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Wielding power the Rinehart way

Graham Readfearn writes: It was one of those “drop your bacon sandwich at the audacity” kind of stories — the sort of revelation that shows what power and influence in a democracy really means.

Australia’s wealthiest individual, Hancock Prospecting chairman Gina Rinehart, loaded up a couple of federal MPs onto her private jet and flew them to India for a wedding. What for?

At the time, Rinehart was trying to secure a deal with infrastructure giant GVK, which had shown an interest in buying into some of her coal mine projects. Walking up the aisle was Mallika Reddy, grandaughter of GVK’s founder GV Krishna Reddy. As was reported in Crikey, the two MPs National Senator Barnaby Joyce and Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop were there to “lend cachet” to Rinehart.

Actually, it wasn’t just two MPs. Unreported at the time, but buried away in the register of interests, was an alteration to Brisbane Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro‘s entry. The change, recorded on July 7, shows that Gambaro was also on the flight from Perth to India and stayed two nights in Hyderabad.

Anyway, the deal is now done. GVK will pay Hancock Prospecting $1.2 billion for a stake in three of her coal mines — Tad’s Corner, Paul’s Corner and Kevin’s Corner — and the associated infrastructure works to get the coal from Queensland’s Galilee Basin to port and then off to India, where GVK will burn it in power stations.

Reports suggest the deal will initially see about 30 million tonnes of coal per year being exported, rising to as much 85 million tonnes. This amount of coal is similar in tonnage to the Xstrata Wandoan coal mine, which recently faced objections to its project on climate change impact grounds in the Queensland Land Court. A judgement is expected sometime in the next three months.

As I reported for the Brisbane Times, expert witnesses claimed to the court that the impact of the mining and burning of that coal would be measurable globally — including the additional flooding of 23,000 homes due to rising sea levels and increasing the risk of global average temperatures going beyond 2C.

Who knows if Joyce, Bishop and Gambaro had the desired effect (it obviously didn’t damage her reputation in the eyes of GVK), but the fact Rinehart was able to summon three elected representatives in that way is intriguing enough.

While we are thinking about powerful relationships, here’s another one which Rinehart is presumably happy with.

A few months back I wrote a story for Crikey revealing how Rinehart had held a lunch at her house by the Swan River in Perth, at which West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, WA environment minister Bill Marmion and Chinese Ambassador Chen Yuming were in attendance to hear a presentation on climate change from the “sceptic” Ian Plimer, the mining director and University of Adelaide geology professor.

Bill Marmion’s current chief of staff is Colin Edwardes, the husband of Cheryl Edwardes, who is the head of “external affairs, government relations and approvals” at Hancock Prospecting. Cheryl is also a former WA environment minister.

As PerthNow points out, Marmion will be in the position of considering environmental approvals for Hancock Prospecting projects — of which there are currently four pending.

Are relationships such as this appropriate or do they suggest some of our democratic structures are skating on increasingly thin ice? I know it sends a chill up my backbone.

This post first appeared on Graham Readfearn’s blog.

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  • 1
    Edward James
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Skating on thin ice? The whole process of banking and governance with so many perceived conflicts occuring because of apparant conflict inbreeding among decreasing numbers of players. Edward James

  • 2
    Stevo the Working Twistie
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    People in power are entitled to hang out together. After all, what’s the alternative? I wasn’t available that week. But they should probably put a smidgeon of effort into at least making it look like a “fact finding mission”, or something.

  • 3
    Quizzical
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Isn’t the real story here – on Sept 19 – that the deal is because India needs more brown coal for its growing power generating stations. And the deal is done.

    Oh hush ma mouth – that would mean we could have burned it here for the same or lesser greenhouse effect :-)

  • 4
    Quizzical
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Amazing. A week has passed and not a comment.

    What did GVK say? Let’s try:
    The group, which runs airports and builds highways in India, said the coal was needed for new power plants. and
    “We will now be able to increase the capacity of our coal power business …”

    Where are all the Green screams? Oh, that’s right – to comment adversely would point out we could have burned it here to the same or lesser effect. That wouldn’t help the argument for alternative sources would it.

    A deathly silence was heard on the Environment blog :-)

  • 5
    senior
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    hey quizzie,
    there’s not a lot of replies because most of the brainwashed environmentalist brain fades that support crikey and it’s “views” are starting to get a bit embarrassed because their “friends” like Graham Readfean and Sophie Trevitt think they can just lie to people and spit out unbelievable shit like “if we burn 85 million tonnes of coal the temp will rise 2 degrees and flood 23 000 houses.”
    But never mind the BILLIONS and BILLIONS of tonnes of forest that have burnt in bushfires over the last BILLIONS of years and guess what, the sea levels aren’t rising, they haven’t risen for a million years and won’t rise for a million more.

  • 6
    Liamj
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear, the fossil fools (senior & quizzical) are sad, so busy taking shots at powerless greenies they don’t notice what a corrupt farce the WA govt is. This former sandgroper misses the landscape, but then thats half way to Chindia by now anyway.

  • 7
    Quizzical
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Senior :-)

    Liam
    Not a fossil fool, merely a realist. I’ve come to the conclusion nuclear is the only option if we go down this track and I’m not certain I’m 100% happy even with that.

    Powerless Greenies?? I thought Bob Brown was the de-facto PM?

    But, you missed the point of my post – this is the “Environment Debate” blog – where was everyone debating the effects of burning the same coal in India. Or the fact that other countries claim to be greening but seem to be calling for more coal. Again I say – apart from the Green’s political presence (read a 40 mile circle centered on each capital city GPO) – why NOT burn it here in the wider open spaces?

  • 8
    heavylambs
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    With you on nuclear,Quizz,but you’re not making much sense on where the coal is burned. You’ve no idea whether the power stations intended to burn the imported coal are more or less efficient than ours,and surely your tongue is in cheek when you suggest our wide open spaces are a better venue for the burning? CO2 quickly mixes pretty well throughout the atmosphere as measurements in both hemispheres attest. As well,there’s not much point generating power here to be used by steelworks located in India is there?

    As for the “bob-brown-de-facto-pm” meme,that’s News Ltd nonsense well regurgitated,no? The ‘threat’ of Green power is a convenient scare unmatched by the reality Graham documents.

    Yes,Australia is doing nothing about restraining fossil fuel extraction,and next to nothing about its use…what do you expect from our craven political class? Never do today what you can put off [politically] forever…

  • 9
    Quizzical
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    HL
    Not so much concerned at the coal efficiency as the export with no assurance – India does have nuclear after all.

    It is my opinion that the comparisons made are equal to those of the Victorian AG re bicycle use. Or telco comparisons between UK and Oz. Basically I can make Oz far more energy efficient by moving the bulk of the population into Pete Seeger’s little (or apartment) boxes clustered in the capitals. Forget quality of life if ‘greenism’ is the thrust?

    Bob Brown? No, it’s not News regurgitated. The reality is the balance of power – in a different scenario without the uneasy balance, Bob would be seen but less heard.

    But I did expect a vocal majority to debate the India coal issue. Let’s decide if their burning is more efficient etc – whereas this blog was more sidelined to the minor political nuances.

  • 10
    Greg Qld
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    QU: Your argument about options for cleaner-brown-coal-burning is a joke – it burns so poorly that it doesn’t really matter where it’s burned; the stuff is dirty as hell. The point that concerns me is that our West-Aussie ‘mate’ Gina is that she doesn’t give two-hoots about the climate effects of her brown coal extraction for electrical power developments. Man, the woman needs to be stopped! That kind of act isn’t any better than NSW clubs defending their economic viability to be strongly reliant upon lining their dirty pockets with the proceeds of pokie-addicts. Obviously, we can’t trust captains of industry, no matter whether they live in India, China, Europe, US or -gasp! horror!- Australia, to make decisions that are in tune with the realities of the modern world. They live by industrial-age principles that are so, well, last-century. When this kind of thing continues to happen in open view within our own country, it’s a sad indictment on our collective political and social status quo. We’ve got to acknowledge this and make a stand in opposition to it – and that’s why Tony Abbot’s stated philosophy of a “less intrusive nanny state” is so dangerous. Not all of us have the ability, courage or desire to do the smart or right thing, so need to get out of the way of those who do.

  • 11
    Quizzical
    Posted November 24, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Greg
    We are departing from my original comment which was that the very group trying to change our “collective political and social status quo” was so silent about the matter and the article above relates to trivia about the personal relations involved rather than the outcome.

    Solar and wind together don’t generate enough. You don’t want coal. OK, the option is … …

    That’s the problem I have with the Greens. I don’t want an “Occupy Movement” list of idealism and dreams, I want the alternatives that work. I’ll be a long time waiting methinks :-)

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