WHEN a full history of the coal industry in this region is finally written, it is likely the authors will look at another set of circumstances, beyond climate change, that helped swing public opinion from general support to increasing outrage.
Those circumstances will centre on the way the industry rampaged its way across private property, secure on a legal footing that meant mining rights invariably trumped the objections of land owners.
And part of the public distrust lies in the realisation that the political process is not always straight up and down.
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Yesterday, former former Labor ministers Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid, along with one of Obeid's sons, Moses. were convicted of "conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office" over the release by Macdonald, when he was mines minister, of the Mount Penny coal lease.
Sentencing is in September, with a bail hearing later this week.
Concerns about the tender process that Macdonald oversaw as minister - and which Justice Elizabeth Fullerton castigated him for in her judgement - arose soon after they were announced.
The Obeids claimed it was a coincidence they owned farmland above Mount Penny, but the evidence, laid out in minute detail and involving thousands of documents, shows otherwise.
Of the eight acts that the Crown alleged were public misconduct in office, the three men were found guilty of five.
Throughout the trial, Macdonald's lawyers have presented him as an enthusiastic if naive minister who simply wanted to help the coal industry. And investigators have found no sign of a payday for Macdonald.
But across more than 2000 clearly written paragraphs, Justice Fullerton found Macdonald in "gross departure" from his duties as he "self-evidently denigrate(d)" the public interest he was appointed to serve.
Justice Fullerton said "the very solemnity" of Macdonald's promise to act in the public benefit was "rendered nugatory [worthless, in other words] if a minister is motivated by personal interests".
Or, as in this case, where he agreed with the two Obeids "that he would deliberately breach his duties and obligations to advantage, favour or promote their personal financial interests".
This case shows one reason why we need an independent public service able to stand up to the "enthusiasms" of ministers.
Read the full verdict here
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