The Second British Invasion: how royal cronies and the gas debacle took Australia for billions

The Second British Invasion: how royal cronies and the gas debacle took Australia for billions

Fletcher selects the intriguing terms “Constitutional innovation” and a “Court of star chamber” to describe a means by which BG proposed to front a cabinet sub-committee, to circumvent environmental requirements and gain unlawful EIS sign-off. We can only assume that Queensland’s cabinet, ignoring separation of powers, morphed into a medieval Star Chamber soon after.

By Friday 25 June, Kevin Rudd was delivering his farewell speech on national television.

Government paralysis

Australia’s LNP government remains paralysed, incapable of responding what has occurred. The Labor opposition, plugged in at the highest levels, is complicit.

Federal Labor president Wayne Swan, whilst performing the role of Australia’s Treasurer, participated in the Rudd coup. Swan subsequently appointed BG’s Catherine Tanna, to the Reserve Bank board.

Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke MP, signed off QCLNG at the federal level in October 2010. Burke’s predecessor, Peter Garrett MP, refused to approve the proposal after unambiguous advice from Geosciences Australia. Garrett notes in his memoir that Ferguson and Swan had been “acutely focused” on the decision.

Federal environmental laws required protection of groundwater-dependent listed species and ecological communities, and other matters of national environmental significance (MNES). Burke has not explained how MNES were evaluated without information such as maps of thousands of kilometres of gathering pipeline networks, creek crossings, hydraulic fracturing locations and baseline studies. Australians have not seen the government’s cost-benefit analysis, hence can only assume it does not exist.

There appeared to be no objection from Labor when, on 17 September 2013, Queensland’s LNP Attorney-General appointed David Thomas (a solicitor and senior partner at law firm Minter Ellison, with foreign gas industry connections) as Judge of the Supreme Court and president of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. QCAT reviews decisions made by government agencies. The timing of his appointment is questionable. Justice Thomas was only the fourth solicitor to be appointed to the Supreme Court in 152 years.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Justice Thomas. However political appointments and judicial appointments require scrutiny. Justice David Thomas is the brother of Queensland-Texas diplomat Geoffrey Thomas, a former Labor Premier Peter Beattie’s special commissioner to North America and “honorary Texan” of George W. Bush.

David Thomas has had a lead role on the board of the Queensland Ballet, where BG group subsidiary QGC has been principal partner. The Governor of Queensland is patron of the Queensland Ballet. Anna Marsden performed the role of CEO the Queensland Ballet from 2010-16 and worked for lobbying firm Rowland prior to her current role as managing director of the controversial Great Barrier Reef Foundation. In April this year, the GBRF received a surprising $444 million package from the Turnbull government without a tender process.

Anna Marsden is married to Ben Myers. Ben Myers worked as chief of staff in the office of Premier Campbell Newman when, in February 2013, the State’s Crime and Misconduct Commission received complaints regarding the approval process for the QGC and Santos CSG-LNG projects.

The timing of Justice Thomas’s Queensland judicial appointment is noteworthy.

Gas prices have trebled as a result of government failure

On 19 September 2013, two days following the swearing in ceremonyQueensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) dismissed complaints in relation to BG’s and Santos’ CSG-LNG approval process.

The CMC claimed via a media release: “there is no evidence of official misconduct”. A retired central Queensland judge, Stanley Jones AO, contracted in May 2013 to assess the complaints, had apparently found “no grounds” to warrant an official inquiry. No signed report has surfaced. Attempts to access the report under Queensland’s Right to Information Act have failed, as the material is classified exempt information.

The Hon David Thomas has presided over the Royal Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland since 2011, after serving on its council for nine years. The Governor of Queensland is patron of the RNA. HRH the Princess Royal is president of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.

In June 2017, Attorney-General of Australia and LNP Senator for Queensland George Brandis QC appointed The Hon David Thomas as President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and, as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, the AAT reviews decisions made by the Australian Government. Brandis became Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK in 2018, replacing Alexander Downer.

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