Clive Palmer and the West Australian government are headed for a High Court showdown over mining tenements

Two previous arbitration rulings by Mr McHugh, which found the WA government should not have rejected Mr Palmer’s proposal for the Balmoral South iron ore project and allowed a damages claim, led to this week’s move.
The dispute has its origins in a 2002 agreement between Mr Palmer and the state over mining tenements in the Pilbara region.
Proposal rejected
In 2012, Mineralogy submitted development proposals for the Balmoral South Iron Ore Project (BSIOP) under the terms of the agreement. They were rejected by Liberal premier Colin Barnett, setting off the mediation process.
Mr Palmer ran full-page ads in national newspapers on Friday, including in The Australian Financial Review, which cited a High Court 2016 judgment that found special laws passed by WA over the liquidation of the Bell Group were invalid.
WA Attorney-General John Quigley. Philip Gostelow
However, constitutional lawyers speaking on background said another High Court decision in 2014 over the cancellation of a mining licence by the NSW government could provide a counterpoint.
WA Attorney-General John Quigley said he was confident the laws would pass muster but Mr Palmer said there were “a lot of good reasons” why the legislation was unconstitutional.
“You’ll note that the Attorney-General and Premier have given themselves an exemption against criminal law. They have attacked the press and not allowed them any FOI access.
“They have also taken away the rules of natural justice, where you get a fair hearing and proper process. They have ruled out anyone commencing any sort of legal process against them in relation to these matters.”
Perth barrister Simon Davis, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, said: “Generally, when parties agree to arbitration of a dispute, they must have the dispute resolved by arbitration.
“It is an unprecedented and extraordinary step to seek to ‘cancel’ an arbitration, or the determination of the dispute at all, in this way.”
Dash to governor
As part of the frantic attempts to have the bill passed into law immediately, it was taken from Parliament to the home of WA governor Kim Beazley for signing after 10.30pm.
Mr Palmer continues to deny he is seeking $30 billion but is evasive when asked for an accurate figure. He has said that the state’s own expert had mentioned a figure of $23 billion early in arbitration proceedings.
The WA Parliament was told this week that the 2012 BSIOP proposal was to mine, process and export 24 million tonnes a year of iron ore concentrate with first shipments planned for 2016 and that Mr Palmer planned to sell the project to Chinese interests.
Mr Quigley said the law was drafted in anticipation of Mr Palmer having two previous commercial arbitration awards in this favour, in 2014 and 2019, registered and enforced in a Supreme Court.
This bill is like the Terracotta army in China rows and rows of defences that we have built into the bill to protect everyone in WA from this rapacious, fraudulent person, Mr Quigley told Parliament.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had no issue with the legislation.
“I wish them [the WA government] well,” he said.
Mr Morrison said Mr Palmer should withdraw from his other legal battle with the WA government over its hard border closure.