Sunday 31 July 2011

While Rome burnt Nero fiddled!

A stoush over who would announce a planned dam expansion has led to the public rolling of a premier
THE leadership crisis in South Australia involving Premier Mike Rann and Education Minister Jay Weatherill centres on a dispute over who should announce BHP Billiton's expected expansion of the Olympic Dam mine early next year, it can be revealed.

A senior Right faction source this afternoon told The Australian Online that Mr Rann had agreed to step down as Premier only after he had made the expected announcement based on a decision yet to be endorsed by BHP Billiton's board.

The well-placed source said that during the past six weeks the dominant Right had agreed that Mr Weatherill should be the next Premier, even though he was from the Left, because he was their best chance of Labor winning a fourth term in 2014.

However, the source said, once Mr Weatherill was advised of the Right's decision to support him, he decided that he did not want to wait and that he should be the one to announce the mine expansion because it was so important for the future of the state.

There also was concern among the Left that the Right would renege on the deal.

Mr Weatherill conveyed this to right-aligned union boss Peter Malinauskas, who agreed that now was the right time to tell Mr Rann to step aside by August 31 because of parliament's winter break.

Mr Malinauskaus and Treasurer Jack Snelling conveyed this to Mr Rann late on Friday, but he reacted angrily and left yesterday for a one-week trip mission to India.

Mr Snelling late today did not deny the version of events when it was presented to him by The Australian Online at a press conference he had called.

A short time later Mr Rann released a statement saying that he would only step down as Premier once he had made the Olympic Dam expansion announcement.

"Before I step down as Premier and leader, there are a several key projects that I should complete, including most importantly, the go-ahead for the Olympic Dam expansion," Mr Rann said in the statement.

"I intend to conclude negotiations with BHP Billiton over the indenture agreement that will allow the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine project to proceed.

"On my return to the state I intend to make a further announcement about my future."

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