Class, Connections and. . .
Forrest went to Christ Church Grammar, “the school of choice for Western Australia’s wealthy. It is Perth’s equivalent of Melbourne Grammar or Sydney’s Cranbrook, churning out educated young men with a network of ready-made connections.”
Young Forrest left Christ Church Grammar “under a cloud” and was then enrolled at Hale School (where John Forrest and “Twiggy’s” son Sydney attended) which modestly describes itself as a “world-renowned Anglican day and boarding school.”
Forrest was not scholastically gifted, hard-working or even popular at either class-ridden establishment, but he would have learnt the “language” and ways of the “born-to-rules”.
That’s the big attraction of these private schools to the “upwardly mobile” because their academic standards are not greatly different to most State schools.
. . .Corruption
“The freewheeling business culture of Perth in the 1980s, where he earned the nickname “Silver Tongue” in stockbroking circles, was influential in shaping the young Andrew Forrest.”
Making huge sums of money using connections, ‘front’ and sales patter, certainly seems embedded into the “Twiggy” psyche.
I worked in Perth in the eighties as a Builders Labourer. The sight of expensive cars, parked along St Georges Terrace, their windscreens covered in parking fine tickets, was a daily reminder that their broker owners were making far too much money to be concerned about fines that would have financially crippled a mere mortal.
Perth in the ’80s was America’s Cup evictions, bull markets and corruption, under the reign of the infamous “WA Inc.” which saw hundreds of millions of the State’s monies handed out to favoured tycoons by Labor Premier Brian Burke.
Two of the main beneficiaries of this corrupt regime Laurie Connell and Alan Bond became treasured clients of “Twiggy” who had left Kirke Securities in 1986 to launch the Perth office of Sydney broking house Jacksons.²
Alan Bond and Laurie Connell with singer, Jackie Love at the opening of Observation City Hotel Perth in 1987 Source
Burke later served seven months in prison in 1994 for travel expense rorts and a stint for stealing $122,585 in campaign donations (for which he was acquitted on appeal) and later went into business as a lobbyist with former Labor ministerial colleague Julian Grill.
Despite Labor Premier Geoff Gallop banning his ministers from contact with the pair in 2004, they still had enormous influence and valuable contacts within the governing Labor party.
Forrest hired the pair as consultants on $10,000 a month.
Red tape becomes red dust
When Forrest was stymied in getting the use of BHP Billiton’s railway line for his Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), Burke suggested he pursue a ‘state agreement’ to build his own railway line. Normally a long and complex process because it sends “a strong signal to investors that a project has the government’s imprimatur.”
Burke sped up the process through parliament, by getting an old mate, “Labor MP Norm Marlborough, to petition his colleagues for the Bill to be introduced in the upper house rather than the lower house, an unusual manoeuvre that enabled it to be passed in a single day. (Marlborough would later become a minister and kept a secret mobile phone purely for the purpose of communicating with Burke.)”
It didn’t end well.
In essence, parliamentary procedure was circumvented, due to the influence of a favour-peddling Burke, in defiance of a Labor party ban, by a complicit Labor MP.
All of this to advantage Mr Forrest.
As well as this unprecedented rapidity, suddenly the project had a weight it didn’t really deserve.
As Liberal Opposition leader Colin Barnett stated, in a short-lived opposition to the bill, “A state government agreement Act is a right to bank money, a right to raise money and a right to see a company’s share market price rise. It is a signal to customers, investors, equipment suppliers and contractors that a project is about to happen.”
Similar tactics were used to override environmental concerns, to bypass the Aboriginal Heritage Act and to get another “state agreement” for the opening of the mine.
The usual eighteen months of a ‘long and complex process’ had been crammed into less than four months.
The announcement of the deal boosted FMG’s market value by $90 million in a single day.
The Gallop/Carpenter-led Labor governments and in particular, John Bowler the new resources minister – who later admitted to “cutting corners” for Forrest to the WA Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) – supplied this unprecedented assistance to Forrest and his FMG without even receiving a feasibility study of FMG’s Pilbara mining plans.
Thanks a billion
Mr Forrest was extremely grateful to Burke and Grill for their efforts on his behalf, even expressing concern for Burke’s health…
“Forrest became a big admirer of Burke’s seemingly magical powers, referring to him in one meeting as a “national treasure”. Burke remembers being surprised when Forrest took him aside one day to raise concerns about the lobbyist’s weight, even offering him to make an appointment with his own doctor to help him drop a few kilograms. Says Grill: “Andrew got really close to us, and he particularly liked Brian.”
…until their activities came to the attention of the CCC and the media.
“As soon as the CCC hearings into Burke and Grill began in late 2006, Forrest ran as fast as he could
from the pair. He told journalists that Fortescue had engaged Burke and Grill only to train Julian Tapp,
who was unfamiliar at the time with the state bureaucracy. “As far as any lobbying goes, they don’t do
that for us,” Forrest said. “When we need to speak to a minister or a member of the bureaucracy, we do that.”
He repeated this claim to the Australian Financial Review a few months later.“We did retain Burke and Grill
to show our new government relations manager the ropes, and they did that effectively. But we did not ever
use them in our approaches to government,” he said.”
Unfortunately for Forrest’s attempt at self-exoneration, the evidence revealed at the CCC showed that Burke and Grill “had extensive contact with John Bowler and senior public servants on behalf of Fortescue.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Sheila McHale, was approached directly by Grill regarding the Fortescue rail application and “Burke and Grill had also lobbied Labor MPs and senior bureaucrats to push Fortescue’s state agreements through parliament during 2004 and 2005.”
In a secretly recorded CCC phone conversation. Grill said Bowler (Resources Minister) had been responsible “for getting Alan (Labor Premier, Carpenter) to put a bit of pressure on Sheila (Indigenous Affairs Minister) to come up with the right sort of answer”.
Yes, he can talk: Brian Burke at his home with his two red-tailed black cockatoos. Picture: Philip Gostelow Source
It is difficult to overstate the toxicity of the CCC investigation into Forrest’s former “consultants” which caused “…the demise of three state ministers and three ministerial chiefs of staff, the resignation of a federal minister³ and serious embarrassment for federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd.” 4Corners
As Peter Costello so eloquently stated, “Anyone who deals with Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised!”
Clearly, Forrest lied about his association with Burke and Grill to journalists and therefore the Australian public.
The use of chicanery to achieve his ends is Forrest’s modus operandi
As a biographer states, Twiggy “…always had a rebellious streak and doesn’t believe that conventions apply to him. The rules are there to be pushed and prodded until he gets his way.”
Even David Mendelawitz a former colleague, “…believes Forrest’s ability to embellish a story has been integral to his success. “He’s such a good salesman – you just don’t know what’s fact and fiction”.
A Judge’s view was less kind, Justice Margaret Beazley concluded that Mr Forrest, “demonstrated that he would conduct his business in a way to achieve his commercial ends, even if that involved threats and falsehoods”.
“She became the first of several judges to shine an uncomfortable light on Forrest’s business methods.”
The right billionaire for the job
While it was Labor’s Kevin Rudd who launched Mr Forrest on the spurious trajectory of “friend of the Aboriginal people”, it was the Liberal’s Tony Abbott who utilised Twiggy’s tax-paid self-marketing to instil further control and indignities on Aboriginal people, using the infamous cashless debit card.
“Twiggy” who is unqualified in all aspects of social welfare – especially lived experience – has a vested interest in controlling Aboriginal people and their lands, and from all accounts is dishonest and will use threats and deceit to get his way.
“So, Twiggy’s Indue card gets to label an entire society as drunken abusers and belittle the world’s longest surviving people as beyond self-governing,
thereby eliminating resistance to his plans.” Source
Apparently, making a lot of money (regardless of how) entitles the Rich to not only have their opinions aired publicly but to have them considered worthy of action. Whereas experts in social welfare who state categorically that the Indue card will further marginalise and disadvantage our most vulnerable citizens are being ignored.
“As we can see, there are good reasons why the wealthy class has traditionally been kept away from the management of government employment and welfare programs – they have no experience in government or welfare work, little commitment to public service and community wellbeing, no experience in sociology or behavioural science, their ideas are typically self-serving to their own financial interests and present an extreme conservative right-wing ideology” Source
So just why has this unelected, unrepresentative robber baron been given power over us?
The short answer is that a succession of neoliberal governments beholden to Fossil Fuel corporations and other parasitic, tax-dodging, planet-killing entities have usurped our democracy.
Just in case someone should accuse me of a lack of objectivity in regard to Mr Forrest’s accomplishments and motives, let me end this piece on a positive note. “Twiggy” does seem to have a good seat on a horse.
Feature image from The Monthly
By Mick Lawless
¹“Anecdotal evidence also abounds that suggest its longer term students suffer significant psychological damage in adult life
from the emotional deprivation of a same sex school environment. It shares in common with similar schools higher suicide rates
and over representation of its students in psychiatric counselling as adults. In spite of its performance claims, Academic excellence
is achieved artificially through favouritism that advantages over achievers while ignoring (typically by failing to recognise) the special
needs of under achievers.” Source
²“On the rowdy trading floor of the old Perth stock exchange on St Georges Terrace, the Jacksons boys were known as aggressive
and cavalier. Regulation of stockbroking in the 1980s was weak; this was an era of few checks and balances. Insider trading was
rife and, unlike today, there were no “Chinese walls” – the barriers within a firm that separate the research analysts, who provide
advice to clients, from the traders, who do the buying and selling. John Poynton recalls many of the older brokers along
St Georges Terrace frowning upon Jacksons.” Source
³”WA Liberal senator Ian Campbell, the federal minister for human services, was forced to resign after admitting he once chatted
to Burke for twenty minutes” Source