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Andrew Forrest fears Govt succumbed to big miner pressure -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Andrew Forrest says his campaign for an inquiry into the iron ore industry isn't over.

But he fears the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have caved in to pressure from the big miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

Mr Forrest spoke with our Business editor, Peter Ryan.

ANDREW FORREST: It is a reaction of disappointment, but I would have to say not of surprise. You've got enormous political pressure put on the Government of the day to resile from a position which would have just called for transparency and openness into an industry which has been opaque to the Australian people for too long.

PETER RYAN: So did the Prime Minister and the Treasurer cave in to pressure from the big miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto?

ANDREW FORREST: You know, we saw the lobbyists for the multinationals say, when they thought there was going to be an inquiry, say, "Look, we welcome an inquiry so we can clear the air." But their actions, right, out of the other side of their mouths: their actions were lobbying furiously, flying in plane loads of lobbyists to cover Canberra, to get them to change their decision.

So it's really disappointing that the Government has changed. It's really disappointing that the Australian people don't have a chance to look into this opaque industry which they actually own. They own the iron ore, so Australians should be allowed to ask the questions.

PETER RYAN: You know the power of the mining lobby, given the campaign against the super mining profits tax which in part claimed the career of Kevin Rudd. So are you in any way surprised that the Government would have been a little bit rattled by the broadsides from BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto?

ANDREW FORREST: I definitely, Peter, hoped that they wouldn't be. You know, I thought we'd have learned our lesson that the multinationals, if they can construct a mining tax which they don't pay and everyone else does, then we would know that they'd be up to their old tricks again now.

And so, sure, I was hoping for a stronger reaction from this Government than last government. But let's just know that they are able to call in favours from everywhere. And I'm really disappointed that we're able to get rid of an opportunity for the Australian people to look right into an industry for the first time that they in fact own. They own the iron ore.

PETER RYAN: This time last week the Prime Minister was sounding reasonably positive about the chances of an inquiry into the iron ore industry. Did you take him seriously then?

ANDREW FORREST: Oh, yes, of course. And I, you know, and I also heard the statements of the lobbyists of the multinationals saying, "Well, we will accept an inquiry. It'll be our opportunity to clear the air." And of course on the other hand they'd lobbied the Prime Minister furiously - almost hysterically, I think, Peter - to stop the inquiry.

But look, the cat is out of the bag, Peter. The Australian people know they can ask the questions. They should be asking the questions. They should be expecting the answers. So eventually this will all come out and I'm looking forward to that day.

PETER RYAN: So is your campaign over for now or just on hold?

ANDREW FORREST: No. Look, I'm not in a campaign. Like with the mining tax, when I shone the light on the fact multinationals had invented a tax which they would not pay themselves, I persisted until everyone knew, actually, that was a device. That was a trick. The multinationals wouldn't pay their own tax. And here: I'm not going to give up until the Australian people learn the truth as well.

PETER RYAN: The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, in his statement yesterday said there would be no inquiry "at this time." What do you read into that?

ANDREW FORREST: Well, I think that was an interesting choice of words which he didn't have to say. People cannot say that he's in the pockets of the multinationals. He obviously found the pressure intense from within his own Cabinet and I think those members of Cabinet who resisted the opportunity for transparency into this opaque industry just simply got it wrong.

And you know, I felt for the Treasurer. I can imagine the immense pressure that he and the Prime Minister were under. But I've seen it happen before.

And Australia's got to ask, Peter. Australia's got to ask: do we want an environment where multinationals can change government policy at will to minimise tax, to change policy for their own ends?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The chairman of Fortescue Metals, Andrew Forrest, with our Business editor, Peter Ryan.