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Dear ...


As referred to in my previous email correspondence dated 8 March 2012, a report entitled “CEO’s determination under s38 Integrity Commission Act 2009 regarding complaints made to the Integrity Commission in respect of the proposed construction of a pulp mill” has now been finalised. Please find the finalised report attached.


Note the report is not a confidential document, however the Commission does not, at this time, intend to publish this report.


This report will also be made available to other complainants and affected parties.


Regards,


Scott Nicol
Senior Investigation Officer/Complaint Assessor
INTEGRITY COMMISSION


Russell Pearce, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Integrity Commission:

For the reasons identified and canvassed above, the various complaints to the Integrity Commission regarding the pulp mill are dismissed

Download, read for yourself: HERE

• ABC Online: Watchdog unable to probe pulp mill claims

Tasmania’s Integrity Commission has ruled it does not have the power to investigate misconduct allegations against the former Labor Government and its dealings with Gunns’ proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.

In its report released to complainants and leaked to the online media site the Tasmanian Times, the Commission says it does not have the legislative capacity to investigate whether the Government’s support for the proposed pulp mill was improper.

The integrity watchdog also rules it can not, and should not, rule on the validity of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act which allows the $2.3 billion project to be built.

The Commission reports it will not take further action in response to such complaints.

It has released a statement confirming the report is legitimate.

ABC Online here

First published: 2012-04-18 10:29 AM

Tasmanian pulp mill escapes toothless watchdog

  Matthew Denholm, Tasmania correspondent
  From: The Australian
  April 19, 2012 12:00AM

TASMANIA’S anti-corruption watchdog has declared itself a toothless tiger, complaining it lacks “sufficient powers” to properly investigate whether the Lennon government colluded with Gunns to fast-track its pulp mill.

The extraordinary comments cast serious doubt on the adequacy of the Integrity Commission, created by former premier David Bartlett in response to the pulp mill and other scandals.

In a report leaked yesterday, the commission’s acting chief executive, Russell Pearce, said while in some cases collusion “might constitute misconduct”, in others his team lacked sufficient powers to launch a “productive investigation”.

The report said that, although the act of parliament governing the commission “purports” to give it powers to ask questions and demand information, it also maintained rights against self-incrimination. “In other words . . . the IC has no effective coercive powers to compel evidence.

“Any investigation of this or any other related allegation would be at real risk of being frustrated by the inability of the commission to compel answers, and would be unlikely therefore to achieve a definitive outcome.”

The report, leaked by complainants to the Tasmanian Times website, revealed the IC considered delaying its assessment of the allegations in anticipation that “at some point” parliament might grant it sufficient powers.

However, with a review several years away, this would further delay an investigation into what were already historic allegations, dating from 2007. “To further delay finalising this matter in the hope of legislative amendment at some future time is not considered a reasonable outcome,” Mr Pearce said in the report.

The same lack of power was used by Mr Pearce to explain the commission’s decision not to investigate related allegations that a planning chief’s appointment as a magistrate was dumped as “payback” for his release of information about the mill.

One complainant, Friends of the Tamar Valley, last night called for a review of the commission’s powers, or at least of the interpretation of them relied on to deny a full investigation.

Vanessa Bleyer, lawyer for the group, said: “The IC is saying that it is a toothless tiger. We have a situation where the misconduct complained of escapes scrutiny because the IC thinks it doesn’t have the powers to investigate it.

“(It means) the IC is not there to do what it was created to do: investigate alleged misconduct by public officials.”

While dismissing the complaints about the mill process, the commission said that, in relation to two of them, its lack of coercive powers was a reason for the decision not to proceed to an investigation. One complaint alleges then-premier Paul Lennon secretly colluded with Gunns to have it withdraw the pulp mill from the state’s planning umpire, allowing him to justify the fast track of the project.

Unknown to the public, by March 9, 2007, the state’s planning commission had drafted a letter to Gunns informing it the project was “critically non-compliant”. It later emerged, via Freedom of Information, that this letter was not sent, at the request of Mr Lennon’s chief bureaucrat, Linda Hornsey.

Gunns then withdrew from the planning body on March 14, citing unacceptable delays, and the government responded by introducing an alternative fast-track assessment by consultants.

Mr Lennon, Ms Hornsey and Gunns have strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Planning chief Simon Cooper has given evidence to a parliamentary committee that Mr Lennon told him before March 14, 2007, that Gunns would quit the planning process on that day.

Mr Lennon has denied this, saying he had no knowledge before March 14.

In 2009, an upper house committee found “credible evidence” that Mr Cooper’s planned appointment as a magistrate was sabotaged as “payback” for his release under FoI of the March 9 letter to Gunns.

etc ...

• Brisbane Times: CMC misconduct director stood down

Cameron Atfield
June 23, 2010

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has stood down its misconduct investigations director, a week after recommendations that disciplinary action be taken against six police officers over the Palm Island death in custody investigation.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the CMC confirmed Russell Pearce had been released from his duties on full pay, pending the completion of an investigation by the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee.

“Due to legal restrictions the CMC cannot comment on details that relate specifically to the matter,” the statement said.

“However, as obliged under the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001, the CMC yesterday reported to the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee [PCMC] issues raised regarding the alleged unauthorised release of information.”

The statement said CMC misconduct investigations would be overseen by assistant misconduct commissioner Warren Strange while the matter was investigated.

“It is not appropriate for the CMC to comment any further about the matter in order to protect the integrity of the process and to respect parliamentary privilege,” the statement said.

A Queensland Police Union spokesman said the development further undermined the CMC’s credibility.

‘‘The public will be wondering about the CMC now that two of the eight directors have been stood down. It will obviously raise doubts about the CMC,’’ the spokesman said.

Another CMC director was stood down on full pay earlier this year over a controversial study into child sex abuse.

A spokeswoman for Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said the action against Mr Pearce was a matter for the CMC.

‘‘We would not be commenting on what another agency does with its staff,’’ she said.

In releasing the CMC’s Doomadgee report last week, CMC chairman Martin Moynihan was scathing of Mr Atkinson’s leadership, saying he’d tolerated a police service culture of self-protection.

The CMC has demanded disciplinary action be taken against six officers involved in two investigations into Mr Doomadgee’s death at the Palm Island watchhouse in 2004.

Mr Moynihan has also told Mr Atkinson he must move to stamp out the ‘‘corrosive’’ culture of self-protection within his force.

The CMC reports to Attorney-General Cameron Dick’s office.

A spokesman from Mr Dick’s office said it would be inappropriate to comment because the Pearce matter was being investigated by a parliamentary committee.

brisbanetimes here - with AAP

•Anne Layton-Bennett, Friends of the Tamar Valley: Tasmania’s Integrity Commission is a powerless misnomer


Given his concluding comments in the Determination under s.38 Integrity Commission Act, that state the catalyst for establishing Tasmania’s Integrity Commission was logging company Gunns Limited’s proposed pulp mill, community group Friends of the Tamar Valley said the‘shortcomings’ exposed in the 31-page document are the IC’s complete failure to properly investigate all thecomplaints received in respect of Gunns and its pulp mill project.


“In drafting its Integrity Commission Act 2009 it seems the Tasmanian Government made quite sure the Commission would be completely unable to do its job properly. Calling it an Integrity Commission is both a misnomer and a sham, and once again the government has played Tasmanians for fools,” said FTV spokesperson Anne Layton-Bennett. 


“The conclusion is the Integrity Commission was only ever intended to be a ‘toothless tiger’, since the government deliberately rendered it incapable of properly investigating any of the serious, and valid complaints that have been lodged in respect of Gunns, the pulp mill, and government involvement in the approval process,” Ms Layton-Bennett said.


“When the government finally responded to public demands for an independent commission of inquiry Tasmanians believed it would be a powerful watchdog, and an organisation that would ensure inquiries into government and bureaucratic involvement in issues such as the pulp mill – like those involving current and former Tasmanian politicians Bryan Green, Steve Kons, Paul Lennon and Linda Hornsey - would no longer be necessary.”


“But what Tasmanians now realise they’ve been given, is a large and expensive watchdog that has had all its teeth and claws removed,” Ms Layton-Bennett concluded.

• MLC CALLED OUT OVER TA ANN CLAIMS
Correction & Apology Needed

Paul O’Halloran MP
Greens Member for Braddon

The Tasmanian Greens today called on Upper House Member Paul Harriss to correct recent statements in which he appeared to misrepresent the World Wildlife Fund’s position on Ta Ann’ s environmental record in Malaysia.

Mr Harriss recently stated in the Legislative Council that he had spoken to the World Wildlife Fund regarding Ta Ann’s operations in Malaysia, and that the WWF “set Ta Ann at the pinnacle of forest operations in Malaysia.” [REF]

Greens Member for Braddon Paul O’Halloran MP recently contacted the World Wildlife Fund to in relation to the matter and received a written response from the CEO of WWF Australia’s Dermot O’Gormon rejecting the Mr Harriss’ claim. 

The letter which Mr O’Halloran tabled in Parliament today reads:

“We checked the statement with our counterparts in WWF-Malaysia.  WWF-Malaysia have confirmed they did not say, nor did they ever imply or convey, that they consider Ta Ann to be the pinnacle of forest operations in Malaysia.”

“Paul Harriss needs to clarify whether, as it appears from the Hansard, he attempted to claim that WWF-Malaysia endorsed Ta Ann’s forestry operations in Malaysia.”

“He must come clean on whether he simply made up the claim as an attempt to greenwash a timber company from which he’s been a direct beneficiary.”

“If it turns out that Mr Harriss has misrepresented the WWF’s position regarding Ta Ann, then he must immediately correct the public record and apologise to the organisation and its members.”

“Does Mr Harriss represent the voters of the Tasmanian Upper House seat of Huon, or does he prioritise the interests of a foreign timber company with a questionable environmental and human rights record?”

Download: Letter from WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gormon to Greens Member for Braddon, Paul O’Halloran MP:
ATTACH_Letter_from_WWF_to_Paul_OHalloran_Apr19.pdf

• INTEGRITY COMMISSION NEEDS COERCIVE POWERS
Stench Lingers Around Dodgy Pulp Mill Approval

Kim Booth MP
Greens Member for Bass

The Tasmanian Greens today called for matters raised in a recent Integrity Commission report to be referred to a parliamentary committee to investigate the need for additional powers.

Greens Member for Bass Kim Booth MP, who is Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Commission on Integrity, said the Commission had found that it could not conduct a productive investigation without “the ability to compel witnesses to answer questions and produce information.” [1]

“This report does not let those involved in the dodgy pulp mill approval process off the hook, it simply points out that the Commission lacks sufficient investigative powers,” Mr Booth said.

“It’s self evident that the Commission would require coercive powers to be able to investigate complaints in some circumstances.”

“It’s patently ridiculous that the Commission is unable to investigate the very claims that led to it being set up in the first place.”

“As a result, none of the matters surrounding alleged interference with the RPDC and the alleged interference with the appointment of a magistrate have been able to be investigated in any significant way.

“The stench of corruption will contaminate Tasmania’s politics until the matter of the pulp mill approval process is dealt with once and for all.”

“This is not just about the pulp mill approval process, it’s about the Integrity Commission’s capacity to investigate any issue where corruption and wrongdoing is suspected to have occurred.”

“By saying he will wait for a three year review, the Attorney General is putting his head in the sand and allowing the Commission to remain as a toothless tiger.”

[1] Integrity Commission CEO’s determination under s.38 Integrity Commission Act 2009 in respect of complaints made to the Integrity Commission about the proposed construction of a pulp mill.  April 2012.


• Friday:
Peter McGlone, Tasmanian Conservation Trust: TCT Supreme Court challenge to the Tamar Valley pulp mill permit – Gunns’ costs order application dismissed


The Tasmanian Supreme Court today ordered that the Tasmanian Conservation Trust is not required to pay a security bond to the Court as requested by Gunns Ltd.


The TCT Director Peter McGlone today stated that “The TCT is greatly relieved that the Court dismissed Gunns’ application, which means we are not required to pay a security bond to the Court.


“We are also very encouraged that Associate Justice Stephen Holt concluded that the TCT’s ‘case has not been shown as lacking merit or weak’ (Paragraph 48, page 10).


“We hope that the case will now proceed toward a trial at the earliest possible date and have asked our lawyers to apply to have the case listed for hearing in coming weeks.”


Download A full copy of the decision:
SupremeCourtTCTvsGunns20.04_.2012_.pdf


The TCT initiated this action on 25 October 2011 in order to seek a court determination that the permit for the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill had lapsed because the proponent Gunns Ltd had failed to meet the permit condition that the project be substantially commenced by the end of August 2011. 

•SUPREME COURT FINDS IN FAVOUR OF TCT
Gunns Must Come Clean With Investors on Project

Kim Booth MP
Greens Member for Bass

The Tasmanian Greens today said that Gunns Ltd needs to be upfront with its backers and the Australian Stock Exchange now that Tasmania’s Supreme Court has found the case brought against it by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust is both strong and in the public interest.

Greens Member for Bass Kim Booth said Justice Stephen Holt’s ruling had made two things clear.

“First, Justice Holt ruled that the TCT’s legal challenge that Gunns’ permit for its proposed pulp mill “has not been shown as lacking merit or weak” and that the case is “in the public interest”, said Mr Booth.

“Second, Justice Holt’s rejection of Gunns’ outrageous demand of up to $400,000 dollars up front as security against court costs is a bitter blow to Gunns but is a tonic for democracy.”

“Gunns has a history of threatening litigation or massive legal costs against anyone who challenges its arrogant and corrupted approval process for is proposed pulp mill. The TCT will now be able to argue its case without the prospect of these crippling upfront costs, designed by Gunns to prevent them from proceeding.”

“Gunns must be upfront with its investors and the ASX that this court case may find that the company has no permit to proceed, which will mean that the pulp mill project is dead.”

“This latest twist in Gunns’ sorry saga is the direct result of the banana republic antics of the Lennon Government in its hubristic belief it could abuse Tasmania’s Parliamentary system and our democracy to advance the interests of its mates from Gunns by corrupting Tasmania’s planning approval process.”

“I congratulate the TCT for standing resolute and showing commitment and leadership on this issue,” said Mr Booth.

AFR: There’s rot at the core of the Apple Isle

Jason Murphy The Australian Financial Review | Page 48 | 20 Apr 2012 | 1806 words

Robert Pennicott is like the Tasmanian tiger – a rare sighting of a species thought extinct: the successful Tasmanian entrepreneur. He runs Bruny Island Cruises, a fast-boat tourism business south of Hobart that has grown in just over a decade to be one of Tasmania’s best-loved businesses.

It also managed to keep growing in the 12 months, a standout result in an economy stuck in the slow lane and one with some frightening lessons for other non-mining states and sectors.

The Apple Isle has per capita income $34,000 lower than Western Australia, the nation’s highest unemployment rate and an adult functional literacy rate of just 51 per cent in 2006. Only seven in every 10 high school students make it from year 10 to year 12, a retention rate trailing all bar the Northern Territory.

For every dollar of GST paid in Tasmania, the state gets $1.59 back from the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

If disposable income is not as far behind the mainland, that’s because the federal government tax and transfer system pads the pockets of the Tasmanians, says Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Saul Eslake, who grew up and was educated in Tasmania.

“It shields Tasmanians from the consequences of their low participation in employment, low average hours worked, and below average productivity,” Eslake says.

“These two systems of redistribution hide from Tasmanians the consequences of their own economic performance and make it harder to argue for the kind of policy changes that would improve Tasmania’s performance.”

Eslake says a clean-up should focus on government profligacy driven by the geography of Tasmania’s politics.

“It is clear Tasmania spends public money inefficiently,” he says. “People in Launceston want whatever Hobart has got. People on the north-west coast want whatever Launceston’s got . . . and they have the votes to make sure they get it.”

But Eslake reckons a simple contrast with mainland states is not fair, unless you can conjure up Victoria without Melbourne, or NSW minus Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong,

Hobart, the capital, has just 200,000 people, just over a third of the state’s population. Another 100,000 are in Launceston, and the rest are spread out.

No single focal point makes delivering services expensive.

No one embodies Tasmania’s contradictions more than Peter Whish-Wilson, the finance academic-slash-vigneron who hopes to snare Greens pre-selection for Bob Brown’s old senate seat.

He rues that the state government insured industries against failure. “It’s OK to protect workers’ rights . . . but if you are not giving industries incentives to innovate and change the world, it’s easy in Tasmania to miss what’s going on everywhere else,” he says.

Whish-Wilson has spent eight years in the cut and thrust of environmentalism, pushing against the development of a pulp mill, and he is at his most expansive when he talks about the feeling in the Tasmanian economy.

“A resolution to forestry conflict here would have an enormously powerful symbolic effect on the state,” he says.

He believes this would shift political energies to new high-value, specialised industries.

“There just doesn’t seem to be any hope for a lot of these kids, in terms of staying in the state and getting employment.

You’ll have to pay for the rest ...

SATURDAY:

• EXAMINER: Integrity powers lacking: expert

BY DINAH ARNDT
21 Apr, 2012 04:00 AM

TASMANIA’S Integrity Commission has come under fire from an expert in administrative law.

University of Tasmania senior lecturer Rick Snell was critical of the watchdog’s failure to ask for more powers, after it concluded this week that a lack of coercive powers could hamper investigations.

That revelation was contained in a leaked report responding to a series of complaints and allegations linked to the pulp mill process.

``The commission has got off to a really poor start in regards to the way it’s gone about things,’’ Associate Professor Snell said.

``I would have expected a much higher standard and a really different approach to how they have handled this matter . . . it should have made clear recommendations rather than decided to sit back and wait for a parliamentary review.’‘

In the report, the commission decided to take no further action on the series of complaints - and had not planned for its findings to be made public.

The academic was also critical of the response from Attorney-General Brian Wightman, who said it was appropriate for the issue to be raised in a three-year review that is due next year.

``Even if that body doesn’t expressively call for it (action) he should turn his mind to it,’’ he said.

``I think there’s been a failure here, both of the Integrity Commission and the Attorney General . . . as effectively they are saying if there was a more outrageous instance of misconduct or corruption now taking place then the commission would be hamstrung to look into it.’‘

Read the rest here

• Dinah Arndt: A watchdog that can only watch

THERE is a healthy level of irony in the fact that controversy now surrounds the very state agency that’s tasked with lifting and enforcing the highest levels of conduct and ethics in Tasmanian governance.

In a bizarre turn of events, the Integrity Commission this week admitted that it does not have sufficient power to investigate claims of serious misconduct.

The revelation was remarkable, but so were the circumstances in which it came to light and the political response.

The commission concluded that it did not have the power to compel witnesses to appear before it, or demand documents while looking into long-standing complaints that were linked to the pulp mill planning process.

In the words of commission acting chief executive Russell Pearce, ``the commission would require, at the very least, the ability to compel witnesses to answer questions and to produce information’’ if it was to adequately investigate such serious allegations.

He added that ``such a basic coercive power is vested in all similar agencies in other Australian jurisdictions’‘.

That could be seen as a failure of the government, which eventually set up the commission under pressure from the Liberals and Greens and Parliament.

Comments made at the time are telling.

In 2008 then-deputy premier and attorney-general Lara Giddings acknowledged there was a need for improved governance but not to the extent being called for by others.

``We want a body that has teeth in this state, but _ as it was put to me _ not fangs,’’ she told a parliamentary committee looking into ethics at the time.

``We do not believe there is any systemic or orchestrated level of corruption that would require a far-reaching commission of corruption inquiry.’‘

Anti-pulp mill groups are now alleging the government carried out more serious dental work when it designed the legislation to set up the commission, and in effect created a ``toothless tiger’‘.

Certainly at the time both the Liberals and Greens criticised the limited time allowed to debate the legislation.

Examiner here

… And what Brian Whightman said in reply:

Integrity Commission independent: Wightman

22 Apr, 2012 04:00 AM

ATTORNEY-General Brian Wightman has responded to administrative law expert Rick Snell’s comments about the state’s Integrity Commission, saying he was confident that if any changes were required he would be notified.

University of Tasmania senior lecturer Professor Snell was critical of the commission’s failure to ask for more powers and of Mr Wightman’s comment that it was appropriate for the issue to be raised in a scheduled three-year review due next year.

‘‘Even if that body doesn’t expressively call for it (action) he should turn his mind to it,’’ Professor Snell said.

Mr Wightman said the government took matters of integrity seriously.

Examiner, Sunday here