21 May 2013

Emails reveal tension between Govt and Solid Energy

7:14 pm on 21 May 2013

Another batch of documents released by the Treasury confirm just how tense relations between the Government and Solid Energy became in 2012.

A series of emails show Treasury officials were frustrated for most of last year by the coal company, which is in debt by at least $390 million because it refused to accept it needed to change its business plan until too late.

Finance Minister Bill English says strong leadership of State-owned enterprises can be an advantage - but in this case it also caused problems.

"The challenge is when that's at odds with the shareholders. So in this case, there were differences and they took quite a lot of intensive discussion and time to resolve."

Emails from February last year reveal that Treasury official John Crawford was complaining about Solid Energy's failure to finish its revised business plan.

In August he emailed fellow officials, saying a conversation with the then Solid Energy chairman John Palmer had not ended well.

Mr Palmer objected to the Treasury appointing an outside adviser to the company, but Mr Crawford said the the Treasury didn't have any confidence in Solid Energy's management.