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Wednesday, 21 August 1996
Page: 2791

Senator McKIERNAN(1.25 p.m.) —I am sure Mr George Grljusich will appreciate Senator Ray's comments about him, and I will make sure that they get to him. I wonder whether Senator Ray has ever heard George making commentary on the games between Collingwood and the Eagles. Even when the Eagles are losing, George can make it sound as if the Eagles are winning, particularly if Peter Sumich is in the team. I think that there is some distant relationship there.

But as I raise the matter of Western Australia and Mr George Grljusich, I want to bring the Senate back to my home state of Western Australia and, in fact, to my home city of Wanneroo. Many people around Australia will have heard about Wanneroo, particularly in recent years, because of the corruption that has been to the forefront, unfortunately, among some councillors within the City of Wanneroo.

There is now currently a royal commission of inquiry into the city of Wanneroo, and I want to address the manner in which the Western Australian government has handled the allegations of corruption in the Wanneroo council. It is causing deep concern about the administration of justice in my home state.

Former Wanneroo councillor David King was convicted and gaoled in 1994 for taking bribes. Following his trial, he tried to blow the whistle on the widespread corruption that had existed for years within the council. Since that time, what have we seen? Have we seen a government dealing with these serious allegations? Have we seen them being dealt with in a manner which shows that the government is committed to eliminating corruption? Unfortunately not. We have seen an attempt at whitewash and cover-up. The Western Australian government had to be dragged by public pressure into re-establishing the former government's Cahill inquiry into the Wanneroo City Council. Then it had to be further dragged kicking and screaming into setting up the royal commission which is currently on.

But what then? The honest people back in Perth and in Western Australia would have hoped that the rottenness that is there amongst some people within Wanneroo would have been finally opened up and, therefore, eradicated. But this has not happened. Why not? Because the corruption that is endemic there among the leading individuals in Wanneroo goes right to the heart of the Liberal Party. King detailed all this in the statement he made to the justice ministry and to the Director of Public Prosecutions in late 1994. The statement was forwarded to the Western Australian police force.

Should King have been listened to? Indeed, he was listened to, at least by the courts. He had convinced the jury that the former Wanneroo mayor, Wayne Bradshaw, was corrupt. Bradshaw is now in prison. King's statement had convinced the magistrate that another local developer, Ted Hodgkinson, has a case to answer on bribery charges. Hodgkinson is currently awaiting trial. So what has happened with all these allegations? We really do not know because the police department in Western Australia has wound up the investigations with 17 lines of inquiry apparently still left open. Why did it do that?

Why did Peter Kyle, who ran the early stages of an independent inquiry into Wanneroo, say that the police in Western Australia are soft on pursuing corruption against politicians? Why did he say that some of the same police officers alleged to be involved in the Argyle Diamonds affairs were also involved in Wanneroo? It would have to come as no surprise to Mr Kyle that the West Australian newspaper reported yesterday, Tuesday, 20 August, that seven senior police officers are to be disciplined over adverse findings in the Australian Federal Police inquiry and report into the Argyle Diamonds case.

The honest people of Western Australia would hope that the current royal commission would answer some of these questions. Has that happened? Indeed, it has not. What has happened instead is that King and the other whistleblowers, such as the former Director-General of the Ministry of Justice, David Grant, and his officers, have been viciously attacked by the royal commission for involving themselves in this. This has been done using some of the very police officers, including Deputy Police Commissioner Les Ayton—who retires later this week—and his internal affairs unit which are the subject of disciplinary action. The Ministry of Justice officers are also facing charges laid by Grant.

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Ms Narelle Johnson, has been strongly critical of the role of the justice ministry's intelligence unit even being involved at all in gathering this information from King, who was then being held in prison by the ministry, and passing it on to the Director-General and then to the Director of Public Prosecutions. She described that as information gathering `at large' and dangerous. Her attack has serious implications for the fight against crime and corruption not only in Western Australia but generally throughout Australia, because all law enforcement agencies, at both federal and state levels, depend upon this type of information flow.

King in particular was subjected to what a Queen's Counsel has described as forensic axe-work. The result is not only that doubts have been thrown over King's broad allegations but that the mates of the Liberal Party, Bradshaw and Hodgkinson included, who are waiting for their appeal and trial, suddenly find that the main witness against their particular matters has been discredited. In the Queen's Counsel's opinion the royal commission was in contempt of court in doing this and the royal commissioner, who intentionally allowed this to happen, should immediately resign. This has been put to the Western Australian Attorney-General, Mr Peter Foss, but he has refused to act.

And what has the royal commission done about the police investigations into Wanneroo which have been prematurely wound up? Nothing. It has conveniently decided that looking at the police investigations into Wanneroo is outside its terms of reference. Kyle predicted this when Roger Davis replaced him as chairman of the inquiry. The result was that Police Commissioner Falconer was not even asked when giving evidence why the investigation was wound up.

The royal commissioner made one exception in his ruling about police investigations. He allowed the examination in detail of the investigation of former police officer Wayde Smith. The not so surprising result was that counsel assisting says that Mrs Cheryl Edwardes, former Attorney-General and current Minister for Family and Children's Services, has been greatly maligned by the suggestions that she had been heard on tape discussing a bribe. And how did she come to that conclusion? Because the police officer in charge of the investigation, Detective McLeod, said so.

This is the head of the internal affairs unit recently criticised by the Chairman of the Western Australian Legislative Council Committee into the Police Force as being a failure in fighting corruption and more interested in concealing corruption than exposing it. It is the officers from this unit, along with the Deputy Police Commissioner, who are being disciplined over Argyle Diamonds.

This is the same officer who admitted in evidence that he had actively campaigned for Mrs Edwardes before the previous election. He also admitted that he had erased all the tapes and all the transcripts of the tapes, even though the Kyle inquiry had been re-established. Even the counsel assisting, who had carried out the attack on King, was forced to concede that that had been both `odd' and `unwise', but she said that she did not want to read anything into it more than that.

But there is more that is of concern in the police approach to Wanneroo. McLeod told the commission that he had been informed by former Wanneroo Councillor Sybil Roberts that she had been visited by uniformed police warning her to stop giving Bradshaw trouble. By his own admission, McLeod made no efforts of his own to follow this up, even though it was the exact role of his unit.

He also told the commission that the Police Bureau of Criminal Intelligence had been informed of an association between Bradshaw and convicted drug runner Allan Harriman. What had been done about this, or about contacts between Bradshaw and well-known criminal identity John Kizon? The royal commission has decided not to require Harriman to give evidence because his information is outside the terms of reference. Sounds familiar?

But there are other serious concerns being raised about the process of the royal commission. The Queen's Counsel's opinion has claimed that the commission is operating in an apparently biased way, saying that a reasonable member of the public could think it is being conducted as a `whitewash'. It is doing this by its aggressive discrediting of whistleblower David King. It is doing this by characterising the Ministry of Justice criminal intelligence gathering role in a way which will prevent the pursuit of corruption. It is doing this by the acceptance of the evidence of politically aligned and disciplined police officers like Ayton and McLeod and by accepting the evidence of those in the ministry whose mates have been charged with criminal offences or who are facing disciplinary offences themselves, against the whistleblowers who laid the charges. It has been done by `artificial' and `unreal' interpretation of the evidence presented, in the opinion of the Queen's Counsel.

The honest and fair people of Western Australia must be concerned—and, indeed, are very concerned—about this. We have a state government which has resisted investigating Wanneroo council as long as it could, because it knew that not only its mates but also its politicians were involved. We have senior police officers, some of whom are being disciplined themselves, who are politically connected to the government and who are carrying out the first stage of investigations and then destroying the evidence after another inquiry has been set up, which then winds up the second stage when investigating officers still have 17 lines of inquiry remaining open.

Then we have an apparently biased royal commission which is shooting the whistleblowers, and in a way that helps the government's mates in their upcoming court cases. In doing this it is in contempt of court, but nothing is done about it. It is a whitewash, pure and simple, and the whistleblowers are being shot to achieve it.

But it is not only the Western Australian government whose motives should be examined here. The federal government also has questions to answer.

In June of this year, the former Director-General of the Ministry of Justice, David Grant, approached the federal Attorney-General's Department with his concerns about the lack of action by the Western Australian authorities regarding Wanneroo. He was told that these were not federal issues, except for one matter. This was raised with Attorney-General Williams who referred it to the Australian Securities Commission. Their response was that it was too long ago and that the information was too vague, `but if there is some political pressure there might be some action'. Nothing has happened.

Where does this government stand on corruption? Is it going to do something about it or will it just protect its mates in the west? Whichever way you look at this entire Wanneroo saga, it is clear that there has been massive corruption and that corruption is being covered up to protect the interests of Richard Court and his government as it comes up to an election early next year. Now it seems the Howard government may be playing a role in this, and it is the whistleblowers and the honest people of Western Australia who want a decent system of justice who are suffering.