TWO of the major figures in the Doyles Creek ‘‘training mine’’ controversy have welcomed a High Court decision that has thrown a raft of ICAC investigations into doubt.
Former Doyles Creek director Andrew Poole labelled the ICAC a star chamber, while former Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald said (through his solicitor) the organisation had ‘‘too much power’’.
But Mr Poole was less happy with another High Court decision handed down on Wednesday, which confirmed the state government’s power to cancel the Doyles Creek lease as a result of the ICAC findings.
Mr Poole said the findings were ‘‘farcical from the start’’.
‘‘And it gets worse when it turns out they didn’t have the judicial capacity to make the findings in the first place,” Mr Poole said.
‘‘It’s all unravelling for the ICAC. At last, someone is pulling them into line. It’s an out-of-control star chamber and at last a proper court has put it in its place.’’
Mr Macdonald and four members of the Doyles Creek team – Mr Poole, mining entrepeneur Craig Ransley, former union official John Maitland and company director Mike Chester – were found to be corrupt by the ICAC in 2013.
In November last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced charges against Mr Macdonald and Mr Maitland. Their cases are set down for hearing on Thursday in Sydney.
The ICAC also recommended charges against Mr Poole and Mr Ransley (but not Mr Chester).
Mr Poole said he and Mr Ransley – who now lives in Singapore – were yet to hear from the DPP.
On the Nucoal verdict – which also related to Cascade Coal in the Bylong Valley – Mr Poole said stripping the licence “punished thousands of innocent shareholders”.
‘‘It is very disappointing, because I think Nucoal was right when it argued that the government made a judicial call, rather than a legislative one, in cancelling the licence,’’ Mr Poole said.
He remained a significant shareholder in Nucoal but resigned as a director in 2012. Mr Poole said he wanted people to realise he believed in an anti-corruption watchdog.
‘‘I’ve never argued against the ICAC, but it’s the way this one operates,’’ he said.
Wednesday’s findings come after Mr Poole had a win in the Supreme Court in December over his insurer, Chubb Insurance, which had refused to pay his $659,000 legal bill for the ICAC hearing. Mr Poole said on Wednesday Chubb had now paid but the sides were arguing about costs.
He said at the time the win showed he was ‘‘innocent’’ of the allegations made against him by the ICAC.
Newcastle solicitor Nick Dan, who is part of the legal team defending Mr Macdonald, said his client had always said ‘‘the licences were granted lawfully and without any corruption on his behalf’’.
‘‘Up until now the ICAC’s power has been so broad, relying on ... evidence inadmissable by Supreme Court standards,’’ he said.