Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, recently revealed widespread fraudulent behaviour in the Australian coal industry to the Federal Parliament. See video for full speech.
“Speaker, whistleblowers are an essential component of our democracy because they reveal important information in the public interest, information otherwise concealed despite the fact that it’s often to do with the most egregious incompetence or misconduct.
“For instance Allan Kessing exposed lax security at Sydney Airport. Toni Hoffman spoke up about Dr Patel. Witness K and Bernard Collaery blew the whistle on the East Timor scandal. Troy Stolz told us ClubsNSW’s dirty secrets. And right now Richard Boyle and David McBride are in the courts over their ATO and war crime revelations.
“And today Speaker I bring to the Parliament’s attention another brave whistleblower, an executive from the Australian coal industry who has provided me with thousands of documents that prove Australian companies have been lying for years about the quality of our coal. And that’s important because the fraud is environmental vandalism and makes all the talk of net zero emissions by 2050 a fiction. It could also be criminal, trashing corporate reputations as well as our national reputation.
“In essence Speaker, coal companies operating in Australia are using fraudulent quality reports for their exports, and paying bribes to representatives of their overseas customers to keep the whole scam secret. And this has allowed them to claim, for years, that Australian coal is cleaner than it is in order to boost profits and prevent rejection of shipments at their destination.
“This shocking misconduct includes exports to Japan, South Korea, China and India, and involves companies including Terracom, Anglo American, Glencore, Peabody and Macquarie Bank.
“The misconduct also includes the ALS company, which has already been forced to admit its fraudulent testing to the ASX when it conceded that “approximately 45-50 per cent of the certificates of analysis were manually amended without justification”.
“Moreover the other key coal testing company in Australia, SGS, also commits fraud and at a similar rate. For example, in the draft results in this SGS coal test the moisture content is 16.7 per cent, which is pretty damp and won’t burn well.
“But here, in the final version of the SGS document, the same testing puts the moisture content at 15.9 per cent which is drier and burns much cleaner. And that represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra profit from the relatively small shipment to Japan and ensured it wouldn’t be rejected on arrival.
“The coal executive whistleblower also alleges that global accounting firms such as Ernst and Young are aware of all this and choose to ignore it because the coal companies are lucrative.
“Speaker as a result of all this I call on the Government to establish at least a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, one where the witnesses of this misconduct, including the whistleblower I’m in contact with, can safely present their testimonies and evidence, and where the industry can explain itself.
“To that end I also reach out to my cross-bench colleagues to support such an inquiry, and call on the Opposition to support the move as well.
“Now I know that the easy political response from the Government would be to say that these allegations need to be examined by the relevant regulatory and law enforcement agencies. Just like the previous government said about the casino industry as I rolled out the evidence against Crown year after year.
“But the scandalous fact is that this coal executive whistleblower’s allegations have already been put to the Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales Police, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, and even the former Federal Government. And so far no authority, not one, has been willing to act on this alleged criminal behaviour despite the fact that select evidence has already been presented in Australia courts, proving what this whistleblower says is true.
“So this time, please, let’s ditch the game playing and go straight to an inquiry so the industry can be held accountable for its sins, and so Australia can restore its reputation as an honest trading partner. And, most importantly, so we can learn just how dirty the world is and how much more urgent our response to climate change must be.
“And let’s also start genuinely celebrating and supporting whistleblowers, starting with strengthening the Public Interest Disclosure and Corporations acts, and establishing a Whistleblower Commission.
“And on that final note Speaker I seek leave to table the two coal quality reports I have referred to.”