The Rev Fred Nile MP MP chaired the NSW Legislative Council's Inquiry into the Gentrader (Electricity Power Stations) Transactions in 2010-2011.
The Final Report was tabled on 23 February.
The Inquiry almost did not proceed after the Premier, the Hon Kristina Keneally MP, advised the Governor to prorogue the Parliament on 22 December 2010, although elections were not due until 26 March 2011.
This was widely believed to be an attempt to prevent this Inquiry from going ahead.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has left the door open for full privatisation of power generators in NSW if a new special commission of inquiry recommends the move, reported Leo Shanahan in The Australian (2/5).
The Final Report of the NSW Legislative Council’s Nile Inquiry chaired by the Rev. Fred Nile into the Gentrader (Electricity Power Stations) Transactions was tabled on 23 February.
The report recommended the transactions be rescinded and a Royal Commission - a judicial inquiry - be appointed to inquire into the matter.
Announcing the terms of reference yesterday for an inquiry into last year's bungled power sell-off by the Labor government, Mr O'Farrell said that former premier Kristina Keneally and treasurer Eric Roozendaal could find themselves forced to give evidence in public hearings on the state's power privatisation program.
The inquiry is to be headed by former Federal Court judge Brian Tamberlin QC and will have similar powers to a royal commission, including the power to recommend criminal charges.
Mr O'Farrell said the terms of the inquiry would be broad, and would include the ability to examine whether the contracts from the former Labor government's electricity sale would be binding, as well as whether the state should retake the asset or fully privatise.
The Final Report of the NSW Legislative Council's Nile Inquiry into the Gentrader (Electricity Power Stations) Transactions was tabled on 23 February.
The report recommends the transactions be rescinded and a Royal Commission - a judicial inquiry - be appointed to inquire into the matter.
Extracts from the Foreward by the Committee’s chairman, the Rev. Fred Nile MP follow.
This Inquiry almost did not proceed after the Premier, the Hon Kristina Keneally MP, prorogued the Parliament in what was widely believed to be an attempt to prevent this Inquiry from going ahead.
Following advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments that the Committee could still meet and transactbusiness during prorogation, the President of the Legislative Council announced that she would allow the Inquiry to proceed.
Unfortunately the Committee was stymied in its efforts to uncover the facts surrounding the Gentrader transactions.
Despite multiple efforts to hear evidence from the directors who resigned from Delta and Eraring, these directors declined to appear before the Committee due to concerns about the application of parliamentary privilege during prorogation.
While the Committee sought reassurances from the Premier that she would not bring legal action against the directors for giving evidence to the Inquiry, the Premier would not give such an undertaking.
[Relevant extracts relating to value, risk, competition, the second tranche,the committee's key recommendations and links to previous comments may be seen below].
The essence of our constitutional system is that government is not absolute and must always be accountable to Parliament and ultimately to the electorate.
Our Westminster system has been demonstrated to be among the best systems to ensure such accountability, together with both stability and flexibility.
We have long drawn attention in this column to the results which have been achieved in countries functioning under this system, and that it is the only system to be followed in other countries and which has then functioned successfully over time.
...people better informed because of Nile inquiry...
The Premier of New South Wales Ms Kristina Keneally’s decision to recommend the early prorogation of Parliament has not stopped the formidable Rev. Fred Nile in continuing the Legislative Council inquiry into the sale of electricity assets which she condemned first as illegal, then unconstitutional.
The directors who resigned from the electricity companies rather than be involved in the sale remain entitled to give their evidence without the threat of defamation proceedings, express or implied. Lawyers are divided as to whether evidence given is protected from such action. There is a good argument that it is.
The point is that the government should ensure this is so.
To say this is not for ACM to plunge into party politics. It is to argue for the maintenance of the proper standards of accountability which have hitherto applied in our system.
The government’s actions have not allowed those standards to be applied. It is not too late even now for the government to act to ensure that the full details are known.
In any event, the inquiry chaired by the Rev. Fred Nile has revealed more information concerning the sale than was previously available and has provided a service to the state.
The Rev Fred Nile is a model for all minor party and independent MP's. As a distinguished law professor says, he is remarkable in the way he keeps abreast of all issues.
He follows a principled agenda, and never sells out to either of the major parties. When he swears the oath of allegiance it is not mechanistic tokenism; he is swearing an Oath before God.
You can trust his word.
Premier Kristina Keneally and the Treasurer Eric Roozendaal have declined an invitation to re-appear before the inquiry into the power sell-off, according to the ABC (2/2).
The committee's chairman, the Rev. Fred Nile, has indicated that the committee will sit in public on 10 February to examine the collapse of stage two of the electricity sale, notwithstanding that the President of the Legislative Council has refused to seek a court order to compel the directors who resigned to attend.
And Ms Keneally has said that she and the Treasurer have already spent more than three hours answering the committee's questions and addressing its concerns and will not re-appear.
...collapse of second stage of sale...
The collapse of stage two came the planned sale failed to attract a bid by the deadline.One of the potential bidders, Energy Resource Managers Pty Ltd (ERMS), had put its offer on hold because of the "intense political debate and media coverage" surrounding the privatisation.
AAP reported that Mr. Nile told a media conference on 2 February:
“If half of the gentrader (generation rights) is in government hands ... and the other half is privatised, how will this affect the whole situation? I think it's left Macquarie Generation high and dry. And will it have an effect on their operations and their ability to compete in pricing and so on."
He acknowledged that the inquiry into the $5.3 billion first tranche of the sell-off might have directly impacted the second stage of the sale.
"I believe it has had some impact ... with the whole public scrutiny and controversy."
The inquiry had revealed the "true facts" of the sale and the "hidden concessions" promised by the Government, he said.
At a special meeting of the Executive Council on Monday 17 January, the Governor of Queensland, Her Excellency Penelope Wensley AO, appointed an independent Commission of Inquiry into Queensland’s flood disaster.
[Her Excellency The Governor ]
This had been approved by the Cabinet beforehand, and the Governor acting on the advice of the Premier, the Hon. Anna Bligh. The Commission will have the powers of a Royal Commission, and be chaired by Her Honour Justice Catherine Holmes of the Supreme Court.
It is unusual in Queensland to appoint a sitting Supreme Court Judge to head a Commission, but this was done in consultation with and the support of the Chief Justice of Queensland, His Honour Mr.Justice Paul De Jersey AC.
There will be two assistant commissioners, Jim O’Sullivan, a former Commissioner of Police and Phil Cummins, an international dams expert and currently chair of the International Commission on Large Dams.
[ Parliament House, Brisbane ]
The Premier said the Inquiry would have the powers of a Royal Commission, would take public submissions from across Queensland and would make recommendations in its interim report for future wet seasons.
The Premier has been lavishly complimented in the media for her communications skills. She should now be commended for her courageous but correct action in establishing what is in effect a Royal Commission. It is important, indeed it is crucial, that Queenslanders know what went wrong and what can be done.
It is to be regretted that some of her colleagues in other jurisdictions have not behaved as impeccably in exposing their governments to daylight, as our system is so well designed to allow.
The republicans tried to get rid of Royal Commissions, or at least change their name. But Royal Commissions have long enjoyed an important place in Australia, casting light into issues shrouded in darkness.
The link to the Crown stresses the Royal Commission is above politics and independent. The Australian Law Reform Commission recently recommended that Royal Commissions be retained, and their name not be changed
The Law Reform Commission gave two reasons for retaining Royal Commissions. First, the term ‘Royal Commission’ is very well-known, which means that it is a clear way to communicate to the public the extraordinary nature of such an inquiry.
Secondly, the title ‘Royal Commission’ is helpful in that it indicates how the highest form of public inquiry is established—namely by the Governor-General of Australia. The Law Reform Commission says that it is appropriate that "the Australian head of state should continue to be responsible for establishing the highest form of public inquiry in Australia".
... Queensland model could guide NSW Premier and the PM, too...
While conceding that she had failed to gauge the level of public concern about the government's sale of electricity assets, the NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, has refused to consider recalling Parliament.(“ Premier erred but Parliament stays shut”, a report by Ellie Harvey and Brian Robins in The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/1)
''I underestimated the level of public interest in these transactions, and I acknowledge that,'' Ms Keneally admitted.
The Premier has decided that she and the Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, would appear before the inquiry under the formidable Rev Fred Nile.
This is the inquiry she previously damned as “illegal” and then “unconstitutional.”
...power & accountability...
From the Magna Carta in 1215, through the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the evolution of responsible government and the gift of that to the Australian colonies, the essence of our constitutional monarchy is that government is not absolute; that we live under the rule of law and not the rule of men.
Now the constitutional monarchy (or crowned republic) has been demonstrated to be the best system to ensure such accountability together with both stability and flexibility. We have long drawn attention in this column to the results which have been achieved in countries functioning under this system.
[ The Mother of Parliaments ]
Prorogation once brought Parliament to a halt. An exception had to be made for judicial proceedings in the House of Lords; other exceptions were gradually made.
This can be done today by statute, and some argue as we have, by standing orders.
And with the greatest of respect to the Crown Solicitor, Mr. Knight’s well- crafted opinion, the judges are unlikely to agree with his restrictive view.
They have already have found that the executive is accountable to Parliament and not just to the lower house.
If the matter were to come before them it is unlikely that faced with the Standing orders they will seek refuge in a narrow reading of the constitution to delegitimize the Nile inquiry.
Just as the American Suprem Court didi when the President actually argued that the doctrine of executive privelege made him a latter day Louis XIV: United States v Richard Nixon (1974)
There was a time once when Parliament was dissolved on the death of a monarch. This today would serve no good purpose.
Should prorogation stop inquiries today? As we observed here, it is certainly not going to stop the formidable Rev. Fred Nile.
...neither illegal nor unconstitutional...
Even if his inquiry does not enjoy the powers and privileges of a parliamentary inquiry –and on one interpretation of the Standing Orders it does- to say it is “illegal” or even “unconstitutional is not helpful.
When there were allegations that around $5 billion dollars had been lost in the management of the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution ( “BER”) , the federal government appointed an inquiry under Brad Corgill. This was criticised at the time because the inquiry could not compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents, and it could give no protection to witnesses. The opposition has foreshadowed the appointment of a Royal Commission if they are called to form a government.
But nobody said the Corgill inquiry was illegal or unconstitutional. Critics merely said it was inadequate.