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June 30th, 2019 by admin

Rudd defends Burke meeting

Labor leader Kevin Rudd says he's guilty of nothing more than good manners and bad judgment in his dealings with disgraced former WA premier Brian Burke.

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As the Burke scandal derailed Mr Rudd's dream start as opposition leader, the federal Labor leader said he was unaware of a ban on state Labor MPs contacting Mr Burke when he met him three times in 2005.

But Mr Rudd rejected as "an absolute lie" government claims that he went to Perth to enlist Mr Burke as his numbers man for his leadership challenge against Kim Beazley a year later.

Mr Rudd was subjected to a bruising parliamentary attack on his honesty today over his links with Mr Burke, whose activities as a lobbyist are under scrutiny by WA's Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC).

He later called a press conference and said: "Would it have been better for me not to have met with Mr Burke, had I known what Mr Burke was up to at the time? Of course.

"Did I have the faintest idea that Mr Burke was engaged in activities which are now the subject of the CCC? Of course I did not.

"So therefore, with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, of course I would not have met with Mr Burke. I had no knowledge of those matters then."

Mr Burke, a convicted fraudster, has already brought down three ministers in the WA Labor state government, sacked during the inquiry into his lobbying activities and those of his business partner Julian Grill.

Mr Rudd admitted meeting Mr Burke three times in Perth in 2005 – once at breakfast, once over coffee and once at dinner – through federal Labor backbencher Graham Edwards, a close friend of both men.

But he said he had done nothing wrong, other than suffering a lapse in judgment.

Mr Rudd said he felt an "obligation of friendship" to meet with Mr Burke because of their strong mutual friendship with Mr Edwards.

"Sometimes we do things out of friendship and politeness," he said.

But he rejected the chance of a fourth meeting when Mr Burke offered to organise a dinner for him with journalists when he was next in Perth.

"I thought it was going a step too far," he said.

"Having a discussion with someone at a social gathering is one thing, then taking someone's assistance to organise a meeting with journalists in Western Australia I thought was going too far.

"I felt uncomfortable about that and in this business you make judgments about whether that level of assistance is appropriate."

Mr Edwards and a second Labor backbencher, Mark Bishop, have been "counselled" for remaining in contact with Mr Burke since last November, when then Labor leader Kim Beazley banned all MPs from dealing with Mr Burke.

But Treasurer Peter Costello said Mr Burke was a convicted criminal and Mr Rudd should be tainted by his association with him.

"Those who understand politics in this house will say that it was no coincidence in 2005, when the leader of the opposition was looking for numbers for his leadership bid, that he happened to be going regularly to Perth and meeting with Mr Brian Burke," Mr Costello told parliament.

"Mr Brian Burke never does something for nothing. Mr Brian Burke has now been fingered by the crime commission in Western Australia and four (sic) ministers have lost their jobs because of their contacts with him, because anyone who deals with Mr Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised."

Labor tried to turn the attack back on the government, asking Prime Minister John Howard about coalition MPs' dealings with former Liberal Party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne, who has also been implicated in the CCC inquiry.

Mr Howard said the two cases were not comparable because Mr Crichton-Browne had not been jailed for fraud and the Liberals had expelled him from the party more than a decade ago.

"Anybody who has any understanding of Australian politics would suspect that what the leader of the opposition was about was touting for preferment and favour from a man of influence in the Labor Party in Western Australia," Mr Howard told parliament.