Lobbyist from another tribe
Lobbyist 'from another tribe'

UPDATE, 2.40pm: Former WA fisheries minister Jon Ford told a Perth corruption trial this afternoon that it he had only met with lobbyist Brian Burke once in August 2006 solely to stop him calling his office and that later contact between his then-chief of staff with the former politician had been in contrast to a ban he had put in place on his staff.

Mr Ford, 51, was continuing his evidence as the first prosecution witness called in the trial of Mr Burke, lobbyist Julian Grill, and Mr Ford’s former chief of staff Nathan Hondros.

The accused men are fighting an allegation they "hatched a plan" in 2006 to allow lobby partners Mr Burke and Mr Grill access to a confidential document via Mr Hondros, specifically a pearling hatchery policy document, so they could change it favour of a pearling company client and have it go to Cabinet undetected by the Department of Fisheries.

Today, Mr Ford said that he had had "negative feelings" about Mr Burke over his factional alliance, and had banned his staff from contact with the lobbyist and his partner Mr Grill.

"I did not have trust (in Mr Burke)...the ALP is very tribal," he said. "He (Burke) belonged to an opposing group of my tribe."

Mr Ford said he had himself been aligned with the left wing faction linked to the AMWU, which had "very strident anti-Burke sentiments".

This afternoon Mr Ford said he had met with Mr Burke just once in August 2006, along with Mr Hondros, with the sole purpose of making it look like he was listening to the former Premier and putting an end to the phone calls his office had received from him.

Mr Ford said he had been "particularly disengaged" during the meeting in August 2006 and had at one point discussed getting Mr Burke to enter Dumas House, where his ministerial office was based, via an underground car park so that others would not link him with Burke and attach "undue speculation" about his intentions.

Mr Ford said he told his chief of staff after the meeting that "even if I was in mind to agree... I wasn't going to be seen to agree with anything that Mr Burke was proposing".

Yesterday, defence lawyers Grant Donaldson, for Mr Burke, and Tom Percy, for Mr Grill, told the court their clients had been told by Mr Ford at that meeting to direct any communication about pearling to Mr Hondros. They also said their clients had requested a publicly available document and had no inkling that the document they received from Mr Hondros was in any way confidential.

The former fisheries minister said earlier today that he had decided to keep a ban on his staff having any contact with Mr Burke and Mr Grill despite then-Premier Alan Carpenter lifting a previous ban imposed by his predecessor Geoff Gallop.

Mr Ford told the court he had instructed his staff that they were not to have any contact with the lobbyists and that if they did they risked dismissal.

During his evidence Mr Ford said Mr Hondros, who was the second most senior in his office, had been handling pearling policy matters at the time of the alleged offences because the officer was so busy with rock lobster matters.

The former minister said he had agreed Mr Hondros could provide Mr Burke with a copy of a pearling policy document "provided that the document is published or is public" and that he never recalled any other document requests or being asked for permission by Hondros to contact Mr Burke of Mr Grill again.

The trial continues.

The West Australian

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