Premier Colin Barnett has taken aim at Labor and the Parliamentary committee "duped" by discredited whistleblower Ashton Foley, saying "a lot of people in this State took her word as gospel".
Mr Barnett said he now expected the inquiry he set after Mrs Foley’s damaging revelations about Peel Health Campus to withdraw her as a witness.
Mrs Foley confessed to being wanted in the US for fraud after The Weekend West revealed she had been arrested there in 2008.
She has been in the spotlight since being hailed as a whistleblower for providing damaging documents to Labor about her former employer, Health Solutions WA, which runs Peel Health Campus.
Parliament’s estimates and financial operations committee praised Mrs Foley late last year for having the “courage” to come forward with allegations of corruption at the hospital, including incentive payments for doctors to admit patients.
But Mr Barnett today said “rumours had been circulating” about Mrs Foley before the news of her past broke, and Labor had either been “duped” or “been willing accomplices”.
“You need to direct these questions at (Opposition Leader) Mark McGowan and ask why repeatedly in the second half of last year, he suspended parliament, brought on (matter of public importance) debates based on evidence by Ashton Foley, who in my opinion is now a discredited witness,” he said.
Mr Barnett said the Government-ordered inquiry into the Peel Health Campus contract, carried out by retired neurosurgeon Bryant Stokes, would continue but its “star witness” had now been discredited.
He said Labor should apologise for attacking the Liberal candidate for Mandurah Tony Solin “just because he had worked with that hospital some time previously”.
“What they did by doing that was to undermine public confidence in the existing hospital and undermine investor confidence in expanding that hospital,” he said.
“So today, I simply say to Mark McGowan and (deputy Labor Leader) Roger Cook in particular, and (Mandurah MP) David Templeman: You politicised this issue for your political gain in the seat of Mandurah. You owe Tony Solin an apology.
“What we have here is someone who clearly is of dubious character, has made all sorts of claims. Now that has to be considered first by the Public Sector Commissioner and he may refer the matter on to others.
“I won’t pre-judge that but clearly I think you could also say why did that (Parliamentary) committee put such faith in her testimony? Why did Roger Cook, presumably work closely with her about the whole issue?
“Clearly Ashton Foley has duped her employers, she has a very dubious history, credit fraud and the like, she has duped the committee and Parliament and she has either duped or the Labor Party has been willing accomplices.”
Asked whether Mrs Foley should continue to give evidence to the Stokes inquiry, Mr Barnett said: “Well I for one would be sceptical but that would be up to Professor Bryant Stokes to decide whether she is a credible person to give evidence. I imagine she would be withdrawn.”
Labor frontbencher Ken Travers, who sat on the Parliamentary committee which heard Mrs Foley’s testimony, said Mr Barnett was trying to distract attention from “problems with a public hospital that is privately run”.
“The evidence that the committee has received and others have received does not just solely come from Ashton Foley,” he said.“It has come from a whole range of witnesses who have highlighted problems with that health campus that need thorough investigation.”
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