Barnett re­fuses to front probe

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - JOE SPAG­NOLO Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

FOR­MER premier Colin Barnett has con­firmed he re­fused to front the McGowan Gov­ern­ment’s spe­cial in­quiry into WA’s record debt and deficit.

The Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, headed by for­mer un­der trea­surer John Lan­goulant, is prob­ing 26 projects started dur­ing Mr Barnett’s time in power.

Yes­ter­day, Cottes­loe’s Lib­eral MP said he had “de­clined to ap­pear” be­fore the $1.5 mil­lion in­quiry, which he dis­missed as a “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated” and “ex­pen­sive” ex­er­cise. “Lan­goulant ap­proached me. He posed a few ques­tions,” Mr Barnett said. “I gave him a brief writ­ten re­ply and de­clined to ap­pear.

“I don’t think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that mem­bers of par­lia­ment ap­pear.

“It is a Pub­lic Sec­tor Com­mis­sion In­quiry, it is meant to ap­ply to pub­lic ser­vants.”

An in­quiry spokesman said Mr Barnett would not be sub­poe­naed to ap­pear.

“I think the whole thing is largely a waste of money and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. That’s what it is — and it’s ex­pen­sive,” Mr Barnett said.

Speak­ing from China, where he is on a trip pro­mot­ing WA for stu­dents and tourists, Mr McGowan said: “It was (Mr Barnett’s) choice.

“But I would have thought he would want to ex­plain how he ac­cu­mu­lated $30-$40 bil­lion of ad­di­tional debt and ex­plain all of those var­i­ous projects and how they ended up blow­ing out and caus­ing the grief they caused.”

Lib­er­als, in­clud­ing Op­po­si­tion Leader Mike Na­han, be­lieve the in­quiry is noth­ing more than a witch-hunt and ar­gue it should in­clude La­borini­ti­ated projects. Dr Na­han and Na­tional Party leader Mia Davies this week fronted the Lan­goulant in­quiry.

The Sun­day Times can also re­veal Mr Lan­goulant has been granted an ex­ten­sion for hand­ing his re­port to the Pub­lic Sec­tor Com­mis­sioner. Orig­i­nally, it was sup­posed to be handed to the PSC this month.

Now, that dead­line has been pushed out to De­cem­ber 15 — five days be­fore the mid-year review of the State’s fi­nances is sup­posed to be handed down by Trea­surer Ben Wy­att. There is strong spec­u­la­tion, the in­quiry and the mid-year review will be re­leased to­gether.

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