There are genuine concerns about the ability of the NSW Government and the Planning Assessment Commission to make unbiased decisions on the proposed coal mines. There are strong National Party connections with the Maules Ck Mine in particular.
Nathan Tinkler founded Aston Resources in 2008 (which was publicly listed in mid 2010) and was appointed board chairman in November last year as well as being a substantial shareholder.
Aston Resources recently merged with Whitehaven Coal. Nathan Tinkler now has a 20% stake in the $5.1 billion merger.
Nathan Tinkler has made donations to the National Party at state and federal levels that were not declared to the Planning Department when the development application for the Aston Resources Maules Ck Project was submitted. The matter is subject to investigation by NSW Planning.
Mark Vaile, former Deputy Prime Minister and former leader of the National Party of Australia, has been the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Aston Resources and is now the Chairman of the merger.
Liam Bathgate is a director of a lobbyist firm (Australian Public Affairs) which has been employed by Aston Resources on the Maules Ck Project. Bathgate is a former chief of staff to Barry O’Farrell (whilst in opposition) and an ex-general secretary of the NSW National Party.
The Planning Lobbyist Register shows he has contacted the Planning Department a number of times in relation to the Maules Ck Coal Project.