TASMANIA’S new anti-corruption watchdog has received allegations of official misconduct relating to the Lennon government’s fast-tracking of the Gunns pulp mill.
Lawyers acting for the Friends of the Tamar Valley community group yesterday lodged five complaints with the Integrity Commission, alleging misconduct by former premiers and several senior officials. While none of them are new, the newly formed commission, which has broad powers of investigation, offers the first opportunity for an independent examination of the claims.
Three of the complaints relate to the Lennon government’s 2007 fast-track of the $2.3 billion mill outside the normal planning process and matters aired at a parliamentary inquiry in 2008 and 2009. Former premier Paul Lennon said late yesterday all the allegations were unfounded, he stood by his actions and his accusers were publicity-seekers.
The first complaint alleges Mr Lennon tried to cause the Resource Planning and Development Commission “not to undertake a full and proper assessment of the proposed pulp mill”.
The RPDC pulp mill assessment chief, former judge Christopher Wright QC, alleges Mr Lennon “leaned on” him in February 2007 to speed up the assessment and curtail public hearings—a claim denied by Mr Lennon.
The second complaint lodged yesterday relates to a finding by a Legislative Council committee that Mr Lennon’s evidence to it had been “inconsistent with a number of witnesses”.
Mr Lennon, who fast-tracked the mill through parliament after Gunns quit the RPDC process in March 2007, has stood by statements that he first learned of the Gunns decision to withdraw on March 14.
But RPDC commissioner Simon Cooper told the committee Mr Lennon phoned him on March 12, two days before the pull-out, to tell him Gunns was quitting.
A third complaint relates to allegations that Gunns’ lawyers had a role in writing the mill fast-track legislation. Mr Lennon said yesterday that “from time to time” Gunns was allowed to comment on the draft legislation.
A fourth complaint relates to the attempted destruction of a document outlining plans, later aborted, to appoint Mr Cooper to a senior position.
The last complaint alleges Mr Lennon’s successor, David Bartlett, sanctioned inappropriate use of the Land Acquisition ...