In November, 2006, John Howard received a report on the viability of a future nuclear power industry in Australia. There was little surprise when the committee, comprised of three nuclear scientists, a professor of physics and a former chairman of the NSW electricity council, flicked on the green light for nuclear power. But was it a victory of good planning over good advice?

Last week, the PM was handed another set of favourable recommendations, this time on a carbon-trading system. They, too, led to claims that the personnel were handpicked to deliver the “right” advice.

So, in case you missed it while reading the report over the weekend, here’s who made up the committee. Note the absence of climate scientists, environmental groups, and representatives of the agricultural sector.


Dr Peter Shergold. Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics and a Fulbright Scholar.

Committee members

David Borthwick. Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Water Resources.

Peter Coates. Chief executive, Xstrata Coal: “Xstrata’s businesses maintain a meaningful position in seven major international commodity markets: copper, coking coal, thermal coal, ferrochrome, nickel, vanadium and zinc, with recycling facilities, additional exposures to gold, cobalt, lead and silver and a suite of global technology products.” Current chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia.

Tony Concannon. Regional managing director, International Power, Australia’s largest private generator of electricity.

Dr Ken Henry. Federal Treasury Secretary.

Russell Higgins. Independent non-executive director of the Australian Pipeline Trust:APA transports close to 40% of Australia’s natural gas consumption through a network of pipelines which comprise a mix of mature, established pipelines and more recent greenfields pipelines.” Also chairman of the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development and chairman of the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship Advisory Committee

Margaret Jackson. Outgoing chairman of the Qantas board. A director of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, a director of Billabong International Limited and chairman of Flexirent Holdings Pty Ltd. Member of the Business Council of Australia Chairman’s Panel, and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.

Michael L’Estrange. Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Chris Lynch. Director of BHP Billiton Limited. Currently a director of the Minerals Council of Australia. Formerly held positions at Alcoa, including vice-president and chief information officer.

John Marlay. Chief executive officer and an executive director of Alumina Limited: “[An] Australian resource company with a specific focus on alumina, the feedstock for aluminium smelting.” Alumina owns 40% of the world’s largest alumina business, Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals.

Mark Paterson. Secretary of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources in January 2002. Formerly the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Former head of the Retailers Council of Australia and the Retail Traders Association of New South Wales.

John Stewart. Managing director and group chief executive National Australia Bank. Formerly deputy group chief executive of Barclays Bank.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey