Friday, June 28, 2024

Czech Mate - Deloitte heavies humbled in court over Callide C

Deloitte heavies humbled in court over Callide C

A courtroom capitulation is one of the few acceptable forms of public humiliation still left for a society to relish, especially when it involves the insolvency team at one of the world’s largest accounting firms.

We speak of Deloitte, of course, its esteemed barrister Adam Pomerenke KC rather stoically tipping his king in the Queensland Federal Court on Thursday over a long-running case involving the ownership of the state’s troubled Callide C power station
Never heard of Callide C? It suffered an almighty explosion in 2021 that crippled the Queensland energy grid. A second calamity with its cooling towers followed months later. When investigations into both incidents dragged out too long, investors went to court seeking a fresh review of these misfortunes and, later, the turfing out of Callide’s administrators. 
Don’t nod off yet, this is about to get interesting: it’s a story that ends with Deloitte’s noted turnaround expert Richard Hughes – famous for saving Virgin Australia – basically giving the game away from the witness box. 
Hughes and colleague Grant Sparks were appointed Callide’s administrators last year but Sev.en Global Investments (owned by Czech coal tycoon Pavel Tykac) tried to flip the table and have FTI Consulting’s John Park and Benjamin Campbell brought in over the top as special purpose administrators. That was in January, when all faith had been lost in Deloitte – and the tactic worked.
Callide C Power Station.
Callide C Power Station.
Justice Roger Derrington found in Sev.en’s favour and lambasted Hughes and Sparks, saying, in essence, they hadn’t undertaken “any appropriate investigations” into what had happened. 
Sev.en filed papers in April to get rid of Hughes and Sparks entirely, except Deloitte hit back with a counter-application to stop that from happening (hiring five barristers in the process to defend itself). Its people also turned up to court with a new plan to sell Callide off in totality to the Queensland government. 
Three months of argument over that came to a stunning conclusion on Tuesday while Hughes was under cross-examination, giving evidence that could only be watched through a set of fingers, and which evidence led Deloitte’s barrister, Pomerenke, to return from the lunch break with a request for an hour-long adjournment, and then another adjournment to … announce arrangements were being made for Deloitte to stand down and arrange an orderly transition of Callide to FTI Consulting. 
A moment, of course, of sweet, sweet victory for Sev.en and its lawyers at Quinn Emanuel, namely the smiling partner, Elan Sasson (still grinning, we assume, after a previous victory noted in these pages some months ago). 
Even more bitter for Deloitte is an order that it pay costs – and not only Sev.en’s but also FTI Consulting for its recent services as the special purpose administrator. That’ll tally in the millions, naturally. 
Oh, yes, and a final humiliation: the Deloitte partners have to pay the bill out of their own accounts, not the administrator’s estate, which they just lost. 

Coalition blow-up

A private slap-fight has blown out in public between NSW Liberal leader Mark Speakman and Nationals MP Wes Fang, the Coalition partners apparently at war online after Fang took a blowtorch to Speakman on Facebook. 
The context for this is that Liberal MPs keep turning up in regional electorates without giving notice to the Nationals, a snub that’s clearly starting to piss them off. Apparently the Nats have quietly seethed about this for a while. They held a meeting with Speakman last week to stop it from happening and the Liberals put the slights down to a misunderstanding.
So when Speakman allegedly repeated the offence this week with a stealthy visit to Wagga Wagga – without a heads-up to Fang, who lives in the area – the MP let fly on Facebook. 
“So … Mark Speakman slinks into #WaggaWagga, pretending like the Libs actually care about the Riverina. He didn’t even have the courtesy to let me know he was coming.” 
Fang went on to accuse Speakman of “underhanded behaviour”, claimed Speakman would get “more coverage in Wagga from my share of his post” than actual media attention – a dig at his low recognition profile with the public – and ended with a shot fired over the “longevity” of his leadership. 
If this alone wasn’t an indication of how torrid relations with the Nats had become, we hear Speakman has since gone on to block Fang’s Facebook account as a result of his attack. We’d suggest they settle this with an arm wrestle, except last time Speakman accepted a challenge (from ex-minister Victor Dominello) he broke the guy’s arm

Out of boundaries

We noted on Wednesday that Peter Dutton’s office has started wording up Liberal MPs to be ready for a September election, even though the Australian Electoral Commission won’t settle boundaries for redistribution until October. 
That would include a carve-up of Higgins, part of which may soon find its way into Josh Frydenberg’s old seat of Kooyong, held by teal MP Monique Ryan
And it appears Ryan’s already trying to curry favour with these prospective constituents. A coterie of greying, teal-clad volunteers was spotted on the march through Higgins on Thursday slipping glossy political bumf into residents’ mailboxes. 
Printed material that, on closer inspection, appeared to welcome these people to Kooyong – even though the division hasn’t happened yet. “I look forward to meeting you soon!” it said. But will they embrace the sentiment? 

By Alexandra Smith
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A bitter brawl has split the NSW Coalition after Opposition Leader Mark Speakman sacked a Nationals MP from his shadow cabinet for making derogatory comments about the Liberals.

Speakman on Friday axed Nationals MP Wes Fang from his front bench, prompting Nationals leader Dugald Saunders to return serve, insisting the opposition leader had no right to do so. Saunders said Fang would remain shadow assistant minister for police, regional NSW and agriculture.

NSW Nationals MP Wes Fang was sacked from shadow cabinet on Friday, sparking an internal war.

NSW Nationals MP Wes Fang was sacked from shadow cabinet on Friday, sparking an internal war.CREDIT: JAMES BRICKWOOD

The extraordinary internal war erupted after Fang, known for his outspoken outbursts, slammed Speakman on social media for travelling to the Riverina, where Fang lives, without telling him.

Fang, an upper house MP, posted on X: “So ... the leader of the NSW Liberal’s Mark Speakman slinks into Wagga Wagga pretending like the Libs actually care about the Riverina

“Did he ask the ‘Coalition’ member who lives in Wagga Wagga and is apparently part of his ‘team’ to have in-depth discussion of Wagga Wagga? No.”

Fang labelled Speakman’s actions as “underhanded” and said the state opposition leader would get more coverage from Fang’s X post than from any media covering the visit.

He finished: “That should tell you everything you need to know about the longevity of Speako’s leadership”. The post was later deleted.

A source with knowledge of the situation, but unauthorised to speak, said Speakman raised Fang’s behaviour with Saunders and asked him to reprimand Fang and remove him from the shadow cabinet.

Saunders refused to move on Fang, one of his key supporters, so Speakman sacked Fang. Saunders was contacted but did not return calls.

In a statement late on Friday, Speakman said: “The public behaviour of the Hon Wes Fang MLC this week makes his positions as a shadow assistant minister untenable.

“I have therefore terminated his appointments as Shadow Assistant Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional NSW, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, with immediate effect.

“I have invited the Leader of the Nationals, Dugald Saunders MP, to nominate another Nationals MP to fill the vacated positions.”

However, Saunders did not accept that Speakman had the authority to remove Fang,

“Today the Leader of the NSW Liberal Party Mark Speakman has attempted to remove Wes Fang MLC from his assistant shadow minister roles,” Saunders said

“As Wes is a member of the NSW Nationals, myself and my leadership team have formed the view that he is unable to be stood down in this way.”

The last time the Coalition faced a bitter split was over the so-called koala wars in 2020, when then-Nationals leader John Barilaro threatened to split with the Liberals over a little-known planning policy related to koala habitat.

The premier Gladys Berejiklian held her nerve and told Barilaro to back down or she would appoint an all-Liberal cabinet. The Nationals surrendered.