Monday, 21 January 2013 12:24
Former Labor minister Ian Macdonald's 2008 decision to allow only small and medium-sized miners to bid on a tender process for coal exploration licences in the Hunter Valley "outraged" the industry, a corruption inquiry has heard.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is examining whether Mr Macdonald rigged the coal exploration tender process in the Bylong Valley and how Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid may have gained from it.
Former chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council, Nicole Williams, told ICAC on Monday that the decision to limit bidders for licences to small and medium-sized miners was "unprecedented".
"What was the industry reaction to that decision?" counsel assisting the commissioner Geoffrey Watson asked.
"Outrage," Dr Williams replied.
She said she believed the decision was contrary to the interests of the state.
"I thought that these leases ought to be tendered to companies that were best placed to develop those, which had nothing to do with their size," she said.
"You need to have companies that are best qualified to exploit a resource."
She said Mr Macdonald never tried to explain to her the policy reasons for limiting the miners that could bid on the tender.
The inquiry was told the Minerals Council did not receive a response from Mr Macdonald to a September 2008 letter urging him to reconsider the policy.
Dr Williams said it was unusual not to have received a response to the letter.
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