Andrew Liveris and Martin Parkinson (Images: Alan Porritt, Lukas Coch/AAP)

A few days ago Crikey reported on concerns that oil and gas billionaire and former Trump adviser Andrew Liveris had been appointed to not one but two COVID commissions. 

Liveris is co-chairing the Northern Territory’s economic reconstruction commission, as well as being special adviser to the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission. He’s also on the payroll of engineering and resources firm Worley and the Saudi Arabian multinational petroleum and gas company Saudi Aramco, one of the most profitable companies in the world. 

But Crikey readers have pointed out that there’s another high-profile figure on the NT commission with similar vocational interests: former Treasury secretary turned secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson.

Parkinson is currently the chancellor of Macquarie University and a non-executive director of North Queensland Airports. He is also a director at Worley, appointed in February.

Worley is the $3.6 billion ASX-listed engineering firm that provides services to the global resources and energy sector, including oil giants BP and Shell and freight operator Aurizon. In April it was forced to cut 3000 jobs due to COVID-19 and plunging oil prices.

Crikey asked Worley what it was hoping to get out of having two directors on the high-level eight-person commission, which has put energy and resources at the forefront of the NT’s recovery plan. It was unavailable. Parkinson declined to comment.

It provokes the question: does the NT government see any problem appointing two people from the same company to such a powerful advisory group? 

Bespoke influence

The NT COVID commission is a who’s who of powerful government and industry figures. It is co-chaired by former NT chief minister Paul Henderson, who was responsible for securing the $34 billion Inpex LNG project for Darwin — one of the biggest investment projects in Australian history.

Henderson is now a lobbyist for Bespoke Territory; an offshoot of Bespoke Approach, the lobby group set up by former foreign minister Alexander Downer and Ian Smith. 

The commission also includes former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly, former NT leader of the opposition Gary Higgins and Eytan Lenko, chair of climate and energy think tank Beyond Zero Emissions. 

A spokesperson for the commission said members were required to disclose potential conflicts of interest at the start of every meeting, and were excluded if required. He said these conflicts were not released publicly due to privacy reasons. 

Crikey tried to ask NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner why he had chosen two Worley board members for the commission in the first place. We did not hear back before deadline.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey