Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rann, Marathon and crony capitalism

The following article is from the Murdoch rag, the Australian (20 Aug 2009).

On this occasion, we will not hold that against them.

The article underscores what this blog has been saying for more than two years: the stench of corruption hovers all around the Rann government and wilderness despoiler and uranium explorer Marathon Resources.

I won't repeat what I've put in previous posts on this issue (just hit the Arkaroola link to the right if you are interested).

Here's the report from the Australian:

Schacht lobbied Rann for miner

Michael Owen, SA political reporter August 20, 2009
Article from: The Australian

LOBBYIST and former Labor senator Chris Schacht was headhunted to join the board of a uranium exploration company, which was seeking to have a drilling ban lifted and its mining licence renewed by the Rann government.

After his appointment to the board of Marathon Resources, Mr Schacht lobbied Premier Mike Rann and Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway in private meetings and during trips to China, including one last October.

Mr Schacht, who company documents show was appointed to the board on January 23 last year, is a shareholder in Marathon and a former consultant for the company controlled by Queensland coal magnate Ken Talbot.

The Rann government refused to respond to inquiries from The Australian about its dealings with Marathon, including whether Mr Holloway had been lobbied by Mr Schacht or other company representatives.

Marathon chairman Peter Williams said after a board meeting in Adelaide yesterday that Mr Schacht had lobbied Mr Rann and Mr Holloway.

The company also employs a lobbyist firm, but Mr Williams refused to disclose the name of the firm.

The Rann government is under pressure because of its lack of action to regulate the activities of lobbyists and establish a lobbyists' register, as the Rudd government and other states have done.
Adding to that pressure has been the Premier's refusal to establish an independent commission against corruption, as every other state except Victoria has done, in the wake of events in Queensland.

Yesterday's revelations about the extent of lobbying by Mr Schacht, a Keating government minister and former ALP state secretary, comes before Marathon's mining exploration licence expires on October 10, and as the government prepares to consider lifting a drilling ban imposed in February last year.

The indefinite suspension on drilling came after the company was caught in December 2007 dumping uranium drilling waste in the environmentally sensitive Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, 700km north of Adelaide.

A month later, Mr Schacht was appointed to the company's board. Marathon aims to develop its Mount Gee uranium project in the northern Flinders Ranges, which is estimated to contain more than 40 million tonnes of uranium ore.

Conservationists and tourist operators want Marathon barred from the sanctuary and its drill sites at Mount Gee, a listed geological monument.

Company insiders said Mr Schacht had lobbied Mr Holloway and Mr Rann on behalf of the company during trips with them to China, and in private meetings, as the state government stood to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

Mr Schacht said that as a company director he could not comment.

Mr Williams said there were "regular" meetings with the government, including with Mr Holloway. "We secured Chris's involvement before the problems came up ... Of course he's had lots of discussions with them (Rann and Holloway), and there's no undue influence at all".

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