Updated December 02, 2015 22:22:36

Western Australia’s Agriculture Minister has admitted he has a conflict of interest more than the sale of a major state asset, but insisted he did not hide that fact.

The revelation from Ken Baston comes with the Government trying to push through legislation enabling the sale of Canning Vale’s Marketplace City by means of Parliament this week, just before it shuts down for the year.

The Perth Market Authority is one particular of a tranche of assets the State Government is trying to sell off in a bid to minimize the state’s spiralling debt, forecast to peak at just more than $ 36 billion by 2017/18.

The Government hopes the sale will reap more than $ 100 million.

It is understood the conflict relates to an advisory role Mr Baston’s son has with one particular of the bidders for the Market place Authority.

Mr Baston stated he had disclosed the matter to the Premier but his appointment of a new board for the authority final week was unrelated to his conflict.

“The management of the board still sits under the Minister, so that appointment is separate to the sale, it is just the day-to-day running of the markets,” Mr Baston told Parliament.

“I have removed myself from all Cabinet meetings whenever the discussion has taken place [relating to the sale].”

Mr Baston’s admission drew the ire of Labor, which said stakeholders had been going to the Minister to express issues over the sale although in the dark about the concern.

“This complete time market has been going to the Minister’s office raising their concerns, believing he would be their voice in Cabinet when he has been absent from all of these Cabinet discussions,” Labor MP Ken Travers mentioned.

“Now we find out the Minister has a conflict … but has he ever told the sector about that conflict?”

Mr Travers mentioned Mr Baston’s appointment of a new board for the authority, following the resignation of the previous one, was especially concerning.

“Having declared a conflict, absented himself from all Cabinet discussions he’s now appointed the board that will manage the authority in the course of the sale method,” he mentioned.

“In his personal words he had a conflict and ought to have been out of the game but he nonetheless participated.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Baston stated it was widely recognized that the Minister had a conflict of interest and that he had followed correct processes.

Topics: government-and-politics, agribusiness, fruit, canning-vale-6155

First posted December 02, 2015 21:04:32

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