A legal opinion commissioned by the Opposition has declared that the Bill to reappoint John McKechnie QC as Commissioner of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) is valid.
Liberal Leader Liza Harvey yesterday tabled an opinion from former solicitor-general Grant Donaldson SC that concluded “there is no reason to doubt the validity of the Corruption Crime and Misconduct Bill 2020”, which would reappoint Mr McKechnie as Commissioner for another five years, if procedurally validly enacted.
However, the Liberals are still refusing to support the Bill.
Attorney General John Quigley said he was baffled by debate in the Legislative Assembly yesterday which included high praise and plaudits for Mr McKechnie from every Liberal speaker yet a refusal to support valid legislation to reappoint him.
Opposition justice spokesman Peter Katsambanis described Mr McKechnie as a “very, very effective” Commissioner and Ms Harvey is on record as pledging “unequivocal” support for Mr McKechnie in the lead-up to the Bill’s introduction.
The Bill has become necessary because the Joint Standing Committee of the Corruption and Crime Commission (JSCCCC) has twice blocked the reappointment.
The committee includes two members of the Legislative Council, Liberal Jim Chown and Greens Leader Alison Xamon.
The CCC has been investigating the expenditure of electoral allowances by Members of Parliament and is in a legal dispute with the Legislative Council over its refusal to hand over potential evidence.
During the debate, Liberal MP John McGrath called on his Leader to “get together with the Premier to come up with a way forward to expedite any necessary legislation to overcome this impasse”.
Mr McGrath told the Parliament: “Unfortunately, for one reason or another this political stalemate does not look good for my party, the Liberal Party. Almost every day in my electorate I am asked by Liberal supporters, “John, what is the issue with McKechnie?” I answer, “I do not really know. I cannot tell you.” My supporters and supporters of the Liberal Party are asking this question, because out there in the public perception there is a view that the Liberal Party is not being supportive of John McKechnie due to his inquiries into members of Parliament and their expenses.”
Debate on the Bill was adjourned yesterday and is expected to resume next week.
Mr McKechnie led a number of important investigations including into North Metropolitan Health Service procurement, the former trade commissioner to Japan Craig Peacock, the activities of the former clinical trials manager at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and the activities of Paul Whyte who has allegedly stolen government funds over a number of years.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“The State Government has been left with no choice but to introduce this extraordinary piece of legislation to reappoint the best Commissioner in our State’s history.
“The Liberals cannot claim to be tough on crime while they fail to back our top crime-fighter.
“Labor member of the JSCCCC Matthew Hughes told the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that he saw no information which would have precluded Mr McKechnie’s reappointment.
“There is serious doubt about this process under the parliamentary committee, which is a child of the Parliament, and it is only right that the committee’s parent – the Parliament – vote as a whole on this important affair of State.
“What could be more democratic than putting Mr McKechnie’s vote to the entire Parliament in a Bill that is valid?
“During the debate, it became evident that the Liberal Opposition is prepared to do anything and come up with any excuse to prevent Mr McKechnie’s reappointment.
“The way that the Liberal and National parties have responded to this situation is nothing short of disgraceful. They have put their own interests ahead of the those of Western Australians.
“The reappointment of Mr McKechnie is in the best interests of Western Australia and I would now urge the Liberal Party to do the right thing and see him reinstated into this role.”