Australian community action group, Lock the Gate Alliance, has redoubled calls for a Special Commission of Inquiry into mining in NSW after the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) recently found in favour of the NSW Government withholding key documents on the Shenhua coal mine.
Lock the Gate had sought access to documents which relate to undisclosed negotiations between the NSW Government and Shenhua which led to the government granting Shenhua $262 million in July 2017 and subsequently renewing 50 per cent of Shenhua’s exploration licence in the Liverpool Plains in July 2017.
On Wednesday the tribunal recognised there was ‘a good deal of public interest in the Shenhua buyback and in the management of natural resources more generally in NSW’ and further said that it was ‘apparent that significant sums of public money are involved in the arrangements between the State and Shenhua, and allowing the public to gain a better understanding of those arrangements would enhance the transparency and accountability of government decision making’.
However, the tribunal found that the public benefit did not outweigh the negotiations between the government and Shenhua which were made in confidence.
Lock the Gate spokesperson, Georgina Woods said that the decision this week by NCAT means that there are serious unanswered questions hanging around the Shenhua coal project.
“The NSW government fought our attempts to access these documents every step of the way. The judgement indicates there are aspects of this deal that are not known to the public and we don’t think it’s right for the Government to keep this a secret any longer,” she said.
Ms Woods further said the clear air of public scrutiny must be applied to mining decisions and this cloak of secrecy is damaging.
“The public needs to know why this government gave $262 million in public funds to a foreign-owned mining company for no apparent public benefit,” she announced.
“The tribunal decision is a further blow to farmers on the Liverpool Plains whose repeated calls for protection of this national foodbowl have fallen deaf ears,” Ms Woods concluded.
The NCAT decision on the Lock the Gate Alliance GIPA request can be found here.