31 Aug 2013

NSW coal corruption case brings ex-minister low

9:38 am on 31 August 2013

A Commission Against Corruption in New South Wales has recommended criminal charges be laid against Ian Macdonald, a minister in the former state Labor government, over a mining licence.

Commissioner David Ipp also found former union official John Maitland and businessmen Craig Ransley, Andrew Poole and Michael Chester acted corruptly.

Mr McDonald, Mr Maitland, Mr Ransley and Mr Poole have been referred to the state's Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal charges.

The commission investigated a mining licence at Doyles Creek issued by Mr Macdonald when he was resources minister in 2008. Its findings were presented to the NSW Parliament on Friday.

During public hearings the ICAC heard Mr Macdonald granted the licence in the Hunter Valley to Mr Maitland without a competitive tender and against departmental advice.

The ICAC found Mr Macdonald granted the Doyles Creek exploration licence even though he previously acknowledged the application was defective.

The ABC reports Mr Macdonald, Mr Maitland and Mr Ransley all issued statements on Friday refuting the ICAC findings.

During the inquiry, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union tried to distance itself from the accusations, especially against Mr Maitland, its former national secretary. The union stressed that Mr Maitland retired two years before the licence was granted.

On Friday the CFMEU issued a statement praising the ICAC and its findings.

Federal cabinet minister Minister Greg Combet was one of several high profile witnesses: he told the commission he had been misled by Mr Maitland into writing a letter of support for the mine.