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Campbell Quits Howard Ministry Over Burke Connections

The Brian Burke controversy has claimed the job of a Howard Government minister.

Senator Ian Campbell (Liberal, WA), former Minister for Human Services The Minister for Human Services, Senator Ian Campbell, a Liberal from Western Australia, resigned today following revelations in morning newspapers that he met with the former Western Australian Premier in June last year.

According to The Australian, Campbell met with Burke on June 8 last year “to discuss an indigenous cultural centre planned as part of a massive redevelopment of race courses on the Swan River”. According to the paper, “Senator Campbell’s office was approached by Julian Grill, Mr Burke’s business partner, to arrange a meeting. Mr Burke and Mr Grill were being paid by Perth Racing, the old West Australian Turf Club, to assist with a proposal for a multi-million-dollar urban development. The cultural centre proposal was thought to be a sweetener to help win approval for the wider development project. Mr Grill pulled out of the meeting with Senator Campbell the night before.”

It may be that Campbell’s resignation will blunt the government’s attack on Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd over meetings he had with Burke in 2005. On the other hand, it also allows the government to claim the high moral ground and ramp up the pressure on Rudd. It is clear that the government needed Campbell, in the Prime Minister’s words, “to fall on his sword” in order to clear the air for the ongoing assault on Rudd.

At a media conference late today, the Prime Minister indicated that Senator Campbell would be reinstated to the ministry following the election. In his media conference, Campbell was at pains to paint his departure as being for the greater good of the government in its attempts to pressure Rudd. He portrayed his encounter with Burke as “incidental” whilst accusing Rudd of seeking support from Burke for a leadership challenge to Kim Beazley. A Costello supporter, Campbell repeatedly referred to Howard and Costello in tandem.

At his media conference, the Opposition Leader challenged Howard to call an immediate election on the issue of trust.

  • Listen to Senator Campbell’s Resignation Press Conference (10m)
  • Listen to John Howard’s Press Conference on the Campbell Resignation (5m)
  • Listen to Kevin Rudd Comment on the Campbell Resignation (24s_
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Malcolm Farnsworth
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