigation was launched after a newspaper published the contents of an e-mail,purportedly from Rudd’s office to the Treasury – which administers a fund for car dealers seeking special consideration for Grant’s case. Police have since concluded that the e-mail was a fake.
Opposition lawmakers accused Rudd and Swan of lying when they told Parliament that they had not given Grant special treatment.
But McPhee said in his report on Tuesday that only one of 12 representations to government made by car dealers seeking credit was made personally to Rudd. That representation was not made by Grant.
“There was no evidence that either the prime minister or his office played any role in any of the other 11 representations received by Treasury,” including Grant’s approach,McPhee said.
McPhee said the different treatment that individual dealers received from the Treasury “did not reflect any instruction on the part” of Rudd or Swan.
Rudd responded to the report be turning the political attack on opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull,demanding Turnbull explain his dealings with a Treasury official who reportedly confessed to forging the e-mail.
No car dealers have received any credit from the government fund,which did not receive Senate approval to allocate money until late June.
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