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Advice under pressure: the OzCar controversy (A) 2012-111.1

5 July 2012



Extraordinary footage from a Senate Committee enquiry dominated Australia’s evening news on Friday 19 June 2009. Two Treasury officials appeared before the enquiry, and the senator was probing for evidence that the Prime Minister had misled Parliament to get preferential treatment from a taxpayer-funded scheme for a Queensland friend, neighbour and supporter. OzCar was designed to counteract the effects of the Global Financial Crisis, by keeping credit flowing and activity buoyant in the new and used car sector. Dealerships could apply to a self-funding trust if they were unable to refinance. One of these dealers had given Kevin Rudd a utility vehicle at an earlier date, and speculation suggested that the Prime Minister or someone close to him had pushed the dealer’s application through. The allegations were serious, and media reports suggested an explosive email would expose corruption, giving the Opposition grounds to call for Rudd’s removal from office. That email, however, proved difficult to find, and those investigating the case began to wonder whether it had ever existed at all.

This part of a two-part case study gives the background to the allegations that sent shockwaves through the government, and the long-serving, highly regarded public servant apparently reluctantly at the centre of them. This case can be used to discuss the relationships between public servants, political advisers, and their ministers. It is also a rich source of material for discussion of other issues such as leadership in a crisis, human resource management, and ethics.

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  • Part B prompts some searching discussion about the need for systems and controls, and the dangers of relying on one “key person” to take full responsibility of any significant project and its implementation. Further questions can be raised about possible warning signs that were missed not only by colleagues but by some initial investigations and leads to questions about the parameters and protocols of relationships between ministers, their political advisers, and public servants.
  • The OzCar case is complex, involving a large number of people in various roles close to the controversy. The supplementary exhibit accompanies the two-part case and teaching note. It classifies each of the people involved in a way that is easy to follow while reading or teaching.
Authors: Janet Tyson
Published Date: 5 July 2012
Author Institution: ANZSOG, Griffith University
Content Length: 8
Product Type: Case with teaching note, Part A, Primary resources