Angus Taylor's office left big questions unanswered in its latest attempt to explain the allegations that it was based on a false document and false figures for a political attack on the mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore.
Taylor spent the week on charges his office used a false document with heavily inflated figures on Sydney city travel expenses to attack the council to increase emissions while claiming to take a position on climate change.
Taylor accused the council of spending "$ 1.7 million on international travel and $ 14.2 million on domestic travel" for councilors. The actual figures were $ 1,727.77 for international travel and $ 4,206.32 for domestic travel.
The figures in question are contained in an annual report on the council's website.
This annual report is available for download in PDF and Word online format.
What was Taylor's response to this point?
Taylor says his office got the fake data by downloading a version of the annual report from the council's website last month.
This was strongly contested by the council, which states that the documents have remained unchanged since they were uploaded in November last year with accurate figures. It has provided metadata and screenshots of the system used to manage its website to confirm it.
What did Taylor say on Friday?
Under significant pressure, Taylor issued a statement Friday afternoon stating that he had evidence that his office documented that the document was "scandalous" and baseless.
He claimed to have "clear evidence" that, contrary to what the Council asserted, different versions of the report existed on various occasions on his website.
In support of this, Taylor's office has produced comparisons between the PDF and Word versions of the annual report as they are currently on the website.
It indicated minor formatting differences – mainly different line spacing – between Word and PDF versions.
In fact, he is saying that there must have been multiple versions of the document uploaded to the website by the board because the PDF and Word versions currently online are slightly different.
If there are multiple versions on the site, the possibility remains that your office has downloaded some previous versions of the document containing the false figures.
Taylor's office left the board with the task of explaining which versions existed on his website and when.
"Clearly, given the document and its various drafts and versions, they are found on the servers of the city of Sydney, only they can prove what documents have existed and can still exist."
The council has already stated that the PDF and Word versions have been the same – completely unchanged – since November last year.
What are the problems with the last answer?
The evidence confuses the waters but they are likely to do little to resolve the issue.
In its simplest form, all it shows is that there are minor formatting differences between the PDF version and the Word version of the annual report as they are currently present on the council's website.
This does not necessarily mean that the board has uploaded more versions of the document on its website.
The formatting differences could be explained by the different versions of Word software used to access the documents. Access to Word documents via Mac, compared to a PC, can create slight formatting differences. The city of Sydney also states:
"The difference in formatting occurs following the export of files and the operating system used to open the documents."
Formatting differences may also exist in November 2018, when the documents were uploaded for the first time, which would nullify the suggestion that the board had uploaded several versions of the report on its website.
What didn't Taylor say?
Taylor's office produced no direct evidence that he ever downloaded a fake document from the council's website.
He said his office had access to the website on 9 September. The Daily Telegraph states that Taylor's office had previously reported to the newspaper that they had accessed the site on September 6th.
But the office provided neither metadata nor other records to prove that the document was downloaded on that date. Furthermore, no evidence was provided that the document ever existed on the council's website in a form that contained false figures.
Taylor's office has not yet provided evidence to show when and how the document was accessed on the council's website.