Australian Billionaire Claims Persecution In Damages Fight
CANBERRA, Australia — Clive Palmer, an Australian businessman, and politician, has predicted he will win his High Court battle with the state of Western Australia, claiming he has been subjected to “layers of persecution” that threaten the rule of law.
The full bench has reserved its decision and will reconvene on June 22, having concluded a four-day hearing in Canberra.
It relates to extraordinary legislation to prevent Palmer and his company Mineralogy from claiming up to AU$30 billion ($22.46 billion) in damages from Western Australia taxpayers.
Western Australia’s parliament passed a bill last August to amend a 2002 state agreement with Mineralogy and terminate arbitration between the two parties.
The legislation, introduced by the McGowan Labor government and hastily passed with bipartisan support, is designed to block Palmer from suing over a decision by the former Liberal state government not to assess one of his mining projects.
Palmer, who represented himself, has described the legislation as unconstitutional, “repugnant to justice,” and “an abomination masquerading as a law.”
The billionaire mining magnate used his closing submissions to describe the passage of the bill as “a bad day for Australia.”
He said governments were seeking to disempower the courts and citizens.
“Fear is a dangerous element. State and Commonwealth intervention in these proceedings and their support for the amending act must be viewed against this background,” he said. “Such interventions sound an ominous warning for Australia and Australians not yet born that they must defend the rule of law and the values embodied in the Australian constitution.
“I respectfully submit that the development of law in Australia has reached a crucial juncture.”
Palmer has argued against the legislation on several fronts, including that it discriminated against him as a Queensland resident.
Stephen Free, representing the West Australian government, said the bill would have had the same effect upon Palmer if he lived in Western Australia.
“It is evident that there is no disability or discrimination of the relevant kind imposed on Palmer or anyone else,” he said.
The state submits that the legislation was passed “in order to protect Western Australians from the crippling effects” of AU$30 billion ($22.46 billion) damages claim.
In a statement on June 18, Palmer said the legislation had caused “a great deal of pain.”
“Our best arguments have been put forward this week, and I believe we are in a strong position,” he said. “Ultimately, I believe the High Court will find in our favor and declare the act invalid.”
The High Court last year struck out Palmer’s constitutional challenge to Western Australia’s hard border closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
Palmer also has a defamation claim against Premier Mark McGowan before the Federal Court, with the pair recently ordered to undertake face-to-face mediation.
(Edited by Gaurab Dasgupta and Saptak Datta.)