Easton inquiry sparks nasty comments THE Marks Royal Commission into the Easton affair was shaping up as a political point scoring device for the Liberal Party both federally and in Western Australia, this week 10 years ago, with state cabinet rejecting federal pressure to wind up the inquiry and results of a poll revealing the Commission was working against the Keating government.Then Prime Minister Paul Keating was reported to have made comments describing the establishment of the Commission by the former WA premier Richard Court as the "nastiest, meanest, most vindicative action of any government leader in recent times".Mr Court reportedly responded by calling Mr Keating’s attack as "the height of evil" and declared the prime minister’s intimidation tactics would not work in WA.The then federal opposition leader John Howard, said Mr Keating was seeking to destroy the Commission and the people with it, because he was frightened of an adverse finding against Dr Lawrence, who was then federal health minister.Support for the federal government had been eroded and the coalition’s position improved, as the Easton affair appeared to have captured the attention of the electorate, according to an AGB McNair AgePoll.The poll said that support for Labor was 13 points behind the coalition, with the Easton Royal Commission hitting Labor in the polls. ALP support was down three points to 32 per cent in WA, the AgePoll said. Mr Howard also led Mr Keating as preferred prime minister, 48 per cent to 39 per cent.Exploration spending higher SPENDING on exploration for petroleum jumped sharply during 1994-95, while other mineral exploration was also up solidly, official figures showed. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, spending by private companies on petroleum exploration totalled $683.6 million last financial year, or almost 35 per cent above the level recorded during 1993-94. Most of the surge came in offshore activity, where spending of $519.8 million was more than 43 per cent up on the previous year. Onshore, spending was up by more than 13 per cent at $163.8 million. For other minerals, exploration spending was up by almost 13 per cent to $893.3 million during 1994-95, by far the highest annual spending during the 1990s. The largest increase was a 22 per cent lift in gold exploration spending to $554.5 million. Spending also increased in the search for coal, copper, lead, zinc, silver, nickel and cobalt.Falls were recorded in exploration spending on iron ore, mineral sands and diamonds. Victoria recorded the fastest rate of annual increase, although the more important mineral states, Western Australia and Queensland, accounted for more than three-quarters of the national increase.