Home / Politics / ICAC / The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps “We may have been misled by the then Premier into introducing and passing three bills that have expropriated a property right completely unjustifiably”

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps “We may have been misled by the then Premier into introducing and passing three bills that have expropriated a property right completely unjustifiably”

The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS ( 00:38 ): Last Friday the Age published an article by Chris Merritt relating to  allegations that have been raised against former Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] Commissioner Ipp and the conduct of the inquiry known as the Jasper inquiry. I found the article quite compelling and further investigation into this issue has led to more and more grave concerns. I am concerned that we as a party and as a Parliament may have been misled into enacting three different Acts of Parliament on the basis of misinformation, deliberate deception and perhaps even gross maladministration by the ICAC. A particularly great injustice has been done to John McGuigan, Richard Poole and Cascade Coal Pty Limited. Three bills arose as a result of the Jasper inquiry—the Mining Amendment (ICAC Operations Jasper and Acacia) Bill 2014, the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 and the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment (Validation) Bill 2015. The second reading speeches in the first two instances by Barry O’Farrell and in the third instance by Mike Baird all make it clear that these bills arose as a result of the recommendations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The problem with this, and the problem with the statements in the second reading speeches by Mr O’Farrell, is that it appears he had prior consultations with then Commissioner Ipp so that he could get the very outcome he sought. In late 2012 the planning Minister found that exploration licences could not be terminated under the existing legislation. On 30 January Mr O’Farrell wrote to Commissioner Ipp, indicating that the New South Wales Government would welcome any findings and recommendations the commission might see fit to make, including recommendations under the Mining Act, recommendations with respect to amendment of the Mining Act and recommendations concerning legal proceedings against any individual or company surrounding the allocation of exploration licences. The following day this was apparently acted upon, because Mr McGuigan was cross-examined in the public hearing and at that stage the commissioner, for the first time ever, indicated the possibility that there might be an expropriation of the licences.

Liberal Party members have very strong views about the sanctity of property rights but in those three bills we essentially removed the property rights of people who had a legitimate claim to them at that stage. The interaction by the then Premier with Commissioner Ipp is of grave concern to me. The final report of the ICAC provided no evidence whatsoever of corruption in the granting of licences. There was the possibility of corrupt activity in the creation of the Mount Penny licence, but no allegation was raised about the granting of the licence. Instead, the commission relied on testimony from a gentleman by the name of Gardner Brook. After the discovery of a number of issues it turns out that Gardner Brook is, as revealed in his own private testimony to ICAC, a self-confessed liar and a fraud. Yet this man was given the white hat by ICAC and it was suggested repeatedly that his evidence was of a credible nature.

If all this sounds familiar it is because exactly the same thing happened in relation to the Mike Gallacher case, where Hugh Thomson—probably the person most responsible for taking illegal donations—was given the white hat by ICAC on the basis that he would set up other people in his testimony. ICAC used Gardner Brook in exactly the same way. The bills were justified on the basis of a gross maladministration by the ICAC. It must be remembered that Cascade Coal did not win the initial tender; the initial tender was won by Monaro Mining. Gardner Brook was a key involved person in that company. Gardner Brook and Monaro Mining promised the State Government $25 million, and when they could not deliver it the officials—not the corrupt Ministers—contacted Cascade Coal and asked that company, as the runner-up, if it would like to take over the bid. Naturally, Cascade Coal said yes, believing that, because the original successful applicant had fallen over, Cascade Coal could go ahead with it.

What we have here appears to me to be gross maladministration by ICAC. Even more importantly, I believe we may have been misled by the then Premier into introducing and passing three bills that have expropriated a property right completely unjustifiably.

Legislative Council Hansard – 14 November 2017 – Proof

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