Fancy News Ltd and other media outlets (such as the Seven Network’s 6pm News) giving oxygen to characters such as Tony Sage and Clive Palmer and their claimed dummy spits over the proposed Resources Super Profits Tax.

Seven’s Mark Riley described Palmer as one of our leading industrialists. Clive is nothing of the sort. Clive has a company called Mineralology, and before that he had another that was going to float, but didn’t (the GFC ate it).  But lately Palmer has struggled to get a project up. There have been lots of announcements of deals with companies in Asia, but nothing concrete. Clive’s last big deal was a huge coal project in Central Queensland. His boosting of it and himself upset his partner, which denied a deal had been done.

Sage chairs the listed Cape Lambert Resources and International Petroleum and has more credibility in developing resources projects than Clive.  Indeed, if you consult Sage’s glowing Wikipedia page, it insists he is “one of the leading figures in the lucrative global resources industry”.

But their almost simultaneous public appearances within a day of each other raises some intriguing similarities.  One might almost wonder if they were one and the same.

Clive is a big unit, a giant of a man with similar-sized opinions, and a love of blue sky projects and soccer: his team (subject to enough finance) is based on the Gold Coast (called Gold Coast United) and might make it back to the National League’s coming season for a second time, although Clive cut funding to his team for a while in a fit of pique.

Anthony Sage, or Tony to some media, members of the soccer fraternity and a lot of people in Perth, is chairman of Cape Lambert, International Petroleum, and has a soccer team in the national league, the more financial Perth Glory.

Tony has just splurged a bit of loot to grab Robbie Fowler, the former England and Liverpool player from North Queensland in the hope he can bring glory to the Glory in the new season.

And both have declared the RSPT will kill mining projects — although Palmer appeared to run into a bit of difficulty yesterday when a South Australian project he declared was under threat from the RSPT turned out, um, not to actually exist.

Cape Lambert yesterday revealed on Perth radio it was going overseas to Sierra Leone and Greece (good luck there, chaps) instead of proceeding with a project in Western Australia.

The right-wing smear machine gleefully seized on the announcement. “It may be followed by others as the industry reels from the prospect of giving up billions of dollars in profits,” one outlet piously declared.

One of the characteristics of the mining industry’s campaign to undermine the government’s CPRS was a credibility gap between what they told the press and the public, and what they told investors, about the impact of the CPRS.

Well, you guessed it, the gap is back.  Cape Lambert’s announcement has yet to be made to the ASX (or even on its own website).  Companies are required by the ASX to disclose anything of material significance to their share price to investors.

So why didn’t Cape Lambert announce it on the ASX?  Well, turns out Tony Sage doesn’t think it’s material.  “$1 million spend out of $300 million,” he told Crikey this morning.  The Australian reports him as referring to $10 million-$15 million yesterday.

$1 million.  It seems the RSPT-induced flight of capital is not quite what some in the media would have us believe.

There is another similarity shared by Tony and Clive; their love of colourful characters. Clive, of course was one of the “entrepreneurs” who flocked to Queensland and “advised” the conservative governments of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. He was a PR flack for the Nats and has made secret of his admiration for the late Premier.  Indeed, he was so impressed he bought the party, because he’s the main bankroller of the beleaguered LNP.

Tony, on the other hand, seems to have stayed away from politics. His colourful mate is one Frank Timis, a bloke that, as The Oz itself reported recently, the ASX won’t let list a company after some unfortunate run ins with the law and bannings overseas.

“An appeal by International Petroleum against a trading ban stemming from its dealings with Frank Timis has been dealt a significant blow, following fresh revelations about the controversial businessman’s poor record of corporate governance.

“Timis, who is poised to become a director and major shareholder of the publicly listed company, was at the helm of a London-based miner that was sanctioned and fined two years ago for misleading the market … the penalty was in addition to the record pound stg. 600,000 fine Regal Petroleum received last year for disclosure breaches that occurred under his watch.

“Detailed in International Petroleum’s replacement prospectus, which was released yesterday, the earlier charge had not previously been disclosed in any of its three prospectuses published over the past three months.

“The admission couldn’t come at a worse time for the company, which is preparing to appeal the Australian Securities Exchange’s move to ban it from trading if an acquisition of Timis’ Eastern Petroleum proceeds. The decision was based on concerns about level of influence that Timis, who has several drugs convictions and has been barred by the Toronto Stock Exchange, would have over the merged company.

“International Petroleum’s latest prospectus says Timis was chairman of an AIM-listed miner that made two announcements to the market in 2007 later determined to contain “misleading and unrealistically optimistic statements” about its results …

“International Petroleum chairman Tony Sage denied that the information had been hidden from investors, describing it as a “very minor matter”. He said the company had been aware of the sanction since February and had disclosed it to ASX staff.”

Good luck in Sierra Leone, Mr Sage.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey