“Brian Burke has finally had a stake driven through his heart,” an observer of Wild West politics told Crikey today.

Are they going for a record for the number of ministers going in the shortest number of days? Whatever the case, the sacking of Western Australia’s Small Business Minister Norm Marlborough has exposed yet again the weakness of the Carpenter Labor government.

Marlborough got the boot after secret Corruption and Crime Commission phone taps – transcripts here and (not work safe) audio here – revealed he had lied about his dealings with disgraced former premier Brian Burke.

Marlborough and Burke could now both face perjury charges.

In August, the then police minister John D’Orazio went after video surveillance showed him meeting a person of interest to the CCC. Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich is just hanging onto her job after the CCC revealed her department failed to adequately pursue sex allegations against teachers.

Premier Alan Carpenter had faced fierce criticism for appointing Marlborough to the ministry.

WA Business News has commented: “Labor more than the Liberals appear to specialise in employing family and friends, factional pals and/or ideological ‘blood brothers and/or sisters’. Ministerial staffing appears to be the honey pot that too many relatives, pals and ideological buddies see as their rightful spoils of office.”

The problem is not restricted to ministerial offices. It appears to reach right up to a Cabinet level. Mal-administration may also be a problem for the public service. The West Australian today reports comments by CCC lawyer Stephen Hall:

He also warned that some witnesses who had testified would be recalled because they had been “less than frank”. They should not “aggravate their position by continuing to maintain a false story”.

“The commission is investigating whether senior public officers have engaged in serious abuses of power in a range of other matters not restricted to Smiths Beach,” Mr Hall said.

“These broader investigations have occupied the commission for some time and have involved the collection of information that supports the proposition that serious misconduct by public officers has, may have, or is occurring.”

Mr Hall said anyone who had given evidence but now wished to change their testimony would be given “sympathetic consideration”. But the CCC refused to say whether they could be offered indemnity from criminal prosecution

It may be too late for Labor – not that they didn’t have a warning.

Back when Geoff Gallop left, the Weekend Australian reported: “Political sources said the struggle with Burke’s continuing presence in the halls of power was a factor in the depression that led the factionally-unaligned Gallop to resign.”

Peter Fray

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