Showing posts with label lobbyists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lobbyists. Show all posts

Sunday, 27 October 2019

This is the Singleton Argus article that either the NSW Deputy-Premier or his office alleges is "seditious"


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
'the offence [sedition] is one if the person urges by force or violence the overthrowing of a government, or interfering with an election, or encouraging other people to use – or groups of people – to use force or violence against other groups' [The Attorney-General, Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Alan Jones Radio Programme, 14 November 2005, quoted in Australian Parliamentary Library, "In Good Faith:Sedition Law in Australia", 23 August 2010]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It appears that NSW Deputy-Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade & Liberal MP for Monaro, John Barilaro, is unhappy with journalists having an opinion about the mining industry, state government agencies or the region in which they live and work......



There were two articles published online by The Singleton Argus on 22 October 2019 which dealt with the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption's current review of lobbying activities, access and influence in this state.

The first was a local news article and the second an opinion piece by the same journalist on the same subject.

It was this second piece which is the allegedly "seditious" item that either the Deputy-Premier or his staff apparently decided included content intended to incite violence, public disorder or a public offence:
"Here we go again - the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is hearing evidence about mining approvals - what, haven't we learnt our lessons from the Doyles Creek and Mt Penny inquiries all those years ago?
This time ICAC's Operation Eclipse is not investigating actual corrupt conduct by individuals but rather it is seeking' to examine particular aspects of lobbying activities and the corruption risks involved in the lobbying of public authorities and officials.'
At the same time as ICAC is seeking information about the influence of lobbying on government decision making Planning Minister Rob Stokes announced the terms of reference for the review into the operations of the Independent Planning Commission.
Included in the terms of reference is a question about whether the IPC should exist at all.
Scary when one considers that the former ICAC commissioner David Ipp, QC was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald saying such a move was 'a recipe for corruption'.
The more things change the more they stay the same it would appear when it comes to planning state significant mining projects in NSW.
As an invited witness to this week's Operation Eclipse hearings NSW Minerals Council, chief executive officer Stephen Galilee voiced his strong opinions about the current state of mine approvals in NSW.
He is not happy that Bylong Coal Project was refused, that Dartbrook Underground was only half approved and that United Wambo and Rix's Creek were approved but it took too long so he was still very unhappy.
Mr Galilee is welcome is hold these opinions he works to promote mineral extraction in NSW but his opinions should not over ride due process.
We have seen what happens when mining licences are granted behind closed doors, people made millions often corruptly and the community is treated poorly or not considered at all.
No way should we go back to the bad old days in mine approvals.
We should be planning for our future where we have clean air to breath and new industries for our current mining workforce.
Instead of wasting time and money on the IPC review lets get started with planning for a just transition for our region.
The longer we put off the inevitable transition the harder it will hit our region - want to be part of that Mr Galilee?"

For the life of me I cannot see this as a journalistic call for citizens to man the barricades armed to the teeth and ready to do violence.

Perhaps in the future whichever of the Deputy-Premier's minions crafted that particular email should pause, open a dictionary and a copy of the Crimes Act before choosing his adjectives.

Then when he next rushes to the defence of his minister's 'mates' he won't rashly accuse a journalist of a grave unlawful act.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
'as long as the various sedition offences remain, governments will inevitably be tempted to use them improperly, especially when highly unpopular opinions are expressed' [Sydney Law Review,  (1992) Maher, L.W.,"The Use and Abuse of Sedition"]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption investigating regulation of lobbying, access and influence in state government circles


In New South Wales state governments have attempted to regulate political and commercial lobbying of members of parliament and public servants under provisions contained in Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011 , Lobbying of Government Officials (Lobbyists Code of Conduct) Regulation 2014, Lobbying of Government Officials (Lobbyists Code of Conduct) Amendment Regulation 2019, Premier’s Memorandum M2015-13 ‘NSW Lobbyists Code of Conduct’, Premier’s Memorandum M2015-05 ‘Publication of Ministerial Diaries and Release of Overseas Travel Information’

To date this approach has obviously been working so well that on 5 August 2019 the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began public hearings into the regulation of lobbying, access and influence in NSW (Operation Eclipse). 

Three hearing days occurred in August and the next public hearing date is not scheduled until 21 October 2019.

 According to ICAC; “Like the Commission’s previous examination of lobbying practices in 2010 (Operation Halifax), this investigation is not concerned with examining whether any particular individual may have engaged in corrupt conduct, but rather seeks to examine particular aspects of lobbying activities and the corruption risks involved in the lobbying of public authorities and officials.” 

Interestingly on 30 August 2019 The Australian gave this explanation of the possible genesis of Operation Eclipse

The NSW corruption commission will examine the “revolving door” where politicians and public servants leave their careers to move into jobs with private sector lobbyists, warning that the trend has whittled away public trust. 

Heidrun Blackwood, a senior corruption prevention officer for the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, said the crisis of public trust in government risked cascading towards “doomsday” levels in the near future. 

She said the integrity body would soon investigate the access granted to special interest groups by MPs and public servants. 

Ms Blackwood flagged the investigation after Christopher Pyne — a former federal defence minister — took up a defence consulting job with EY, and former federal foreign minister Julie Bishop landed a gig as a board director with development contractor Palladium. 

Both have denied wrongdoing and have been cleared by outgoing public service boss Martin Parkinson, who is appearing before a parliamentary committee today to take questions on the matter….. 

According to the Grattan Institute, since 1990 more than one-quarter of all federal ministers or assistant ministers have taken up roles in lobbying outfits or special interest groups since leaving parliament. 

“The revolving door is an issue that we are going to look at,” Ms Blackwood said. “It is true that, on the one hand, it is part of democracy to have that conversation. 

“On the other hand, there is also the impression that some people are getting more access than others. That has prompted our commissioner to look at that issue more closely.”

Monday, 6 May 2019

Climate change policy scare campaign does the rounds again


A scary headline from 7 West Media and Kerry Stokes**….


Fossil fuel industry analyst and economist  Dr. Brian Fisher has issued another warning about what he apparently believes is the folly of tackling climate change……

The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 May 2019, p.1:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is facing an explosive political row over his climate change policy as industry warns of rising costs and a new economic study predicts 167,000 fewer jobs by 2030 under the Labor plan.

Business groups backed the ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but said they deserved more detail given they would pay for the scheme, in a rebuke to Labor's claim it was "impossible" to model the costs of its policy on employers and the economy.

The new warning from economist Brian Fisher, which is hotly disputed by Labor and countered by other experts, marks a dramatic escalation in the political fight over the cost of taking action on climate change compared to the cost of inaction.

Dr Fisher concluded that the Labor emissions target would subtract at least 264 billion from gross national product by 2030 and as much as26 4billion from gross national product by 2030 and as much a s542 billion, depending on the rules for big companies to buy international carbon permits to meet their targets.

"Negative consequences for real wages and employment are projected under all scenarios, with a minimum 3 per cent reduction in real wages and 167,000 less jobs in 2030 compared to what otherwise would have occurred," he concluded.

"Labor's plan results in a cumulative GNP loss over the period from 2021 to 2030 that is over three times larger than that occurring under the Coalition policy. Turning to other results, the wholesale electricity price under Labor's climate policy is around 20 per cent higher than that resulting from the Coalition policy."

Labor has been bracing for Dr Fisher's report after weeks of conflicting claims over the cost of its policies.

But Australian National University professor Warwick McKibbin cautioned against some of the claims, telling the Herald two weeks ago that the impact of Labor's proposals would be a "small fraction" of the economy by 2030.

Professor McKibbin estimates the Coalition and Labor policies would subtract about 0.4 per cent from the economy by 2030.

The cumulative value of economic output has been broadly tipped to be about $30 trillion by 2030, which means Dr Fisher's worst-case scenario equates to less than 2 per cent of output over that period.

An earlier version of Dr Fisher's modelling triggered headlines of a "carbon cut apocalypse" in March but was questioned by other economists, who said he had assumed very high costs for renewable energy generation and the cost of reducing emissions.

ANU professor Frank Jotzo said in March that Dr Fisher's work had used "absurd cost assumptions" about emissions abatement.

Dr Fisher was the executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics for many years and conducted the modelling at his firm, BAEconomics. He said this was not commissioned or paid for by the government.
While heavily disputed, Mr Morrison is expected to use the results to mount an escalating campaign against Mr Shorten ahead of the May 18 poll….


Fisher gets called out….

Mirage News, 2 May 2019:

THE CLIMATE COUNCIL is calling on Brian Fisher to come clean about his links to the fossil fuel industry, following the release of his “independent” modelling looking at the cost of Labor’s climate policy.

“Mr Fisher has a history of working closely with fossil fuel industries. How can his research be ‘independent’?” asked the Climate Council’s Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice.

“Mr Fisher’s work has been at odds with credible economic literature which shows that strong action on climate change can be achieved at a modest price, while the costs of inaction are substantial,” said Dr Rice.

“We should be having a conversation about the escalating costs of climate change and the very real economic pain Australia will suffer for failing to act,” said Dr Rice.
“Since the Coalition has been in government, greenhouse gas emissions have gone up and up and up. Meanwhile, Australians are on the frontline of worsening extreme weather as the climate is changing,” he said.

“We urgently need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions There’s credible, independent research that finds Australia can drive down its emissions by more than 45% with minimal impact on the economy,” he said……

The first report in a nutshell….

Climate Council, 20 March 2019:

What’s the story?

Fossil fuel industry consultant Brian Fisher has released so-called “independent” modelling looking at the economic cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but his research is deeply flawed.

Who is Brian Fisher?

Brian Fisher is the fossil fuel industry’s go-to consultant. The industry has paid for much of Fisher’s so-called ‘research’.

Is the modelling credible?

No. Fisher’s report fails to consider the economic benefits for Australia from investing in renewable energy and new technologies as well as failing to quantify the costs of not acting to prevent climate change. 

Several of his findings are implausible. For example, his findings on electricity prices are contrary to a range of detailed Australian studies showing more renewable energy means lower wholesale electricity prices.

This is a distraction.

The Federal Government has a poor record on climate change and is running a scare campaign to distract from this. Since the Liberal National Party has been in government, pollution has gone up, electricity and gas prices have gone up and extreme weather events have worsened.

An explanation of how economic modelling is used….

The Guardian, 21 February 2019:

Whenever Australia starts to have a serious conversation about addressing climate change, headlines appear in newspapers of an economic apocalypse. This happened again in the Australian this week based on work by a long-standing economic modeller of climate policy, Brian Fisher.

So, what do economic modelling exercises tell us of the impact of reducing Australia’s contribution to global warming, and more importantly, what do they not? Should we cower in fear of action or embrace the inevitable change and manage the human and economic costs of transition?

Firstly, economic modelling results are not predictions. They are based on hypothetical future worlds. Economists try to capture the dynamics of economic systems in their models to understand the relative impact of different policy options. This means they are always wrong because economists can’t predict the future. 

Economic modellers are not the crystal ball gazers we read about in fantasy books……

This does not mean the economic models are not useful, it just means they should be used to test the relative impact of different policy options and not be presented as predictions of the future. They have a long history of overestimating the costs of environmental regulations because people and markets can innovate faster than they often expect.

Secondly, the way economic modelling results are presented is very important. Industry groups in particular like to attach themselves to particular results and scream that thousands of jobs will be lost, or wages will be slashed. This is designed to scare people into not acting on climate change by making them feel insecure in their lives. The headlines in the Australian did just this.

It is also dishonest because they also don’t clearly put the results in the context of the broader change in the economy. (David Gruen, one of Australia’s top economic officials gave a great speech about this in 2008 to illustrate how long this silliness has been going on.)

To illustrate my point, the economic impacts Fischer has projected for different emissions targets are in the same ballpark of those projected for work commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade a few years ago. This work also presented results in a similar way to the Australian. However, what is also showed is that the economy, jobs, income, etc continued to grow regardless. We keep getting richer and have more jobs, we just do so at a slightly slower rate.

Thirdly, because Australia exports a lot of coal and other emissions-intensive products to other countries, what they do matters an awful lot to the Australian economy. As other nations reduce emissions, demand for these products falls regardless of what we do. It has been established for some time that a significant part of the economic impacts of climate change on Australia comes from things we can’t control and this is generally presented in the results (see here for an example). While he does not report this, Brian Fisher knows this because he spearheaded economic analysis in the 1990s that was targeted at convincing Japan, one of our major coal markets, it would be too costly for them to reduce emissions.

Lastly, whenever these headlines are blasted across the papers one point is always lost: these results don’t include the cost of climate change itself. This summer, we have again seen a glimmer of what climate change will mean for Australia. Recent economic analysis indicates the benefits of limiting global warming far outweigh the cost of doing so, in one case by 70-1 (a good summary is here). (Again, this is something Fisher has considered in the past as he once said it would be cheaper to move people from the Pacific and put them in condos on the Gold Coast than act on climate change.)

So, as we head into another cycle of climate change politics in Canberra, beware the economic doomsayers and the threats from industry groups that credible action will be a “wrecking ball” to the economy. To be glib, no one said saving the Earth would be free. Acting on climate change will have costs but the costs of not acting will be far, far larger. Better that we come together and manage a fair and effective transition than continuing to delay and pay a much, much greater bill later…..

Dr Fisher feels the heat....

Fisher now accuses the Morrison Government of sitting on a second report modelling cost to the mining and resources sector of climate action, which was commissioned in the lead up to the federal election campaign and, which the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science confirms it has received.

Fisher appears to believe that this report to which he was a contributor will buttress his claims and silence his critics.

However, to date Morrison and Co have not released this report so two possiblities exist: (i) the report's conclusions tend to support Labor climate action policy or (ii) the report's conclusions are based on such flawed assumptions that it will be easily unpicked by genuinely independent experts.

* Mr Stokes is the Executive Chairman of Seven Group Holdings Limited, a company with a market-leading presence in the resources services sector in Australia and formerly in north east China and a significant investment in energy and also in media in Australia through Seven West Media. Mr Stokes has held this position since April 2010. He is also Chairman of Australian Capital Equity Pty Limited, which has substantial interests in media and entertainment, resources, energy, property, pastoral and industrial activities.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Institute of Public Affairs Limited (IPA) has a single broad focus - to infiltrate government in order to reduce workers to a powerless underclass


Given representatives of the Institute of Public Affairs Limited (IPA) turn up as guest commentators so frequently these days on television, radio and in newsprint - usually without mention of who they actually represent - perhaps it's time to update deatils of the corporate structure, finances and aims of this group.


This highly partisan, conservative political pressure group thinly disguised as an independent research group-cum-think tank was registered in Melbourne Victoria in 1987 and its legal owner appears to be The Trustee For Institute Of Public Affairs Research Trust. This trust was created on 10 July 2007.

In the 1990s it appears to have merged with the the Australian Institute of Public Policy.

IPA became a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) from 30 Mar 2006, though it is hard to make out on exactly what factual grounds it became an Approved Research Institute (ARI) with charitable status.

It guards its individual and corporate membership list closely, but does admit to 4,559 members as of 1 July 2016.

IPA's founding members as then captains of industry, wealthy graziers and conservative politicians (Charles Denton Kemp, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, B A Santamaria, Sir Keith Arthur MurdochSir George James Coles, Harold Gordon Darling, G.H. Grimwade, H.R. Harper, W.A. Ince, Fredrick Earnest Lampe MBE, Sir Walter Massy-Greene, Sir Leslie James McConnan, C.N. McKay, William Edward McPherson, Sir Ian Potter and The Hon. A.G. Warnerare reasonably well-known, as are a handful of current members.
Over the years a number of members of the IPA (past & present) have also been members of the Liberal Party (or worked for Liberal politicians), including David Kemp, Rod Kemp, John Hyde, John Roskam, Tim Wilson, James Patterson, Mitch Fifield, Nicholle Flint, Allan Pidgeon, Mike NahanMichael Kroger, Tom SwitzerAndrew ShearerRichard Allsop, Simon Breheny, Ross Maclean, Peta Credlin and Tony Smith.

A significant number of IPA supporters are easily identified because this pressure group published the names of around 1,261 of its supporters in 2011.

Its board and company directors are now known due to the fact that it has finally published annual reports from 2000-01 to 2016-17.

IPA states that: 86 per cent of the IPA's revenue is donated by individuals, 12 per cent is received from foundations, 1 per cent from businesses, and 1 per cent from other sources such as interest. The IPA neither seeks nor receives any funding from government. In addition to the membership fees contributed by IPA members, the IPA received 2,913 separate donations during 2016-17.

It also supplies this graph of modest through to rather generous individual and corporate donations in its 2016-17 Annual Report:

The Institute of Public Affairs updated its policy aims in 2012 as it geared up to fight against Australian Labor Party and Greens policies during the 2013 federal election campaign:


1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.
2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change
3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
5 Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
6 Repeal the renewable energy target
7 Return income taxing powers to the states
8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
11 Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
12 Repeal the National Curriculum
13 Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations
18 Eliminate family tax benefits
19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
20 Means-test Medicare
21 End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
22 Introduce voluntary voting
23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations
24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
25 End public funding to political parties
26 Remove anti-dumping laws
27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions
28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
30 Cease subsidising the car industry
31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books
34 End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
41 Repeal the alcopops tax
42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams
43 Repeal the mining tax
44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
47 Cease funding the Australia Network
48 Privatise Australia Post
49 Privatise Medibank
50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
51 Privatise SBS
52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
53 Repeal the Fair Work Act
54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
56 Abolish the Baby Bonus
57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
63 Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
66 Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
67 Means test tertiary student loans
68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising
71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
72 Privatise the CSIRO
73 Defund Harmony Day
74 Close the Office for Youth
75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

By 2014 a few more policies made it on to the IPA list according to The AIM Network:

* “Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built”

* “Rule out the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for electronic gaming machines”

* “Extend the GST to cover all goods and services” and

* “Negotiate and sign free trade agreements with Australia’s largest trading partners, including China, India, Japan and South Korea”.

Liberal Party prime ministers have been working their way through IPA's policy agenda since such lists were first created.

Federal Government regulation now means there is some degree of transparency with regard to IPA finances, which like the finances of other 'charities" are subject to disclosure.

Annual Information Statement declared by The Trustee For Institute Of Public Affairs Research Trust (Charity ABN 33886902896), October 2017, excerpt:




Wednesday, 20 December 2017

One of the reasons why local government, traditional owners and communities in the Clarence Valley should be very wary of home-grown and foreign lobbyists, investment consortiums and land developers


On 15 August 2016 four representatives of United Land Councils Ltd & United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd gave evidence before the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 INQUIRY INTO CROWN LAND.

One of the projects put forward to the Inquiry by those representatives was the industrialisation of the Clarence River estuary by way of construction of a mega freight port.

The following tale involves a number of persons or firms associated with the aforementioned  companies and this mega port & rail project, including Nick Petroulias aka Michael Felson aka Nick Peterson.

The Newcastle Herald, 21 October 2017:

HE WAS brash and brilliant. A young lawyer from Melbourne who became a rising star of the public service, hand-picked to serve as assistant tax commissioner by the age of 30.

That was until a spectacular fall from grace left Nick Petroulias jailed for using his plum position to do the very thing he was tasked with stamping out: defrauding the tax office.

Since his release from prison in 2010, Mr Petroulias has kept a low profile, going by a number of aliases including Michael Felson and Nick Petersen.

He described himself as a “disabled pensioner” on bankruptcy forms in 2015, with his debts estimated at an eye-watering $104 million.

But Fairfax Media can reveal that he has been accused of working behind the scenes to dupe a wealthy Chinese property developer into the illegal purchase of $12.6 million of Aboriginal land across Newcastle.

The matter is the subject of a Supreme Court legal battle that veteran lawyers have described as one of the most extraordinary cases they have seen in their careers.

Labelled by a lawyer familiar with the case as a real-life version of “Alice in Wonderland”, its cast of characters includes an international fugitive known as Robbie Rocket, a convicted drug dealer and a dead company director who somehow continued signing agreements a year after he was cremated in a Sydney cemetery.

The existence of an international money laundering syndicate and a karaoke junket intended as a bribery attempt are among the other sensational allegations contained within thousands of pages of evidence that have been tendered to the court.

Collectively, the lands were valued at $12.6 million.

Two Awabakal board members met with Mr Zong. At the negotiating table, they introduced him to Mr Petroulias – an agent for the parties involved – and Knightsbridge North Lawyers, a firm enlisted to broker the deal.

The only catch, Mr Zong was informed, was that the portfolio of land had already been sold to another buyer a year beforehand.

But he was assured that in return for a payment, that purchaser would remove themself from the picture.

By the end of the year, things appeared to be proceeding smoothly. 

Mr Zong had signed sales contracts, begun pursuing the land’s rezoning and outlaid nearly a million dollars – money he believed was a combination of a deposit and a payout for the former buyer.

But then came a shock announcement that threatened to derail the transaction: the state government had launched an investigation into the land council.

The investigation followed complaints about the land council’s governance and finances.

But Mr Zong alleges he was reassured the deal was still on a steady footing. He claims to have been told by Mr Petroulias that “there was no reason arising from the investigation that would compromise the validity of the transaction documents”. 

However, damning findings from the government’s investigator resulted in the land council being placed into administration. Then, the confirmation came: the sale was off.

Mr Zong ordered the immediate repayment of his $1 million, but his demands were refused. His property development companies – Sunshine Property Investment Group and Sunshine Warners Bay –  launched a civil claim for damages and to recoup the losses.

Caught in the legal crossfire was the land council, its law firm Knightsbridge, and the land’s original buyer, a mysterious company registered under the name Gows Heat.

Since it was placed into administration last year, the Awabakal land council has been under the control of Terry Lawler, a prominent Newcastle financier and philanthropist awarded an OAM in January.

Mr Lawler has recruited a high-powered legal team – including top silk Jeremy Kirk SC – to defend the land council and launch a cross-claim.

They have argued that the sales contracts Mr Zong signed were bogus and none of the proceeds found their way into the land council’s coffers.

Read the full article here.

The Newcastle Herald, 15 December 2017:

A wealthy Chinese developer appears set to withdraw a lawsuit against the Awabakal Aboriginal Local Land Council. 

Tony Zong and his Sunshine Property Investment Group had alleged they were conned into a deal to purchase $12.6 million of Aboriginal land across the city.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court heard the matter – involving disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias – was “painfully close” to being resolved. 

It’s understood Awabakal lawyers want the land council’s costs covered as part of the settlement. 

“There doesn’t seem to be terribly much at issue in the Sunshine matter now except for the terms of discontinuance,” Justice Darke said. 

A separate action against Awabakal is also making its way through the courts. 

Knightsbridge North Lawyers has placed a caveat over the old Newcastle Post Office while it pursues the land council for $26,743 in alleged unpaid fees. 

Justice Darke indicated mediation could occur if the matter remained unresolved when the case returns to court in February.