Complaints that Queensland public servants were pressured to quickly sign off on Australia’s two largest coal seam gas projects have been dismissed.
The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) says there is no evidence of official misconduct relating to the projects’ approval processes following an investigation by a retired Supreme Court judge.
Justice Stanley Jones AO QC concluded while there were considerable pressures placed on departmental officers to meet imposed timelines, there was no evidence this was imposed by external agencies or unfairly by senior officers.
“Rather, Mr Jones found that the pressure came from trying to meet deadlines in a department that had to consider a large number of significant projects,” the CMC said in a statement on Thursday.
In February, Premier Campbell Newman said he supported anti-CSG campaigners seeking an investigation, amid reports public servants were pressured by the former Bligh government to sign off on the projects quickly.
The Courier-Mail said documents obtained through freedom of information showed public servants were subjected to government demands that two projects should be approved within weeks of each other.
The documents showed that as the $18 billion Santos GLNG project was nearing approval in May 2010, public servants were hit with government demands to deal also with the $16 billion QGC project and then the Origin-led APLNG proposal, approved in November of the same year.
The newspaper also said that just days before the QGC approval was granted, public servants had warned the government’s assessment team they still had not been given detailed information on pipelines and the location of wells.
Former and current departmental staff were interviewed during the CMC investigation.
Mr Jones concluded there was no evidence to support allegations of undue influence on decision makers.
He also said there was no evidence that any officer breached statutory provisions relating to environmental protection.