Arthur Sinodinos

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Arthur Sinodinos was appointed by the NSW Parliament to fill a casual federal Senate vacancy for New South Wales in October 2011.[1][2]

Immediately prior to that he was the Chairman and Director of Blackwood Coal, which was subsequently taken over by Cuesta Coal. At the time that Sinodinos was Chairman of Blackwood Coal the company had coal exploration licences in Queensland including on the fringes of the Galilee Basin.

Background

A biographical note from August 2011 stated that Sinodinos:[3]

"joined the Department of Finance in 1979 as a graduate recruit and he was promoted to the Treasury in 1980 and served in various capacities until 1987. In October 1987 he joined John Howard’s staff as Senior Economic Advisor. In May 1989 he returned to Treasury as an Assistant Secretary when Mr Howard lost the position of Opposition Leader. Arthur served in the Structural Policy, Financial Institutions, Economic and International Economy divisions of Treasury. He has experience in micro‐economic reform, budgetary issues, foreign investment policy, labour markets, economic forecasting and international economic issues. He was Assistant Secretary, Labour Markets Branch (1992 1994), Acting First Assistance Secretary, Economic Division (1993‐1994 Budget to January 1994), and Assistant Secretary, International Finance and Development Branch (1994‐1995). In 1995 Arthur returned to John Howard’s staff and upon the election of the Howard Government, was appointed the Policy Director in the office of the Prime Minister. In October 1997, Arthur was appointed as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, a position he held until December 2006 when he resigned to take a Senior Director position with Goldman Sachs JB Were."
"In August 2007, Arthur joined the National Australia Bank as Regional General Manager, Business and Private Bank, where he was responsible for Strategy, Marketing, Business Performance, Professional Development and two specialised businesses (Government & Education)."
"Arthur has a number of current directorships which include; The Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), Menzies Research Centre Ltd, Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) Pty Ltd, CSN Technology Pty Ltd, Australian Institute of Management (AIM). Arthur is also deputy chairman of Australia Water Holdings Pty Ltd."

Arthur Sinodinos and coal

On November 26, 2009 Blackwood Coal applied to the Australian Securities Investment Commission for registration as a company. On July 26, 2010 Sinodinos was appointed as the Chairman.[5]

Appointment to the board

How did Sinodinos come to be appointed to a coal company with interests in Queensland? In April 2014 Paddy Manning wrote in Crikey that:[6]

"Blackwood’s young CEO Matt Crawford was looking to assemble a high-quality board to attract investors. Crawford and Blackwood co-founder Kevin McKnight, the chief operating officer, earned their stripes over 4-5 years at White Energy, the coal technology company chaired by Travers Duncan — often dubbed “Mr Coal” — before striking out on their own."
"Duncan was a co-investor in a private company Cascade Coal, which held rights to the Mt Penny tenement in the lower Hunter Valley, alongside former Labor minister Eddie Obeid. ICAC last year found both Duncan and Obeid behaved corruptly."
"How did Sinodinos get involved with the ex-White Energy boys? Casting round for a politician to instal on his board, did Crawford ask Duncan for advice, and did Duncan come up with the name Arthur Sinodinos? The Senator’s spokesperson this morning said Sinodinos met Crawford through third parties ... unrelated to White Energy, Duncan or Obeid."

Who the third parties were was not disclosed.

At the time Sinodinos was Honorary Treasurer of the NSW branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. Sinodinos's profile on the Parliament of Australia website states that he held this position from “2009-11”. His profile also states that he was President of the federal Liberal Party of Australia between “2011-2012”.[7]

The Chairman and Blackwood's coal interests

In its 2011 annual financial report Blackwood Coal stated that as of June 30, 2011 the company “had a portfolio of 4 granted EPC’s [Exploration Permits for Coal] and 12 applications. The exploration permits range from advanced exploration with drill ready targets to greenfield lateral opportunities.”[8]

As Chairman for the period from July 2010 to June 30, 2011 Sinodinos was paid $57,325 of which $25,075 was a cash payment, $2,250 was superannuation and $30,000 in a share-based payment.[9]

In August 2011 Convergent Minerals Limited (CVG) announced that it proposed to buy Blackwood Coal for $20 million, subject to shareholder approval and the completion of due diligence. This was proposed as a reverse takeover, allowing Blackwood Coal an easy path to become and ASX listed company. As part of the deal it was proposed that Sinodinos would become the Chairman of the merged company.

At the time Blackwood’s most substantial exploration asset was the “West Bowen Coal Project” near Blair Athol in Queensland’s Bowen Basin which had an inferred coal resource of 27.3 million tonnes. (By Queensland standards this is a small coal resource and further exploration would be required to delineate how much if any was commercially viable.) The company also had a number of other more speculative exploration areas. CVG described Blackwood’s other projects as including “conceptual opportunities on the poorly defined eastern margin on the fringes of the Galilee Basin” and “drill ready” exploration targets in the Bowen Basin, the Surat Basin and Clarence–Moreton Basins.[10] [11]

Blackwood withdrew from the proposed merger stating that market conditions meant that it was not in the best interest of shareholders. Despite the setback, Blackwood flagged their intention to list on the Australian Stock Exchange in the fourth quarter of 2011 via an initial public offering. One of Blackwood’s shareholders, Liberty Resources, told the ASX that Blackwood had “raised in excess of AU$8 million in pre-IPO funding.” (The fourth quarter of the 2011 financial year for Blackwood was April-June 2012.)[12]

Sinodinos resigns from the board

Blackwood Coal’s 2011 annual financial report stated that Sinodinos resigned as Chairman and Director of the company on September 9, 2011. Ian Richer was appointed as Chairman the same day.[13] Subsequently, in his initial declaration of interests to the Senate Sinodinos put the date of his resignation as Chairman and a Director as being on October 31.[14] (In December 2011 - approximately two months after Sinodinos resigned as a Director of Blackwood Coal, Cuesta Coal completed a reverse takeover of the company and its associated entities, including the wholly owned subsidiaries Blackwood Exploration and Blackwood Resources. This resulted in the previous shareholders of Blackwood Coal becoming the major shareholders of Cuesta Coal.)[15] Cuesta Coal also put Sinodinos's resignation date at October 31.[16]

On October 13, 2011 Sinodinos was appointed by the New South Wales Parliament to fill the casual Senate vacancy caused by the resignation of Helen Coonan.[17]

Cuesta Coal’s 2012 Annual Report stated that, at the time that he resigned from the Board of Directors on October 31, 2011, Sinodinos held “584,488 ordinary shares (up to date of resignation)” and that he had “300,000 options (ex.price 20c, expiry 2015) (up to date of resignation)”.[18]

The company’s annual report lists 250,000 shares issued to Sinodinos in 2012 as part of his remuneration package.[19] Another section of the annual report indicated that these new shares were valued at $62,500.[20] This would have made his total shareholding at the time worth approximately $146,000.

The annual report also stated that in the three months from July 1, 2011 to his October 31, 2011 resignation date Sinodinos was paid $70,694 of which $62,500 was in share-based payments.[21]

For the period of July 2010 to September/October 2011 covering his directorship/Chairmanship Sinodinos was paid $128,019 of which $32,592 was in cash, $4,238 in superannuation and $92,500 was in share-based payment.

First speech

In his first speech to the Senate, Sinodinos said:[22]

"In rural and regional Australia there are growing pains that are manifesting themselves in conflicts over land use, environmental impacts and the role of foreign investment, but we can shape the future if we work to a plan and take charge of our economic destiny."

Later in his speech he stated:

"I do not doubt that a bigger Australia poses environmental, planning, infrastructure and other challenges. But a richer economy is also better equipped to deal with such matters. I remind you of the remarks of Winston Churchill, who once said, 'A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.' In relation to the environment, we have the opportunity to develop our abundant energy sources through enhanced investment in cost-reducing technologies. It will position us better for the decline of oil and other fossil fuels. The carbon tax is a giant churn of taxpayers' money that will not produce the necessary investment in new technologies. In the absence of international action, it will only harm Australian industry and send greenhouse gas emissions offshore. In light of the carbon tax, Ross Garnaut, the government's preferred climate change advisor, is right to suggest that the mining tax should be put on hold to avoid a double whammy on our resources sector."

Near the end of his speech he stated that:

"Whatever the fallibilities of individuals within our churches, these institutions have made an immeasurable positive contribution to the moral climate of modern Australia as well as through the work of their great charitable bodies. Even the most ardent supporter of markets knows that no economic system exists in a vacuum; markets are shaped as much by ethical, religious and cultural values as they are by explicit rules. In other words, you are always responsible for your own behaviour, no matter what the rules are."

Statement of interests

Several days after his inaugural speech, Sinodonos’s statement of interests declared that he owned shares in three companies: the National Australia Bank, Australian Water Holdings and Cuesta Coal. (According to amendments to his statement of interests, Sinodinos sold his NAB and AWH shares in September 2012 and February 2013 respectively.)[23]

Appointed by Abbott to head Deregulation Taskforce

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott appointed Sinodinos as Chairman of the Coalition Deregulation Taskforce to cut “red tape” with one of the six priority areas as the abolition of the carbon tax.[24]

In early July 2013 Sinodinos, together with Tony Abbott, launched the Liberal and National Party’s “Policy to Boost Productivity and Reduce Regulation”. In his speech, Sinodinos mentioned the coalition’s commitment to reduce “red and green tape”, abolish the carbon tax, abolish the mining tax and establish “one-stop shops” for environmental approvals.[25]

Timeline

  • July 26, 2010: Sinodinos becomes Chairman of Blackwood Coal.
  • October 13, 2010: Appointed by the New South Wales parliament as a the Liberal Party of Australia representative of NSW in the federal Senate. Sinodinos was filling a casual vacancy created by the resignation of Helen Coonan.[2]
  • September 9, 2011: Blackwood Coal’s annual financial statement state that this is when Sinodinos resigned as Chairman and Director of the company.
  • October 13, 2011: Sinodinos appointed by the New South Wales Parliament to fill the casual Senate vacancy caused by the resignation of Helen Coonan.
  • October 31, 2011: According to Sinodinos's initial declaration of interests, this is when Sinodinos resigned as a director of Cuesta Coal.[26] Cuesta Coal also stated his resignation date was October 31.
  • September 2012: Sinodinos appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, a position he held until the September 2013 federal election.
  • July 8, 2013: Sinodinos, together with Tony Abbott, launches the Liberal Party's Policy to Boost Productivity and Reduce Regulation.[27]
  • February 27, 2014: Sinodinos lodges an amendment to his “statement of registrable interests” which states “Framed original cartoon from John Short (Aurizon)”.[30] John Short is listed in his LinkedIn profile as Senior Vice President, National Policy at Aurizon.[31] Aurizon is a now privately-owned Queensland railway company which is heavily reliant on coal and considering investing in the construction of a railway link to enable new coal mines in the Galilee Basin to export coal through Abbott Point.

Articles and resources

References

  1. Michell Grattan, "Howard adviser to claim Coonan's seat in Senate", The Age, August 27, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO"m Parliament of Australia, accessed March 2014.
  3. Convergent Minerals Limited, "Proposed transaction: Highlights of Transaction", Media Release, August 23, 2011.
  4. Board, Global Panel Foundation, accessed August 21, 2015.
  5. Blackwood Coal and Controlled Entities, 2011 Financial Report, April 2012, page 3.
  6. Paddy Manning, "Water into coal: Sinodinos’ Cuesta holding raises questions, too", Crikey, April 1, 2014.
  7. “Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO”, Parliament of Australia website, accessed March 24, 2014.
  8. Blackwood Coal and Controlled Entities, 2011 Financial Report, April 2012, page 3.
  9. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 18.
  10. Convergence Minerals, “Proposed Transaction”, August 23, 2011, page 2.
  11. (For a full schedule of the tenements see Convergent Minerals, “Blackwood transaction: Tenement details and acquisition costs”, August 23, 2011.
  12. As Blackwood Coal was not a publicly listed company, the only media releases relating to the cancellation of the deal were those issued by Convergent Minerals, Argonaut Resources – which held 38% of Blackwood’s stock – and Liberty Resources. See Convergent Minerals, “Blackwood Coal P/L - withdrawal from proposed transaction”, Announcement to the ASX, September 20, 2011; Argonaut Resources, “Blackwood Coal withdrawal from merger with CVG”, Statement to the ASX, September 21, 2011; and Liberty Resources, “Blackwood Coal Pty Ltd (“Blackwood”) and Convergent Minerals Ltd (“CVG”), ASX statement, September 21, 2011.
  13. Blackwood Coal and Controlled Entities, 2011 Financial Report, April 2012, page 3.
  14. Arthur Sinodinos, “Statement of Registrable Interests”, Australian Senate, November 25, 2011, page 3. (Later amendments to the initial statement are attached to the initial statement).
  15. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 63.
  16. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 15.
  17. “Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO”, Parliament of Australia, accessed March 2014 and NSW Parliament, [https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20111013002?open&refNavID=HA8_1 “Joint Sitting”, Hansard, October 13, 2011.
  18. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 15.
  19. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 22.
  20. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 17.
  21. Cuesta Coal, Annual Report 2012, page 17.
  22. Arthur Sinodinos, "First Speech" Senate Hansard, November 23, 2011, page 9404.
  23. Arthur Sinodinos, “Statement of Registrable Interests”, Australian Senate, November 25, 2011, page 2.
  24. Tony Abbott, “Small business”, Media Release, December 1, 2011.
  25. Arthur Sinodinos, “Launch of the Coalition’s Deregulation Policy”, Speech, July 8, 2013.
  26. Arthur Sinodinos, “Statement of Registrable Interests”, Australian Senate, November 25, 2011, page 3.
  27. "Launch of the Coalition's Policy to Boost Productivity and Reduce Regulation", Speech, July 8, 2013.
  28. Arthur Sinodinos, “Statement of Registrable Interests”, Australian Senate, November 25, 2011, page 16.
  29. Australian Coal Association, “Integration of national mining representative groups”, Media Release, August 23, 2013.
  30. Arthur Sinodinos, “Statement of Registrable Interests”, Australian Senate, November 25, 2011, page 20.
  31. “John Short”, LinkedIn, accessed June 2014.

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