The Ministers are running a mile in Western Australia whilst $250 million has been lost by a bunch of dodgy finance brokers. Is anyone in the Court government going to take responsibility for this outrage.

Perhaps Helen Shapiro should sue the WA Minister for Unfair Trading – Doug Shave for constantly using the words to her song: “I’m not not responsible, no no, not responsible.” Douggie’s at it again this week asking the public to believe he is not responsible for 15 mortgage brokers running off with $250 million (and the rest) of retirees funds. To prove his point he has set up the “Gunning Inquiry” to look into what his boys at the Ministry were up to but not too closely at his own involvement. Surprise, surprise “Gunning Inc” exonerated our embattled Douggie, who would never ask a senior public servant to ask the investigator to “lean-on” the broker to recover Douggie’s father-in-in-law’s $100,000. No No No, the investigator must be mistaken – he was only meant to share tea and Tim-Tams (using Rhonda Parker’s teaset). Gunning agrees – that must be how it was.

Meanwhile watchdog – for the consumers living in poverty, due to a slight case of maladministration – Denise Brailey, campaigned for a Royal Commission but has ended up with an Upper House committee instead. This week, as she wheeled a trolley load of documents (the truckies were the day before) into the Committee room to help out the members with evidence. But in a marvellously orchestrated Clayton’s move, the Libs used their power of veto – and in the spirit of open and accountable government (via Greg Smith) demanded Brailey’s evidence be heard in private. The fact that all evidence must be held in public wherever possible, is a minor irritation. Brailey cried foul, and graciously refused to give any evidence voluntarily, if it was to be heard in secret. She walked out announcing to all, that open and accountable government was a little thin on the ground here in the west. Greg Smith (the guru of parliamentary process) had used his power of veto without passing the intelligence test – which is to answer nosey reporter Simon Dowding’s hardline question – WHY? Good question Simon – but that is a bit difficult for our Smithy to answer!!!! The only answer to all four television crews: “It was personal and political!!!!!” Trouble was no-one in the party expected Brailey to walk out and, asking her to keep evidence quiet, was like trying to preserve icebergs on the equator. Smithy said “he was instructed to do so” but its not an abuse of parliamentary privilege – we believe you Greg – trouble is no-one “instructed” Greg what to say next in a dilemma, when confronted by hard hitting journos.

And where was our illustrious Premier (Tricky Dicky to his former friends)? Well naturally he has to stand by his man, yet again this week. He’s not responsible either -Shapiro’s getting a good run. Our Prem is the Minister for Public Sector Mismanagment, who gave the green light for the Gunning Games to begin, but hang on to your hats, he can’t read the report because his brother, Krafty Kenny is involved in the finance broker mess, so he has to pass it on to the Minister for Unfair Trading – who passes it back to the Prem – who says “what the heck” and reads it out to the Parliament. Now that was an Olympic Event without dope.

The Opposition, with leader Geoff Gallop leading the charge – cried out “sack the Minister” and “Royal Commission.” In the name of good government, the Government voted NO (for the tenth time). Conscience votes are obviously off the agenda this week. Three months out from an election (they’re booking the halls in case things get worse!!) the Libs are closing ranks – using the old panic strategy.

To be fair (and we always are) the Prem decides that the Public Trustee should manage the mess for a while. Hang on: didn’t the Supreme Court ask the PT to do that last year and they declined? Yep, they sure did, the PT told the Judge that they’re in the same position as the retirees – they aren’t too flush with funds. So how can they manage 700 people? But of course – our Prem is Treasurer too, and he can push buttons and create funds at will!!!! So why didn’t he do so last year? I think that’s why he’s called Tricky Dicky and it may have something to do with being Krafty Ken’s brother. Obviously, they wanted to prolong the agony for investors until election time – the Prem kept saying during the past twelve months “wait until Gunning Inc – and then we will think of something else.” Yes Premier!!!!!

And where is the Finance Broker’s Board Chairman this week? CRIKEY, he has “no comment” – well at least we can praise him for consistency because whilst retirees bank accounts were being raped pillaged and plundered, he only ever commented how well the Board enjoyed tea and Tim Tams at their regular review meetings and how pleased their Minister was with the Boards “non-performance policies”.

Down at the Courts, our favorite broker, the aptly named Graeme Grubb, tried in vain to convince the Judge that $5 million worth of milking of funds was a slight case of mismanagment and maladminstration (it’s a government thing!). No, no, not responsible for fraud. Well the good judge didn’t quite believe Grubby and sentence him to 10 years with parole. Lots of loans were arranged by borrowing from the inside. Good business prospects for new clientele and new centres of influence – perhaps a few others will be joining him soon?

Meanwhile down in Princeland – remember the Minister for Police and Other Matters Kevin Prince? He had to line up with other retirees to ask the nice man Leon K Jamieson (mortgage broker to the party faithful) to sell all his assets. Jolly nice of you Leon. And this very same Prince has to look after the interests of the trustee whose money has disappeared into “the black hole” as quoted in the Gunning Inc Report. A few more hundred investors aren’t even registered on the title of any property, and what is the Prince’s response? Yep, right again: “not not not responsible”.

Premier Court has tried to defuse the controversy, saying “not only Liberal members embroiled in the scandal.” Well if any of the Opposition are involved surely each of the six singing Ministers would have spilt the politically motivated beans by now. “Just because you belong to a political party doesn’t mean that you don’t borrow money,” he said. Perhaps our Prem needs to attend a few “creating wealth” seminars – particularly the bit about over-valuing the properties.

So, what did the Gunning Report achieve? Well, every West Australian now knows what Brailey had told the Minister for Lounging Around (Douggie to his former friends) in 1998 – that nasty little finance brokers had been enjoying a roller coaster ride of defaulting loans since 1993 and it cost $2 million for Clough’s mate, Ivan Gunning, to write a few details on paper. So who did Ivan say was responsible? No, no, not the government, nor the Minister for LA, nor the Minister for Other Matters (the Prince), nor the former Minister for Unfair Trading Peter Foss (current Attorney General) nor the former Minister for Unfair Trading Cheryl Edwardes (former AG). In fact our learned Judge – mindful of a looming election – dropped the entire blame on the Finance Brokers Board and its self interested industry members who forgot to warn the public, but reminded themselves in 1996 that some practices were unacceptable. And several key witnesses weren’t called because Ivan wanted other developing matters dealt with and we’re running out of time. Phew the Prem must be relieved that we can now sweep the rest of it under the carpet.

Just a slight problem here – the taxpayers purse is dwindling also – $6 million has been spent asking a few questions around town – 45 fraud squad members are on the job and Tricky Dicky is still hoping the public are a gullible lot, who believe we don’t need a Royal Commission. His election strategy must include using the euphoria over the Olympics, because it’s all downhill skiing from then on.

Meanwhile, back to Douggie – because he’s always good value – he called the press to view his ministerial prowess at the arduous task of inspecting kiddies showbags, because its showtime – just in case nasty brokers who are a little poverty stricken themselves right now – are hitting on the younger generation and shortchanging lollypops in the showbags. Well done Douggie. But who came along to rain on the Minister for LA’s parade? A retiree called Fidge – a worse menace than Brailey. Fidge has been running around town with sandwich signs saying “no Confidence in the Minister.” Fidge claims he’s likely to “pop up” anywhere anytime the Minister takes a break from lunch on the terrace.

And a final note on the former Minister for Seniors Interest, Rhonda Parker. When was she advised of WA Seniors in need of tea and sympathy and few dollars? Yep in 1998, in fact she helped sponsor the senior’s magazine “Have A Go” which ran ads each week for failed broker Global Finance. What was Rhonda’s response? She spent $6000 on a “teaset” which made front page at the West Oz last year. This initiative was greeted with gratitude of course – a very generous offer, particularly since her department received over $200,000 to promote the International Year of the Older person last year. The support group asked for a few pennies and ended up on the reject pile. Onya Rhonda, way to go. And go she did – a few months later. Who was responsible for Senior’s Interests in 1999 while bank pass books were being used for winter fuel? Not, not the six Ministers in the Cabinet no no no. CRIKEY, they were busy in any case developing the next chapter in the Brokers Scandal and keeping the spin-doctors busy. Perhaps they should be concentrating on the royalties factor for Shapiro.

And a further final word from our retiree on the spot in South Australia. They have the same problem of brokers lending hard earned cash to those in jail, creating more stories of retiree funded loans which go belly up. The SA Consumer Affairs Dept have had to pay in excess of $20 million up to 1995 and now they are being asked to scrounge another $2 million in compensation payments to retirees with defaulting loans. We are told the star football player cum broker who lost the $20 million is having a “clinical breakdown” – reminiscent of the Bond thing. The Premier’s advice two years ago, was for retirees to take civil action. The Attorney General has now encouraged one retiree, according to sources, to resign from the action group “class action” and “we will pay you a compo payment.” Nice chaps in South Aust. How does this help the taxpayers to recover funds? Good Question. CRIKEY, another AGM needs an attempted hi-jack. The Adelaide Advertiser has run three “page 40” stories in as many years whilst $67 Million was left in a defaulting heap. Who’s Who in AA land?

The Dingo

Peter Fray

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