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WA playing politics at the border?

14 July 2022

4:00 AM

14 July 2022

4:00 AM

In Western Australia, a state government minister has been accused of allegedly preferencing political donors for border entry during the G2G passes approval process within the Covid pandemic.

As reported by Duncan Murray on news.com.au, the claims emerged last week during an unfair dismissal hearing by the Public Service Appeal Board of WA:

Former electorate officer for Deputy Premier Roger Cook, Sanja Spasojevic, claimed she was instructed by the then Health Minister to fast track entry applications for members of the Labor Business Roundtable.

Roundtable members pay thousands of dollars for access to senior members of the government including Premier Mark McGowan.

Further to the allegations being made in court under oath by a former staff member of the Labor government I have written to the crime and corruption commissioner, John McKechnie, QC today,’ WA opposition leader Mia Davies said on Friday. If found to be true, it would be a gross misuse of power and raises questions about the influence of donors and ministers in the McGowan Government.’

WA imposed Australia’s strictest border lockdown during the pandemic requiring a G2G pass to enter the state.

Readers may recall how at one stage that Premier McGowan went so far as to bar people from entering WA on compassionate grounds while AFL players could come and go as they pleased for approved games. It was a move that enraged the public who had ‘played by the rules’.

‘Decisions on G2G applications during the Covid-19 pandemic were made independently by the WA Police,’ a spokesperson for Mr Cook said.

As Duncan writes:

Ms Spasojevic – who is accusing Mr Cook’s office of unfair dismissal – claimed she worked with a staff member in Police Minister Michelle Roberts’ office to request certain applications be fast-tracked between April and June 2020.

WA Police said in a statement it was not aware of the allegations other than what had been reported in the media and had not received a complaint in relation to the matter.

In addition, a statement released by the WA Police Force read:

‘All G2G applications made during the Covid pandemic were assessed and dealt with by WA Police Force in accordance with the Emergency Management Act directions in force at the time.’

WA Opposition Leader Mia Davies has referred the allegations of preferential treatment for ALP political donors to the West Australian Crime and Corruption Commission, who are considering the request.

These accusations have come to light notwithstanding an extraordinary intervention by WA Attorney-General John Quigley late last year regarding the Public Service Appeal Board.

This news threatens to cast a shadow over outgoing Police Commissioner Chris Dawson’s tenure, who will soon become WA’s new Governor. Dawson’s first day as Governor, interestingly enough, is July 15, which is the final hearing day scheduled for the challenge to WA’s mandatory vaccine directions by Senior Constable Ben Falconer.

Dawson’s time as WA’s ‘top cop’, as the West Australian likes to call him, has also been marred by a record number of resignations from the WA Police Force.

This sad phenomenon was addressed by this correspondent in these pages. By way of update, there have been no less than 236 resignations between January and May this year. By comparison, there were only 149 resignations of police officers in the whole of 2019.

Dawson has attributed this dramatic increase in resignations to a ‘strong labour market and job opportunities, in some cases with higher pay, elsewhere’.

This statement appears to be contradicted by recent findings of another survey recently conducted by the WA Police Union seeking to identify the reasons for so many resignations this year. According to the comments in this survey, the primary reason for a high resignation rate is the ‘disturbing lack of empathy from senior executives in the police force’.

Indeed, this union survey reveals that at least 77 per cent of all the officers who resigned over the last five months blamed ‘poor culture and dissatisfaction with WA Police management’ for their decision. In one submission, a member said the ‘WA Police Force management doesn’t care about its people’.

In another, the respondent stated:

‘I participated in an internal interview in which I was treated worse than how we’re expected to treat suspects. The whole system is broken.’

The McGowan government commands a majority in both houses after last year’s state election and has passed legislation locking in emergency powers until January next year.

Dr Rocco Loiacono is a Senior Lecturer at Curtin University Law School. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University.

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