Liberal MLC backs jailed Labor minister Ian Macdonald over Doyles Creek

LAID LOW: Former Mineral Resources Minister Ian Macdonald MLC is led into the Supreme Court for sentencing in July 2017. Picture: Nick Moir
LAID LOW: Former Mineral Resources Minister Ian Macdonald MLC is led into the Supreme Court for sentencing in July 2017. Picture: Nick Moir

STATE Liberal upper house member Peter Phelps says he will continue to promote the cause of former Labor minister Ian Macdonald, who he says was wrongly jailed for corruption over the Doyles Creek training mine.

Macdonald was found guilty last year of misconduct in public office and jailed for 10 years with a non-parole period of seven years. He has appealed the case but faces another trial in March next year over the Mount Penny lease.

Dr Phelps, a Queenbeyan-based MLC who is up for re-election at next year’s March state election, said on Tuesday that he was speaking out about Macdonald because “there is nothing in Doyles Creek that comes within a bull’s roar of corruption as far as I am concerned”.

In parliament last month, Dr Phelps gave a 3000-word speech that covered the history of the Doyles Creek training mine, the ICAC hearing that examined it and the legislation passed afterwards that stripped mining company Nucoal of the Doyles Creek mining licence.

SPEAKING HIS MIND: Macdonald speaking with the Newcastle Herald in 2013 after being found guilty of corruption at ICAC. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

SPEAKING HIS MIND: Macdonald speaking with the Newcastle Herald in 2013 after being found guilty of corruption at ICAC. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

In the speech, Dr Phelps said former premier Nathan Rees had told the ICAC’s public hearing that the Doyles Creek exploration licence was the sort of thing “you would bring . . . to a cabinet or a budget committee”.

Dr Phelps said this contradicted evidence Mr Rees had given in an earlier, private ICAC hearing – material not made public until after Macdonald’s trial – in which Mr Rees told ICAC counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson that it was the sort of decision that “didn't require formal cabinet consideration”.

Dr Phelps told parliament that ICAC had deliberately withheld evidence favourable to Macdonald.

“If members want a clear example of malfeasance – I will not use the word misfeasance; it was malfeasance – by the ICAC, then look no further than this,” Dr Phelps said.

“They knew that there was exculpatory evidence dealing with the ministerial decisions of Macdonald in this case, and even though they knew it, they did not seek to raise it. More importantly, they did not seek to call any witnesses who could have corroborated the exculpatory evidence.” 

PROTEST: Farmer Ian Moore in court in September 2011 for refusing access to Doyles Creek's itended operator Nucoal. Picture: Dean Osland

PROTEST: Farmer Ian Moore in court in September 2011 for refusing access to Doyles Creek's itended operator Nucoal. Picture: Dean Osland

Dr Phelps called for a review of the Doyles Creek matter, and of the criminal convictions of Macdonald and former CFMEU boss John Maitland, and for the Nucoal licence to be returned.

He said there had been “not much push back” from his side of politics after making his speech, although people were curious as to why he was speaking out as he was.

He said it was “not so much about defending Macca as defending a process”.

He said he would continue to raise the issue in the upper house, where he had parliamentary privilege, and would raise it with his colleagues.

 “You bet I am going to continue to push it,” Dr Phelps said.

ICAC declined to comment on Dr Phelp’s speech.

ICAC declined to comment on Dr Phelp’s speech.

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