In the new world of
post-Gallop Western Australian politics, the redemption of Brian Burke
is gathering pace. A growing number of senior Labor MPs are now
publicly singing the praises of the disgraced former premier, with some
even claiming he was a victim of misplaced justice by the early 1990s WA
Inc Royal Commission.

Labor’s pro-Burke push was effectively
launched by new premier Alan Carpenter immediately after taking over
from Geoff Gallop last month, when he decreed that as far as he was
concerned the days of knocking and ostracising Burke by his government
were over. This was in contrast to Gallop’s ban on Labor ministers
having any official contact with Burke, the ex-premier still regarded
as the state’s “premier lobbyist.”

That title comes on top of
another – “lobbyist of last resort” – suggesting that some even see him
as a kind of shadow premier – a man who can get things done. The newly
appointed small business minister, Norm Marlborough, a 30-year Burke
mate, promptly declared that he knew on the day he first met Burke, in
1976, that he’d encountered “a political genius who had no bounds to
his skills and ability.”

According to Marlborough, Burke’s brush
with the law could be attributed to the go-get-em mood that pervaded
the state at the time of the Royal Commission into WA Inc. “The way the
royal commission was run, I don’t think there was ever going to be any
other outcome other than Brian being severely penalised,” Marlborough told the Sunday Times on the weekend. “He was unfairly sent to prison.”

And his
stand has been endorsed by Carpenter’s new energy minister, John
Bowler, who told the West that Burke was penalised for “double-dipping on a travel
claim for which other State and Federal MPs have done the same and
never been charged.”

Former federal MHR Graeme Campbell, who was
removed from the ALP by Paul Keating, is no fan of Burke’s but told Crikey he
believed that he was harshly dealt with by being jailed. He said the ruling against him
on the travel issues was based on differing evidence given by two
public servants and there’s no way “he should have been jailed on such
evidence.”

But the Liberals won’t have a bar of the new forgive
and forget mood. Deputy leader Troy Buswell says Labor was insulting WA
taxpayers who were still paying for Labor’s disgraced past.

“Alan
Carpenter’s warm embracement of Brian Burke would be more palatable if
Burke, and some other Labor people, had repaid some of the billion
dollar losses owed to the community,” Mr Buswell told the press. “Is the Premier
aware that the community of WA is still paying for the WA Inc
corruption entrenched by his new mate, Brian Burke?”

“But much more disconcerting for the community is whether our new Premier is now beholden to the architect of WA Inc?”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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