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Page last updated at 08:12 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 09:12 UK

Australia row over 'fake' e-mail

PM Kevin Rudd, 17th April 2009
This is the biggest test Mr Rudd has faced since he was elected in 2007

An e-mail at the centre of opposition attempts to oust Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a fake, according to police.

The e-mail was purported to have been sent to a treasury official by Mr Rudd's office, to help his car dealer friend get a government loan.

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said the e-mail showed Mr Rudd had abused his position and must resign.

Analysts say this is the biggest test Mr Rudd has faced since he was elected.

Australian media have dubbed the affair "Utegate", as the car dealer in question, John Grant, had lent Mr Rudd a "ute" - a two-seater pick-up truck - for use in his constituency.

Escalating row

Opposition politicians believe Mr Rudd tried to help Mr Grant secure money from a Treasury fund called OzCar to help his business cope with the global economic slump.

The row began on Friday, when Treasury official Godwin Grech told a Senate committee he thought he could remember receiving an e-mail regarding funding for the car salesman, but added he had no proof.

Mr Turnbull is nursing self-inflicted wounds and facing further questions about his political judgement and his basic political skills

Police were called in to search Mr Grech's home on Monday and specialists examined his computer equipment.

"Preliminary results of those forensic examinations indicate that the e-mail referred to at the centre of this investigation has been created by a person or persons other than the purported author of the e-mail,'' the Australian Federal Police said in a statement on Monday.

The row forced a special session of parliament in which the two sides demanded resignations.

Mr Rudd had given Mr Turnbull an ultimatum to produce the e-mail in the parliamentary session, or resign.

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull - 14/6/2009
Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Rudd lied to parliament

"It is false, fake and a forgery. There can be no graver offence in public political life than to be in the business of communicating a document that is false, out there, through the media, in order to bring your political opponent down," Mr Rudd said.

He told parliament the opposition had failed to provide the evidence so had "no alternative now but to stand up and apologise and resign".

But Mr Turnbull mounted his own attack, telling parliament: "What we have here is a shocking abuse of power.

"We have a treasurer who has used his considerable influence to get a favour for a mate. And not just any mate - a mate who is a benefactor of the prime minister," he said.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey demanded Mr Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan should both stand down.



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SEE ALSO
Australia PM escalates car spat
21 Jun 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Kevin Rudd
24 Jun 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
22 Feb 12 |  Country profiles



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