Legalise Cannabis WA MP Dr Brian Walker has stepped down from his consultancy position at Creso Pharma just four days after his appointment.
On Thursday (November 4), it was announced Dr Walker had joined Creso as a strategic consultant and chair of its new Scientific Advisory Committee.
When the announcement was made, he refuted any potential conflict of interest with his duties as chair of WA’s Select Committee into Cannabis and Hemp insisting the Creso role was more focused on psychedelics than cannabis.
However, on Monday (November 8), Dr Walker announced a change of heart, saying a “perceived” conflict of interest made the position untenable.
He said: “It was untenable because of the perception. I would have loved to get the psychedelics approach started. I’ll have to step back and take it slower.”
UWA political expert Professor Benjamin Reilly told The West Australian Dr Walker’s role as committee chair should be carried out free from personal interests or bias “which is difficult to square with his commercial responsibilities”.
However, he added a conflict was “hard to argue” because the role was in “the very area which has brought him into politics”.
Creso confirmed Dr Walker received no cash remuneration from the company and the 200,000 options which were issued to him upon his appointment “will be cancelled shortly”.
UPDATE: Following these developments, the select committee has overhauled how its members declare a conflict of interest.
While Dr Walker told The West Australian he did not inform his fellow committee members of his new role with Creso Pharma immediately, he did lodge the job on the Legislative Council’s interests register.
The changes outlined in a statement by the committee’s deputy chair, Labor MP Matthew Dean Swinbourn, include disclosing any interest that “arises out of the subject matter of the inquiry at the earliest opportunity”, and for the declared item to appear on each meeting’s agenda.
This is “in addition to any disclosures made to the Legislative Council under normal lodgement requirements”.
Under the new rules, if a conflict is declared by an MP, they will be required to excuse themselves from relevant hearings or deliberations that may be affected.
Meanwhile, the select committee is calling for written submissions on the terms of reference of its inquiry, which is expected to table its final report in 2022.