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Monday, 22 March 2004
Page: 26859

Mr TUCKEY (9:13 PM) —Today in a censure debate, the Leader of the Opposition reverted to an old practice of personal denigration when he said to the foreign minister:

You disgrace, you rotten lousy disgrace, to say that about a good man—Mick Keelty.

I do not object to passion if it is properly directed. I think it has to be followed, nevertheless, with consistency. These remarks related to issues around a media statement from Federal Police Commissioner Keelty. This is not the first occasion in very recent times that a minister has been involved in any way with a police commissioner. I want to draw to the attention of the House the circumstances as reported in the West Australian newspaper on 12 of March 2004 with the headline `Police chief was asked to quit job'. The article relates to some very sensational remarks made by Premier Gallop. As the newspaper says:

Dr Gallop said last week that the inquiry—

a royal commission into the WA Police Force over many years—

had exposed “significant and sustained corruption” and unmasked nearly 20 years of corrupt behaviour that was “utterly unacceptable” to the Government and the WA public.

That was considered so sensational by Western Australian Police Commissioner Matthews that he took out a full-page ad to defend his force because in his view probably 99 per cent of them deserved that defence. What was the result of that? After the Premier had made these sensational statements, when contacted about that matter—and one might remember the noise that came out of the opposition today—the article says:

A spokesman for the Premier said he regarded any conversation with the Police Commissioner as confidential.

As I said, this is deja vu. The reality, as reported in this article, is that there was a personal attack on Commissioner Matthews by Margaret Quirk, a Labor MLA who `stoked the row' and attacked him under privilege. His police force was attacked by the Premier. He then defended his force, which one would think proper, and went on to say at a media conference:

“I think to say the police service was a basket case is completely wrong and the report doesn't say that,” ...

—that is, what Premier Gallop said. Commissioner Matthews went on to say:

“I've got to say what I think about the police service there and I've been very concerned about some of the comments that have been made, some of them by Government.”

As the article says, as a result Commissioner Barry Matthews, who has repeatedly clashed with police minister Michelle Roberts, was asked to quit his job. Of course Premier Gallop refused to confirm or deny that that had occurred.

I compare that with the issue explained by the Prime Minister today and I wonder why the Leader of the Opposition, to match his argument about ethics in politics, has not been on the record—or at least the telephone—attacking Michelle Roberts, the WA Minister for Police and Emergency Services, for attacking a good man called Matthews. Today's effort, without that having happened, was absolutely hypocritical. It is absolutely wrong for a Leader of the Opposition to get up in this place and play politics with this issue when he was not to the fore on a similar issue where there was a direct, very clear and outrageous attack on a police commissioner which included asking a man who did no more than defend his own police force for his resignation. I ask the House to consider these matters when next we see the Leader of the Opposition crying crocodile tears over matters about which he has no genuine concern.