With the report sanctioned due to earlier coal-related corruption findings against Labor party powerbroker Eddie Obeid, former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald, former mining union leader and Doyles Creek Mining chairman John Maitland, and other associates, ICAC took note that Obeid had avoided effective parliamentary scrutiny before.
“The findings of the 2002 Legislative Council’s Privileges Committee inquiry into Edward Obeid’s pecuniary interest returns demonstrate the shortcomings associated with relying on parliamentary committees to investigate members,” ICAC said.
In its recommendation for an independent parliamentary investigator, ICAC said it could provide an impartial and timely mechanism for resolving complaints about members of parliament.
“Public confidence in the institution of parliament might be enhanced if the standards that apply to members are enforced,” ICAC said.
“The creation of a parliamentary investigator may also provide for a ‘graded’ approach to non-compliance rather than the ‘all or nothing’ response of the current system.”
Other key recommendations involved using an auctions method for allocating coal permits, the creation of a clear policy statement on state objectives for coal mining, plus the establishment of a broadly-skilled steering group and associated assessment panel for resources-related decision making.
The ICAC also made recommendations around replacing the existing licence renewal system with an “exponentially escalating lease rent” model to remove the incentive to repeatedly renew exploration licences “without progressing to mining”.
The NSW government is reportedly considering the ICAC’s report while the NSW Minerals Council was concerned that some of the recommendations had potential cost implications for long-established mining operations.
“We welcome a more transparent and properly governed approach that provides industry certainty,” NSWMC chief executive officer Stephen Galilee said.
“A strong mining industry is good for jobs and the state’s economy, but it can only be strong if the community can have faith in a robust regulatory system that governs it.”