Monday, March 30, 2009

Woomera! You're kidding me.

Australia's Treasurer Wayne Swan has told the Chinese company Minmetals it can't take over Oz Minerals because it mines at Prominent Hill in South Australia's Woomera prohibited area.

Swan: "The Woomera Prohibited Area weapons testing range makes a unique and sensitive contribution to Australia’s national defence. It is not unusual for governments to restrict access to sensitive areas on national security grounds."

Excuse me!

Granted, Swan's said funny things before. But "sensitive", "security"?

Once Woomera was home to Nurrungar, the top secret US spy base. But Nurrungar was closed a decade ago.

Now we're even talking about letting the Russians use Woomera. HT: Steve Kirchner.

In today's Australian the founder of Oz Minerals' Prominent Hill mine describes Swan's claim as "almost laughable".

"The prohibited area covers around one-third of SA, and there's a highway that goes up the centre of it and a railway," Minotaur Exploration managing director Derek Carter said.

"Any Chinese tourist could travel through there, take a tent with them and no one would know they were there."

The contentious mine, he said, was 170km from Woomera, while the "sensitive" weapons testing range was 40-50km north of the facility.

Security was adequately covered under the rules applying to a prohibited area, which required registration of the names of all people working in the area, and therefore at Prominent Hill."

So what's really going on?

John Garnaut has the only compelling theory:

"Rudd has appeared embarrassed about his deep and clear-eyed knowledge of China and has shied away from leading intelligent domestic discussion. The vacuum has now been filled by vested interests, maverick senators and ageing cold-war commentators.

The result is red peril hysteria.

Since Chinalco's initial Rio Tinto investment the Government has thrown up a series of arbitrary investment barriers apparently to look like it is "standing up to China" - a stance the Howard government never felt necessary to take. It has sent a message to the Australian public that Chinese money is inherently dangerous."

It's worth reading in full.

Rudd and Swan are either fools not properly fit to govern, or there is something about Woomera they are not telling us.

Of course, there is a compelling argument for preventing one of the biggest buyers of Australian minerals from owing the company that sells them.

But lets discuss it OPENLY!!!