Billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart hosted a lunch with Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett and the Chinese Ambassador Chen Yuming to hear a presentation from one of Australia’s most prominent sceptics of human-caused climate change on the same day that the government was launching the details of its carbon tax proposal.
The lunch, on Sunday July 10 at Rinehart’s Perth home, was billed as a welcome to delegates at the high-level two-day Boao Forum for Asia conference, which started the following day.
Rinehart, Australia’s richest person with wealth estimated at more than $10 billion, told the audience that climate sceptic Professor Ian Plimer, of the University of Adelaide, was a “reasoned source” of information on climate change.
Geologist Professor Plimer, a director of several mining companies, has not published any peer-reviewed research on contemporary climate change. His 2009 book Heaven & Earth was heavily criticised by climate scientists.
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Speech notes from the lunch released on the website of Rinehart’s lobby group Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV) reveal former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who is now the Boao chairman, was also in attendance.
The chairman of Hancock Prospecting, Rinehart told the lunch crowd, thought to be about 85-strong: “Today, dark clouds are gathering. In Canberra (thousands of kilometres away), the minority federal government is announcing today the details of its new carbon tax, which will increase the costs of commodities we export and costs in Australia’s economy.
“This is such an important problem for Australia I have asked one of the leading sources of reasoned and factual information in Australia on global warming and climate change to address us, Professor Ian Plimer.”
Referring to her fears over a carbon price, Rinehart urged the high-powered lunch crowd: “Warnings or reminders from yourselves would be welcome!”
A spokeswoman for WA environment minister Bill Marmion confirmed to Crikey he had attended the lunch, but declined to comment on Professor Plimer’s views on climate change.
Cheryl Edwardes, a former WA environment minister, is Hancock Prospecting’s executive general manager responsible for external affairs, government relations and approvals.
This is the second time in recent months that Rinehart has personally hosted senior politicians and personally provided a forum to climate sceptics.
In June, it was revealed she had flown two members of federal parliament to India on a private jet to attend the wedding of Mallika Reddy.
Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce and Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop were flown to Hyderabad for part of the extravagant three-day wedding.
Mallika Reddy’s grandfather is GV Krishna Reddy, whose GVK company is looking to negotiate a reported $2.4 billion deal to buy large stakes in two of Rinehart’s major coal projects.
Rinehart helped finance controversial climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton’s 2010 Australia tour. She also arranged for Lord Monckton to speak to an invited audience at Notre Dame Unversity in Perth on June 30 as part of his 2011 Australia tour.
The Boao lunch event, in a marquee at Rinehart’s Dalkeith home on the banks of the Swan River, did not appear on the official program of the Boao Forum for Asia Energy, Resources and Sustainable Development Conference.
As detailed in the Boao conference program, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was an opening speaker at the conference. A spokesperson for Rudd confirmed he did not attend the lunch.
Barnett and Minister for Trade Craig Emerson were also speakers at the conference.
Business leaders included Andrew Forrest, of Fortescue Metals Group, Ryan and Kerry Stokes, directors of Seven Group Holdings, and senior representatives from BC Iron, CSIRO, Rio Tinto and BP China. Senior Chinese government officials were also speakers and panelists.