Neale Fong and Jim McGinty: the plot thickens.

Ah, Western Australian politics. Such a festering sewer.

I wrote last week about Neale Fong, overpaid Health Department bigwig, being forced to resign. The trigger was the Crime and Corruption Commission report recommending disciplinary action and possible prosecution – after they found that Fong gave false information under oath regarding his dealings with WA Inc felon and “lobbyist” Brian Burke.

Now it’s looking like Health Minister McGinty might be following him down the gurgler.

McGinty initially supported Fong, but someone seemed to have had a word in his ear about that a few days ago. According to PerthNow’s four-day-old update “McGinty Turns on Fong“:

Just hours after praising Neale Fong, Health Minister Jim McGinty turned on his former health boss. McGinty said he had deceived him, failed to deliver on key health reforms and that no other public servant should receive such an extravagant salary package.

With his own position now under scrutiny, Mr McGinty sought to distance himself from Dr Fong […]

The Health Minister said he was embarrassed for having put his faith and trust in the man who had been Australia’s highest-paid public servant. “It’s embarrassing,” Mr McGinty said. “It’s very difficult because I just rely on complete honesty about everything that’s happening.”

Following Dr Fong’s resignation, Mr McGinty said he felt disappointed the health boss hadn’t fully disclosed his ties with Mr Burke.

[…]

Mr McGinty was adamant he would not resign. “Ministers can’t be held responsible for things they don’t know are happening,” he said.

Oh, but it gets worse. Much, much worse. Troy Buswell, bra-snapping boozer and newly-minted Leader of the Opposition, has some meaty allegations about McGinty that suggest that Things May Not Be Quite As They Seem.

The West reports:

Opposition Leader Troy Buswell has handed documents to the media that he claims prove Health Minister Jim McGinty instructed former Health Department director general Neale Fong on how he should downplay his relationship with disgraced former premier Brian Burke.

Mr Buswell said that in an email dated March 6, 2007, a media officer for Mr McGinty suggested that Dr Fong should say he did not have any personal or professional business dealings with Mr Burke.

The email suggested that Dr Fong say he had never met Mr Burke in respect of Health Department matters.

A preceding email from Dr Fong’s office to Mr McGinty’s media officer suggested attributing to Dr Fong the fact that he had “met Brian Burke as a 14-year-old when he was the local Member of Parliament”.

It also suggested the comment: “He (Brian Burke) has been a casual acquaintance (of Dr Fong’s) over the past 30 years.”

Mr Buswell said the emails clearly put Mr McGinty front and centre in the process of trying to cover up Dr Fong’s relationship with Mr Burke.

“What these documents clearly show is that in March of last year Jim McGinty was actively involved in putting words in the mouth of Neale Fong to help him explain away his relationship with Brian Burke and his attendance at the Perugino’s dinner,” he said.

“Jim McGinty has attempted to portray himself as a victim in the Brian Burke email scandal. What we now know is that he has been actively involved since at least March, helping (to) put words into Neale Fong’s mouth and spin him out of a very awkward situation.”

[…]

Mr McGinty denied he had been embarrassed by the latest emails and questioned why he would want to conceal a relationship with somebody he had been battling for decades.

“It is just a different way of expressing the same issue,” he said.

What say ye? Trumped-up diversion by Buswell, or is the WA government crumbling in slow motion in another WA Inc style scandal?



Categories: Politics

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7 replies

  1. There is more on the sketchy FOI shenanigans here: ”Fong affair highlights FOI madness”. According to Keryn McKinnon [bold is mine]:

    The Corruption and Crime Commission report has shown how lame the Health Department was when it came to dealing with an FOI application from the Opposition seeking any emails between former health boss Neale Fong and Brian Burke. The report found the initial search was based solely on the word of Dr Fong and two of his senior staff members.
    It makes no mention whether, if at any point, the director-general’s office instigated an electronic search for any emails between the pair.
    Rather, this is what transpired.
    April 2 – the department’s acting FOI coordinator contacts Dr Fong’s executive staff asking them to search for any documents falling within the scope of the application.
    April 16 – An executive staff member replies via email “…we are fairly sure there will be no documents that fall within the scope of the application…Neale is sure there won’t be any relevant documents.”
    April 27 – Another staffer emails “…very happy to say that our response is NIL… We are not aware of any corres (sic) to or from Neale to either of these people (Mr Burke or Julian Grill.”
    And that was that. Or it would have been if the Opposition had not already been leaked a copy of an email between Mr Burke and Dr Fong.
    Without that ‘smoking gun’ we would all be none the wiser about how the FOI process could so easily be abused.

    Lauredhel’s last blog post..Neale Fong and Jim McGinty: the plot thickens.

  2. And McGinty has released ALL the FOI Documents it provided to the Libs.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/31/2151614.htm
    There goes The West’s drip feed from Boozewell 🙂

  3. [There goes The West’s drip feed from Boozewell :-)]
    And as predicted, The West have dropped the FOI angle like a ton of bricks, instead going on about a mythical “Golden Handshake”, despite Carpenter saying Fong was only entitled to accrued leave and 4 weeks worth of wages.

  4. Oh Dear, it seems Troyboy’s “revelations” yesterday were emails already debated in the Parliament by Omodei 🙂
    http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,23142587-2761,00.html

  5. Of course, his four weeks’ wages is reported as being around $43 000, which sure feels like a golden handshake to the rest of us.
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..Mitt Romney and his Black Best Friends

  6. Oh Dear, it seems Troyboy’s “revelations” yesterday were emails already debated in the Parliament by Omodei 🙂

    *shakes head* I think I might retain this “popcorn politics” tag indefinitely – it’s not going away in WA any time soon.
    I’m picturing them all blundering around a room with buckets on their heads, periodically banging into each other and yelling “OW!” “That was YOUR fault!” “No, YOURS!”
    We need a WA politics drinking game! Everytime takes a sip when someone says:
    – sleaze
    – burke
    – corruption
    – cover-up
    – misled
    – rehash
    A half glass when someone says
    – I didn’t receive that
    – I didn’t notice that
    – I haven’t been briefed on that
    And a full drink for the whole room when someone says
    – I don’t recall
    *hic*
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..Mitt Romney and his Black Best Friends

  7. Speaking of The West, it seems it was Burkie himself who was behind The West’s campaign to have the Burke Gag lifted.
    http://www.postnewspapers.com.au/20080202/news/013.shtml

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