Once again, the criminal justice system has failed to address the scandalous state of the Queensland environmental regulatory system with regard to mining.
Retired Supreme Court judge, Mr Stanley Jones, was appointed by the CMC to investigate the complaints by Drew Hutton from the Lock the Gate Alliance and Simone Marsh, a former environmental assessor with the Coordinator-General.
Mr Jones made the puzzling decision not to investigate either the environmental or health impacts of the coal seam gas industry as these did not fall within the CMC’s jurisdiction.
Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said it was not the environment as such that he should have looked at but the extent to which public servants acted within the framework of the Environmental Protection Act.
“There is no doubt the companies’ environmental impact statements did not meet key sections of the Act, did not meet the terms of reference they were given for their EISs and were extremely deficient in basic information, Mr Hutton said.
“In fact, companies were given environmental authorities and told to do the research on basic items such as potential impacts on underground water “as they went”.
“Lack of information is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act.It’s an offence to provide the Act’s administering authority information that is false, misleading or incomplete.”
Such an offence attracts a penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment.This provision was introduced in Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 (Qld).
“If a public servant therefore, gives an authority to a company on this basis, and is aware of these flaws, then it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that person has committed official misconduct,” Mr Hutton said.
Mr Hutton said this lack of information was the essence of the complaint to the CMC and this was not recognised by Mr Jones.
Mr Jones found that the pressure came from trying to meet deadlines in a department that had to consider a large number of significant projects.
However, it was clear from information contained in the RTI material provided by Mr Hutton that deadline pressure was coming from the companies.
“A survey of other projects before the Coordinator-General in the same period shows the Coordinator-General allowed greater time for assessment of projects such as the Wandoan coal mine that did not involve development of a large new industry with unstated impact locations and boundaries, absent baseline studies and unknown impacts,” Mr Hutton said.