28 March 2013. Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating former minister Ian Macdonald’s conduct from 2006 to 4 June 2010 when he resigned from the Ministry of Major Events, Mineral and Forest Resources. His resignation followed a government report that found he misused public funds his on his trip to Dubai in 2008.
Ian Macdonald granted the exploration licence to a group of investors under the name Doyles Creeks Mining, including John Maitland. Macdonald and Maitland were close friends for over 20 years. Later Maitland, a former president of Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), made a windfall profit of A$ 15 million out of an initial investment of A$ 165,000.
ICAC alleges Mr Macdonald granted the lease to Doyle’s Creek Mining without a competitive tender and against department and industry advice.
Tony Maher, the national president of the CFMEU, told Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that the proposal for the training mine in a “hot property” area in the Hunter Valley was tainted with corruption. He had said this to a 6 person executive of the CFMEU in 2007 and later in mid-2008 to Peter Murray, the assistant secretary of the Union when he tried to bring it again to the executive. But Mr Murray wrote a letter of support just 10 days before he went to work for Resco which later became Doyles Creeks Mining. The letter was addressed to Craig Ransley, the chief executive of Doyles Creek Mining and totally misrepresented the Union’s position.
Another bureaucrat from Mr Macdonald’s department, Patricia Madden, gave evidence she overheard her boss Brad Mullard warning the minister’s office that to give the consortium a licence without tender was tantamount to giving them a ”blank cheque worth millions”.
David Ipp QC, the commissioner presiding over corruption inquiries of ex-mining minister Ian Macdonald, has refused to disqualify himself from hearings on grounds that there was no basis for any bias on his part. The commissioner is overseeing another long running investigation, Operation Jasper, in which ICAC investigated another licence granted by Mr Macdonald, from which his one-time colleague Eddie Obeid allegedly made millions.
Mr Macdonald’s counsel Tim Hale today called for Mr Ipp to remove himself “from further investigation in both Operation Acacia and Operation Jasper on the grounds of “apprehended bias”. Tim Hale said evidence aired in the Supreme Court last week showed that Mr Ipp could be seen to be not acting impartially in the on-going proceedings.
In the case of mining magnate Travers Duncan, written submissions made to the court on Friday showed that in the midst of Operation Jasper, Mr Ipp met with the Department of Premier and Cabinet to discuss the development application for an open-cut mine at Mount Penny. Shortly afterwards, the commissioner sent advice to the department’s director-general, Chris Eccles, saying the minister could declare the Mount Penny mining project a “state significant development,” thus allowing the matters before ICAC to be taken into consideration when determining its approval.
But Bret Walker, SC, for the attorney-general, told the Supreme Court that Commissioner Ipp had done nothing to show apprehended bias, as there was “no hint” that he had advised the government to refuse the application.
Mr Ipp today confirmed that he had no intention of standing aside.“I understand the application, I understand why you make it,” he said. “My reasons for declining it are the same as those advanced by Mr Walker in the Supreme Court.”