Australia

Energy minister rejects claim he 'forged' document used to attack council on carbon emissions

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said he was told the documents were straight from the City of Sydney's website. Source: AAP

Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has rejected claims he fabricated a document used to criticise Sydney's lord mayor as a "conspiracy theory".

Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor says he was advised a document he used to blast Sydney's lord mayor was lifted directly from her council's website.

Amid what is being described as his 'Utegate' moment, Mr Taylor refused to shed more light during parliamentary question time on the claims by Labor he forged the document.

In a letter to Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Mr Taylor criticised her for hypocritically driving up carbon emissions by spending over $15 million in council money on domestic and international travel.

Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
AAP

As reported in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Taylor said City of Sydney councillors had spent $1.7 million on international travel and $14.2 million on domestic travel.

But the 2017/18 report currently available online, as well as cached versions, shows international out-of-pocket travel costs were only $1728, and domestic costs were $4206 - well short of the minister's quoted figure.

In a statement on Friday morning, Mr Taylor dismissed the accusations he forged a document as a "conspiracy theory".

The council has told AAP its weblogs indicate the report has not been changed since it was originally uploaded.

"We need to know whether the forgery was tailor-made because it looks exactly like that," opposition frontbencher Tony Burke told parliament.

Labor's Tony Burke.
Labor's Tony Burke.
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Mr Taylor told parliament he was "advised" the document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website.

When asked by Labor's Mark Butler where he got the "forged" document he said he "absolutely rejected" the premise of the question and the "assertions being peddled by the opposition".

In a letter to Cr Moore seen by AAP, Mr Taylor quotes the millions figures saying cutting the allegedly extravagant air travel was a "real opportunity" to reduce council's carbon emissions.

The council's 2017/18 financial statements show it spent $229,000 on travel that financial year.

The Daily Telegraph defended the original story, saying it was provided with a document by Mr Taylor's office. Guardian Australia is reporting this differs from the actual council report.

The supplied document says councillors spent "$14.2" on domestic travel and "$1.7" on international travel - without using the word "million".

At the time, Cr Moore described the story as a "hatchet job" and "grossly inaccurate" on Twitter.

But Mr Taylor maintained on Thursday he was right to criticise the mayor.

"The conspiracy theory being perpetrated by the Lord Mayor is rejected," he said.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said this could be Mr Taylor's "Godwin Grech" moment, a reference to the disgraced treasury official at the heart of the 2008 'Utegate' scandal.

Lord Mayor Moore called the initial report a
Lord Mayor Moore called the initial report a "hatchet job" and "grossly inaccurate".
AAP

He demanded on Thursday that Mr Taylor "front up to parliament" and give a full explanation on the matter.

"It's crystal clear that you can't trust any numbers that Angus Taylor comes up with," he said.

"When Angus Taylor produces a document and gives you some numbers in it, don't believe a word of it."

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