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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18665

Mr FITZGIBBON (12:44 PM) —Today in the Maitland Mercury a Macquarie Bank spokesman, in response to a speech that I made in the House yesterday about the role of the Macquarie Bank in the closure of the Nardell coalmine, said:

Everything that had been raised—

that is, by me—

was by way of innuendo, and all matters had already been dealt with by the administrator of the failed Nardell Holdings.

He went on:

If there had been any real evidence, the administrator would have looked into it—everything has already been looked at by him ...

A few things need to be said about that. The first is that Mr Scott Turner of Walter Turnbull is not an independent person; he was appointed by Macquarie Bank, itself a creditor to Nardell Holdings. The second point that needs to be made is that the administrator's inquiries took place, I suppose now, around six months ago and a whole deal of information has been forthcoming since then about Macquarie's role in the closure of the mine, which Mr Turner had no opportunity to look at. I seek leave to table two documents.

Leave granted.

Mr FITZGIBBON —The first is an email between Macquarie Bank and Nardell which clearly shows that Nardell was totally controlled by Macquarie Bank from around 19 December 2002. The second is an expression of interest with respect to the sale of the now closed Nardell mine. This document also contains a deed of confidentiality by which Macquarie seeks to impose a restriction on any prospective purchaser of the mine not to discuss the terms of the offering with any party, including the state minister for mines or his department—an extraordinary thing to do. If Macquarie has nothing to hide, why the confidentiality deed and why doesn't it allow someone to scrutinise the email I have in front of me today and which I have just tabled?

It is ludicrous to suggest that all matters relating to the closure of the Nardell coalmine have already been investigated by the administrator. In any case, the administrator's role, within his very limited resources, is to look at the accounts of Nardell Holdings and all financial transactions which took place between the mine and its creditors, what income it may have derived and its net assets backing. It is not the administrator's role to look behind the Corporations Law and determine whether it or the ASIC Act has been breached, nor would he have the resources to do so.

I reiterate my call of yesterday. I call upon the Treasurer to exercise his power under section 14 of the ASIC Act and direct ASIC, in the public interest, to hold a full inquiry into the dealings between Macquarie Bank and Nardell Holdings, with particular reference to the fact that Macquarie was not acting at arm's length and was totally controlling Nardell from the time it extended its loan to Nardell on, I think, 19 or 20 December. In extending that loan, Macquarie noted that this should be sufficient to cover current creditors—in other words, sufficient to cover the debts owed by Nardell at that time. But, interestingly, there is no contingency for future creditors. So Macquarie came good with just enough money to pay current creditors and, despite making no contingency for future creditors, Nardell, by now fully controlled by Macquarie Bank, continued to ramp up $10 million in debt to unsecured small to medium sized businesses in my electorate.

This is a very serious matter. It raises serious breaches of the Corporations Law and the ASIC Act. As I said in the House yesterday, it even raises questions about whether Macquarie directors are in breach of the New South Wales Crimes Act for taking money under false pretences. Macquarie, now controlling Nardell, knew that Nardell could not pay the debts that were accrued between 20 December and the end of February 2003. Despite it knowing at that time that those creditors could never be paid, Macquarie continued to allow the ramping up of those debts. It also effectively burned the mine project by taking away its insurance against movements in the Australian dollar. And why did it burn that project? Because it wants to sell it to Xstrata but did not want to offer with it the burden of the debts as well as the coal contract it had with Macquarie Generation. (Time expired)