WA Premier Geoff Gallop has
gone to a great deal of trouble to make sure he’s leading a squeaky
clean government. But is that image becoming tarnished?

Last
year, Gallop instructed his ministers not to have any official dealings
with former Labor Premier Brian Burke, whose two 1980s governments came
under a barrage of criticism because of its links to entrepreneurs with
questionable reputations.

Although nothing like that has yet
happened to the Gallop Government, it was disclosed over the festive
season that the State Labor Party had received $10,000 from high-flying
Perth telco entrepreneur, Tim Ungar.

While Ungar had disclosed
his sizeable donation to the WA Electoral Commission, he heads the
Gallop Government’s business Round Table Group and is also chairman of
the WA Water Corporation, a position that carries a $106,000 annual
payment.

Then, a few days after the donation was disclosed, more
embarrassing details surfaced. It transpires that Ungar’s telco
business partner Peter Jones is a convicted drug dealer and bankrupt.

Jones,
a one-time Telstra regional manager, was charged in September 1997 for
operating a clandestine suburban hydroponic cannabis facility which
resulted in a $2000 fine and a two-year suspended sentence. And Ungar,
also a former Telstra executive, acted as a character referee for Jones
in the court case.

Gallop is currently out of the state on a
month-long holiday which means his deputy, Eric Ripper, is dodging the
flak in typical hard-nosed style.

“In making board appointments
the Government considers the character and merit of the individual
appointee and not that of his or her business associates,” Ripper said
yesterday.

Isn’t that the kind of thing they were saying during the glory days of WA Inc?

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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