Political stoush ends McKechnie’s time as WA corruption watchdog, despite premier’s backing

By Shannon Jenkins

April 28, 2020


Western Australia’s corruption commissioner will not be reappointed despite support from the premier and the state opposition leader.

Premier Mark McGowan on Monday refused to appoint a replacement for John McKechnie, who has led the Corruption and Crime Commission for five years, after the parliamentary committee tasked with appointing a CCC boss refused to endorse McKechnie.

McGowan and Attorney-General John Quigley have claimed Liberal MP Jim Chown voted against the reappointment because of a CCC investigation into former Upper House Liberal Phil Edman, who allegedly used taxpayer-funded allowances to pay for strip clubs, travel, wine, and expenses related to his yacht.

“You can’t give in to terrorists. You give in to terrorists, they just continue to terrorise and that’s what the Liberal party is doing,” the premier told reporters on Monday.

Last week the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission — made up of Chown, Labor MPs Margaret Quirk and Matthew Hughes, and Greens MP Alison Xamon — said it was “unable to reach either a bipartisan or a majority decision”.

READ MORE: Stand-off between WA parliament and top public servant headed for Supreme Court

Quirk, who chairs the committee, has rejected McGowan’s suspicions.

“Because of unfounded public speculation about the motives for the committee’s previous deliberations, it has resolved to unequivocally reject any suggestion that the motivation for any members not supporting the appointment recommendation was the Corruption and Crime Commission’s focus on parliamentary electoral allowances,” she said in a statement.

“Discussion on what did or did not occur in the committee, and imputing motives to individuals, does not progress a constructive way forward.

“The nature of those discussions is not detailed because it includes information provided by third parties in confidence and matters which may impact on the operational performance of the commission.”

McGowan described the refusal to reappoint McKechnie as “very frustrating and very, very concerning”, describing the watchdog as “a corruption fighter unlike any we have ever seen before in Western Australia”.

He hopes state parliament will pass legislation to reappoint McKechnie, but it is unlikely, despite support from Liberal leader Liza Harvey.

WA’s chief justice Peter Quinlan has also voiced support for the outgoing CCC chief.

READ MORE: Corruption commissioner might resign, senior public servants caught in constitutional crossfire

McKechnie told ABC Radio Perth last week he wanted to continue in the job.

“Why anybody would think it’s a good idea to decapitate the corruption commission when it’s in the middle of about seven or eight major investigations, I don’t know,” he said.

“And if anybody thought getting rid of me will stop the work, I think they’d be sadly mistaken, because whoever takes over will continue that work.”

McKechnie has led a number of high profile investigations, including recent probes into the WA Health Department and the Department of Communities, and the actions of two employees from the Office of the Auditor General.

His term expires on April 28.

READ MORE: Information of 8800 WA Police workers, auditor general stored on employee’s laptop, investigation found


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