Mining company donations to political parties are back in the spotlight after the approval of New Acland mine development.
The controversial mining project was approved last month, and a systematic set of donations to the Liberal Party of Australia by the projects parent company, New Hope Group has come under scrutiny.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Drew Hutton told The Source that he believes the New Hope Group’s donations to the federal branch of the Liberal party trickled down to the Queensland state government, and pushed forward the mines approval.
“Over three million dollars was channeled back to the state LNP (Liberal National Party) by the federal Liberal Party before the 2015 Queensland election,” Mr Hutton said.
“There is every possibility that money that came in from companies associated with the coal mine at Acland was part of the money channeled back to the LNP here in Queensland.”
University of Queensland Law professor, Graeme Orr said there are laws against bribing public officials, but it is difficult to prove this sort of criminal behavior.
“Bribery is a serious offense, and not easy to prove. You have to prove an intention to use an improper inducement (e.g. Money), to influence a decision,” Professor Orr said.
“How do you evidence intent to influence Minister X on decision Y, when the money went to the party and is used for campaigning?”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was contacted for a response to claims about potentially illegal donations, but was unable to provide a response.
In a media release provided by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, the mines approval was a result of an acceptable Environmental Authority (EA) application provided by the New Hope Group.
“Following careful consideration of the EA amendment application and all of the submissions received during the public notification period, the Department has approved the New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 amendment.”
When asked about the issue, LNP state opposition leader Laurence Springborg commented on the legitimacy of the Palaszczuk government’s push for a Crime and Corruption Commission inquiry into potentially corrupt political donations, announced last week.
“The… political donation inquiry has descended into a farce, with the Premier and Deputy Premier at odds about how it will be conducted and who it will investigate,” Mr Springborg said.
This mine approval comes after the ABC revealed a controversial Northern Territory port development was built without a formal environmental assessment process.