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WA corruption watchdog still waiting for Phil Edman’s laptop from MP expense scandal

A man with a suit and tie sits in a chair in a parliament chamber

WA corruption watchdog still waiting for Phil Edman’s laptop from MP expense scandal

The laptop belonging to a former WA MP, who used a taxpayer-funded allowance to visit strip clubs and travel interstate to meet women for sex, still has not been handed over to officers investigating potential wrongdoing.

The laptop seized from former Liberal MP Phil Edman contained more than 150 gigabytes of deleted material investigators said could be of “significant interest”.

But two years after the Corruption and Crime Commission found Mr Edman used his electorate allowance for strip club visits, speeding fines and yacht expenses, the watchdog was still waiting to be handed back that computer by the Upper House of State Parliament.

Mr Edman was recorded as saying the laptop contained “enough stuff … to bury a f***en lot of people”.

“Don’t know when we will ever get them.”

Mr McKechnie said officials had only just discovered the existence of the extra 150 gigabytes of data on the laptop.

“It’s a concern because after two years to suddenly find there’s 150 gigabytes that hasn’t apparently been looked at — when are we going to get the laptop?” Mr McKechnie said after the hearing.

Mr Edman claimed berthing and other maintenance expenses for his yacht “Prime Minister” on his electorate allowance(

Facebook: Phil Edman

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“The process had been largely completed except for what are called slack spaces.

“The slack spaces, as I understand it, are places where deleted material is to be found so, in broad terms, all the deleted material which as you might imagine, could be of significant interest.”

Long-running probe into MP expenses

The laptop examination stems from a bombshell 2019 CCC report, which found Mr Edman had also used his electorate allowance to fund lavish dinners, home insurance bills and lotto syndicate costs.

A tight head and shoulders shot of Phil Edman outside.
Mr Edman was defeated at the 2017 election, before the expense scandal emerged.(

ABC News: Andrew O’Connor

)

That report also found that fellow former Upper House Liberals Brian Ellis and Nigel Hallett engaged in serious misconduct by deliberately choosing to use their electorate allowances to fund personal lifestyle expenses.

As part of the MP expenses investigation, the corruption watchdog seized a laptop and two hard drives belonging to Mr Edman.

But the CCC had to hand those back amid a fight with the Legislative Council over whether it could access the material, a conflict that was only resolved in the Supreme Court earlier this year.

But the computer is still yet to be returned to the CCC and remains under the control of the Legislative Council.

A man in a dark suit and pink tie sits in a parliament chamber
Former Liberal MP Phil Edman was elected to parliament in 2008.(

ABC News

)

Appearing before the parliamentary committee, which oversees the CCC, Mr McKechnie expressed frustration in the long wait to regain access to the laptop.

“After two years, suddenly to find, well, it might be a long time yet, or not, we don’t know,” Mr McKechnie said.

“I’m open to anybody helping.

“It’s a technical issue but it’s very vexing.”

A man with greying hair and a grey suit walks in a car park
Mr McKechnie was recently re-appointed CCC boss, after the initial attempt to extend his term was blocked by a parliamentary committee.(

ABC News: Dave Weber

)

Mr McKechnie said he was still unsure whether Mr Edman’s claim that material on the laptop could “bury” politicians was accurate.

“No idea whether that is bombast, whether it is true”, he said.

Delay a ‘serious matter’: McKechnie

The dispute with the Upper House over the laptop was centred around the existence of material on the computer covered by parliamentary privilege.

Mr McKechnie said privileged material should be redacted but insisted two years was enough time for that to occur, describing it as a “serious matter for the state”.

Two men pictured shaking hands in a billboard attached to a panel van
The CCC’s findings about Mr Edman first came to light in a 2019 report.(

AAP: Mick Tsikas

)

The Legislative Council may have “accidentally bitten off more than it can chew” in seeking to examine the material itself, Mr McKechnie said, insisting police and the CCC could have done it under the supervision of parliamentary officers.

“This is what we do,” Mr McKechnie told the committee.

“We know what we’re looking for.

“We have some defined search terms.”

He described the discovery of the laptop as an “accidental event”, as he didn’t expect it would be found in Mr Edman’s home, “let alone his description of it later”.

The upper house of WA parliament from inside, showing red carpet and red chairs around a central desk.
Mr McKechnie wants the Upper House to hand over the laptop.(

Supplied: Parliament of Western Australia

)

This prompted a committee member, Liberal MLC Steve Thomas, to say he was “amazed” the laptop was still held.

But Mr McKechnie said he did not think the Legislative Council was intentionally delaying the process.

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