WA Premier Mark McGowan has refused to answer questions about his involvement in the selection of Perth Casino Royal Commission lead commissioner Neville Owen, despite his own cabinet colleague suggesting it was the Premier who put the former judge’s name forward.
In a tense press conference on Wednesday, Mr McGowan said cabinet decided the appointment, but declined to respond to a ‘yes-or-no’ question over whether he was involved.
Last week Mr Owen, a respected former Supreme Court judge and HIH Insurance royal commissioner, declared he had personal and business links to billionaire Kerry Stokes. WAtoday has revealed he made the same declarations to the State Solicitor’s Office before the commission began.
Mr Stokes is chairman of Seven West Media. The company’s WA chief executive Maryna Fewster has fronted the royal commission in her capacity as a director of Crown Perth operator Burswood Limited. Seven West director John Alexander, a former Crown Resorts chief executive and executive chairman, is expected to be called as a witnesses in the future.
Mr Stokes also had a close friendship with Crown’s major shareholder, James Packer, and Seven West Media has commercial agreements with the casino.
Both Mr Owen and Mr McGowan have denied the relationships with Mr Stokes impacted the lead commissioner’s role, but opposition leader Mia Davies said Mr McGowan had questions to answer about his involvement in Mr Owen’s selection.
Mr McGowan was scant on details when asked directly what involvement he had in the appointment, only saying it was decided by cabinet, though he knew of Mr Owen through his own legal background.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly how his name was put forward,” Mr McGowan said.
“Look, I’m a lawyer just so you know, I’m a lawyer. I’m aware of the HIH Royal Commission and he was someone who is eminent and well qualified.