The Opposition was out of line in calling for an explanation of SECWA coal purchases from Western Collieries, Fuel and Energy Minister Geoff Gallop said today.
"On the one hand, Colin Barnett questions what he calls the Government's silence on a call by the Royal Commission for an investigation into the coal purchases," Dr Gallop said.
"On the other hand, he wants the Government to explain the affair.
"Mr Barnett cannot have it both ways.
"There must be an inquiry before there can be an explanation, but Mr Barnett does not seem to understand that.
"While he is jumping up and down, I have been taking steps to ensure that the inquiry called for in the Royal Commission's report will take place."
Dr Gallop wrote to the Royal Commission on November 2, suggesting the inquiry be conducted by the Ombudsman.
"The Parliamentary Commissioner has the powers of a Royal Commission and would appear to be well equipped with appropriate powers to investigate any such allegations," he wrote.
"I envisage that the Parliamentary Commissioner would advertise in the print media that he was to conduct his investigation, and invite persons wishing to make allegations or to give evidence to him to do so.
"Section 19(2) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act requires that every investigation must be conducted in private.
"However, it would seem that if those wishing to give evidence were invited through the press as proposed, and if on conclusion of the investigation the Commissioner's report were to be tabled in the Parliament (as I would also propose to do), this would meet the recommendations of the Royal Commission."
The Minister said in his letter that he had not yet approached the Parliamentary Commissioner with this proposal, as he believed the Royal Commissioners should first be consulted.
Dr Gallop is awaiting the Royal Commission's comments on the proposal.
In its call for an inquiry, the Royal Commission said it should look into speculation `that the contractual obligations were entered into not primarily to meet the power generation needs of SECWA but, rather, to enhance the value of Western Collieries for the ulterior purpose of increasing its sale price and hence the money available to the provisional liquidators of Rothwells'.
"It is appropriate to wait for the Royal Commission's views on my suggestion of an inquiry by the Ombudsman before commenting further on Mr Barnett's comments," Dr Gallop said today.