The Great Ute Scandal has been bubbling along for weeks but I ignored it, partly because scandals are rarely interesting and partly because I couldn’t get to the starting point of working out what wrongdoing was supposed to have taken place (compare for example the Manildra business, which involved large sums of public money and provoked no serious concern). But in the last day or two the stakes have been raised dramatically, based on the alleged email from the PM’s office urging a prompt response to the concerns of a car dealer who contributed a car to Rudd’s campaign.
Whatever the significance of the putative email may have been, Rudd’s outright denial that any such email was sent means that it will be a major crisis for him if the email turns up, and possibly a terminal one if it turns out that the email was suppressed. On the other hand, if it can be proved that the email published by the Telegraph and referred to by Turnbull was in fact a fake, the consequences will be dire for Turnbull at least (I don’t suppose the Tele could lose much credibility). As my recent spam crisis demonstrates, I’m no tech expert, but I would have thought that the headers on an email would make it pretty easy to check whether it had been sent and that erasing all trace of an email would be just about impossible. And it would be grossly irresponsible to publish an alleged email if you received it with the identifying info removed.
The news that the email was a fake confirms that the outcome will be bad for Turnbull, and could be catastrophic. The worst case, but a plausible one on the evidence to hand, is that the email was the product of a fraud cooked up between Liberal staffers and one or more corrupt Treasury officials. Even the best case, that the email was fabricated for some personal reason, and passed to the Liberals along with other leaks about the car scheme, doesn’t look good. I guess, given the twists and turns so far, it’s also necessary to consider the Machiavellian possible of a (highly successful) agent provocateur, luring Turnbull into a trap, as happened (IIRC) with Ralph Willis in 1996.
It now appears that the worst-case scenario is pretty close to the truth. Grech has apparently been working as a source of leaks to the Liberal party for a long period*. Apart from the obvious disastrous implications for the Liberals, this point also casts doubt on what remains of the case against Swan. If Grech was working for the Libs all along, he could easily have generated a large volume of emails, reports and so on, without any particular pressure from the government
* The term “mole” is commonly used in such cases, but the original idea of a mole was one of an agent in place who did nothing but burrow nto the target organisation, waiting for the time to act.