Billionaire Clive Palmer's court play could 'bankrupt Western Australia'

Billionaire Clive Palmer's court play could 'bankrupt Western Australia'

Legislation to terminate Clive Palmer’s legal challenge against the WA government, which is allegedly worth about $30 billion, is expected to pass parliament.

The dispute over the Balmoral South iron ore project dates back to 2012 under the former Barnett government.

Premier Mark McGowan says the damages are nearly equivalent to the state’s total annual budget or, put another way, would cost every person in WA more than $12,000 each.

But Mr Palmer says the damages sought by him, Mineralogy and International Minerals are yet to be quantified and the figure is merely the government‘s assessment.

“There’s no cases in court for $30 billion and the arbitration hasn’t claimed $30 billion against the state of Western Australia, so that’s a furphy,” Mr Palmer told reporters in Queensland on Wednesday.

He still claims to have suffered a significant financial loss though because he could not develop the mine and sell it to a Chinese company.

Mr Palmer has warned business investment in WA will dry up if parliament passes the legislation, saying it puts the state at sovereign risk.

“This emergency legislation is unconstitutional,” he said.

“Ultimately, this matter will end up in the High Court of Australia.”

He said the proposed legislation would make the government exempt from any liability and stop the public or media from submitting a Freedom of Information application about the issue.

Mr McGowan told reporters Mr Palmer was trying to bankrupt WA.

“The potential financial consequences could be dire, absolutely dire,” Mr McGowan said.

“A payment to the tune of $30 billion would cripple, cripple the state … we had no choice but to take this course of action to protect every West Australian.

“I will not risk selling Western Australia down the drain to Clive Palmer.”

Mr McGowan says the bill is specific to this issue and will not “give rise to sovereign risk, nor does it create a risk to other state agreements“.

He said mining leaders “all understand and support the approach we are taking”.

Opposition leader Liza Harvey said the Liberals would support the bill.

“The party room has a number of concerns in respect to accountability and transparency,” she said.

“These matters will be outlined in the debate.”

The Nationals will also back the bill.

Mr Palmer recently took High Court action against the WA government over its hard border closure, arguing it too was unconstitutional.

The move led Mr McGowan to describe Mr Palmer as an “enemy of the state” and said WA was “at war” with the mining magnate.

Attorney-General John Quigley revealed in parliament on Wednesday that Mr Palmer offered to withdraw the High Court border challenge if the state government agreed to move the iron ore arbitration hearings to Canberra.