On second thoughts, maybe WA’s Minister for
Rio,
John Bowler, would have been better off continuing to hide if yesterday’s
effort to justify the Shovelanna decision was his best shot.

As reported everywhere (eg Oz, SMH ), Bowler basically said that he took the deposit from Cazaly Resources and gave it
back to Rio because he decided iron ore was different to other minerals. And indeed it is. That’s because it
contains iron and not, say, nickel or copper or gold or any of the other
elements I vaguely recall from the periodic table.

And because iron ore is different, Bowler
has discovered a new policy that says it’s special and therefore Rio doesn’t have to abide by
the usual hard and straight lease requirements that apply to all the other
ores.

Bowler conceded Cazaly had been legitimately
granted the lease and there was no suggestion Rio had correctly renewed the lease
– it’s just special. Yes, it is a particularly lame performance. And for a
really good laugh, there’s this bit, as reported by Ean Higgins in The Oz:

(Bowler) insisted he had made the decision on the basis of fairness and that
he had not been pressured by Rio to do so. “There has been some suggestion that since Rio
is big that they leant on me,” Mr Bowler said. That, he said, was untrue, and he had not had contact with the company in
taking the decision.

OK, Mr Bowler, let’s believe you on that –
but who did Rio have contact with in the WA Government? Your boss, perhaps, Premier
Carpenter? Or did you leave it all to your DoIR officials to take Rio’s submissions for the
return of the lease? We do know Rio didn’t take the loss lying down, but maybe
the minister needs to go back into hiding to find another “special” answer
about that.

Peter Fray

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