Thursday, 1 November 2012

MP Referred to ICAC over Gifts From CSG Company

Scot MacDonald, a Liberal member of the NSW upper house, the Legislative Council, is being referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by the NSW Greens for accepting gifts from gas company Santos after making statements in favour of coal seam gas mining in NSW.  Mr MacDonald, from the Guyra area of the NSW Northern Tablelands, was elected to parliament in 2011. (Santos is the company seeking to develop a gasfield in the Pilliga woodland, an area of major ecological importance, in the central west of the state.)

As a member of the Legislative Council Committee which inquired into coal seam gas mining in NSW, Mr MacDonald made a dissenting report following the inquiry.  In this report he stated, "It is difficult to reach any other conclusion than the coal seam gas industry should be developed as quickly as possible."

Shortly after the findings of the Inquiry were made public in May, Mr MacDonald accepted from major CSG company Santos flights to and accommodation in Tasmania where he spoke at a forum alongside Santos officials on the topic of coal seam gas and agriculture.

Mr MacDonald declared both the flights and the accommodation on the pecuniary interests register and claims that he has complied with all the parliamentary guidelines.  He stated, "I have consistently said we need to ensure gas supplies for this state if it can be shown that CSG can be extracted safely and landholders are treated respectfully."

Mr MacDonald seems to be missing the point that the general community does not believe that CSG can be extracted safely. Moreover, the community does not believe that the "safeguards" the NSW Government has put in place will effectively protect both the environment and the community from damaging long-term impacts from the CSG industry.  He also seems to be unaware that export is the main focus of the companies seeking to exploit coal seam gas – not a desire to "ensure gas supplies for this state."

Greens MP, Jeremy Buckingham said, "We think it's outrageous that, while Parliament is still considering the Coal Seam Gas Inquiry Report, he accepted a gift from one of the largest coal seam gas companies, Santos."