CMC completes assessment of CSG complaints — 19.09.2013
The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) has finished assessing complaints of official misconduct relating to the approval processes for two coal seam gas projects. The CMC has concluded that there is no evidence of official misconduct, and, on that basis, will take no further action.
When the CMC receives a complaint, it first conducts a preliminary assessment to determine if the complaint falls within the CMC’s jurisdiction, if an investigation is required, and, if so, how it should be dealt with.
It is important to note that the assessment did not examine matters of government policy or the environmental and health impacts of the coal seam gas industry as these issues do not fall within the CMC’s jurisdiction.
It was only within the CMC’s jurisdiction to assess whether the conduct of any person in this matter could have amounted to official misconduct.
Under the Crime and Misconduct Act (2001), official misconduct is conduct that could, if proved, be a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for dismissal.
The complaints raised three sets of allegations:
- That undue pressure was placed on departmental officers and consultants, and that not enough time was allowed to assess the environmental impacts of projects and to draft appropriate conditions.
- That the environmental impact statement processes for the projects breached the statutory provisions relating to environmental protection.
- That there was undue influence on decision makers, including an allegation that one of the assessment processes was corrupted.
Given the highly specialised and complex nature of the matter, the CMC engaged retired Supreme Court Justice Stanley Jones AO QC, based on his experience in the field of environmental and planning law.
Between April and September, Mr Jones thoroughly examined the available material, which included tens of thousands of pages of documents. He also interviewed former and current departmental staff.
In relation to the first set of allegations, Mr Jones concluded that while there was considerable time pressure placed on departmental officers to meet imposed timelines, there was no evidence that this was imposed by external agencies or unfairly by senior officers. Rather, 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.
In relation to the second set of allegations, Mr Jones found no evidence that any officer either breached statutory provisions or knowingly facilitated such a breach. Mr Jones concluded that there was no evidence that raised a suspicion of official misconduct and no grounds to warrant further investigation.
In relation to the third set of allegations, Mr Jones found no evidence to support allegations of undue influence.
Mr Jones concluded that he could not find any evidence on which a complaint of official misconduct against any person could reasonably be based, and no circumstances which would justify further investigation under the Crime and Misconduct Act (2001).
Having been informed by Mr Jones’s consideration of this matter, the CMC has assessed the complaints and decided to take no further action.