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Opposition leader talks to police

AUSTRALIAN opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday that he had given a statement to police about a fake e-mail at the heart of claims that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd misled parliament.

It follows a week of political controversy over the so-called "Utegate" affair, which relates to a small truck, known in Australia as a "ute," loaned to Rudd by a car dealer friend for electoral purposes.

The e-mail in question allegedly came from Rudd's office and was cited by the opposition as evidence that Rudd had lied over allegations he helped his friend gain access to a government scheme known as OzCar, set up to help dealers in the global economic crisis.

But the opposition tactics largely backfired when an intensive search of government computers failed to locate the e-mail and a copy of it turned up at the house of a treasury official, Godwin Grech, who Turnbull has admitted meeting.

Rudd called in the police a week ago and the government spent most of last week calling for Turnbull to resign. Police have declared the e-mail a fake.

Yesterday, Turnbull told Channel Ten television that he had given a statement on the matter to the Australian Federal Police. "I've met with the federal police, I've given them a statement," Turnbull said. "Let the police do their work."

However, Turnbull denied that the row, in which the opposition also accused Treasurer Wayne Swan of misleading parliament, had damaged his leadership of the main opposition Liberal Party. Turnbull has denied ever having a copy of the e-mail.


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