The Southern Highlands Coal Action Group has welcomed Independent Commission Against Corruption recommendations calling for sweeping changes to the way the state government grants coalmining exploration licences.
The recommendations, released yesterday, were made in response to the recent corruption findings against former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald.
While mining licences granted in the Southern Highlands were not the focus of any of ICAC’s inquiries, Southern Highlands Coal Action Group spokesman Alan Lindsay said any move towards the government ‘‘shaping up its processes’’ was ‘‘very much a step in the right direction’’.
‘‘We hope they will treat the ICAC recommendations with appropriate seriousness,’’ he said.
Mr Lindsay called on the government to also apply the recommendations to petroleum licences affecting coal seam gas projects.
ICAC’s report noted corrupt conduct was possible because of policy and regulatory problems of the state.
‘‘It is the commission’s view that with so many risks and opportunities for corruption, it was almost inevitable that corruption would occur at some point.
“The execution of the grand corruption was ultimately due to improper influences on an unfettered minister, his disdain for departmental advice and secret meetings with proponents,’’ the report said.
“In preparing this report, the question facing the commission was not simply how the state’s policy and regulatory framework could allow coal [exploration licences] of great value to be corruptly provided to favoured recipients, but how it could have been so easy to do so.”
The report made recommendations for reform accountability governing the conduct of NSW MPs.
ICAC found many of the opportunities for corrupt behaviour stemmed from private companies knowing it was possible to have exploration rights directly allocated by government. It recommended an ‘‘auction method’’ be adopted when allocating the state’s coal resources.