A heading in infamous fake-news platform “Mirage News” reads: “Western Australia to become a Chinese Province”. This is clearly a ridiculous statement meant to rouse nationalist rage even with the most moderate of Australians and bound to fail.
But some uninformed Aussies quickly skimming through their social media feed might be alarmed. After all, WA is a rich and powerful state within Australia, a mining hub and Perth is becoming a world-famous mining financial centre. If it fell under Chinese control, what will become of this great country? Surely something must be done.
So, are we about to see the PRC flag raised above Perth’s Bell Tower? Not quite. Easily put, Clive Palmer is upset that the WA State Government is considering intervening in a State Agreement between Palmer’s company and a Chinese company (which operates a mine in the Pilbara) in order to save jobs. This is needed because Palmer doesn’t really care about jobs. He cares about winning at all costs.
As tenement land lease holder in the Pilbara, Palmer has allowed Chinese companies to mine iron ore on the land, earning him $1million a day in royalties. Now, after many years of legal dispute, Palmer is reluctant to let mine-operator CITIC build a tailings dam necessary for continued mining. Because the mine employs 3,000 workers, and after failed talks between Palmer and CTIC to allow the dam to move forward, WA State Premier Mark McGowan stepped in. Blaming Palmer for the threat to Australian jobs, he said he would consider reopening the State Agreement to force Palmer’s hand and give CITIC the land they require.
Clive Palmer is now trying to portray this reasonable and responsible act of leadership as “signing up to President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative”, but in reality, Premier McGowan is trying to save thousands of jobs and tax income, just as he would in any other project. The Roy Hill iron ore mine, also in the Pilbara, near Port Hedland, is partly owned by South Korean, Japanese and Chinese companies. Clive Palmer doesn’t seem to mind these foreign holdings in the slightest.
Readers coming across this fictitious press release could be easily dumbfounded. “The WA Labor Government has allowed Merredin Airport, just 260km east of Perth, to transfer into Chinese ownership”, it claims. What readers must know, however, is that in January 2018, The West Australian ran a story featuring councilor Merredin Martin Morris telling an entirely different tale;
“We’d sell it (the airfield) for a dollar, as long as it still remained a public airfield and no one was charged landing fees to use it. It was a very basic airfield, two gravel cross airstrips. Now it’s a multimillion dollar all weather airfield that was funded by somebody else that anybody can use anytime.”
Morris says the investment allowed the town and airport of Merredin to grow and benefitted locals, who could now land freely in a much more developed airfield.
Palmer goes on to claim that “the Port of Cape Preston has the facilities necessary to support and sustain large scale naval operations in the Indian Ocean,” hinting at the possibility of a Chinese invasion. This has been widely discussed and eventually refuted by aerial experts during Palmer’s failed election campaign, and has been titled “tacky scaremongering” and even “mind farts”.
The port is completely controlled by Australian authorities and has strong presence of the Federal Police, Border Force, Home Affairs and Immigration. “It’s ludicrous and it’s terrible to see people on Facebook, even local people, actually believe what’s being said,” port maintenance spokesperson Dave Keen said.
“It’s laughable and our staff know that it’s a joke,” CITIC Pacific executive Rob Newton said. “The problem is, we’re not sure the wider community understand that this is a ridiculous proposition.”
While Palmer claimed the Port of Cape Preston is a deep water port (hence great for said “Chinese invasion”), it’s actually so shallow that iron ore has to be towed out to sea in flat-bottom barges.
This same logic is also applies to the Cape Preston airstrip. Clive Palmer said that “Chinese communist government owned companies have built a private jet airport approximately 80km south of Karratha and the existing Karratha airport”, but in fact, the “airport” is a tiny desert landing strip serving Australian miners working in the Fly In, Fly Out system in and out of the mine. Without the airstrip, they would not be able to get back to their families.
The public should know to differentiate between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ news. A scandalous title in a false news website like Mirage News should be a laughing matter. But in our modern reality, where people easily share information to trusting friends and family through social media and instant messaging apps, Palmer’s “mind farts” can become extremely hazardous.
Unsuspecting Australians who are simply concerned for their country could unintentionally and unknowingly share this completely bogus information, spreading lies like wildfire, and eventually cause pressure on our State Government to make bad decisions in Palmer’s favor, costing 3,000 families their livelihoods. Palmer would then have his way, using Australians’ love for Australia to destroy communities from within just for spite and out of privileged rage. What a shame that Palmer’s plaything in this case is a living community and source of income for thousands of honest Australians.
We need the Australian people to show responsibility and exercise judgement in reading and sharing information online. Hopefully their common sense could win over Palmer’s harmful disinformation.