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Oct 5, 2005

Burnside signs up to defend Mirvac against Chinese investors

Ever since leading the charge for the MUA in the Federal Court during the waterfront dispute of 1998, prominent Melbourne silk Julian Burnside QC has been regarded as a politically a

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Ever since leading the charge for the
MUA in the Federal Court during the waterfront dispute of 1998,
prominent Melbourne silk Julian Burnside QC has been regarded as a
politically active barrister who leans somewhat to the left.

Burnside’s
media profile rose again when he tackled Alan Jones and John Laws
during the cash for comment inquiry on behalf of the ABA in 1999. Then,
after the Tampa sailed onto the horizon in mid 2001, he became a
prominent campaigner on all things refugees and immigration.

But
Burnside remains very active at the Victorian bar, and it’s interesting
to see that he has been retained by the giant developer Mirvac for a
forthcoming case with racial overtones – a number of Chinese investors
are suing Mirvac over a promised “golden tower” in Melbourne’s
Docklands precinct that turned out to be brown. Check out a news report
on the dispute here.

Having
Australia’s most prominent advocate for refugees and human rights
representing them claiming that nothing in the marketing to the Chinese
investors was misleading or preyed on their poor English is a smart
move by Mirvac. And for Burnside, $8,000 a day will be well earned if he
can deliver the goods for his client.

Mirvac
has just appointed
James MacKenzie as chairman, who was introduced to Mirvac CEO Greg
Paramor by Westfield boss Frank Lowy in 1994-95 when he was CEO of the
Transport Accident Commission and trying to reduce its large exposure
to direct property and development risk. The TAC ended up selling
Melbourne’s prestigious Southgate complex for more than $200 million to
Paramor’s Paladin vehicle which floated in on the ASX.

MacKenzie
is one of the busiest business figures going around because he also
chairs the two giant Victorian government insurance schemes, WorkCover
and the Transport Accident Commission and sits on the board of
Circadian Technologies, Amrad and the Victorian Major Events Company.

Mirvac
is a big player in the sometimes dangerous construction game in
Victoria, which could raise some interesting situations for MacKenzie.
What happens if
workplace safety issues ever flare up on the site of the company
chaired by
the man in charge of implementing the state’s workers’ compensation
scheme? Would the Worksafe inspectors throw the book at their boss?
Check out this example of WorkCover and Mirvac working together in Victoria on a PR initiative.

All
up, there are plenty of interesting balls in the air for MacKenzie and
he’ll no doubt be taking a keen interest in Burnside’s performance as
Mirvac’s selling tactics and building quality get put through the
ringer by Slater & Gordon in the months ahead.

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