Ian Macdonald, the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, State Development, Energy and Mineral Resources, and his friend, Chinese entrepreneur Alan Fang, share an abiding love of music.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s website lists the following major financial sponsors: the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the NSW Department of State and Regional Development, the Department of Water and Energy and Mr Fang’s Tianda Group.
When Mr Macdonald expanded the government-backed NSW Asia Business Council last year with 13 new members, one of his nominees was Mr Fang, Tianda’s chairman and managing director.
Another Macdonald appointee was Jake Klein, president and CEO of Sino Gold.
“The council’s key objectives are to identify new market opportunities in Asia for NSW exports and to identify investment opportunities in NSW which are likely to attract investment capital and interest from Asia,” Mr Macdonald said.
Mr Fang’s appointment was followed by a dinner at Parliament House in Macquarie Street on October 30 at which Premier Morris Iemma gave a “keynote address” and sought recruits for a forthcoming business and education delegation to visit China.
Mr Fang, who made his millions in China’s massive tobacco industry and in pharmaceuticals, is a newcomer to the mining sector. Last year he formed Tianda Resources and undertook a series of business deals to turn himself into a player.
On December 21 last year Tianda Group completed the acquisition of a 50.86 per cent shareholding in Yunnan Enterprise Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong listed firm which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
On February 27 this year Tianda and Yunnan Enterprises and Hunan Nonferrous Metals Corporation Ltd entered into a cooperative framework agreement “to jointly develop nonferrous metal resources business in China and Australia.”
On May 28, Yunnan Tianda Mining Ltd, a joint venture company owned by Tianda Group and its subsidiary Yunnan Enterprises, Yunnan Province Nonferrous Metals Geological Exploration Institute and Yunan Xintongxin Investment Company Limited, entered into “a cooperative exploration and development contract” to prospect for copper in Yunnan Province.
That was the month that Premier Iemma and Mr Macdonald visited China for 10 days to develop business opportunities. (Mr Macdonald has made three taxpayer-funded visits to China since the state election in March 2007).
Mr Fang’s Tianda website has published a press release on the NSW trade mission with this headline: “China visit of Australia NSW Premier and Minister of Mineral Resources accompanied by Mr Alan Fang with great success.”
Mr Fang joined Mr Macdonald during his formal meetings with the Chinese Communist Party boss of Gansu Province and the governor of Yunnan Province and cemented future cooperation.
“Gansu, Yunnan and NSW have abundant mineral resources which build up a solid platform for future co-operative opportunities.” Tianda’s press release said.
During the trip, Mr Macdonald was able to take time off from his busy schedule to see his daughter who is studying at a university in China.
She is a child of his first marriage to Dr Vivien Kite, deputy executive director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation and a member of the council of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.
A few months ago Mr Macdonald re-married. His new wife is his longtime partner Anita Gylseth who, for many years, worked on his ministerial staff. Former education minister John Della Bosca and his wife, Belinda Neal, the federal MP for Robertson, one of the ALP’s other “golden couples”, were among the many political figures who attended the wedding.
The NSW Opposition has raised concerns about Tianda Resources’ claim to being “an international corporation” which is acting as a “bridge” between China and Australia to take advantage of the resources boom.
Tianda’s dubious claim that “the company owns many coal mines and other minerals exploration projects in NSW” has already raised Opposition concerns since there is no evidence to support it.
Mr Fang’s company profile states: “Tianda Resources has established an international resources cooperation network including major resources and energy companies in Australia and China.”
Mr Macdonald appears to accept this dazzling proposition, but does anybody else?