Last man in Acland: Glen Beutel refused to sell his house as NAC bought nearby properties, but the mining company says it never pressured him.
Last man in Acland: Glen Beutel refused to sell his house as NAC bought nearby properties, but the mining company says it never pressured him. Kevin Farmer

'Wormings and turnings': New Acland digs up complaints

IT IS the enormous legal battle that just won't die.

And New Acland Coal (NAC) is resurrecting complaints of bias after an extraordinary late-night Land Court saga.

On Wednesday, barrister Damian Clothier told Queensland Court of Appeal suggestions the mining company pressured Acland's last independent home owner Glen Beutel were nonsense and simply a judge's "invention”.

Mr Clothier told the appeal court NAC was unfairly accused of "departing from every tenet of the common law justice system” during the 2017 Land Court hearing.

The hearing included a late-night sitting where Member Paul Anthony Smith lambasted media reports in which NAC staff allegedly suggested the judge's personal leave was influential in the case being delayed.

Mr Clothier said some allegations levelled against New Acland were "baseless” and it was wrong for the company to be accused of engaging in "tricks and inappropriate conduct”.

He told the court a reasonable observer could view some of Mr Smith's remarks as indicative of bias against the miner.

The barrister said the Land Court judge effectively implied NAC had engaged in "wormings and turnings”.

Mr Smith in 2017 went on to recommend New Acland's $900 million Stage Three expansion plan not be approved.

NAC fought back, going to the Supreme Court after the Land Court decision.

And the company's fortunes changed when Justice Helen Bowskill overturned Mr Smith's recommendation in May.

That meant the proposal went back to the Land Court.

At that court, President Fleur Kingham ordered that NAC apply to the Coordinator-General to change some environmental authority conditions.

But NAC's courtroom opponent, Oakey Coal Action Alliance, was appealing Justice Bowskill's decision.

Justice Walter Sofronoff said the alliance was likely to raise issues of groundwater and intergenerational equity.

NAC is cross-appealing on the issue of apprehended bias after Justice Bowskill found Mr Smith was not biased.

The appeal court hearing continues.

- NewsRegional



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