The Rio Tinto AGM in Melbourne this morning had it all.
The remuneration report suffered a record protest, the company was accused of killing 20,000 people in Bougainville, chairman Jan du Plessis used the word “expropriation” when discussing the RSPT and we even had a mining worker in the Hunter Valley dob in his workmates for getting paid 45 hours a week when they only work 42.
With a South African chairman, a London-based American CEO and only 15% of the company owned in Australia, du Plessis actually made the claim that being the Australia’s largest private sector employer of indigenous workers effectively changed the foreign-ownership definitions.
“If that doesn’t make us truly Australian I don’t know what does?” he said.
Jan du Plessis tried at one point to claim he’d worked really hard to improve the relationship with Canberra during his first year in the chair but then absolutely unloaded over sovereign risk and the demonisation of foreign investors.
When it came to the board elections and the proposal to add another two non-Australian independent directors, I gave the board a big bollocking for failing to see the sovereign risk issues that have arisen ever since promises about Australian influence were broken shortly after the CRA-RTZ merger in 1995.
The slanging match with Canberra has clearly escalated substantially because du Plessis claimed the government’s assessments of mining industry tax rates were “truly scandalous” and “really awful”, amounting to either incompetence of deliberate deception.
As for the proposed RSPT, that was “close to expropriation” and therefore explained “why I am so upset”.
du Plessis claimed that the promise to cover 40% of mining industry losses displayed a “fundamental misjudgement of human nature” because “hundreds of small miners want to be the next Twiggy Forrest”.
Sam Walsh, the newly promoted executive director who runs Rio Tinto’s global iron ore business from Perth, defended the treatment of Stern Hu but all the Rio suits insisted the evidence was overwhelming the guilty pleas gave them no choice but no terminate.
However, the chairman apologised if they appeared too heartless in the way it was handled.
Walsh also got a slap for serving on the WA News board with Kerry Stokes when his is a major supplier to Rio through the Caterpillar franchise he controls.
Listen to all the edited audio highlights here.