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Finding the real Grid Australia

Danny Rosenberg ... the real chairman of Grid Australia.

Danny Rosenberg ... the real chairman of Grid Australia.

When the chairman of Grid Australia, Peter McIntyre, issued a public apology to cattle farmer and electricity activist Bruce Robertson two weeks ago there was one hitch.

It wasn’t the apology itself. McIntyre had done the right thing. Governments should not sue their citizens for exercising their right to an opinion and Grid Australia is a peak body after all; little more than a front for the state transmission giants.

I’m Grid Australia. That’s my company. You say that someone is using my actual ABN number? 

The lobby group had sought to muzzle its critic Robertson with an intimidating letter from one of the world’s biggest law firms, Ashurst. But it soon recanted and dropped the bully tactic after a public outcry.

Nobody home ... apart from the dog who barked a lot.

Nobody home ... apart from the dog who barked a lot.

The small hitch in the letter of apology, though, was the ABN number which appeared beneath Grid Australia’s logo.

The number 46 144 749 413 may seem less than remarkable for the casual observer. Although for Bruce Robertson and his fellow consumer activist Peter Epov, this was the secret code which led to a whole new world of intrigue.

A search of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) database showed this same 11 digit number was registered to Grid Australia Pty Ltd, a company whose sole director was a Daniel Rosenberg of Caulfield South in Melbourne.

The offices of Clemantina in Elsternwick, Melbourne.

The offices of Clemantina in Elsternwick, Melbourne.

The plot had thickened. How could Peter McIntyre – who is also the managing director of NSW transmission juggernaut Transgrid – be the chairman of Grid Australia when this mysterious Daniel Rosenberg was the sole director?

Daniel Rosenberg, born Israel 1974. What was the connection? Was this Peter McIntyre’s doppelganger?
 
It was time for a road trip. Accompanied by a photographer from The Age, we attended the Caulfield South address listed on the company search but there was nobody at home in the leafy Melbourne suburb … apart from the dog who barked a lot.

Not to be discouraged, we then made our way to the registered office – the only other clue of in the ASIC search.

It was here, at the offices of JM Partners in Horne Street Elsternwick that the first major breakthrough was struck.

Daniel Rosenberg was nowhere to be seen. His accountant however, Guy Biran, was there. Studying the ABN number quizzically, Biran said he had not heard of the electricity peak body.

“We have heard nothing from them; didn’t know they existed,” said Biran. Had he heard from Ashurst? “Are they lawyers? What are they?”

Biran explained how he had set up the company for Rosenberg, who was his brother-in-law, two years ago. Danny Rosenberg was a designer over in the nearby suburb of St Kilda.

It was doubtful, said Guy Biran, that Danny would know much about the electricity transmission people either. He was right.

Danny Rosenberg was out that day but we spoke with him over the phone. He operates a graphic design company, Clemantina, and claimed very convincingly to have never heard of Transgrid, nor Grid Australia’s other five members: SP-Ausnet, South Australia’s ElectraNet, Powerlink Queensland, Transend Networks in Tasmania or WA’s Western Power for that matter.

“I’m Grid Australia. That’s my company,” Rosenberg told us. “You say that someone is using my actual ABN number?

“Why did I call myself Grid Australia? I’m a designer and manufacturer. I wanted to register (the name) Grid. We did the search. Grid was already taken but the next best thing was Grid Australia.”

Had he had any dealings with the other Grid Australia – the interloper? No, nor their lawyers either. What did Danny Rosenberg think of this confusing situation?

“I think this whole story is crazy!”

And there the mystery stands for now. Questions were put to Grid Australia and Ashurst early this week. There has been no response.

It would seem Grid Australia – the peak body that is, as distinct from the legally-registered though lesser-known Grid Australia Pty Ltd – has no right to be threatening legal action, let alone taking it, as it is not a registered entity.

Grid Australia has used the same ABN under its logo in its Senate submissions, available on its website.

The networks lobby group was formerly known as ETNOF - Electricity Transmission Network Owners Forum – but changed its name to Grid Australia in 2008.

According to the website, there is little evidence of a board or a formalised structure, minutes of meetings, membership fees. It just lists Transgrid employees as contacts. Transgrid is owned by the state.

So we have a situation, effectively, where the NSW government has threatened a citizen with legal action to curtail his right to speak out about the electricity industry. This has come at a time when it is preparing to privatise its transmission and distribution assets.

* Some further digging shows that the domain "gridaustralia.com.au" is registered to the "Queensland Electricity Corporation Limited", ABN 82078849233, which owns the trading name "Powerlink", the Queensland TNSP.

According to A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999, Section 23:

Identification offences
             (1)  * You must not purport to identify yourself by using:
                     (a)  a number that is not an * ABN as if it were an ABN; or
                     (b)  an ABN that is not your own.
Penalty:  Imprisonment for 2 years.
             (2)  * You must not purport to identify an * entity that is an * associate of yours by using:
                     (a)  a number that is not an * ABN as if it were an ABN; or
                     (b)  an ABN that is not the entity's own ABN.
Penalty:  Imprisonment for 2 years.
             (3)  * You commit an offence if:

                     (a)  you purport to identify yourself as being registered under this Act as the representative of 
                           an * entity; and
                     (b)  you are not the registered representative of the entity.
Penalty:  Imprisonment for 2 years.

60 comments

  • The NEM, and the sale of assets of the former Electricity Commision of NSW, has been a debacle which has only benefited incumbent managers of utilities and regulators (and, of course a few ex-politicians) as they moved from the tit of the public service to the cream of executive pay in the new corporatized entities. They appear to know nothing about risk, probity and market discipline.

    Commenter
    Disgusted
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 2:34PM
    • You got it in one, that's what most pollies are all about these days.
      Sell Govt assets then transition to an executive job in said industry sector.

      Nice work if you can get it !

      Commenter
      Got it in one
      Location
      Executive Suite
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 3:22PM
    • I must say I personally feel your not wrong ... I'm pretty sure that I read that these guys are on massive incomes with their principle tax payer/utilities payer funded wages along with bonuses and 26% superannuation, albeit through their principle income companies such as McIntyres Transgrid! Wonder if they pay for their own power as well??? So glad Michael West took an interest in Robertson and Epov and theIr Manning Alliance! Like other readers I can hardly wait for the next edition! What intrigues will be next? I even heard it has been mentioned in Parliament ... BTW Where are our politicians who are supposed to represent us in regards to issues such as this. Where is Steven Bromhead, the local member for Bruce Robertsons' area in all this ... Surely he should be getting involved. But, alas a bit quiet it seems!!! Mmmmmmmm .... Could be yet another chapter Michael!

      Commenter
      JenGMA
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 5:06PM
  • Thanks Michael for everything you have done on this issue!
    My question to anyone.. does Grid Australia Pty Ltd, the one of Transgrid fame, have an ABN? If so the wrong ABN number could easily be a simple mistake made by the lawyers. On the other hand if Grid Australia Pty Ltd don’t have an ABN then everyone involved need to have the book thrown at them. Threatening to destroy someone financially for standing up for their community is a pretty terrible offence, plus it was on behalf of state owned organisations, and under false pretences?? Jail is where people like that belong, in the stall next to mr obeid and everyone else who would turn Australia into a corrupt third world nation.

    Commenter
    Jonesy
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 2:36PM
    • Jonesy, you seem a bit confused there (understandable, this whole mess is somewhat confusing).

      Grid Australia Pty Ltd is a registered company, and as such has an ABN derived from its ACN. It belongs to a graphic designer in Melbourne and appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with the association of electricity distributors calling itself Grid Australia.

      The association of electricity distributors, once called ETNOF - Electricity Transmission Network Owners Forum, renamed itself to Grid Australia, apparently without registering the name, or even checking to see if it was already used, something that is at the very least incompetent given this is an association of multi billion dollar state-owned enterprises. As this Grid Australia is not a legal entity, it cannot have an ABN.

      My guess is that somebody at Transgrid did an ASIC search to find the ABN and grabbed the Grid Australia Pty Ltd details incorrectly assuming it belonged to the association.

      The rest, as they say, is an unfolding debacle.

      Commenter
      Michael
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 2:55PM
    • Ahhhhh...read the article!

      "It would seem Grid Australia – the peak body that is, as distinct from the legally-registered though lesser-known Grid Australia Pty Ltd – has no right to be threatening legal action, let alone taking it, as it is not a registered entity."

      In other words - there is only one Grid Australia P/L and only one ABN. The other Grid Australia is just a name. Mr Robertson has as much to worry about if the threat of legal action came from Nigeria.

      Where on earth is BOF and his dopey sidekick Hartcher in all this? Hiding under the table I presume.

      Commenter
      Lucas
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 3:03PM
    • I'd love to be a fly on the wall at Ashurst.

      Commenter
      Olaf
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 3:05PM
    • @ Lucas - Was BOF and Hartcher in government at the time of the name change, 2008?.

      Maybe the then Labour government could have utilised the services of a senior federal member who was a former lawyer to set the association up correctly.. :)

      Commenter
      Ryan
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 3:56PM
    • Yep Im mixed up. It is just very hard to believe that a letter like this that has no justification at all can be sent, by a major law firm no less. In the words of Derren... SHAME SHAME SHAME

      Commenter
      Jonesy
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 4:08PM
    • Its a shame you didnt keep this under your hat and invite them to sue you.... imagine the judges reaction when you reveal they are not even a legal entity, and/or are comitting fraud.

      Such basic incompetence just demonstrates how they conduct thier business.

      So when will ATSIC or the police be investigating this fraud? especially if they have been trading under the name.....

      Though dont rely on ATSIC to actually do anything.... toothless beast they are. they will probably send "Ausgrid Australia" a strongly worded letter if anything.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 4:10PM

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