Fortescue Metals Group founder Andrew Forrest has vowed to continue his calls for greater scrutiny of mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, despite the federal government’s official rejection of an inquiry into the iron ore market.
Joe Hockey yesterday declared that the inquiry — originally supported by Tony Abbott — would not go ahead, drawing an angry response from Mr Forrest.
The billionaire mining entrepreneur, who has been campaigning for months for governments to pressure BHP and Rio over their strategy to continue lifting iron ore production, said the “hysterical” lobbying of multinational mining giants caused the inquiry to stall.
In an opinion piece written for The Australian, Mr Forrest questioned what the mining giants had to fear from an inquiry.
“Those that paint me as an interventionist from behind their Singapore tax shields know the iron ore industry is an oligopoly in which the big three each wield more market power than Saudi Arabia in oil and where the barriers to entry are huge and built on decades of subsidies,” he said.
Mr Forrest said in a statement that the transparency he was pushing for would have been good for business. “I will continue to bring this issue to the attention of the Australian people,” he said.
“The people need to know the circumstances that led to the collapse in the price of iron ore, the loss of thousands of jobs, the shutdown of companies and the loss of billions of dollars from state and federal budgets.”
The government’s decision was welcomed by other industry players, with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia — which counts Fortescue, BHP and Rio Tinto among its members — calling it a commonsense decision.
CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said Australia’s trading partners would have been “anxiously watching” any inquiry.
“It is pleasing the Liberal-National Coalition government and the Labor opposition both recognise the risk of any inquiry being interpreted by our trading partners as a regressive step with the prospect of increased government regulation and intervention in the market place,” Mr Howard-Smith said.
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