Federal govt dragged into Palmer-WA stoush

Billionaire Clive Palmer has asked the Federal Court for help in circumventing “draconian” laws that prevent him from receiving money owed to him by the Western Australian government.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, is against the Commonwealth of Australia, which has been threatened with arbitration for $ 30 billion, as well as the WA government and state development, employment and trade minister, Roger Cook.

This marks the next chapter in Mr. Palmer’s ongoing legal battles over the development of the Balmoral South iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of WA.

A dispute first arose between two companies Palmer Mineralogy and International Minerals and the state government in 2012. This went to arbitration, with the mining magnate coming out mostly victorious after two judgments in May 2014 and the October 2019.

In response, the WA government led by Premier Mark McGowan introduced emergency legislation in August 2020.

That law ended arbitration, quashed all praise awarded to Mr. Palmer and his corporations, and prevented the state from having any liability to the billionaire in related disputes.

The tycoon’s challenge to the law made it all the way to the High Court where it was rejected in October last year.

Palmer’s Singapore-based parent company, Zeph Investments, has now filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court claiming that the WA government has expropriated an asset from its two subsidiaries, the entire sum allotted to it under arbitration.

The target is now the Commonwealth, accused of violating the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand free trade agreement. Zeph argues that state conduct can be attributed to the federal government under international law.

“The assistance of this court is needed to give effect to the international arbitration law due to the draconian terms of the WA legislation,” Zeph wrote in filings with the court.

WA law prohibited Mr. Palmer to challenge the state government’s conduct or initiate international arbitration, meaning his companies would be “immediately liable” to pay WA any sums won, Zeph said.

“(I) the extraordinary terms of the amended state law are currently having a chilling effect on Zeph, who is even able to confirm its intention to initiate ICSID arbitration against the Commonwealth, for fear of running the risk of obtaining immediate compensation. “, wrote the company. .

With the state government allegedly denying Mr. Palmer and his corporations access to justice, Zeph said there was a “real risk” that WA or Mr. Cook would take legal action against him as a result of the case. just filed with the Federal Court.

“(I) terms of the amended state law purport to have the effect of preventing (Zeph) from taking the matter to federal court for an injunction.”

Zeph is seeking court orders that prohibit both the state government and the Commonwealth from taking any harmful action against him as a result of his trial or future attempts to initiate international arbitration.

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