Politics

Junk Explained: Why Is Federal Minister Angus Taylor Under Police Investigation?

Wondering why our politicians are spending their final two sitting weeks obsessed with Angus Taylor MP? Here's why.

Angus Taylor

Ever listened to a politician and felt like they’re just making stuff up? Well, turns out even other politicians feel the same way. And if you’ve been hearing the name ‘Angus Taylor’ floating around recently, that’s basically why.

Our federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister is in the middle of a shitstorm involving a fake document, a climate change declaration, and a police investigation.

Strap yourself in, it’s a wild ride.

What’s All The Fuss About Angus Taylor?

Back in June, City of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore followed the United Kingdom’s lead and declared a climate emergency. It was a bit of a slap in the face for the federal government, who had been doing everything they could to pretend climate change isn’t a huge deal.

In response Angus Taylor, as the Emissions Reduction minister, wrote a letter to Moore, basically calling her a big ol’ hypocrite.

His letter said the council should be focused on reducing their own emissions, considering their annual report showed council had recently spent $1.7 million on international travel and $14.2 million on domestic travel.

He also sent a copy of the letter to The Daily Telegraph, which published the figures on September 30. The thing is, they were wildly incorrect.

When Clover saw the Telegraph’s story, she called Taylor and the Telegraph out for using false information and asked them to provide proof. They sent her an edited page from the council’s annual report, which they said Angus Taylor’s office gave them.

But when Moore checked the real council report, it showed only $4,206.32 on domestic travel and $1,721.77 on overseas visits.

So, the $15 million figure that Taylor’s office quoted was a bit of a stretch.

Where Did The Fake Document Come From?

At first Taylor dug his heels in, calling the whole saga a “conspiracy theory” from the Lord Mayor.

“I make no apology for suggesting that the lord mayor should take real and meaningful action to reduce the City of Sydney’s carbon emissions instead of hollow virtue-signalling through letters,” he said last month.

He also claimed he got the false document from the council’s website. But, this couldn’t be true — the council released evidence to show the documents had not been changed since being uploaded (with the accurate figures).

It was also revealed this afternoon that City of Sydney has data logs of visits to its website, which could reveal more about who downloaded the document before it was altered.

Taylor has since apologised for relying on incorrect figures, but is refusing to answer questions on whether he misled parliament by claiming he found the fake figures on council’s website.

So the question is, did someone from Taylor’s office — or Taylor himself — make a fraudulent document that would support a politically motivated attack against a council who had embarrassed them on climate change?

On Tuesday NSW Police announced they are investigating that very claim, through Strike Force Garrad.

In NSW, the maximum penalty for fraud is ten years in jail. Intention to defraud “by false or misleading statement” carries a maximum penalty of five years.

Why Are People Now Mad At Scott Morrison?

News of a police investigation has led to calls for Taylor to step aside as a minister.

Despite this, Scott Morrison is backing Taylor — and went so far as to make a personal call to the NSW police commissioner to discuss the matter.

For that, he’s copped criticism from all sides, including from former PM Malcolm Turnbull, Labor leader Anthony Albanese, and David Ipp, the former anti-corruption commissioner. They all say it’s inappropriate for the PM to contact the police commissioner who is investigating one of ScoMo’s own ministers.

“If it relates to matters of party interest then he’s using his influence as prime minister to try to obtain the information so that he can make the politically correct decision — that is, whether to keep Taylor or to fire him,” Ipp said.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate. It’s not appropriate.”

It’s also emerged that Morrison and the police commissioner, Mick Fuller, used to be neighbours — and maybe even friends.

Despite this, Fuller said the PM did not ask him any inappropriate questions, and ScoMo is adamant he did nothing wrong. Labor is calling for him to release a transcript of the call to prove it.

But in trying to defend his decision not to stand Taylor down, he ran into even more trouble.

He tried to make the Opposition look like hypocrites by saying that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard had been under police investigation and didn’t stand down.

He used a quote to back up his claim and said it was from a detective in Victoria’s fraud squad. Only, it wasn’t — it was from 2gb radio announcer Ben Fordham, who had been reporting on the AWU slush fund scandal.

So in trying to defend his minister who is being accused of misleading parliament, Scott Morrison inadvertently misled parliament.

For the record, a 2014 royal commission into trade union governance and corruption found there were no grounds to prosecute Gillard.

We’re almost into the final sitting week of Parliament for 2019, and despite several key pieces of legislation (including one, ironically, called the Ensuring Integrity Bill) still floating around, talk has been dominated by the Angus Taylor drama.

You can expect it will continue to be, at least until the police investigation gives us some answers. Taylor is also due to visit Madrid next week for the UN’s climate change conference.