06/03/2007 - 22:00

Dealing with fallout from the CCC

06/03/2007 - 22:00


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Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry has become a much bigger issue than any observer would have predicted at the outset – or even at the start of last week.

Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry has become a much bigger issue than any observer would have predicted at the outset – or even at the start of last week.

The inquiry has demonstrated – with increasing clarity as it has proceeded – the wide and surprisingly powerful influence of former premier Brian Burke and his business partner, Julian Grill.

As the revelations have become more explosive and damaging, it is important to ensure the response does not cause even more damage.

The resignation last weekend of federal MP Ian Campbell from the ministry over his very slight links to Mr Burke is a cause for concern.

The forced resignation is widely seen as a political move that will allow the federal government to maintain its attack on opposition leader Kevin Rudd.

This might be seen simply as part of the cut and thrust of vigorous political competition.

The worry is that it further damages the concept of ministerial responsibility, which is applied in a remarkably flexible manner by governments across the country, including in Canberra.

The federal government is right to question Mr Rudd over his links to Mr Burke but it needs to be careful that it does not adopt the negative campaigning that has become a blight on American politics.

There are apparent inconsistencies between Mr Rudd’s version of events, concerning his three meetings with Mr Rudd, and other evidence, including the leaked email from Mr Burke to guests at the now famous dinner at Perugino restaurant in West Perth.

Mr Rudd has also been strangely vague when asked what was discussed.

He has one important fact on his side: Mr Burke has often embellished stories to suit his own purposes, and the email could be just another example of Mr Burke exploiting an opportunity.

The evidence against Messrs Burke and Grill should present a compelling case to the State Labor Party to reform itself. 

The resignation of Premier Alan Carpenter, which one national newspaper called for, would not be a constructive step in that process.

Mr Carpenter has made some big mistakes but he is not a factional player and is well intentioned when he calls for change, though the continued presence of MP Shelley Archer in the party indicates his limited power.

Ms Archer’s husband, Kevin Reynolds, illustrates many of the problems with Labor. He is the boss of WA’s most militant and destructive union, the CFMEU, yet he is also a factional leader in the party by virtue of the union’s financial muscle, its votes in the party’s decision-making forums and his network of friends, which include Mr Burke.

Reducing the influence of factional warhorses like Messrs Reynolds and Burke should be one of the top priorities for Labor in WA.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan has spoken out on the need for reform, including moves to reduce the voting power of unions and introduce secret ballots in the party’s decision-making forums.

It is notable that Mr Carpenter and Ms MacTiernan, who advocate reform, do not have a strong factional base, so have nothing to lose.

Their prospects of success are slight unless they also win support from party powerbrokers such as left faction leader, Attorney-General Jim McGinty, and new right faction leader, Housing and Works Minister Michelle Roberts.

The Burke affair also highlights shortcomings in government decision-making, where access to ministers has often depended on having the right lobbyists and where political appointees wield influence beyond their capacity and experience.


Private companies

After the depressing scandals and sackings of the Burke affair, it is heartening for a business journalist to focus on some positive business stories.

This week’s cover story features five eminent Western Australians who in recent years have been named Ernst & Young’s Champions of Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur was a dirty word for many years after the misdeeds of the 1980s, but Ernst & Young and winners such as Stan Perron, Len Buckeridge, Jack Bendat, Fred Rae and Harold Clough have revived the term.

The five men agree that WA’s economic boom will be long lasting and they cheer on the young entrepreneurs who are making their mark today.

WA Business News also seeks to recognise the state’s young entrepreneurs, most notably through our annual 40under40 and Rising Stars awards programs.

These programs highlight individuals and businesses making big contributions to the state’s continuing prosperity.

The current boom could give the misleading impression that making money in business is like a walk in the park.

This week’s private business feature highlights the success stories in WA. In many cases they are companies exposed to the booming resources and property sectors.

It also reveals the difficulties and challenges facing several iconic WA businesses, which have not shared in the boom-time profits.

Their stories indicate that the business world remains highly competitive, especially for those facing import competition, and is inherently risky.


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