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Scandal report rocks Keating

PAUL KEATING'S Labor government has been embarrassed by a Royal Commission report that yesterday delivered a scathing verdict on scandals involving senior Labor politicians and some of Australia's most prominent former business entrepreneurs.

Some of the biggest names in politics and business from the 1980s could be prosecuted as a result of the report, which came after a two-year inquiry into 'WA Inc', Australia's longest-running financial scandal.

The inquiry focused on links between the state Labor government in Western Australia and some of the state's high-flying entrepreneurs, such as Alan Bond, during the 1980s. The report is likely to impair further the fortunes of Mr Keating's federal government, which is facing an election within eight months.

WA Inc was a strategy devised largely by Brian Burke, a former state Labor premier, under which the state government became involved in ill-fated business deals with Mr Bond and other former Perth tycoons. It left the state bankrupt, and saw the squandering of up to 1bn Australian dollars ( pounds 420m) in public funds.

In their report yesterday, the judge and two retired judges who comprised the Royal Commission said Mr Burke's conduct was 'reprehensible' and that the 'full extent of his deviousness may never be known'. Their findings referred to revelations at the inquiry about Mr Burke's secret channelling of donations from entrepreneurs to Labor, some of which were never accounted for.

The Commission also made an adverse finding on Peter Dowding, another ex-Labor premier.