Bureaucrats ‘withheld’ mine data


Bureaucrats ‘withheld’ mine data

Andrew Clennell
The Daily Telegraph
March 15, 201312:00AM

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MORE than 700 pages of documents that would have blown the Eddie Obeid mine scandal open four years ago were not released by the state’s most senior public servants to the parliament when they received an order to do so.

ICAC Commissioner David Ipp yesterday released all documents ICAC has seized which were not provided to the upper house during a call for papers on the Mt Penny mine in 2009. The commissioner wrote to the Legislative Council saying that if the parliament requested, the corruption watchdog would take action on the issue.

The upper house privileges committee will now investigate whether some of the state’s most senior public servants, including current head of the department of primary industries Richard Sheldrake, were implicated in a massive cover-up.

If they suspect that was the case, they will refer the case to ICAC.

Included in the missing documents were crucial emails that would have shown Obeid family associate, Andrew Kaidbay, was involved in the bid for the coal mine over the Obeid farm.

There were also documents showing that Ian Macdonald reopened expressions of interests for the Mt Penny mine, which was built over Eddie Obeid’s farm, a decision which led Cascade Coal, a company the Obeids and Mr Macdonald’s close friend Greg Jones became involved in, to win the exploration licence for the mine.

The documents would also have shown bureaucrats questioning former minister Ian Macdonald on why he was seeking to open up reserves at Mt Penny, where the Obeid farm was.

One official, Graham Hawkes, says in one of the hidden emails: “Can we get more information … the department hasn’t done sufficient exploration drilling in the Mt Penny area.”

Another, from senior departmental official Alan Coutts, says: “We also need a bit more info on what is the area we are looking at – What do you mean by Mt Penny – it is not an area we recognise by that name as a potential allocation area.”

The documents were tabled in the upper house on November 26, 2009, after Ian Macdonald had been sacked by Nathan Rees as a minister. The call for papers came after The Australian Financial Review revealed in October 2009 that Mr Obeid stood to make a windfall after he bought a farm where an exploration licence was going.

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