The transcript of Wednesday night’s Lateline story The Fall and Rise of Brian Burke is being carefully analysed in Perth. Although Burke, the program’s central figure, declined to appear, one of his successors as state premier, Carmen Lawrence, did. And Dr Lawrence chose her words carefully, almost as if being coached.

Why the intense interest in the Lateline coverage? Because a growing number of Perth political watchers suspect that the clinically depressed Geoff Gallop, who banned his ministers from having official contacts with Burke, was either pushed or assisted out of the premiership by Brian Burke’s supporters. And according to this early line of thinking Lawrence could be the next victim, losing endorsement for her blue ribbon Fremantle seat.

Many Burke loyalists have not forgiven Lawrence for setting up the WA Inc Royal Commission. At the time, Gallop was an up and coming Lawrence government minister.

Sharp pencils have been used on the many copies of the transcripts of the program doing the rounds to underline each of Dr Lawrence’s responses:

LATELINE: But it’s Brian Burke’s political legacy that remains the defining issue today for many on both sides of politics. Former Premier Carmen Lawrence established the Royal Commission that ultimately led to her predecessor’s downfall. Are people scared of Brian Burke?

CARMEN LAWRENCE: Some people probably are. They probably exaggerate the influence he has within the party and within the community. I don’t see why they should be afraid of him, but that’s a possibility.

LATELINE: Does he still have scores to settle, in your view?

CARMEN LAWRENCE: Well, some people have suggested that’s the case.

LATELINE: Who?

CARMEN LAWRENCE: Well, I wouldn’t want to speculate about that, but that’s what you hear said within the Labor Party, that there are scores being settled from time to time. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. I don’t maintain contact with the ins and outs of the local party.

LATELINE: Do you think he has a vendetta?

CARMEN LAWRENCE: I have no idea whether he’s entertaining such an idea. But as I was … there are people who are concerned that that’s the case…

Look, I think it’s important that people such as Brian, anyone for that matter who’s been in his position, [are] allowed to go ahead and make a living and make choices about how he supports his family. But I think there’s a bigger problem in Australia and in some ways the position of Mr Burke illustrates it. And that is, that there are politicians, including, for instance, Peter Reith, the former premier of NSW, Bob Carr, and Mr Burke who use their connections within the political parties from which they came to further the interests of corporations who employ their services and I have a very real concern about that.

All eyes will soon be focused on the Fremantle pre-selection.

Peter Fray

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