06/12/2005 - 21:00

Responsibility must be shared

06/12/2005 - 21:00

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State Scene expects to be voting, soon after New Year, in a by-election for the seat of Yokine, currently held by one-time Labor minister Bob Kucera.

Responsibility must be shared

State Scene expects to be voting, soon after New Year, in a by-election for the seat of Yokine, currently held by one-time Labor minister Bob Kucera.

The date of the by-election isn’t yet known but could be March or April.

A reading of a speech delivered by Mr Kucera in the Legislative Assembly late in the afternoon on November 24 strongly hints that he’s currently deciding on whether or not to resign from parliament.

Here are a few extracts from what is difficult not see as a valedictory speech.

 “I want to talk about three issues that relate to my electorate,” he said.

“I also want to address my previous ministerial portfolios, because I understand the premier will be making an announcement on ministerial portfolios, and other matters, this week, so this may be my last opportunity to speak on these issues in this house.”

Thereafter he thanked and praised a long list of people associated with him in his various ministerial and electoral duties since entering parliament in February 2001.

Mr Kucera then went on to strongly defend his wife, Susan, who, as readers of the daily print media will recall, was linked to his decision to leave cabinet.

“I want to talk about some of the issues that arisen [sic] not with me, but with my wife over the past few weeks,” he said.

“Without her I am nothing and my family is nothing.

“It has been an absolute tragedy to see my wife denigrated and put down the way she has been over the past few weeks because of some small-minded people on the other side of the house and some people in this town who write in newspapers.

“It was reprehensible to see her depicted in a cartoon with a sign behind her saying that greed is good …

“I did not talk much about Susan. I do not have to. Anybody who knows her would know that that cartoon did nobody any justice. Cartoons are meant to be laughed at. My wife is the sort of person whom nobody laughs at.

“Finally, I thank my wife Susan for the incredible support that she has given to me and for the incredible pain that she has had to go through over the past month for something she did not do and was not a part of.

“It is easy to score cheap political points, but nobody realises the impact it has had on people we love.

“I ask members to reflect on that because perhaps one day their wives will be in the same position. I love you, Susan.”

These emotionally charged lines show just how hurt Mr Kucera and his family have been over the Alinta shares affair, which State Scene is compelled to say was never fully explained to voters by Premier Geoff Gallop, at the time of Mr Kucera standing down or since.

All we appear to know is that Dr Gallop regarded it as a “stuff-up” not a “cover-up”.

For the sake of Mr and Mrs Kucera, if no-one else, it is therefore essential that this issue be cleared-up once and for all so that the public can forever be sure that neither was in any way involved in anything untoward or unethical.

They deserve nothing less.

Moreover, the past week or so of media attacks by Attorney-General Jim McGinty upon opposition leader Matt Birney, who first raised the Kucera-Alinta shares affair, indicate just how upset Mr McGinty, who is related to the Kucera family by marriage, has also been.

Mr McGinty even threatened to have Mr Birney’s gold share buying and selling activities investigated either by the Corruption and Crime Commission or parliament’s privileges committee.

Both are extremely powerful agencies and such a threat is, among other things, surely a measure of the feeling the Alinta shares affair has sparked within the extended Kucera family, which includes Mr McGinty.

Before proceeding to recommend how this matter should be satisfactorily, openly and democratically, resolved State Scene briefly recounts what was reported in this column several weeks ago.

Mr Kucera’s share portfolio, and activities within it, were known to certain Liberals last year, well before last February’s state election.

A Liberal staffer even alerted one of then opposition leader Colin Barnett’s senior staffers of these and recommended the Kucera portfolio be investigated in light of the Gallop cabinet’s decision to outlay nearly $90 million to help Alinta acquire the Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline from Epic Energy’s banks.

But nothing happened, meaning that the Barnett staffer may have decided there was no political mileage to be gained from it during the election campaign.

This is rather amazing since, at the previous election, shares held by a Liberal MP in a then active steel company that planned a smelting plant north of Geraldton was highlighted in the media and that certainly helped lift Labor in toppling the Court government.

Notwithstanding all that, certain people around Mr Birney concluded several months ago that it was time to revisit the whole issue of Alinta being subsidised into the natural gas pipeline by WA taxpayers and the Kuceras’ ownership of Altina shares.

The rest, as is so often said, is history.

Mr Kucera’s November 24 speech shows that neither he nor his wife is happy with the outcome and State Scene will be amazed if Mr Kucera does not soon announce he is exiting politics.

Clearly, Mr McGinty is also deeply upset, so much so that he wants to punish Mr Birney for his central role in sparking this affair.

However, it seems to be quite clear that it was not only the Kuceras who had traded in Alinta shares at around the time of the Gallop cabinet’s decision to back Alinta into gaining ownership of the Dampier to Bunbury pipeline, with $90 million assistance from taxpayers.

Other MPs or their spouses also seem to have been trading in this vibrant stock.

What is required, therefore, is for all such dealings to be brought out and put on the table so they can be investigated and openly assessed to see if everything was kosher and above board.

How many other Labor, or Liberal, National or Greens MPs, for that matter, were dealing in Alinta shares at around the time of the government’s backing of Alinta into acquiring the Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline, which no doubted boosted the value of those shares?

Such questions can only be answered if a properly constituted open inquiry is held into this matter and all those MPs who were involved in acquiring and/or disposing of Alinta shares during 2003 and 2004 are identified and fully investigated.

State Scene therefore believes a judicial inquiry into the Altina-Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline acquisition and how it may have affected the share dealings of any MPs and their families is required as a matter of urgency.

If it can be shown that news was improperly leaked from cabinet to certain MPs about this deal – and that the Gallop cabinet paved the way for such dealings – then the CCC should be called in to further investigate, as Mr McGinty suggested may be required in relation to Mr Birney’s gold shares dealings.

It’s therefore over to you, Mr McGinty, as attorney-general and it’s also for Mr Birney to strongly urge the convening of such an investigation.

Let’s also hope that Mr Kucera also backs such a suggestion.

Otherwise doubts will always remain about the Kuceras’ handling of their family assets.

Nothing short of a judicial inquiry is now desperately required.

Bring it on, Dr Gallop.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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