a mate
Labor claims
coalition bias
for Buckeridge

PLANNING Minister Graham Kierath revealed yesterday that Western Australian building magnate Len Buckeridge was a friend.

"Kierath admits mogul's a mate"
 By Wendy Pryer

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  But he told the Legislative Assembly that his relationship with Mr Buckeridge did not mean he got special treatment.

  Mr Kierath was speaking during debate on a Labor Party motion calling on the Government to explain why Mr Buckeridge got preferential treatment on a range of planning, environmental and contractual processes.

  Labor lost the motion, with Independents Phil Pendal and Liz Constable voting with the Government.

  Labor planning spokeswoman Alannah MacTiernan told the House that Mr Buckeridge, a Liberal Party donor, was not a player in the construction of Homeswest homes before the Court Government took office in 1993.  But his company, BGC, now had 32 per cent of that work.

  She said BGC had been allowed to build a concrete batching plant next to the Neerabup National park and local residents in 1993.

  Competitors had complained that decision gave Mr Buckeridge an unfair advantage over them because his plant was 6km closer to the building boom in the northern suburbs, saving him about $500,000.

  Other claims by Labor of preferential treatment included:

  Mr Kierath said only one of the cases Ms MacTiernan referred to made it to the Planning Minister's office.

  Environment Minister Cheryl Edwardes said it was rubbish to suggest Mr Buckeridge was favoured because she had upheld an appeal against his first proposal to build a concrete batching plant in Shenton Park.  She had not opposed the second application because it met standards set by the Department of Environmental Protection.

  Works Minister Rob Johnson said BGC had been awarded only four building contracts by the Department of Contract and Management Services since July last year out of a total 500 building contracts worth $300 million. -- The West Australian, May 11 2000, page 14

Stop order on Buckeridge job
Council acts after swamp grader clears 1.5ha* topsoil

CONSTRUCTION magnate Len Buckeridge will this morning be issued with a stop-work order on a controversial block of land near Bunbury.

  Bunbury City Council wants to stop any work on Mr Buckeridge's 22ha* site on the Australind bypass to discuss possible breaches of a development application.  Mr Buckeridge's company, BGC Australia, bought the land from the South-West Development Commission last August and immediately sought rezoning from rural to industrial.

  The council gave approval to initiate rezoning procedures on December 7, before passing a conditional development application a week later.

"Stop order on Buckeridge job"
 By  Steve Butler

  Conditions included the submission of an environmental management plan, a vegetation survey and a proposed planning scheme amendment.  Bunbury chief executive Michael Whittaker said yesterday that the council had not received any of those documents.

  He would issue the stop-work order this morning after the council's planning department yesterday reported work by a swamp grader had cleared 1.5ha of topsoil.

  Mr Buckeridge, a Liberal Party donor, could not be reached for comment.  It is believed he had ordered work with the swamp grader to stop and held back trucks sent to Bunbury to cart fill on to the site.  Mr Whittaker said council staff had a commitment to keep the rezoning of the property open to the public.

  A public advertising period would be set when the council received the proposed scheme amendment from Mr Buckeridge.

  Early this year, the State Opposition claimed Mr Buckeridge had bought the property for half the value put on it by the Valuer-General.  Mr Buckeridge paid $506,000 for the land as the highest of four tenderers.  The State paid $580,000 for it 10 years earlier.-- Steve Butler, The West Australian, May 16 2000, page 12
* "ha" is a contraction for "hectare", the main metric land measure, which is about 2.5 acres.

No action on deals: Cowan

ACTING Premier Hendy Cowan yesterday rejected Opposition calls for him to take action against a top-level public servant linked to controversial deals with consultants.

  Labor transport spokeswoman Alannah MacTiernan told the Legislative Assembly that Ross Drabble, in his former roles as commissioner of Westrail and then Main Roads, had either initiated or authorised contracts now found to have been awarded improperly.

"No action on deals: Cowan"
 By  Julie Butler

  She was referring to a report tabled on Wednesday by Auditor-General Des Pearson, who said Westrail had awarded 23 contracts totalling $527,000 to Indec Consulting but only one had been subject to public tender.  Main Roads gave Indec eight consultancy contracts totalling $620,000 without seeking other competition.

  The contracts being awarded without competition breached government purchasing policy for waiving quotes and tenders and the productive association the agencies enjoyed with Indec was insufficient reason not to seek other bids, he said.

  Public Sector Standards Commissioner Don Saunders said yesterday he was reading the report and would meet Mr Pearson to discuss the audit findings before deciding if he would take further action himself.  "Our interest is in the conduct of Main Roads and its employees involved in this matter," he said.

  Mr Cowan told the House that since leaving Main Roads, Mr Drabble had performed other roles in the senior executive service.  Asked by Ms MacTiernan if he would take action in light of Mr Pearson's findings and what she called Mr Drabble's intimate involvement in the Indec deals, Mr Cowan said no.

  "From my own perspective the answer to that would be no but there is of course a Public Standards Commissioner who I have no doubt will read the report ... and make his own determination in respect of that issue."

  Outside the House, Ms MacTiernan said the Opposition would not rest until there was a full inquiry. -- Julie Butler, The West Australian, April 7 2000, page 31.  
To join this discussion, e-mail  letters@wanews.com.au  to reach The West Australian , Perth; website http://www.thewest.com.au/

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