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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9363

New South Wales Government

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Can the minister advise the Senate of how past New South Wales governments have interacted with the resources sector?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:51): I think there are some very pertinent facts about that past relationship that deserve to be placed on the record. In 2008, Doyles Creek Mining was awarded an exploration licence by the then Minister for Mineral Resources in New South Wales, Ian Macdonald. The licence was awarded to former CFMEU national president John Maitland, who is now serving six years in prison. Ian Macdonald had granted the coal exploration licence without opening it to competitive tender.

On 15 November 2009, the then Premier, Nathan Rees, sacked Ian Macdonald from cabinet. A few months before that sacking, on 20 July 2009, Mr Andrew Clennell wrote in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald:

… Minister … Macdonald … has been accused of doing more favours for mates after he approved a coal mining exploration licence for a mine run by a former union boss …

Mr Clennell also said in that article:

Craig Chapman, a community representative at the site of the proposed mine, Jerrys Plain, said it was clear the mine had been treated differently to others and he was sceptical of Mr Macdonald and Mr Maitland's claims that the mine was simply for "training" mine workers.

Five months after that article was written, on 8 December 2009, Ms Kristina Keneally, after being hand-picked by the corrupt trio—Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Ian Macdonald—to be the Premier, immediately promoted Ian Macdonald back into the cabinet, where he continued to engage in corrupt conduct. Ian Macdonald is now serving 10 years in jail for criminal misconduct and has been found corrupt by the New South Wales ICAC. In sentencing, Justice Adamson said that the people of New South Wales were betrayed by Mr Macdonald's conduct.

The question for Ms Keneally is: what questions did she ask about the allegations before reappointing Mr Macdonald to cabinet? They were made five months before she did. She has never answered what due diligence she did before appointing someone who was under allegations of corrupt conduct back to be in charge of the New South Wales government resources sector. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams on a supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:53): Can the minister inform the Senate what action was taken by law enforcement in response to this conduct?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:53): The New South Wales ICAC found that Mr Ian Macdonald, Mr Eddie Obeid, Mr Joe Tripodi and Mr Tony Kelly had engaged in corrupt conduct. Later, in December 2016, the New South Wales Supreme Court found that Eddie Obeid was guilty of misconduct and sentenced him to five years jail. In 2017, the New South Wales Supreme Court found Ian Macdonald guilty of criminal misconduct in office and corruption and sentenced him to 10 years in jail. It goes on. ICAC have found that both Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly were guilty of corrupt conduct through separate dealings. ICAC cancelled the three mining licences that were issued corruptly, worth up to $1½ billion, and said that they were so tainted by corruption they should be expunged or cancelled. Reports have stated that the conduct of Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald cost the state of New South Wales over $90 million and, again, Ms Keneally has not answered questions about why she did not inquire about these allegations before reappointing Mr Macdonald to cabinet.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:54): I thank the minister. Can the minister outline any risks that this kind of conduct can occur again.

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:55): It's important that (1) those engaged in such conduct pay a penalty, and (2) those who may have aided and abetted such conduct, similarly, do not get elected to public office again. If Ms Keneally has not aided or abetted this corrupt conduct, she needs to answer what she did before appointing Mr Macdonald back into cabinet when, five months before that date, there were credible allegations by investigative journalists in a major New South Wales newspaper that he had engaged in such conduct which was later proven to be true. Maybe we could have gone and asked Ms Keneally some of these questions at a Christmas trivia event that was due to be held in a few weeks time with Senator Sam Dastyari. We could have asked her those questions but, as Senator Brandis outlined earlier, unfortunately, that particular event has been cancelled and is no longer on.