Mining magnate Clive Palmer will on Tuesday implore Australia’s highest court to overturn a new law that blocks him from suing the WA government.
The government introduced the extraordinary legislation to prevent Mr Palmer from claiming $30 billion in damages over a decision by the former Liberal state government not to assess his Balmoral South iron ore project in the Pilbara.
Mr Palmer will on Tuesday ask the High Court to overturn the new law, and he is throwing everything at the case, including himself.
He is planning to represent himself in a claim the law discriminates against him on the basis he is from Queensland.
In his submissions, he states the legislation is not only an attack on him personally, but also a frontal assault on the rule of law.
“It’s a duty that my moral compass does not allow me to avoid,” he says in the submissions.
“It involves a state parliament exercising judicial power to quell a dispute.
“That is done … by allowing the legislative process of the Parliament of Western Australia to be used for the purpose of waging a vendetta against a resident of another state, whose allegedly objectionable characteristics include being a Queensland resident – a person likened to a cane toad.”
Law is not discriminatory, government says
The WA government will tell the High Court it is not trying to discriminate against Mr Palmer, and the law would be the same even if he lived within the state.
The government has also rejected claims by Mr Palmer and lawyers for his companies, Mineralogy and International Minerals, that the law is at odds with the constitution.
Lawyers for the companies will tell the High Court it is an extreme law which usurps the courts.
“The exercise of judicial power by Australian state legislatures is precluded by the prescription in chapter three of the constitution,” their submission said.
But lawyers for the WA government will dispute that, arguing the courts have not been usurped, and it is within Parliament’s power to make a law that limits its liability.
Claim equivalent to entire state budget
The submissions reference the second reading speech before the law was passed.
“It was said that the potential scope of the damages claim was close to $30 billion,” the WA government’s lawyers say.
“To put that claim into perspective, the second reading speech noted that is is roughly equivalent to the entire state budget.
“This is the extraordinary mischief to which this legislation was directed.”
Whether Mr Palmer would secure $30 billion in any damages claim is unknown.
But WA Attorney-General John Quigley said the threat had to be taken seriously at the time the law was passed.
“Even if Mineralogy and International Minerals succeeded in a fraction of their damages claim, this would have serious financial consequences for the state of Western Australia,” Mr Quigley said.
The dispute harks back to a law passed in 2001, paving the way for the iron ore project to be considered.
The government at the time was keen to promote employment and industrial development in the state, but the project was never given final approval.
An arbitration, which began in 2012, went against the government and cleared the way for Mr Palmer to sue.
WA government thwarted sale, Palmer claims
He and his companies allege they suffered enormous financial loss because they were unable to sell the project to a Chinese company, as a result of decisions made by the state.
That prompted the government to establish the new law to thwart any attempts by Mr Palmer to seek damages.
Mr Palmer initially denied claims he was seeking about $30 billion. but the government tabled court documents in Parliament showing he was seeking at least $27.74 billion.
Mr Palmer is no stranger to the High Court, which last year threw out his challenge to WA’s COVID-19 border closure.
This week’s High Court hearing is expected to run over four days.