QUEENSLAND Treasurer Andrew Fraser has struck a secret deal with a coal mining company to allow it to avoid proposed laws to protect the State's best farm land.
The Morning Bulletin has obtained a letter revealing that Mr Fraser spoke on behalf of the State Government to negotiate a deal with Bandanna Energy over two mine proposals on the Central Highlands.
The deal would allow Bandanna Energy to go ahead with plans for a Central Queensland mine without being subject to the proposed strategic cropping land laws.
A sacrifice for the coal company will be that another mine project would be subject to the laws.
The two mine proposals lie in highly productive farm land that may be some of the State's best farm land under the government's proposed strategic cropping land policy, which aims to protect the land.
Written by Mr Fraser, the letter was sent on June 6 to Bandanna Energy managing director Dr Ray Shaw.
It responds to the company's previous proposals about its Springsure Creek and Arcturus mine projects.
The letter shows Springsure Creek was given an "altered transitional framework" to go ahead, despite paperwork from the project missing a May deadline for such transitional arrangements by three days.
It reads: "In view of the particular circumstances surrounding the timing and transition framework, the government is prepared to consider an altered transitional framework specifically for Bandanna Energy, which would be given effect in forthcoming legislation, on the condition that the fundamental objectives of the legislation are achieved."
The letter also said that the Springsure Creek proposal must go ahead as an underground project, without scope for open-cut operations.
Bandanna Energy will be obligated to "use all reasonable endeavours" to "rehabilitate any effects of any impact" of the project, including subsidence.
Company chairman Jeremy Barlow proposed the deal to senior public officials from at least three different government departments, and "a number of other portfolio Ministers", including a letter written to Premier Anna Bligh dated June 2, 2011.
Other internal government emails, obtained through the Right to Information Act 2009, reveal that Mr Fraser's office took the "lead on this particular issue".
This was despite Mr Fraser not holding the ministerial office responsible for either mine approvals or environmental assessment.
Bandanna Energy managing director Dr Ray Shaw said he did not know why the Treasurer had written the letter, as opposed to the Minister responsible for that portfolio.
Dr Shaw would not be drawn on the specifics of how the company would rehabilitate the land, but said the company was doing everything it could to ensure full rehabilitation would happen.
He said: "We firmly believe that we can rehabilitate the land, and I think as an industry, we really should be judged by what has been happening in recent years, not old open-cut operations.
"It is a progression, and rehabilitating the land takes time.
"All we are asking for is some patience - you can never satisfy everyone, but we are trying to co-exist with everybody."
Overseas travel reports tabled in the State Parliament reveal that Dr Shaw was listed as a "business delegate" for an April trade mission with Mr Fraser to Beijing, China, and Seoul, Korea.
Dr Shaw was also listed as a business delegate on a later trade mission to Asia with Premier Bligh in June this year.
He said the company had a major shareholder in South Korea, and was also trying to drum up investment with Chinese companies.
Dr Shaw said both trade missions were only "a small part" of broader investment trips he has taken on behalf of the company.
Minister for Natural Resources and Acting Treasurer Rachel Nolan said yesterday: "There is nothing to hide here.
"The Queensland Government is leading the nation with our strategic cropping land policy.
"Bandanna originally submitted their terms of reference on December 2, 2010.
"The final terms of reference for the EIS were issued to Bandanna Energy on June 2, 2011."
Ms Nolan reiterated that the company must rehabilitate all of its effects on any strategic cropping land.
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