A year before Colin Barnett first announced plans for a future fund, merchant banker Justin Mannolini emailed his old university mate Christian Porter to pitch an idea that would paint the Government as visionary while changing the conversation around State debt.

Mr Mannolini, the managing director of Gresham, an investment bank chaired by leading businessman Michael Chaney, sent an email to the Treasurer in February last year to see if the Government had any interest in a sovereign wealth fund.

He also offered Gresham’s services to design and advise on the fund for a “concessional” fee.

“There is the chance for national thought leadership here which might be attractive,” Mr Mannolini wrote in an email uncovered by Labor using Freedom of Information laws.

“Also, I know you are being lined up for a debate on the State debt and a (future fund) if it made sense might reorient the debate a little.”

A year later Mr Barnett outlined the first details of the future fund that was unveiled in last week’s Budget.

Mr Porter told Parliament today that discussions had already been taking place within Government about a future fund before Mr Mannolini’s email.

He admitted meeting with Gresham because they were “experts” in sovereign wealth funds but the firm will get no business from the Government because the future fund will be administered by the bureaucrats at WA Treasury Corporation.

“Justin Mannolini and I were at university together,” Mr Porter said.

“He is a leading expert on issues relating to public and private sector financing and sovereign wealth fund management.”

Mr Mannolini was travelling today and unavailable, while Gresham declined to comment.

The West Australian

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