08/06/2004 - 22:00

Energy focus shapes Carson’s career

08/06/2004 - 22:00

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IN the early 1980s, when Jon Carson was a young solicitor, he started working on the financing and construction of the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline.

Energy focus shapes Carson’s career

IN the early 1980s, when Jon Carson was a young solicitor, he started working on the financing and construction of the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline.

Two decades on, Mr Carson is recognised as the State’s leading energy and infrastructure lawyer, and he is still doing work related to the gas pipeline.

Mr Carson’s early involvement in the energy sector set him up nicely for a career specialising in one of Western Australia’s major growth sectors.

His peers have ranked him as the top energy and infrastructure lawyer in WA Business News’ Legal Elite survey.

Other lawyers attracting nominations in the survey included Freehills’ Stuart Barrymore and Mallesons Stephen Jaques’ Alan Murray.

Mr Carson, now a partner at Blake Dawson Waldron, has had no shortage of work in recent years, courtesy of his major client Alinta, which has been pursuing an aggressive growth strategy.

He was heavily involved in last year’s Aquila transaction, which made Alinta a national player in the energy market, and this year’s Duke Energy acquisition.

“There has been a large amount of work generated by those acquisitions, as well as the general ongoing legal work for Alinta,” Mr Carson said.

As well as the acquisitions, Mr Carson has also been working on Alinta’s move into electricity production via its co-generation project with Alcoa.

While these moves rank as major strategic initiatives for Alinta, Mr Carson looks back to three earlier transactions as being more significant for his career.

“The two that stand out would be the split of SECWA and the very first open access regime for energy infrastructure. That broke new ground,” he said. “The other transaction where I took a lot of personal satisfaction was the float of Alinta. It went pretty well.”

The split of the former State Energy Commission of WA (SECWA) in 1994 created Western Power and Alinta.

The creation of an open access regime, giving users access to the gas pipeline and the State’s electricity transmission system, took effect on January 1 1995.

Mr Carson said it was notable that this regime pre-dated moves by the Federal Government to establish open access rules.

He said his specialist focus on energy was driven in part by changes to the legal services market in WA.

Early in his career, Mr Carson said he (and many other Perth lawyers) did a lot of work for banks and other lenders on property transactions.

“There was a lot of bank work, but you just don’t see that any more,” he said. “The financing all seems to have moved to Sydney.

“Very rarely do you get a Perth lawyer taking a lead role on the lending side.”

An example of this trend was Blake’s work on the Burrup Fertilisers’ project.

While Mr Carson led the Perth team that negotiated the project contracts, the financing was done out of Melbourne, where the banks are based.

A big change in Mr Carson’s career came in 2001, when he (and several other lawyers) left Perth firm Jackson McDonald to join national firm Blake Dawson Waldron.

Mr Carson said the benefits of being in a national practice were highlighted by Blake’s ability to support Alinta’s recent growth.

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