ALAN JONES: Let me return to one issue, that has to be addressed and it is grievous in its injustice. I have written to virtually everyone from the Premier of NSW down in detail indicating that investors, this could be you or me, of NuCoal Resources and Cascade Coal - some years ago, are victims of legislation passed by the NSW Parliament under Barry O’Farrell as Premier and then under Michael Baird. Coal licenses were cancelled and the people who had invested in these companies - mum and dad investors, local and overseas got nothing. No compensation. This is Mugabe like. Why did Barry O’Farrell as Premier- and Barry O’Farrell is a good man – why did he behave as he did and why did? Why did he confiscate these assets? Simply because ICAC, the discredited ICAC, gave incorrect advice to the Government. And as a result of that in correct advice, we most probably have two people Ian McDonald and John Maitland in goal. Claims made against McDonald and Maitland don’t pass the pub test.
McDonald when he issued the Doyle’s Creek licence, which was subsequently on sold to NuCoal, was supposed to have known that there were substantial resources in the area covered by the licence so he would look after a mate. Except an independent geologist had noted when the exploration license was granted there were only four drill holes in the 28 square kilometres at Jerry’s Plains in the Central Hunter and they were drilled in the 80s and 90s long before McDonald even got on the scene. Then McDonald is supposed to have conspired with the union leader Maitland, who he barely knew, to obtain the exploration license without a tender.
But NuCoal purchased the Doyle’s Creek project 14 months after the license was granted. Maitland wasn’t even on the scene. The original Doyles Creek project was headed by Andrew Poole and Craig Ransley. Also innocent men and robbed. Maitland was nowhere around. He was brought in later because he had an international reputation for representing workers’ safety so he was appointed Chairman because they were planning to create training mine. Maitland argued that training mines made better miners.
Then we were told that McDonald sought to cover his activities – illegal and corrupt – by seeking third party endorsement. Well Rees the Premier - the then Premier - gave private testimony to council assisting ICAC, testimony which was never made public and he was asked whether the matter should have been raised, the issuing of the coal licence or discussed in Cabinet? And Rees said not necessarily because it was a training mine there wouldn’t have been royalties flowing from it.
In private testimony exculpatory evidence for McDonald in other words- evidence that would have been beneficial for McDonald Nathan Rees said about the issuing of the license for Doyles Creek, I don’t recall a precise timeline but it wasn’t long after it was granted that it was sold. It was in fact 14 months. As I said, sold to NuCoal. So Nathan Rees in private testimony said my alarm bells went off at that point and I asked my Department to quietly get hold of and examine any files that they could from the Department involved just to satisfy ourselves that there hadn’t been any chicanery. He said we certainly initiated that process. The outcome of it was thin and there was no smoking gun. That evidence was withheld from the Government and never presented to the Government. The argument was the Doyles Creek license was issued, the process was corrupt, it was on sold to NuCoal and that was corrupt so the asset was confiscated. It is beyond belief. It was the result of this inaccurate information given by ICAC to Barry O’Farrell which excluded critical evidence that the license was cancelled. No money was paid in compensation. Two blokes are in goal and investors have lost millions and millions of dollars. Nathan Rees said one thing in private testimony and another thing in public testimony. Luke Foley said one thing in private testimony and another thing in public testimony.
At the time of this license being cancelled and the assets being confiscated, NuCoal had a capitalised value of $400 million. Confiscated. There were institutional investors from the United States, Japan and New Zealand and mum and dad investors from here. Quite frankly if nothing is done, the NSW Government and the Federal Government are likely to be taken to the cleaners. Barry O’Farrell introduced legislation under the false claim that the Government was giving effect to the findings of corruption but it appears to me and others that those corruption claims were substantially false. This was a classic case of attempting to get someone in the Labor Party – a new Liberal Government wanting to find out the old Labor Government, all Governments do this, was corrupt. But the assets of innocent people have been stripped. NuCoal bought the license from Doyles Creek. The Government stole it from NuCoal. Maitland and McDonald are serving ten years in prison. Last week the Federal MP for the seat of Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon spoke in the Federal Parliament in support quote- the 500 people in my electorate who had shares in the listed company NuCoal and as he said, they have lost everything. Joel Fitzgibbon Labor, Peter Phelps state Liberal have raised this matter. Joel Fitzgibbon in the Federal Parliament, Peter Phelps in the State Parliament. Nothing has been done. Instead we are talking about same sex marriage, dual citizenship and Barnaby Joyce when people have been ripped off. Government have done nothing to repair the damage and this matter is already before the United Nations. Joel Fitzgibbon is on the line. Joel Fitzgibbon good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Good to be with you Alan.
JONES: Thank you very much. So these are people in your electorate?
FITZGIBBON: They are and some of them I know personally. I have taken the opportunity to discuss this issue with some of them because I needed to satisfy myself that this was a good case to champion and of course these people didn’t know anything about John Maitland or Ian McDonald or the Pooles of the world. All they knew is they had seen a couple of junior mining stock do well in recent times then. Whitehaven is a good example and many of the people knew Glen Lewis the CEO of NuCoal and had confidence in him.
JONES: Who is now driving buses.
FITZGIBBON: Exactly. So they tipped some of their money in and the last bloke I spoke with lost $20,000. To Malcolm Turnbull and maybe to Gladys Berejiklian that might not seem like a lot of money, but it is a lot of money to him and his family.
JONES: And in relation to this ugly episode both Nathan Rees and Luke Foley gave evidence in public that is entirely at odds with the evidence they gave in private so the information given to O’Farrell on which he based the cancellation of the license was incomplete and inaccurate. And these people you are representing had nothing to do with any of this. They are just shareholders in your electorate and they have lost a lot of money. Now this matter is- does anyone in Canberra or Macquarie Street understand this matter is before the United Nations?
FITZGIBBON: I don’t think Steve Ciobo the Trade Minister would mind me saying, we had a private conversation, I bailed him up or hijacked him while he was having a coffee last week. I won’t share the nature of the conversation but I just wanted him to know that I have a strong interest in this matter on behalf of my constituents and he was fully aware of the situation. I think it is a tough one for him because this situation, this expropriation of people’s assets has been created by the NSW Government. And I suppose reasonably Steve Ciobo’s first responsibility is the protection of taxpayers’ money.
JONES: Correct but I might make this to my listeners, under the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Australia, I make the point that 20 per cent of the investors in NuCoal live in the United States and in the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Australia, adequate compensation must be paid for the seizure of any US assets and all such seizures must be carried out with due process. Well there is trouble here, I mean…
FITZGIBBON: Well there is Alan because developed countries like the United States expect other developed countries like Australia to have regimes in place which protect people’s money.
FITZGIBBON: This is not the darkest Africa where you invest and just it’s a wing and a prayer and you hope your money might come back. Here if you invest in Australia you expect the Government will make sure people don’t illegally take your money away. They certainly don’t expect legislatures or Governments to just legislate to expropriate people’s money. It’s a pretty serious situation.
JONES: It is very serious and what is even more serious and which really annoys people listening to you now, when you spoke in the Federal Parliament last week, how many people were in the Federal Parliament, five? six? four?
FITZGIBBON: Well very few Alan.
JONES: That’s it.
FITZGIBBON: But as I tell the school children when they visit, If we all sat in there all day, we wouldn’t get much done.
JONES: No that’s true but at the same time, this is a very critical issue and I repeat under the assets that have been confiscated 20 per cent of the investors, now Joel Fitzgibbon is the Member or Hunter is talking about mums and dads in his electorate. The CEO Glen Lewis is now driving buses. These people have lost everything. The assets - confiscated, gone. But 20 per cent of the investors live in the United States and under the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Australia, adequate compensation must be paid for the seizure of any US assets. Where do you go from here Joel Fitzgibbon?
FITZGIBBON: Well my advice to the NSW Government in particular is to fix this before it graduates into something much bigger and something they lose complete control of.
FITZGIBBON: I’ve looked at this very closely and I was very reluctant Alan to jump on this because of the history of Doyles Creek, it is known well to both you and your listeners and I didn’t want to be revisiting those issues, but the more I looked at it, the more I was convinced that these local shareholders –
JONES: Absolutely, this is serious stuff. It’s theft and Is Mugabe stuff Joel
FITZGIBBON: (inaudible) could not have known the circumstances.
JONES: Joel this is Mugabe stuff I have to tell you and now the new South African President is doing likewise to white South African farmers. How can we criticise? We are doing it to mum and dad investors. Keep in touch Joel.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you Alan.
JONES: That was Joel Fitzgibbon, the Federal Member for the seat of Hunter.