The West

Labor leader sitting on the fence: Premier
Labor leader sitting on the fence: Premier

Update, 4.35pm: Labor leader Mark McGowan was a "fence-sitter" whose position on several policy fronts such as the carbon tax, Elizabeth Quay project and major sports stadium was still unclear, Colin Barnett said at the weekend.

The Premier also singled out three other Labor MPs after highlighting that five ministers were sacked or forced to resign under the former government for being embroiled in Corruption and Crime Commission inquiries.

Mr Barnett said shadow attorney-general John Quigley had been "investigated twice" by the CCC. He described Mick Murray as an "abalone poacher" in reference to his $4400 fine in 2007 for fishing out of season and Fran Logan was "so disgraced" he was "hidden" during the 2008 election campaign.

Mr Quigley hit back at Mr Barnett this morning, claiming the Liberal leader had tried to recruit him weeks before the criticism.

Mr McGowan said the Premier's comments were "nasty, personal, vindictive and unbecoming".

Mr Barnett told Liberal Party State conference delegates that despite adding "energy" to the Labor Party, after years of debate about the carbon tax "Mark McGowan still doesn't know whether he supports it or not".

"If you're going to be a leader you have to take a side on major public issues," he said. He said Mr McGowan was "similarly undecided" about the mining tax, was "not quite sure" about the Elizabeth Quay redevelopment and "can't say or admit" that building the new sports stadium at Subiaco instead of Burswood would push the project out to the 2020s.

Despite the comments, Mr Barnett said in the same speech that "as we go into this election campaign we will not be running a personal attack on any Labor member of Parliament".

"I have never done that in my 20 years in politics and I'm not about to go down that path," he said.

Mr McGowan said Mr Barnett could not "engage in personal attacks and then say you're not doing it".

"I think the public are well and truly sick of it," he said.

Mr McGowan said Mr Quigley had been lauded by the CCC for his work on the Andrew Mallard case, Mr Murray had "made a mistake" and the comments about Mr Logan were "silly and untrue".

He said he had made his position known on most issues raised by Mr Barnett. A "comprehensive policy" on power prices that would be released closer to the March election.

"You can't do everything at once otherwise what do you have to say in an election campaign," he said.

Mr Quigley said this morning that the criticism of him was unjust as he had been cleared by the CCC and claimed Mr Barnett had tried to recruit him to the Liberal party.

Mr Quigley questioned why Mr Barnett would make such a “personal attack” when just eight weeks ago in the MPs’ dining room at Parliament, the Premier gave him the impression he wanted him on his team.

“Several times, he’s said oh come on Quiggers, you should be a Liberal,” Mr Quigley said.

“I just found it extraordinary that he was being so outwardly friendly to me, and saying a couple of times ‘You should join the Liberals, you don’t belong there (with Labor).

“And then this time said ‘You should join the Liberal Party and I’ll give you a place in cabinet’.

“He says he was joking but I don’t know. I’ve got no idea what goes on in the man’s mind. He wasn’t laughing. I can only tell you what I heard.

“Was he joking on the weekend when he was criticising me for being exonerated by the CCC?”

Mr Quigley told Fairfax radio this morning that if Mr Barnett sought to deny trying to recruit him “I’d challenge him to a lie detector test”.

Mr Barnett said “it was obviously a flippant joke and John Quigley knew it.”

“He’s deluding himself - absolutely deluding himself,” he said.

“Look, John laughed. He knew it was a joke and I think it’s just crazy for him to try and suggest it was anything more than that.

“I often joke with members of parliament around the corridors, including many Labor members.”

In 2008 the CCC investigated whether Mr Quigley acted improperly as the chairman of Parliament’s public accounts committee over contact with former premier-turned lobbyist Brian Burke.

The CCC found Mr Burke approached Mr Quigley to conduct an inquiry into the state’s taxation system.

Mr Quigley told Mr Burke in late 2005 he would “do it next week”, but never acted on his promise, telling the CCC he was just deflecting Mr Burke.

Also in 2008, the CCC found Mr Quigley had not engaged in misconduct by threatening to reveal the identity of an undercover police officer involved in the investigation of Andrew Mallard, wrongfully convicted of murder.

“I was totally exonerated both times,” Mr Quigley said.

“At the end of the Mallard report I was complimented by the CCC in correcting an injustice in a special commendation at the end of the report.”

The West Australian

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