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Issue #1929      August 24, 2020

Palmer vs. WA

A man against the people

The WA branch of the Transport Workers Union (TWU WA) reported online that they have been “inundated with messages from transport workers who want to refuse to load trucks and refuse to deliver” to the Sino Iron mine in Cape Preston owned by Clive Palmer’s company Mineralogy. This is in response to Palmer pursuing two major court cases against the Western Australian government: one to force the WA government to open its borders to the other states, and the other a claim for over $27b (potentially over $30b) of lost profits due to a WA government decision in 2012 to reject his proposal for a different mining project.

TWU WA said “Palmer wants to infect WA by opening the borders for his own selfish greed. On top of that he wants to rob every man, woman, child and baby by suing our state for $30b […] this parasite can leave our state alone.”

Palmer initiated the latter case less than a week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison reversed his earlier position on Palmer’s other case to open the WA border, and announced that the Commonwealth was withdrawing its earlier support to Palmer’s case. However, the federal government has chosen not to withdraw the evidence it supplied earlier to support Palmer, despite the plea of WA Premier Mark McGowan for them to do so.

Nonetheless, with the loss of the federal government’s support, Palmer’s border case is less likely to succeed, and his new case for tens of billions of dollars appears an attempt to hold the WA government to ransom. The WA government has quickly passed new legislation to block Palmer’s claims, however it is still unclear whether this will be upheld by the court.

Although Palmer has tried repeatedly to appeal to the Western Australian people to support his actions, taking out many advertisements in various newspapers, on radio and online, he has found very little sympathy. Multiple public polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Western Australians support the closed border, and Premier McGowan is receiving unprecedented public support: a 26th July poll of the Perth metropolitan area conducted by The West Australian showed eighty-six per cent public approval of McGowan.

Thanks to the successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, in a major part due to the closed border, life in Western Australia has mostly returned to normal. Western Australians wish to keep it that way, and although the severe restrictions on interstate travel have impacted many people, most view that as a small price to pay to ensure the health of West Australians and prevent further economic damage and deaths. Palmer’s rhetorical appeals about “safeguarding our freedom”, and flippantly likening McGowan to the Nazis, do not resonate with the people, who know that whatever Palmer’s concept of freedom is, it means little to the dead.

Palmer’s other case relates to his claim of lost profits due to the previous WA Liberal government’s decision to reject his proposal for the Balmoral South iron ore project in 2012. Palmer had intended to sell the project on to a Chinese company, and believes the WA state government should pay him the profits he would have made, had it not been rejected.

It is a vile hypocrisy that Clive Palmer uses his wealth to bombard Australian media with anti-China propaganda, spreading fear about influence by the “Communist Chinese Government” and Chinese companies operating in Australia, while suing the Western Australian government for not allowing him to sell a mine to a Chinese company!

Not only that, but the Sino Iron mine mentioned above is operated by CITIC, a Chinese state-owned company, due to a deal between CITIC and Palmer’s company Mineralogy. On the Mineralogy website, which also contains a lot of Palmer’s anti-China, anti-communist propaganda painting Chinese state-owned enterprises as sinister forces of Communist influence, the page about the Sino Iron project has a completely different tone, singing the praises of “the expertise and skills” of “Chinese […] world leaders in this field”, and saying the project provides “an excellent opportunity for Australia to benefit from exposure to international skills and processing technology. […] This project […] is testament to the quality of the deposit as two major Chinese companies have now invested substantial effort and funds to develop these projects.”

Not only is it obscene and disgusting that Palmer believes he is entitled to a massive payout from the WA government, and cares more for his own financial gain than for the welfare of the whole West Australian people who would be severely impacted by a $27 b hit to state finances, it is equally absurd that the existing laws allowed for such a claim. The state government’s new legislation is a band-aid solution which should hopefully block Palmer’s claim, but it should raise significant questions about our current legislation and the “right” of businesses or individual capitalists to sue the state for “lost profits”.

It should also highlight to the people the absurd amount of power which obscenely wealthy individuals such as Palmer have to pursue their personal interests regardless of the interests of millions of working people, and influence and obstruct processes on the scale of the whole country. While Palmer’s disruptive and contradictory actions and views have alienated many of his own class, which at least partly constrains his ability to get whatever he wants, we should be even more wary of the rest of the capitalist class when they act in agreement. Palmer is an embarrassment to his class because he displays openly the utterly unfair privileges and power held by all the immensely wealthy.

Next article – This week …

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