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Frydenberg’s law breaking regulator helped dismantle coal laws

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NCC boss Julie-Anne Schafer helped Josh Frydenberg remove laws targeting the coal industry (Image by Dan Jensen)

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is responsible for dismantling laws that maintain accountability in the fossil fuel industry. Anthony Klan reports.

THE BOSS of the nation’s monopoly infrastructure regulator – who engaged in serious illegality that the Federal Government went to substantial lengths to cover up – earlier helped dismantle accountability laws in favour of major fossil fuel infrastructure owners.

National Competition Council (NCC) President Julie-Anne Schafer, who was found to have broken the law by providing over $40,000 in illegal payments to a fellow NCC boss, earlier helped remove national anti-monopoly laws, it can be revealed.

The biggest beneficiary to date has been the Chinese Government, which owns 50 per cent of the Port of Newcastle, the world’s biggest coal port.

In April last year, Schafer successfully pushed for the removal of long-standing mechanisms which allowed consumers to lodge an appeal with the independent Australian Competition Tribunal (A.C.T.) if they were unsatisfied with a decision made by the Federal Treasurer regarding access to monopoly infrastructure.

Schafer also waived through legislative changes by the Federal Coalition that substantially reduced the powers of the NCC itself, including its ability to provide “expert independent advice” under national gas laws, in favour of major fossil gas pipeline operators.

As revealed in January, Schafer as NCC President made over $40,000 of illegal payments to fellow NCC Commissioner Chris Jose, over the two years to April 2020.

Jose is a full-time boss at the nation’s media regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

He was paid as a full-time boss at ACMA while simultaneously being paid by the NCC, which is against the law.

On 3 December, the Commonwealth Ombudsman completed a year-long investigation into the Jose payments matter and found Schafer had broken serious public governance laws.

Schaffer left the NCC after her three-year term ended in December.

Despite Schafer having been found to have engaged in serious illegality as NCC President, in March, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg again appointed her NCC President, for another three-year term.

The NCC is overseen by Frydenberg and Schafer reports directly to him.

Previously, if an entity seeking to access “nationally significant” infrastructure – such as coal terminals, major airports or gas pipelines – was unhappy with a Minister’s decision, they could seek a “merits review” and have the matter considered by the independent A.C.T.

In April last year, weeks after Schafer wrote a “submission” calling for the A.C.T. mechanism to be abolished, weeks later, on 8 May, the Federal Coalition announced it would be.

‘The Council (NCC)... supports removing the ability of parties to seek a merits review by the Tribunal of a designation minister’s decision,’ Schafer wrote in a “submission” to Treasury.

Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist and editor of The Klaxon. You can follow him on Twitter @Anthony_Klan. 

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