The next NSW government will be confronted with a bloc of crossbenchers in the upper house, possibly holding the balance of power, demanding millions of dollars in compensation for innocent victims of an ICAC-driven expropriation of private property.
They have pledged to use their numbers in the upper house to persuade the next state government to compensate shareholders in mining company NuCoal Resources, which was stripped of a coal exploration licence in 2014.
The company estimates this cost its shareholders at least $100 million.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption urged parliament to cancel the exploration licence and compensate innocent parties as it believed the way the licence had been issued was tainted by corruption.
Legislative Council member the Reverend Fred Nile said he now regretted voting to cancel NuCoal’s licence because parliament was never told ICAC also wanted compensation for innocent parties who would be adversely affected.
“This is not about corruption, this is about righting a wrong and helping shareholders who have suffered unfairly,” he said.
He is part of a bloc of four members and candidates for the upper house who have signed a pledge to make compensation for NuCoal shareholders a priority for the next state government.
Mr Nile was also “not opposed” to measures to ensure that whenever the government took private property, it would be required to compensate the property owner.
“The government should not be taking private property, but whenever it does, it should be required to pay just terms,” he said.
No accusations of wrongdoing have been made against NuCoal, which got the licence when it bought Doyles Creek Mining 14 months after the latter won the licence from the state government.
Doyles Creek was later caught up in an ICAC inquiry that led to accusations of corruption against several directors, as well as former mining minister Ian Macdonald.
However, the NSW Court of Appeal last month quashed the convictions of former Doyles Creek chairman John Maitland and Mr Macdonald, and ordered their release from prison pending a retrial.
Mr Nile said he believed the major parties were reluctant to speak publicly about the issue but he had discussed the matter with Labor and the Coalition and believed there was majority support across the parliament for compensation.
Chris Merritt, Legal Affairs Editor
WTF (used with permission)