Rudd denies giving favours to car dealer

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The Independent Online

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Treasurer, Wayne Swan, are rejecting opposition calls to resign over their relationship with a car dealer which commentators say has created the 19-month-old government's biggest political crisis.

The opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, said on Saturday that Mr Rudd and Mr Swan repeatedly misled Parliament this month when they denied that Mr Rudd's friend, the car dealer John Grant, had been given special attention when he applied for a government loan to cope with the credit crunch.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Rudd and Mr Swan had no choice but to resign. But Mr Swan said yesterday he would not. And Mr Rudd maintains that he did not mislead Parliament and in turn called for Mr Turnbull to resign if he failed to produce evidence to support the allegations. Mr Turnbull cited an email published in Australian newspapers on Saturday that was purportedly a request by a Rudd staffer in February for Treasury officials to give priority to Mr Grant's credit request. But the government claims the email is a forgery created by Mr Turnbull's Liberal Party and has called in police to conduct a fraud investigation. Mr Turnbull has denied his party faked the email.

Mr Swan said he stood by his claim that Mr Grant's request for government credit was treated no differently than that of any other car dealer as the usual sources of credit to buy cars dried up. "I regard this as part of the smear campaign that has been conducted ... by the leader of the opposition, and it's time for him to put up or shut up and resign," Mr Swan told Nine Network television.