Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is at war with Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton over iron-ore rail access, so what better way for some political credits in Canberra than to announce his 50,000 Indigenous jobs plan?

Despite Fortescue’s former status as a major client of Brian Burke, Prime Minister Rudd appears to have learnt little from past brushes with colourful Perth identities and was positively gushing about Twiggy’s plan on Sunday’s farewell political interview with Laurie Oakes:

What I’ve indicated and I’m indicating today is that the Government will and will do so in a practical way by providing the necessary training places to support those indigenous Australians to make them training-ready to go into those companies which Andrew Forrest will help us bring about. It’s a practical program, it’s a big plan on his part. It’s a big initiative on his part, very tough goals that he set for himself, but we’re prepared to support his enterprise by assisting with the training places.

Hmmm, is this the sort of thing a Prime Minister should be saying about someone ASIC is prosecuting for over-cooking ASX announcements on supposedly binding contracts and WA’s Worksafe authority is prosecuting for allegedly unsafe practices?

Richard Farmer has been a great addition to Crikey because he really gets the lobbying and power game inside Labor, and so it was with this observation yesterday (subscribers only):

Pictures of politicians hob-nobbing with the rich and famous have always left me feeling uncomfortable … The image of the country’s richest man and the country’s leader working so closely together makes registering lobbyists seeking access to the decision makers seem somehow irrelevant.

And what would be the fastest way for Twiggy’s 50,000 job dream to be realised? Well, opening up the BHP and Rio Tinto rail infrastructure would enable Fortescue to employ hundreds more indigenous Australians.

Rio Tinto’s stuffy English chairman Paul Skinner made the following claim in his formal address at the recent Brisbane AGM:

Rio Tinto has also led the introduction to Australia of new competencies in mining – such as the first innovative Aboriginal land access agreements.

But exactly how many Indigenous Australians do BHP-Billiton and Rio Tinto actually employ and are they on AWAs? Is Twiggy onto a point of weakness here?

Meanwhile, Twiggy was also spouting rubbish at yesterday’s Diggers & Dealers conference when he declared that “people who make a living out of short selling stocks … are bordering on criminality” and Fortescue was a recent victim.

How can Twiggy simultaneously complain that institutions haven’t supported Fortescue and then allege they’ve been lending his stock to short sellers when four billionaires control almost 70% of the company and presumably aren’t in the business of supplying the short market?

Surely it is time for credible business journalists to stop pushing this short selling line when a stock gets into trouble. It was garbage when Eddie Groves said it, even more ludicrous from BrisConnections chairman Trevor Rowe and now Twiggy is off with the fairies as well.


Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey