The West Australian Liberal Party and the Prime Minister have been acutely embarrassed by the preselection and subsequent resignation of Paul Afkos for the Federal seat of Stirling after his connections to a notorious drug dealer were pointed out.
You would think by now that John Howard might have the good sense to stay right away from the Western Australian Liberal Party. The local Party hicks never fail to embarrass him and shame the Party.
During his last visit he enthusiastically embraced the Liberal Party’s shiny new candidate for the marginal federal seat of Stirling, one Paul Afkos. Howard told the assembled gathering at the Stirling campaign launch what a wonderful and outstanding candidate Afkos was.
In all fairness to the Prime Minister, he was relying on the recommendation of the local Liberal Party hierarchy. However, that should have been enough of a warning to Howard to have him thoroughly checked out.
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It turns out that Mr Paul Afkos had borrowed money from a convicted criminal jailed for 5 years and ten months for drug offences. The same drug trafficker from whom Mr Afkos borrowed the money is also presently facing fresh charges over amphetamines with a street value of $5 million.
There is no suggestion that Mr Afkos was in any way associated with the drug dealing or that he has been accused of any wrong doing.
The man has been described as a long term friend of Mr Afkos’. As the ‘West Australian’ newspaper has pointed out, this drug dealer was not a bit-player in Perth’s drug scene. Jailed in December 1999 after being caught in an intricate undercover police operation, the 57 year old was then the middle man in a drug chain linking two of Perth’s best known players and high powered Eastern States drug net works.
Afkos borrowed $300,000 from the convicted drug dealer to help build a multi-million-dollar hotel in Greece. The money has been clawed back from Mr Afkos by the DPP under Western Australian criminal confiscation laws because it has been established as a debt owed to the drug dealer.
The current charges against the drug dealer relate to drugs allegedly found in a utility driven by the drug dealer and owned by Mr Afkos. Mr Afkos has said in the past few days that he had lent the utility to the Floreat Athena Soccer Club. The ‘West Australian’ reports that Mr Afkos “knew at the time that the man was driving the vehicle”. He also told the ‘West’ “he knew the man was a convicted drug dealer who had been sentenced in December 1999 to five years and ten months in jail.”
As if to prove that he has quickly slipped into the ways of the WA liberal Party, State Director, Paul Everingham’s initial response to this political disaster was to dismissively announce to the world that he had conducted an investigation of Mr Afkos’s involvement and was satisfied Mr Afkos had complied with all his legal obligations. Mr Afkos’ endorsement was not under threat said Mr Everingham.
Political perceptions have nothing to do with WA liberal Party decisions. Graham Richardson may have said: “whatever it takes”. In the WA liberal Party it is: “whatever you can get away with”.
After two front page banner headlines, ‘Liberal candidate linked to drug probe’ and ‘Afkos took money from drug dealer’, Howard’s office stepped in, furious with the disaster that continued to unfold. Afkos resigned. However Howard was not to know the extent of it.
A third banner headline, ‘Libs hid Afkos deal for months’, appeared the following day.
It transpires that senior Liberal Party officials had known for two months that Mr Afkos had taken $300,000 from the accused drug trafficker. Afkos had told the Party in December about his involvement with the man.
Everingham then admitted that he knew about the $300,000 loan and of the drug charges. However Everingham and the inexperienced political wanabes, who claim control of the Party, have abolished pre-selections where there is only one candidate.
The Afkos revelation came from a Party member. Had Afkos been subject to a Branch pre-selection scrutiny he would never have got through the system. The experienced rank and file would have rejected the man Everingham and the Party officials fought to hang onto.
As the ‘West Australian’ reported, “despite whispers about his involvement in the case, Mr Afkos was endorsed by the liberal State Council on November 29.” Everingham and the State President apparently though this ticking time bomb was so unimportant that the rest of the Party needed not know about it. How ever they thought it was going to stay underground until election day is anybody’s guess.
Everingham claims he had a lawyer look at the matter. This was nothing to do with the law and everything to do with appalling political judgment. With typical WA liberal Party irony, the Prime Minister launched his tough on drugs campaign in Perth the same day he launched the Afkos’ campaign.
Afkos has no history with the Liberal Party and no previous involvement. He was selected because he just happened to be a mate of former Stirling President Bob Cronin.
That’s how it is in the Liberal Party these days.
Cronin had himself joined the Liberal Party prior to the last federal election to stand for Stirling at the urging of a Liberal mate. This is the same Cronin who as a previous Editor of the ‘West Australian’ had openly called for the re-election of the Labor Party in the darkest hours of the WA Inc scandal.
Cronin was also a disaster as a candidate but he did get through to election day.