The former staffer at the centre of the political storm engulfing senior State Liberal Peter Collier went public yesterday with allegations the minister threatened to harm the reputation of a public servant who complained of bullying.
The Opposition said Premier Colin Barnett had no choice but to stand Mr Collier aside pending an independent investigation into the affair.
Darren Brown, Mr Collier's chief of staff in 2011, explained on radio 6PR yesterday why he asked Public Sector Commissioner Mal Wauchope via text messages, on the minister's behalf, to change the scope of an inquiry into the "culture" of his office.
"The language in that first terms of reference inferred that he (Mr Collier) was at fault and there was no way he was going to swallow that," he said.
Mr Brown confirmed Labor's claims in Parliament that bullying claims levelled against Mr Collier by Department of Training and Workforce Development Director-General Ruth Shean accompanied a breakdown in the relationship between their offices.
Labor MLC Ljiljanna Ravlich told Parliament last week that Mr Collier, then training minister, planned to respond to Mr Wauchope's inquiry by claiming in writing that "Dr Shean was incompetent".
Mr Brown said the letter had existed. "In ministerial terms, drafting a letter means that you are putting something on the record, it . . . becomes quite a threat," he said.
"The letter was inflammatory. It would have caused further problems in the relationship."
By February 2011, Mr Wauchope changed his inquiry from an investigation into the ministerial office into a review of DTWD's structure, which Mr Brown told him via text was "great and I have shredded the other thought bubble (Mr Collier's letter)". "The negotiation I was holding with the Public Sector Commissioner was to try to stop that letter going on the public record," Mr Brown said yesterday.
Asked whether Mr Brown was a reliable source given he was upset at being sacked by Mr Collier, Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the texts Mr Brown had released spoke for themselves.
"The Premier needs to call an independent inquiry into these allegations of bullying and whether or not Mr Collier nobbled an inquiry by the Public Sector Commissioner," he said.
Mr McGowan said if the account of the letter was accurate, then "that is a form of blackmail", but he suggested Mr Collier would not face sanction because he was a "Liberal powerbroker".
Mr Collier and Mr Barnett declined to comment.
'The Premier needs to call an independent inquiry into these allegations of bullying.'"