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Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs
28/11/2014
Certain aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs

MARSH, Ms Simone, Private capacity

The following evidence was taken in camera but was subsequently made public at the request of the committee—

Committee met at 10:14

CHAIR ( Senator Lazarus ): I declare open this in camera hearing. I must advise the witness that it is not the intention of the committee to publish or present to the Senate all or part of the evidence you are about to give. However, you need to know that it is within the power of the committee to do so and that the Senate has the authority to order the production and publication of disclosed evidence. You should also note that an individual senator may refer to in camera evidence in a dissenting report to the extent necessary to support the reasoning of the dissent. We would try to seek your view on any such proposed disclosure.

However, you should be advised that, if you give evidence that reflects adversely on another person, including in this in camera hearing, the committee is generally required to provide that person access to the evidence and an opportunity to respond. As your evidence is being taken in camera, any response would generally also be received in camera.

I now welcome Ms Simone Marsh. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. The committee has your submission. Before I ask you to give a brief statement, we would like to know your friend's name and her capacity, just so it is on the record.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: The purpose of that is that in camera hearings are supposed to have no-one else present, but I think the committee is of a mind to allow you to have your friend with you. We just want to make sure we know who she is and in what capacity she is here, if that's okay.

Ms Marsh : This is my friend Michelle Cullen. She is here as a support person because I wanted to bring someone with me. She understands what I have been through.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But she does understand that these hearings are in camera?

Ms Marsh : Yes.

CHAIR: Okay. I now invite you to make a short opening statement. At the conclusion of your remarks I will invite members of the committee to put questions to you.

Ms Marsh : I am here after receiving an invitation to put in a submission to this inquiry and also after being invited here today. If you don't mind, I would like some time to go through the information that I have provided, just to explain a few things. I might need about 20 minutes, if that's okay?

CHAIR: We will see how we go. It is just that we do not have a lot of time. We are time restricted, so if you could just give us a brief outline.

Ms Marsh : All right. I basically witnessed a crime, as far as I am concerned. It has caused me a lot of personal trauma, but I would like to see it through because there are a lot of people who are suffering. The crime I witnessed happened in 2010, when I was working in the Coordinator-General's office of the department of infrastructure and planning in the Queensland government.

If you don't mind opening up the submission that I have given you, I have broken it up into a number of issues that address the terms of reference of this inquiry. There are 22 issues in the document and at the back of the document there are a set of appendices that basically give you examples of some of the pieces of evidence that I have. Some of those pieces of evidence have been given to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

We have a lot of information. I did not want to overwhelm you with many baskets and folders full of documents that we have obtained through right-to-information requests and so on, so I have just summarised it here. The timeline is evidenced in the appendices. It starts with March 2010 and then we move through. If I can take you through the timeline of what happened, it will probably start to make a lot more sense.

In Brisbane they were building some new office towers in about 2008 and in 2009 they moved in. This was Santos and QGC, and the environment department was next door to the Santos building. At the same time, the two companies, Santos and QGC, were putting together their EISs to the public for their proposed gas field development, transmission pipeline and LNG hubs. The terms of reference had been set for these documents.

I arrived at the department of infrastructure and planning in February 2010 and on the shelf was an EIS for the Santos GLNG project which was 15,000 pages long. I started going through those documents, looking for basic information like mapping of where all the wells, pipelines and other types of infrastructure were going to go and looking for baseline studies and that kind of information that was normally required under the Environmental Protection Act, section 310D.

I could not find that information and I reported that to my superiors. I suggested that they go and get some legal advice, because I believed that the companies were breaking the law. My superiors went with me across George Street to get that legal advice and the lawyers backed up what I was saying and wrote a memorandum back to the department, advising the department to seek information from the proponents—this was Santos. Santos was the first one through, because there had been an agreement made to tick off the Santos project first because it was an Australian company.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Just so I can put this in perspective, what was your role? What level of public servant were you?

Ms Marsh : I was seconded into the department and I had worked for a long time in government. I started in the mines department in the 1990s. I spent three years there and then moved across to the Environmental Protection Agency, where I worked in the mining unit. Then I moved over to the private sector and worked in engineering for a number of years and then I was seconded into the Coordinator-General's office to do this particular job.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But you were not a public servant?

Ms Marsh : I was acting as a public servant. I was seconded. I was not working for anyone.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Who paid you? Where did your paycheque come from?

Ms Marsh : I got my normal weekly wage—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: From your private employer?

Ms Marsh : and my employer was reimbursed by the government, for me being away from there.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Who was your employer?

Ms Marsh : Hatch engineering.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thanks.

Ms Marsh : Sorry, I have just lost my train of thought.

Senator WATERS: The lawyers had advised the department to seek more information. That is where we had gotten up to.

Ms Marsh : Yes, thank you. So the legal advice came back. A letter was drafted to Santos. The chief for eastern Australia at the time was Rick Wilkinson. The letter said to Rick—and it is in these documents, in appendix B, so you can turn to it now if you would like to have a look at it—'Only sufficient information for an assessment of the gas transmission pipeline and one train of the LNG facility is present.' It goes on to say: 'The following information is required for me to draw a full assessment and conclusions for the gas field development.' It goes on to say: 'We need gas field development plans, including operational plans showing locations of petroleum activities and infrastructure, disturbance to regional ecosystems, environmental management plans for the gas field development in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1994, and a regional groundwater model.'

So you can see that what Santos had not provided at this stage was basic information required under the Environmental Protection Act and cumulative information required by the terms of reference. We did not have baseline studies and that sort of thing. Over the page it says—

Senator CANAVAN: Sorry to interrupt. What date was that letter sent? I see it was drafted on 31 March 2010.

Ms Marsh : Yes. This is the version that is on my computer. It is date stamped with the author's name, so I presume it was sent the same day. I was told it was sent.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: How come you have this letter?

Ms Marsh : Because I was the only environment person in the Coordinator-General's department drafting these—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But does the letter belong to you or the environment department?

Ms Marsh : It does not belong to the environment department. It was not the environment department; it was the Coordinator-General's—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Does it belong to you or the Coordinator-General?

Ms Marsh : It belongs to the Coordinator-General.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: How have you come by it?

Ms Marsh : I gave it to the Crime and Misconduct Commission because there was a crime, and now I am giving it to you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are you authorised to deal with someone else's document?

Ms Marsh : I witnessed a crime.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Carry on. I might just say, Mr Chairman, out of consistency, that in committees I chair I refuse to have documents lodged if they appear to be 'stolen'. I am not suggesting for a moment this one is stolen. I only put that on the record for consistency, because in the committees I chair I refuse to allow these sorts of documents to be dealt with. But go ahead.

CHAIR: The submission has been accepted. Go ahead, Ms Marsh.

Ms Marsh : Thank you. I am happy just to say it off the top of my head, as I remember it, anyway. You do not need the document. At the end of the letter it goes on to say: 'I am aware that these are significant issues and that they are essential for a complete understanding of the environmental impacts of activities, which is necessary to license under the Environmental Protection Act.' It goes on: 'Another observation which I would make'—and this is relevant to the Commonwealth—'is that as the basis of my report is used by the Commonwealth in its assessment of the project against matters of national environmental significance, it is likely that it will not be able to approve the referred project without further information from the proponent to satisfy the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.'

The last sentence is also interesting, because it says: 'I can delay completion of my report to allow Santos to provide further information.' That sentence is interesting because of the word 'delay'. The companies were not interested in any delays. In the very next appendix you see what happened after the Coordinator-General delivered this letter to Santos. We then see as the next step correspondence directly to the Treasurer of Queensland on behalf of British Gas, via Ian Fletcher.

Senator KETTER: How confident are you that this is the letter? It is not a signed letter.

Ms Marsh : No, that is right.

Senator KETTER: It is not on letterhead. How confident can you be that this is the actual, final letter that was sent off by the Coordinator-General?

Ms Marsh : I was told that it was sent. I did not see the signed copy, so I can only tell you what I was told.

Senator LUDWIG: That begs the question: who told you?

Senator KETTER: Can I ask who told you?

Ms Marsh : The project director—the person who wrote the letter.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Who was?

Ms Marsh : Denis Wayper.

Senator CANAVAN: And it was sent in this form? It was not amended from this draft?

Ms Marsh : As far as I know, that was the final version. I can check my copy. It might even say 'final' on the electronic copy. I cannot remember.

The next document we see is an email to the Treasurer dated 12 May. It is now five weeks later and we have an email from Ian Fletcher. Many of you might already know about Ian Fletcher. He was the director-general of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation at the time. He arrived in Brisbane in 2009, at around the time when QGC had the EIS out for public comment. Ian Fletcher had come from Britain. He was the director of UK Trade and Investment, and for some reason he decided to come to Brisbane and he was appointed as the director-general of the department responsible for issuing petroleum and gas tenements right at this time.

He wrote to the Treasurer and said: 'David Maxwell came to see me yesterday following a call from Cath Tanna,' David Maxwell and Cath Tanna being the head people at QGC, the parent company of course being BG Group in Britain. The email goes on: 'We talked about the state of play for QGC's investments. Three points emerged—the drop-dead date is the June board meeting. After that, customers will begin to go away. One or two weeks tidying up delays is possible but six months or anything like it is not.'

So they are saying straightaway that they want their project EIS signed off by the state within one or two weeks. Then we see in paragraph (c) that David Maxwell says there are two problems. One of these is the requirement for them to provide detailed engineering data. That is about the maps of where all the infrastructure is going to be laid out across the gas fields—the maps required by the terms of reference and section 310D of the Environmental Protection Act, with location information, environmental values information and all that kind of detail.

He said the second problem is the requirement to report in the EIS against cumulative impacts. For them to bring this up at this stage in the project is just ridiculous, because they had had the terms of reference for a couple of years and had never raised this as an issue before. Yet their 10,000 page EIS did not have this information in it and it is obviously crucial in order to make an assessment of the environmental impacts.

You can see that Ian Fletcher goes on to say to the Treasurer that he intends to speak directly with the Coordinator-General. He also goes on to say something about an LNG committee that the government had set up at the time. Ian Fletcher says: 'David Maxwell said that QGC would like to appear in front of the LNG committee to explain his position in respect of the EIS.' He uses the words 'a degree of constitutional innovation' there, and that he puts a question mark over the following words: 'the LNG committee as a Court of Star Chamber'. That is exactly what happened here in Queensland, because the law was not followed.

So someone, somewhere along the line, has made a decision. Whether it be through this LNG committee I cannot tell you because I was not there. This document only came to me this year, so I did not have this document at the time of the Four Corners program last year. I had a blanked out version of this document. All I could see was who it was to and who it was from. All the text that we just read was not known to me.

However, without having seen all of that, I had drafted an email, which is appendix E, which shows what I did not know at the time about the information. It also gives some information about what was going on in May 2010.

Senator WATERS: Could I ask you to explain what the LNG committee is and where that sits in the normal approval process? It is a concept I am not familiar with, despite knowing the laws that apply.

Ms Marsh : Sure.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Before you do that, I see these documents are stamped 'Released under the RTI Act'. Is that a freedom-of-information act?

Ms Marsh : Yes, it is—right to information. There is no legal step for an LNG committee under our law. It was just a group of senior executive government members who I believe were trying to coordinate things together, perhaps. I did at some stage look up who was on that committee. From memory, I think they were the people who are listed at the top of this email, who are carbon copied in. So I think it was probably Dan Hunt, Mal Hellmuth. I don't know whether John Bradley was there as well. Colin Jensen is the Coordinator-General. John Bradley was the environment department director-general.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I guess paragraph (b) of that letter brings this whole issue into the federal government sphere, does it?

Ms Marsh : It is a comment on what was going on at the federal level with the tax arrangements, yes. But that is not something that I was party to.

What I have provided in appendix D is the email from Ian Fletcher—the version that I had before the Four Corners program, which Drew Hutton had obtained through right to information. As you can see, the text that we just read has been blotted out by the RTI officer, but we can see who it was forwarded to on the same day. It was forwarded to Phil Dash, Geoff Dickie and Shane McDowall, from Colin Jensen. So the Coordinator-General, Colin Jensen, forwarded it on to his staff, the two deputy coordinator-generals and the assistant coordinator-general, Phil Dash. Phil Dash forwarded it on to the directors of these projects—Santos GLNG's and QGC's QCLNG Project directors. Denis Wayper and Russell Davie were the project directors and Melanie Harris was one of the project managers.

They were, in two words, under pressure, and that is the pressure that was then brought to bear on me at that time. I did not understand what had happened. I was brought into a meeting on 20 May and asked to finalise the Coordinator-General's report without any of this information. So I wrote the email which is appendix E on 24 May and I summarised 26 issues that I was concerned about at that time.

I do not know whether you have had time to read through all of those. Basically, nothing happened. You can see that appendix F is the greenhouse gas section I was working on at the time. It was a working document. You can see that the text is underlined in various parts. The reason I included this text in appendix F was to show what was taken out by the people above me as I was drafting. You can see that the project director, whose name I just mentioned before—Denis Wayper—has struck out the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions section that I was writing; he has struck out the assessment and conclusions that I was in the middle of drafting. You can see that a lot of that did not go into the final report, even though these matters were of interest to the Commonwealth because of things like the Kyoto Protocol—that kind of thing—national targets—

Senator LUDWIG: Is the final report available?

Ms Marsh : Yes, it is; it is online.

Senator LUDWIG: And I can find that by—

Ms Marsh : If you go onto the Coordinator-General's website under 'EIS projects completed' and under 'Santos GLNG'.

Senator LUDWIG: Thank you.

Senator WATERS: Ms Marsh, those with the strike-through are the ones that were not included in that final version?

Ms Marsh : That is right. The final version does not have that text in there. I actually had to argue the case for having a greenhouse gas chapter in this report. The admin assistant and I had an argument on a Friday afternoon with the project directors to get a greenhouse gas chapter in the Coordinator-General's report. The environment department did not provide us with any comments on greenhouse gasses. They had a policy of not commenting on greenhouse gasses. So I was left to draft this by myself, very quickly, under pressure, and it really was not my job to do it. So it just gives you an idea about how things are done in Queensland.

Senator KETTER: Whose handwriting appears on that document?

Ms Marsh : It would have been the project director who was working with Russell Davie. There were two of them: Russell Davie and Dennis Wayper, the gentleman I mentioned before. They were working together. I gave all my drafts to them.

Senator KETTER: It is unusual with a track changes document for handwritten amendments to be made.

Ms Marsh : I see what you are saying. What I would do is, every day or every couple of days, send them updates of my draft. I would show them the changes I had made since the last version I gave them.

Senator WATERS: And the handwriting is the other two:

Ms Marsh : That is correct. Yes, sorry about that confusion.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Appendix D, the email from Phil Dash to Melanie Harris, Dennis Wayper and Russell Davie, 'under pressure': what do you think that means? What is your take on that?

Ms Marsh : My take on that is that he was telling them—sorry, I should use their names: Phil Dash was telling the project directors that the government is under pressure to sign off on British Gas's EIS within a matter of one to two weeks.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So he is saying he was under pressure and the government was under pressure.

Ms Marsh : They are all under pressure.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: He was not saying 'Put Simone Marsh under pressure'—you are not suggesting that?

Ms Marsh : No, but I am saying that I was the person drafting the report, so I was consequently put under enormous pressure.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I just wanted to clarify. Thank you for that.

Ms Marsh : Appendix G is just an example of some of the text that was being written at the time. This one is about the disturbing disturbance. It says in the head of the appendix that it is the email of 19 July, but that is actually incorrect; if you would not mind changing that, that should be 27 May. As you can see on the actual email, it was just a typo on my part. So the front page of appendix G should say 'email of 27 May 2010'.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Rather than 19 July?

Ms Marsh : That is it; thank you. As you can see, by this stage, I was getting rather concerned about what the government was about to do. They were about to sign off on this project without massive amounts of information. I started writing in large font, bolded and underlined—which I have never done in my entire public service career—and I also started using words like 'crime' in emails, which I had never used in all those years. It just goes to show the level of unknowns we had at that time. This is the day before it was signed off; this is 27 May. I say to them, 'This project is unprecedented. It is the first time in Queensland's history where the Coordinator-General is being asked to consider and assess unknown and yet extensive areas of disturbance, including unprecedented volumes of waste across large numbers of tenements. We have continually asked the proponent, as part of the EIS assessment process, for total disturbance area information and the basis of calculations. However, this has not been provided.'

Not only was I saying it; you can see the emails that lead up to that in this same appendices. You can see that Steven Tarte, who is the environment officer over at the environment department, is also writing. It is on the bottom of page 3, under the heading 'disturbance limit' that he writes the words, 'This is a very complex issue and it is hard to determine the limit of impact from the tables that Santos has presented.' So it is not just me saying it. The environmental officers are saying it as well. You can see that Russell Davie, on 24 May, had sent an email to Steven Tarte saying, 'Please provide a list of matters that Simone has requested. Expected sign-off tomorrow.' He expected the environment department to provide all this information that they did not actually have because the proponents had not given them by the next day to me so that the report could be signed off.

Appendix H is a collection of emails to the Crime and Misconduct Commission and from the Crime and Misconduct Commission between me and them during last year, between March and June. I went to the Crime and Misconduct Commission in February of last year, had an initial interview, and they said that they would go away and get the documents and call me back, which they did. I went back and had further interviews—I think for about three hours the first time and another hour the second time—and provided them with the documents that they asked for. These are just some of those emails where they asked for more information.

The first email is about the upscaling of the British Gas project. That is not actually allowed for under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act. It does not say that at the supplementary EIS stage you can go and make your project 20 times bigger, yet that is what happened with some of the impacts for QGC. I believe that was one of the breaches of law in Queensland that occurred. Therefore I was telling the Crime and Misconduct Commission about it in this email.

CHAIR: Ms Marsh, I do not want to be rude, but I am sure the senators have questions.

Ms Marsh : Do you want me to finish up?

CHAIR: Very quickly, if you could, yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I would like you to finish this current thought. We have been asking a couple of questions as we go for clarity, but if you could try to bring it to a close.

Ms Marsh : Sure. In those emails with the Crime and Misconduct Commission, I talk about the cumulative volumes of contaminated solids that were altered or deleted from the final reports. I had calculated those because the proponents had not, and I had used the assistance of a doctor from the environment department. A lot of the cumulative volumes that we had calculated, like 45 million tonnes of solids, were deleted from the final report. So the public never got to see these huge volumes. We were told later that those volumes that we had calculated, which were based on the proponent's water volumes, were underestimated anyway. So, even though they were very large volumes, they were not in the final reports.

Senator WATERS: What were those solids and where were they coming from?

Ms Marsh : They are all the waste products brought up from the coal seams with the water. It would be the salts, the hydrocarbons, heavy metals, anything that is in that water once evaporated—that is those solids.

Senator WATERS: And once evaporated it was then 45 million tonnes?

Ms Marsh : Forty-five million tonnes after the water had gone. And that was underestimated. You can have a look through there. I also gave the Crime and Misconduct Commission examples of environmental authorities that had been issued by both governments in Queensland, in 2011 and 2013, that were silent on a range of contaminants that needed limits. I provided the Crime and Misconduct Commission with the limits that Dr Wilson from the environment department had recommended. You will see there that you do not have any limits applied for these companies. They are just irrigating the land. There are no limits on the total land to be contaminated, so they can contaminate as much as they like with their dust suppression and their irrigation; it is completely silent. They can spray it all over the countryside and it is not being monitored—huge volumes of irrigated water and dust suppression water, which is high in a number of different contaminants and also has a high sodium absorption ratio, which will lead to long-term erosion over time. But we were not going to see it immediately. This is something that people are going to see in the future. So they will probably be gone by then.

The point that I was trying to make in that email to the Crime and Misconduct Commission also, which was of a serious nature, was the fact that there are no measurable limits in relation to coal seam gas water contaminants with potential to cause human health impacts. I did not see comments from the health department—my job was to do environmental work—but it seemed to me that no-one was looking after the health side of things.

Senator WATERS: Are you saying that the health department did not involve itself in the process of the EIS; nobody was considering the health impacts of the project?

Ms Marsh : There was nobody in the Coordinator-General's office who was given that task, apart from the project directors, I presume. They had oversight of the whole project, so it was up to them to decide who had to do what. But I never saw anyone from the health department and I never saw their comments.

The next email in that CMC bundle is also about the waste. I will not talk about that; I will leave that with you. You can see the CMC completed their assessment after seven months and told us that it was not actually within their jurisdiction to look at health and environmental impacts of the coal seam gas industry. 'These issues do not fall within the CMC's jurisdiction.' That is what their press release said. We were never told that at the beginning. It just astounded me that they could come to that conclusion when they took us through this whole process. We provided them with all the information. I had a barrister with me; she could not believe it either. They brought in a judge who had a background in land matters. Why on earth did they do that if it was not in their jurisdiction to look at such matters? It just did not make sense. That is when I felt that there was some corruption involved in what had occurred, and I started looking into what happened next. I was very interested in Senator Waters's speech that she gave a few months ago, I think, in the Senate, about the sequence of events that had happened after I had given information to the Crime and Misconduct Commission. We know from diary entries that a series of meetings occurred. I went to the Crime and Misconduct Commission in the week of 18 February; Drew Hutton and I made complaints on 18 and 19 February.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: This year?

Ms Marsh : Last year. The diary of the Premier and his chief of staff—I think it is his chief of staff's diary—indicates that, immediately following the complaints, Jon Grayson, the Director-General of Premier's, who also had interests in Gasfields Water and Waste Services—and Ben Myers, who was the chief of staff, and Campbell Newman met with the chair and deputy chair of the Crime and Misconduct Commission immediately following me and Drew Hutton giving information to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

The diaries indicate that the Premier's chief of staff met with QGC's Vice President Policy and Corporate Affairs, Rob Millhouse, on 21 February. So we have had meetings between the CMC and the Premier's office on 20 February, then we had meetings with the Premier's chief of staff and the head of QGC, whose process I had been complaining about the very next day after that, 21 February. It is not clear from the diaries which other members of the Premier's staff were present at those meetings.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: How did you come by those diaries?

Ms Marsh : They are online.

Senator CANAVAN: The new Queensland government publishes diaries.

Ms Marsh : What happened after those meetings? In fact, Ross Martin, who was the CMC's chairman, and Warren Strange, who was the CMC's deputy chairman at that time of the meeting on 20 February 2013, resigned within a few weeks. Actually, Ross Martin resigned first, then Warren Strange was appointed as the acting chairman, but he then resigned a few weeks later. Then, on 22 May, Dr Ken Levy was appointed acting chair. At the time of my complaint and these meetings, Jon Grayson, who is the Director-General of Premier's Department in Queensland, was a 25 per cent shareholder in Gasfields Water Management, which was a joint venture with the Australian Water Holdings, which has been the subject of ICAC in New South Wales. Tony Bellas was a director of Australian Water Queensland, which was a branch of Australian Water Holdings. Tony Bellas was a business partner of Jon Grayson, and they had been involved in different business arrangements together, both having come from Queensland Treasury years earlier, and a few other ventures together.

What I found interesting when I looked at this information was that I then noticed that Tony Bellas had been appointed as the head of Shine Lawyers in Brisbane in May 2013. I found that really quite strange that that had happened.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Who is Tony Bellas?

Ms Marsh : Tony Bellas is the business partner of Jon Grayson, who is the Director-General of Premier's Department. So, if the Crime and Misconduct Commission had been sharing information on what had transpired with the evidence that I had been giving with Jon Grayson, and if Jon Grayson had shared his information with his business partner, given that they had a considerable interest in seeing the development of this industry for their own personal gain, it is just possible that Tony Bellas was put in charge of Shine Lawyers, because Shine Lawyers actually has a whole lot of clients from this area of Queensland that are being directing impacted by coal seam gas activities. I found that to be quite a conflict of interest. It set off alarm bells for me, because Tony Bellas, as you are probably aware, is also head of another energy company, ERM Power. That is a huge conflict of interest between Tony Bellas and the people who are going to Shine Lawyers for legal assistance in these kinds of matters.

Senator CANAVAN: I know of Shine Lawyers; I live in Toowoomba. They were a private law firm. What is their structure now? Presumably, clearly he was not appointed by the Queensland government. Who appointed him? Are they a company limited by shares or—

Ms Marsh : Good question. It was listed on the stock exchange in May 2013. It had been a private company. Earlier in the year, Shine Lawyers had basically brought up a regional law firm—Shannon Donaldson, something like that. So they had taken on all those clients who were impacted by these activities.

Senator CANAVAN: They act for mainly landholders, usually, from my understanding—or Shannon's did.

Ms Marsh : That is exactly right, as far as I know as well. It brings in the whole Toowoomba story, actually. A lot of what we are observing is connections with people in Toowoomba. A lot of people are asking questions about these types of relationships. I understand Shine Lawyers was set up by Kerry Shine, who is also a politician in Queensland. The people who were the head of Shine Lawyers at that time obviously made a lot of money when it was listed on the stock exchange. I am not sure how many shares they each owned. I do have that information; I just have not brought it with me today in terms of how much money they all made. Obviously, somehow, Tony Bellas was selected into that role.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Was the late Premier part of Shine Lawyers?

Ms Marsh : I do not know, I am sorry.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Wayne Goss?

Ms Marsh : I do not know.

CHAIR: Ms Marsh, can I refer you to 21.3 on page 7, which states, 'Corruption may explain the lack of a proper economic impact assessment.' The last line states that it may lead to 'loss of output of approximately $118 billion and a loss of approximately 14,600 jobs.' Can you elaborate on that?

Ms Marsh : Thank you for raising that one. Yes, that is a really good point. The terms of reference have required the proponents to do a cost-benefit analysis to work out what the costs would be involved in these activities, as well as the benefits—financial costs and benefits. And the section of the terms of reference I think was 1.4.2. I have it on my computer; I can read it out for you if you would like to hear the words.

CHAIR: No, that is okay.

Ms Marsh : I wrote to my superiors and said that the terms of reference had not been followed and we did not have those costs calculated. It is now 4½ years down the track and we finally have one report done for the manufacturing sector, done by Deloitte Access Economics recently, that provides those figures I have put in the report about the cost to manufacturing alone. That is not even taking into account the cost to everyone else—the agriculturalists, the costs of all this contaminated land. Part of the problem we also have in Queensland is that the contaminated land unit—I have been told from my colleagues in the environment department—has been basically turned into a mailbox. Years ago when I worked there we had scientists working in the contaminated land unit, a team of people. Meanwhile what has happened is that the state now has huge amounts of land contamination and water contamination and we no longer have that scientific team in the environment department. It is just another one of the problems we are facing in Queensland.

CHAIR: I am afraid we will have to wrap it up there.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I have a few very quick questions.

CHAIR: Okay, very quickly.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Simone, are you still with Hatch engineering?

Ms Marsh : No.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Have you reported the Shine matter to the Queensland Law Society? If you have not, can I suggest you might do that?

Ms Marsh : Thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are you suggesting that those officials back in 2010 were on the take? I do not want to put words in your mouth, but you are suggesting that things were done for a reason. Are you—

CHAIR: Before you answer, Ms Marsh, you do not have to actually answer the question.

Ms Marsh : Thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are protected by parliamentary privilege.

CHAIR: I just wanted to make sure she knew that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: What are you suggesting? Is the CMC corrupt? Are these officials corrupt? Why are they corrupt? Have they got some personal benefit out of it? I hear what you say about Mr Bellas, who I have never heard of.

Ms Marsh : About who, sorry?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Tony Bellas.

Ms Marsh : I am suggesting that this whole industry has come in under the radar in an illegal way. We see it in Fletcher's email. We see it through the fact that the gas was sold—the contracts were signed in China by Martin Ferguson.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are you suggesting that people—

Ms Marsh : I am suggesting a number of people have done the wrong thing. A number of people have been involved in breaking the law. Companies have been involved in collusion. The Crime and Misconduct Commission seems to have been covered up, and I am suggesting that a serious crime is occurring and has been occurring for some time.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Finally, I just want to say thanks, Ms Marsh. This is obviously a difficult thing for you to do, and you have had the courage to keep going. You are very brave.

Ms Marsh : Thank you.

Senator WATERS: Thanks, Ms Marsh, also, for having the guts to speak out and for collating the documents so succinctly and well for us. I have a number of quick questions. Are you aware of whether any of the members of government at the time or those employees that were involved in the assessment process are now working for industry?

Ms Marsh : Yes, actually there are a number of cases, which are quite disturbing, in fact. As you can see, I was advising Shane McDowall, for example, who was the Deputy Coordinator-General at the time. Within I think about two weeks of signing off the QGC project, he was working for John Cotter Jr in his business at the Flinders Group, and their major client is QGC, and I had just been advising the Coordinator-General's staff on all these matters. Obviously it seems that he was lining himself up for this major role and moved straight into it after the project was signed off. That is what it seems to me. Now all those people—Geoff Dickie, Shane McDowall and also Phil Dash—have moved out of the Coordinator-General's department; they moved directing into Industry. They have all been involved in Cotter's business, as far as I know, and also with the Queensland Exploration Council—Geoff Dickie has played a major role there. We have seen people who were there at the time who had come directly from government into the roles in the companies. I was having meetings with Santos, but the people on the other side of the table were the past Public Service Commissioner and the past director-general of the environment department and the head of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services—they were the Santos representatives at the table. From QGC's side, the person at the table was Pauline Jacob, who had been someone at the Environmental Protection Agency when I had been there as well. So the industry had picked up all these high-level public servants to represent them at the table.

Senator WATERS: Has anything changed? What you have told us the story of is, in my view, the nonapplication of environmental rules, at least in particular incidents. Has anything changed in relation to how strictly and properly environmental laws are applied to the gas industry, from your experience—from then to now?

Ms Marsh : I have not been working within the industry now for a number of years, so just observing as an outsider it certainly seems to have gotten worse. As I said before, my colleagues have told me that the scientists at the contaminated land unit are no longer there, for example. We also have seen that the State of the environment report, which is put out every four years, used to include figures on land disturbance every four years. The last report we had had no figures on the amount of land that has been disturbed or contaminated in Queensland due to mining activities, whereas past State of the environment reports in early 2000s would have those figures in them, so people could keep a running track on what costs were accumulating.

Senator WATERS: Lastly, is the Coordinator-General's office independent of industry influence?

Ms Marsh : I do not believe so. As you can see in the email that Ian Fletcher wrote, it says that the head of QGC was going to meet directly with the Coordinator-General. When the Commonwealth environmental officers came to Brisbane, I was not invited to the meetings, even though I was drafting sections of the report relating to environmental matters. One of the documents that came out of the right to information process actually quotes the head of the environment section in Canberra complaining that she was speaking to higher and higher levels of people and basically was not getting to speak to the technical people at all.

Senator CANAVAN: Firstly, are you a member of the Greens or Lock the Gate?

Ms Marsh : I am not a member of the Greens, and I have joined Lock the Gate recently.

Senator CANAVAN: You mentioned that the CMC did not look at the merits of the environmental approvals. As I would understand, they would only be looking at whether there was something wrong with the process. But, on my understanding, there is a merits review, particularly of the EPBC Act decisions. Has anyone taken it to—

Senator WATERS: Unfortunately there is not; I wish there was.

Senator CANAVAN: Well, there is a review process for those.

Senator WATERS: It is only judicial review.

Senator CANAVAN: Has anyone taken that to the Federal Court?

Ms Marsh : Not that I am aware.

Senator WATERS: I wish they could.

Senator LUDWIG: The CMC found that, in terms of the three allegations, there was no evidence to support them. What do you say about the CMC? I think part of your evidence earlier was that they somehow should have found differently. I do not quite understand that, in the sense that the allegations you made were not substantiated to the level of satisfaction of the CMC. That might be disappointing, but that is what they found.

Ms Marsh : Well, at some stage they have decided they did not want to investigate environmental law matters. They did not tell us until seven months later.

Senator LUDWIG: But they were examining the conduct. You made a whole range of allegations in your submission about the conduct of individuals. None of that was sustained by the CMC. Do you agree with that?

Ms Marsh : No, I disagree that they could have come to that conclusion. It is just not possible. You can see in the Ian Fletcher email alone—which I did not actually have at the time that I went to the CMC—what has happened. They did not have the information that was required under law. So the evidence was there for the CMC to find. I gave them the blacked-out version of that email, and they obtained all the documents. According to them, they went away and obtained all the documents. These are just some of the documents that I have shared with the CMC. I have got many more of them, and we have got piles of folders that have come out of freedom of information. A lot of those documents are blacked out, redacted—pages and pages of them. But there is enough information there to still see clearly what happened at the time.

Senator LUDWIG: So simply you do not accept the finding of the CMC?

Ms Marsh : That is right.

Senator LUDWIG: Do you have any evidence as to why? I will leave it at that. Thanks.

CHAIR: Further questions can be put on notice. Thank you, Ms Marsh, and also Ms Cullen, for your time.