Third inquiry set to look at business with mates


Third inquiry set to look at business with mates

Date March 19, 2013 31 reading now

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Anne Davies

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Macdonald showed ‘real delinquency’: ICAC

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is examining whether former mining minister Ian Macdonald, gave improper benefit to ex-union boss John Maitland and his associates when granting a licence to Doyles Creek Mining in 2008.
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Mateship is inherent in Australian culture. It can be a noble sentiment. But when does doing a favour for a mate cross the boundary into corrupt conduct, particularly when one is the mining minister entrusted with state assets worth billions, the other a factional ally?

That question, along with a gastronomic tour of some of Sydney’s fine restaurants, is likely to pre-occupy the Independent Commission Against Corruption as it starts the third leg of its inquiry into allegations of corrupt conduct by former NSW minister Ian Macdonald.

The department was kept in the dark, while the investors were kept in the loop.

Dubbed Sir Lunchalot because of his penchant for fine dining, Mr Macdonald, or Macca, has already starred in the inquiry into whether he was offered the services of a prostitute in return for introductions to government officials.

He was also central to the inquiry into the creation of a mining exploration tenement over land owned by another former minister, Eddie Obeid, at Bylong near Mudgee.


Now, counsel assisting Peter Braham, SC, has outlined the case against Mr Macdonald and his Christmas Eve 2008 grant of an exploration licence for a training mine at Doyles Creek in the Hunter to a company that included his friend and ally John Maitland, the former mining union head.

Mr Braham told ICAC the Doyles Creek training mine ”was essentially gifted” to a group of investors from Newcastle, including Mr Maitland, in a process that he described as involving ”real delinquency on the part of the minister in the discharge of his public office”.

Over magnums of Wantirna Lily pinot noir at Catalina, steaks at Prime at the GPO and oysters at NSW Parliament House, Macca first listened to the investor and then became ”a proponent” for a ”training mine” at Doyles Creek.

Against the explicit and repeated advice of his department, he decided there would be no tender or expressions of interest for the licence and ran the process out of his office, Mr Braham said.

Documents were drafted in Mr Macdonald’s office, the department was kept in the dark, while the investors were kept in the loop over prime cuts and fine wine.

”This was unprecedented,” Mr Braham said. The department only found out about the minister’s decision from the media.

The result was a ”financial disaster for the taxpayers of NSW and a goldmine for the investors”, he said. Mr Maitland’s $166,000 investment became a $15 million profit and others similarly benefited.

The training mine idea could be seen as ”puffery and spin” designed as a cloak for the process because the industry had established a simulated training facility, he said.

Mr Braham said it was open for the commission to inquire into whether Mr Macdonald was influenced to a significant extent by his personal and political relationship with Mr Maitland, and whether Mr Maitland and fellow investors Craig Ransley and Andrew Poole knew and intended for Mr Macdonald to be so influenced.

After all he was a mate.

The inquiry begins hearing evidence from the first of 60 witnesses on Wednesday. It is expected to run until the end of next month.

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