And we thought Malcolm Fraser was bad…..?
Former PM Scott Morrison, the $52 million man
by Michael West
“The second half of 2021 when Morrison was secretly the treasurer was prolific on the takeover front, featuring 63% of all deals which added up to 78% of aggregate transaction value) for the year. He was literally selling off the farm, and to some notably shady foreign predators at that.
Foreign vulture funds were swooping on the ASX because share prices were bombed out in the wake of the Pandemic. The takeover frenzy share drove the value of corporate transactions from $33bn in 2020 to a record $131bn billion.
In December last year FIRB ticked off on the sale of the essential monopoly and gateway to Australia Sydney Airport after a $24bn takeover bid by a consortium of super funds led by New York private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners.
FIRB gave the green light to a consortium led by controversial US private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and the Ontario Teachers’ pension fund of Canada in 2021 to buy out energy provider Spark Infrastructure, paving the way for the $5.2 billion deal to be closed by year-end.
Then there was electricity juggernaut AusNet which fell to the tax dodgers from Brookfield in a $20bn takeover deal, signed off by FIRB.
The foreign predators have an advantage over local players in any takeover battle because they generally pay little or no corporate income tax. Brookfield is a prime case, taking private hospital group Healthscope and its 42 private hospitals, regulated and publicly subsidised assets to the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.
After the Healthscope deal, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had approved the sale of nursing home empire Aveo to control by an entity in the tax haven of Bermuda.
Yet once Morrison became secret treasurer the deals, and the size of the deals, escalated. At the time he was ousted in the Election in May, Australia’s largest private hospitals operator Ramsay Health Care group was being sold to a “consortium of financial investors” led by US private equity giant, KKR, in a leveraged buy-out.
The $39bn takeover of Afterpay by Block Inc of the US was cleared by FIRB last November, also when Morrison was secretly Australia’s treasurer.
All this needs investigation.”
Farmers gather at Victoria Parliament to protest against AusNet transmission line project
Hundreds of farmers have rallied outside Parliament House in Melbourne to demand the Victorian government refuse to approve energy company AusNet’s proposed Western Victorian Transmission Network Project (WVTNP).
- More than 300 people gathered on the steps of Parliament House to protest against the WVTNP
- AusNet has proposed a corridor for a 190-kilometre electricity transmission line from Melbourne’s north-west to Bulgana, near Ararat
- A government spokesperson says the project is currently going through a full EES process
The controversial project proposes 500-kilovolt high-voltage transmission lines that, if installed above ground, could be 85 metres high and would transport renewable energy from Bulgana, north of Ararat, to Melbourne.
Emma Muir, who farms at Myrniong east of Ballan, organised the protest via the Stop AusNet’s Towers lobby group.
“We’ve brought our tractors, we’ve brought our horses, fire trucks and our community to say this is no good and we want another solution,” she said.
“We’ve come to Melbourne today because the politicians won’t come to us.
“We’ve asked repeatedly for the Premier and for the Minister for Energy and Environment to meet with us and discuss this project.
“They’ve refused to come, so we’ve come here.”
‘Wake up, you dickheads’
Ballarat Potato Growers Association chairman Chris Stephens said the project put the region’s ability to produce food in jeopardy because of restrictions on machinery and irrigation near easements and under transmission lines.
“The WVTNP means the loss of over 1,000 hectares of the most productive land in Australia,” he said.
“The loss of our overall efficiency and profitability — we’re going to loose several highly productive industries.
“Wake up, you dickheads.
“Where is the justification in building 1960s technology infrastructure — a cheap and nasty transmission line? There is none.”
Mr Stephens said the region’s potato industry alone was worth $1.3 billion annually.
“If there is one thing I thought the pandemic would have made clear it’s that food doesn’t magically just appear on supermarket shelves or in the window at the drive-through,” he said.
“In Victoria we have some of the best dirt, the best climatic conditions, the cleanest water and the most dedicated farmers in the world.
“Why would we want to risk our food sovereignty or our ability to provide for ourselves?”
Consultation process slammed
Victorian Farmers Federation chief executive Jane Lovell said producers whose businesses would be affected by the transmission lines were an afterthought in the consultation process.
“It seems like a lot of decisions have been made and it doesn’t seem like farmers have actually been invited to the table to have their concerns heard,” she said.
But it’s not just farmers who oppose the project — tourism operators as well as people living in the region for the lifestyle also attended the rally.
Actor Stephen Curry lives in Gordon, 25 kilometres east of Ballarat, and says his home is in the corridor of the project.
“AusNet and the state government plan to knock down our entire property, including our house, and 3,000 native trees,” he said.
“And that’s all in the name of sustainability, which is rubbish — it’s all in the name of saving money.
Plan to keep fighting
Ms Muir said Stop AusNet’s Towers would rally again if the state government did not reject the WVTNP application.
“We’ll come back if we need to — we need to be heard and we need to be listened too,” she said.
“We in the regions want the people of Melbourne to have renewable energy, but it doesn’t have to be at our cost by ripping up our beautiful land.”
A government spokesperson said the Minister for Planning had determined that an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) was required and would assess the comparative effects of different feasible routes, alignments, design and operational alternatives for the project.
The effectiveness of the proposed measures to avoid, minimise and offset any environmental impacts will also be examined.
“This project is currently going through a full EES process — the most transparent and rigorous environmental and planning assessment framework available,” the spokesperson said.
“The EES process gives communities the chance have their say on the impacts of the projects and see the studies which inform the panel’s assessment.”
An AusNet spokesperson said the companyfully understood the concern and uncertainty a project of this size could create for local communities and families.
“We are continuing to engage and consult with communities and landholders, right along the route,” they said.
“We are actively seeking their feedback and listening to their concerns.
“We have met with the Curry family, including Stephen and his father, and visited their property to discuss their concerns, as well as conduct a series of studies, including ecology and cultural heritage, on the land.”