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Downer joins Rinehart board
Downer joins Rinehart board

Alexander Downer, who served as Australia's foreign minister during John Howard's prime ministership, has joined the board of one of Gina Rinehart's most important companies.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission declare that Mr Downer has joined the board of Roy Hill Holdings as an alternate director to Mrs Rinehart's key lieutenant, Tad Watroba. Ginia Rinehart, the only one of Mrs Rinehart's children to take her side in the bitter dispute with her other three children, is also an alternate director of Roy Hill.

Roy Hill is the Rinehart-controlled company trying to develop the $10 billion namesake Pilbara iron ore project.

Mr Downer is a director of Adelaide lobbying firm Bespoke Approach, briefly hired by Mrs Rinehart at the height of the legal action with her estranged children. Bespoke Approach is also the lobbyist of choice for major resource houses Xstrata, Noble Group and POSCO, one of Mrs Rinehart's equity partners in the Roy Hill project.

Mr Downer leapt to a public defence of Mrs Rinehart this year when she came under fire from Wayne Swan's infamous spray at mining billionaires. In an opinion piece published in News Limited papers, Mr Downer accused the Federal Treasurer of engaging in "class warfare". "Frankly, it's an amazing thing the richest woman in the world is Australian. It's not entirely obvious to me why she should be the target of political invective," Mr Downer wrote.

Roy Hill is not Mr Downer's first foray on to the board of the personal companies of Australia's billionaire miners. In 2009 he joined the board of Clive Palmer's Resourcehouse, resigning last December after the collapse of its Hong Kong float plans. Mr Downer could not be contacted for comment.