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Of integrity, adversarial politics and a fake email

By K.C. Boey - posted Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Should I Twitter, or sign on to Facebook? What about MySpace, Scour, or hi5? Or what about Google, Skype and MSN chat? Internet mail? Horror of horrors, isn't that as old as the hills?

Technology: how it assumes a life and pace all its own. Is technology - the way it's outpacing life itself - a positive good or negative damnation?

To a few people, all these new-fangled means of cyber communication have come under a cloud, given a bad name by a fake email that all but paralysed the business of government recently: in Parliament, in the corridors of power and on the street, monopolising the air waves on radio and TV, and filling reams of newsprint.


Parliament rose for the six-week winter break with much of the business before it unresolved, sidetracked by traded insults from both sides of politics over allegations of corruption raised by the email that police subsequently found to be a forgery.

Our vulnerability to technology that we have not mastered is clear, illustrated by how a fake email could distract us from our substantive pursuits.

If any good has come out of this, it brought into question the integrity and efficacy of adversarial politics, understandings of corruption and cronyism, tensions within government between ministerial staffers and public servants, and professional standards in media ethics.

Central to the opposition campaign, alleging corruption on the part of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan, is an ideological conviction questioning government intervention in a market economy that could expose government cronyism.

The Rudd Government's management of the economy in light of the global financial crisis is a bone of contention. That approach has over the week been subject to further glowing endorsement from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, and the International Monetary Fund.

It has included cash handouts to households, government guarantees to maintain confidence in the financial system, infrastructure building, and a program to support credit for car dealers - the subject of the fake email.


The opposition campaign hinges on alleged favours to a car dealer who is a friend of Rudd, living near to the prime minister in his Brisbane constituency, who puts a utility truck at the disposal of Rudd for his constituency work. It is an arrangement Rudd has declared among his pecuniary interests.

The campaign went into overdrive when a senior public servant in the Treasury gave testimony at a parliamentary hearing that contradicted Rudd's denials in Parliament - which led to opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull calling on Rudd and Swan to resign on account of them having misled Parliament.

The case rested on the email purported to have been sent from Rudd's economic adviser to Treasury official Godwin Grech, who administers the car credit scheme. The discovery by police - called in by Rudd - that the email was a forgery, demolished the Turnbull offensive.

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First published in The New Straits Times on June 28, 2009.

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About the Author

K.C. Boey is a former editor of Malaysian Business and The Malay Mail. He now writes for The Malaysian Insider out of Melbourne.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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