For the second time in five years, Andrew Forrest has been comprehensively out-lobbied, out-manoeuvred and out-muscled in Canberra’s halls of power by his despised rivals BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
The billionaire chairman of Fortescue Metals Group is seething at being snookered again by two multinationals he believes are hellbent on pushing him out of business by driving down the iron ore price.
“This won’t be the end of it — he won’t stop now,” said a close ¬associate of Forrest’s after Joe Hockey bowed to the demands of BHP and Rio by announcing on Thursday that there would be no ¬inquiry into the iron ore market.
Another was more blunt: “He will keep going — he actually believes his own bullshit.”
Sure enough, at the crack of dawn yesterday, the indefatigable Forrest hit the national airwaves from Perth in a bid to reboot his campaign, suggesting BHP and Rio had sent “plane loads” of ¬lobbyists to Canberra in recent days to convince the government to call off the planned inquiry.
He insisted an inquiry was needed to “shine a light” on why the iron ore price has fallen by 60 per cent in the past year, depriving Australians of precious tax revenue and endangering thousands of jobs.
Forrest is at the centre of this pitch but it’s not quite a one-man show. The Weekend Australian can reveal that the campaign — including the schmoozing of MPs and media personalities along with the website and Twitter and Facebook pages — is being driven by the Liberal-linked lobbying firm Crosby Textor.
The success of the big miners this week in avoiding an inquiry revives memories of their spectacular victory over Forrest during the mining tax debate of 2010.
Then and now, Forrest wrapped himself in the national flag, turned on his trademark charm and brazenly declared he was acting on behalf of “Aussie battlers”. And both times he managed to come within a whisker of success by employing the brilliant salesmanship and audacity that have defined his career.
Yet in both debates, Forrest was left to lament the hard truth: BHP and Rio have more power than he does in influencing public policy in Australia.
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