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.”
Liberal Senator alarmed China has bought an island next to WA military training area
The Foreign Investment Review Board is now obviously influenced by Liberal or Labor politicians and should be abolished and replaced with a parliamentary committee including independents
A decision to grant a Chinese linked company a mining licence on a remote West Australian island, close to a military training area, is raising concerns inside Defence and federal government ranks.
- A Hong Kong-based company was last year granted a 12-year lease of abandoned mining operations on Cockatoo Island
- The Foreign Investment Review Board examined the deal, but security officials have privately expressed concerns
- Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says the leasing to a Chinese linked company shows current laws are “defective”
In October, the private Hong Kong-based entity was announced as the new owner of abandoned iron ore operations on Cockatoo Island in WA’s Kimberley region, next to the Yampi Sound Defence Training Area.
Cockatoo Island is roughly 2000 kilometres from Perth and boasts an airstrip which was used to service past mining projects as well as a resort built by infamous businessman Alan Bond during the 1980s.
According to Western Australia’s Department of Mines registry the new lease approved last year for ‘Cockatoo Island Mining Pty Ltd’ will expire in 2032.
Cockatoo Island Mining’s directors say they want to “establish a world class and responsible mining operation, within an area that has demonstrated high-grade iron ore deposits,” after the previous owner went into administration in 2015.
Company documents submitted to the Australian Security and Investments Commission confirm directors of the Cockatoo Island Mining venture reside in Australia, India, Hong Kong as well as mainland China.
The ABC has confirmed the 2020 takeover was examined by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) but the deal has still alarmed some federal government figures who believe it is similar to the controversial lease of Darwin Port to a Chinese state-owned company.
Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who previously served as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, has told the ABC she is alarmed at the deal.
“The Cockatoo Island ‘transaction’ is yet another example of why acquisition of strategic assets from governments in Australia by ‘private companies’ with links to Beijing should come within the scope of both FIRB and foreign relation legislation.”
“This ‘transaction’ is another glaring example of our defective federal laws,” the NSW Senator argues.