Peter Dutton was flown by a billionaire to Gina Rinehart’s Pilbara party – where he had a message for parents

Article by Josh Butler courtesy of the Guardian.

Hancock Prospecting national mining day YouTube video screengrab showing Peter Dutton, Gerhard Veldsman and Gina Rinehart. Dutton was flown to the event by the Warburton Group. Photograph: Hancock Prospecting

Federal opposition leader told audience at Roy Hill mine that parents and teachers should instruct children about benefits of mining.

Peter Dutton was flown to a party at the Pilbara mine of Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, by another billionaire rich-lister, where he made a speech suggesting parents and teachers talk to children about the positives of the mining sector.

In a speech at Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill mine in November last year, Dutton repeatedly thanked those working in resources. He described the work carried out at the mine as a “national treasure”.

“We need to hear more parents tell their children that the schools they attend, and the cities they live in, are only possible because of the mining sector,” the federal opposition leader told the crowd.

“We need to hear more teachers tell the students that the roads, the bridges, the railways that we travel on have been constructed thanks to your sector. Too many of our teachers are telling kids to be ashamed of the fact that their parents work in the mining sector. We need to turn that around.”

Rinehart hosted the party at her iron ore mine on 22 November as part of a lavish celebration to mark national mining day – a celebration founded by Rinehart herself.

The Australian Financial Review reported at the time that Dutton attended the party, and that Hancock Prospecting also held events in Bali during the same period to celebrate national agriculture and related industries day, also founded by Rinehart.

In a December update to the parliamentary register of interests, under the category “travel or hospitality”, the Liberal leader disclosed “22 November 2023 – return flight Perth to Ginbata (Roy Hill) courtesy of Warburton Group”.

In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Dutton said it was “public knowledge Mr Dutton attended and spoke at the National Mining & Related Industries Day event last year in his capacity as leader of the opposition”.

“All necessary and relevant disclosures to the parliamentary register have been made,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The Warburton Group, according to its website, “is a private family office founded by Tim Roberts whose heritage evolved from the family’s foundations of construction, development and property investment”. It has investments in mining, infrastructure, aviation and agriculture among other assets.

Roberts is Australia’s 69th richest person, according to the AFR’s 2023 rich list, with $1.93bn in wealth from property, investments and resources. Roberts’ brother, Andrew, is 159th on the list and is worth $885m from property. Rinehart herself leads the list with a total wealth of $37.41bn.

Photographs from the Roy Hill party, posted on the Hancock website, show mining machinery lit up in luminous colours with guests decked out in pink hi-vis vests sitting at large outdoor tables.

Dutton, also wearing hi-vis, was pictured making a speech at the event as well as sitting beside Rinehart at a table featuring fellow Coalition MP Keith Pitt and the Perth lord mayor, Basil Zempilas.

Peter Dutton speaking at the 22 November 2023 event. Photograph: Hancock Prospecting

Dutton did not appear to post about the Roy Hill party on social media at the time and his office did not publish or distribute a transcript of his speech.
The MC of the Roy Hill event, the Hancock CEO, Gerhard Veldsman, introduced Dutton on stage by complimenting him for working “tirelessly to actually represent our industry at a time when there’s not a lot in government that does”.

Dutton praised Rinehart and Australia’s mining industry, referring to the resources magnate’s family as “pioneers” who had “given so much to this country”, as well as commending her philanthropic work.

He said of resources workers: “What you do for your family, what you do for our country, is something we don’t acknowledge enough. Our country needs to do better for our mining sector and for our agricultural sector as well.”

Dutton sent a separate and prerecorded speech to the Bali event for national agriculture day on 21 November. It was played during the dinner as guests in bow ties wore necklaces of frangipani flowers, according to a video posted to YouTube by Hancock Prospecting.

Hosted by the former Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles – who is now the CEO of Hancock’s agricultural arm – the event featured a rendition of the Australian national anthem sung by the Sky News commentator Daisy Cousens.

During her address to the Bali dinner, Rinehart recounted a story about the former US president Donald Trump thanking Australian businessman Anthony Pratt for billions of investment into the US, joking “I don’t think our government has actually thanked me yet”, before adding: “I’ll survive.”

In a separate YouTube video of the Roy Hill event, Dutton is seen with Rinehart and Veldsman, waving from the steps of a Qantas plane which appeared to transport party guests to the Pilbara.

The video went on to show that guests were treated to a drone light show in the skies above the mine, with the performance and a voiceover highlighting the contribution of mining royalties and taxes to paying for essential services such as health and infrastructure, as well as praising Rinehart’s business record.

One part of the show included drones forming the shape of a pair of scissors cutting red tape, as the voiceover spoke of the need to reduce government regulation on the mining sector.

Guardian Australia approached the Warburton Group for comment.

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