Eddie Obeid’s Mt Penny mining licence pulled
Andrew Clennell and Vanda Carson
The Daily Telegraph
February 22, 201312:00AM
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Eddie Obeid at the ICAC inquiry / Pic: Craig Greenhill Source: The Daily Telegraph
PREMIER Barry O’Farrell will block the controversial Mt Penny coal mine, approved on top of Eddie Obeid’s farm, saying the ICAC scandal had “cast a shadow over public administration in NSW”.
He will now judge any development application with a new “public interest test” and take into account allegations of corrupt conduct.
Mr O’Farrell said ICAC had “stained the reputation of all those who have toiled honestly and hard in this parliament over the past 157 years of its history”.
He told parliament he was taking the action after receiving advice from ICAC which did not advise him to cancel the mine licence.
The move looks set to end the hopes of Cascade Coal to build the mine – and came as the barrister for Cascade and its millionaire directors, Bob Stitt QC, told the Federal Court the ICAC Commissioner David Ipp would “no doubt” recommend criminal charges be laid over the awarding of the mine licence.
The ICAC has heard allegations the Mount Penny mine was approved on top of Mr Obeid’s farm and associated land bought by the Obeid family by former close colleague Ian Macdonald.
It was also revealed the Obeid family took a secret stake in Cascade Coal and that along with a stake in another mine, had the potential to allegedly earn the Obeids more than $75 million.
Mr O’Farrell had gone to Commissioner Ipp last week to see whether he should suspend or cancel the controversial mining licences.
Commissioner Ipp told the Premier that: “The commission considers that if the minister for planning … considers the grant of an exploration licence was tainted by misconduct (in consequence of which a great deal of money was made by people which, but for the tainted conduct, they would not have made) then it must follow that the minister can take that into account in deciding whether or not it is in the public interest to grant or refuse a development application.”
Cabinet met before Question Time during which Mr O’Farrell announced Cabinet had decided: “For the purpose of the Mt Penny Coal major project application, to interpret public interest as including, but not limited to, consideration of matters raised in evidence before the ICAC.”
The government would legislate if it had to and consider whether new laws were also needed to protect the public interest in the future granting of mine licences.
Mr Stitt told the Federal Court “there will no doubt be recommendations” for criminal charges made by Commissioner Ipp, who’s due to report in July. He did not identify those he believed would be recommended for prosecution.
Mr Stitt’s clients, who include millionaires Travers Duncan and John McGuigan, have been sued for $13 million in damages by investors Neville Crichton and Denis O’Neil, who bought into Cascade Coal in 2010. They claim they were misled into investing, believing their money would go into Cascade’s coffers but instead it ended up in the hands of the Obeid family.