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WA staffers found in contempt over Buswell

AAP logoAAP 8/11/2016 Greg Roberts and Rebecca Le May

Two senior WA government staffers have been found in contempt of parliament by providing false and misleading information about the car crash involving former treasurer Troy Buswell that ended his career.

The pair, Mr Buswell's former chief of staff Rachael Turnseck and Premier Colin Barnett's current deputy chief of staff Stephen Home, together deliberately constructed a false answer to a question in parliament about the incident, the privileges and procedures committee found.

WA Labor shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said Mr Home should resign but Mr Barnett was ultimately responsible for the cover-up, while Ms Turnseck left her job at the time with a payout.

Mr Buswell crashed his ministerial car into several parked cars while driving home from a wedding in Perth in the early hours of Sunday February 23, 2014.

He was admitted to a psychiatric clinic and resigned when media reports broke about the crashes.

The criticism of the staffers include findings that Ms Turnseck and Mr Home had deliberately withheld details of conversations she had with Mr Buswell's family and fellow political staffer Leo Gibbons about the events surrounding the crash and his subsequent mental breakdown.

Being in contempt of parliament can lead to fines and even imprisonment but the pair have only been ordered to apologise in writing within seven days and only if parliament accepts the report.

Mr Wyatt said the findings reflected a culture of secrecy under Mr Barnett that had sought to hold back information from parliament and therefore West Australians about the scandal and who know what and when.

"This has got nothing to do with and would not have reflected on Mr Buswell's health in any way," he told reporters.

"This is all about trying to create and contain the fallout of what were quite extraordinary circumstances - Mr Barnett knew about it, his office knew about it."

The staffers have defended their actions, saying the information excluded was highly personal and was not misleading.

Mr Barnett hinted that he would reject the report, saying Ms Turnseck acted with concern about Mr Buswell's mental condition.

"While I in no way excuse the behaviour on that night and never have done so, I think when someone is in a serious health condition, there is some privacy that relates to the individual and his immediate family, not to members of parliament," he told parliament.

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