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Newcastle Herald

Coal firm fined over political donations

Author: Michelle Harris
Date: 12/11/2013
Words: 256
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 2
THE company behind the Maules Creek mine has been fined $20,000 for not declaring in its project application the political donations to the NSW Nationals that two of its directors made.

The Land and Environment Court fined it $10,000 for two undeclared donations made just days before the 2011 state election.

Thomas Todd and Todd Hannigan were directors of Aston Coal 2, a subsidiary of the Nathan Tinkler-founded company Aston Resources.

Mr Todd donated $5000 - the maximum an individual can donate under state laws - on March 15 to the NSW National Party, and Mr Hannigan gave $4250 a few days later.

Under planning laws, the company was required to update its project application for the $767 million mine to declare any political donations.

Aston Coal 2, acquired by Whitehaven Coal in May 2012, pleaded guilty. Justice Malcolm Craig found the offences were in the mid range of seriousness.

Nathan Tinkler, former director and non-executive chairman of parent company Aston Resources, also donated $5000 to the NSW Nationals and $45,000 to its federal campaign, at a March 31, 2011, fund-raiser.

Maules Creek was widely considered an Aston Resources project.

Mr Tinkler's donations were not disclosed on the application.

But the department could not pursue the issue of Mr Tinkler's donations because Aston Coal 2's name was technically the proponent.

A department spokesman said the new planning bill, which is before Parliament, would close the declarations loophole.

It would require proponents to disclose "donations made by directors of parent companies, not just the applicant company itself", he said.

The Planning Assessment Commission approved Maules Creek Mine in October 2012.

Michelle Harris


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