Mark McGowan issues apology for swearing in parliament when quizzed over Perth Mint scandal

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Mark McGowan has been caught on a parliament microphone describing the Perth Mint dilution controversy as a “storm in a f****** teacup”.

The WA government-owned corporation has admitted it diluted gold it sold to China to save money between 2018 and 2021.

An investigation found the Shanghai Gold Exchange had put forward complaints about two gold bars that did not meet its strict specifications.

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An internal report into the incident raised concerns “up to 100 tonnes of stock” worth billions of dollars could be recalled to Perth to be recast at taxpayers’ expense.

WA’s Premier held ministerial responsibility for Perth Mint for much of that period, handing the portfolio to mines minister Bill Johnston in April 2021.

Perth Mint’s gold bullion was sent back from the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Credit: AAP

McGowan previously said he only became aware of the doping practice reports when they aired.

The news garnered international attention, with the London Bullion Market Association, the world’s top accreditor of gold refiners, reviewing allegations the mint sold “doped” gold.

McGowan’s teacup comment was uttered during parliamentary question time, where he was again quizzed on the scandal.

It was picked up on a microphone on the Premier’s desk, and he later apologised for making it.

“It’s been bought to my attention that during question time a private and confidential comment I made to the deputy premier was picked up by a microphone,” he said.

“I apologise if anyone was offended by my language.

“I want to make it clear, what I said was in the context of the issue being resolved in 2021 and tonnes of gold being sold to the Shanghai Gold Exchange in the period since then.”

Mark McGowan held ministerial responsibility for Perth Mint until 2021. Credit: AAP

Meanwhile, federal treasurer Jim Chalmers said recent controversy around the mint was “concerning”.

“I am confident that my state colleagues are taking the matter seriously, as is the federal government,” he said in Perth.

“AUSTRAC has appointed an auditor to assess the mint’s compliance with all of the various arrangements, including the anti-money laundering arrangements.

“That report is due to AUSTRAC soon and when we get that report we’ll obviously consider it.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the federal government is taking the allegations very seriously. Credit: AAP

It was revealed on Monday that McGowan’s approval rating has dropped to 63 per cent, its lowest level since before the pandemic.

The premier is set to become the first Australian state leader to travel to China since before the COVID-19 pandemic as tensions thaw between the two nations.

He has confirmed he plans to visit Beijing in late April to discuss the lucrative trade relationship between the two parties.

He also expects to visit Guangzhou to address the resumption of direct flights between Perth and the massive port city.

– With AAP

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