The investigation into the Commonwealth Bank’s employee Mr Edmonds “uncovered evidence that Mr Edmonds approved risky loans and found that he was complicit in the use of fake company seals, had forged signatures, and had opened accounts in fictitious names” and “Five years ago consumer advocate Bruce Ford informed Mr Macdonald’s office of Mr Edmonds’ fraudulent activities.”
See the hansard excerpt below:
Extract from NSW Legislative Council Hansard and Papers Wednesday, 9 June 2010 (Proof).
FORMER MINISTER FOR STATE AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT, MINISTER FOR MINERAL AND FOREST RESOURCES, MINISTER FOR MAJOR EVENTS, AND MINISTER FOR THE CENTRAL COAST
Ms LEE RHIANNON [11.55 p.m.]: On Monday this week Ian Macdonald resigned from this House. There are a number of unexplained events and players linked to his resignation. Two associates of Mr Macdonald who played significant although not yet fully explained roles in the activity of the former Minister are Grant Edmonds, who is the former owner of an insolvent Young abattoir, and Mr Macdonald’s former chief of staff and former Mayor of Young, Tony Hewson. Mr Hewson also was a director of one of the companies that operated the Young abattoir.
In the mid-1980s Mr Edmonds was employed as the manager of the Commonwealth Bank at the North Auburn branch. Mr Edmonds was the subject of an internal investigation into a series of accounts and loans associated with companies in which he had undeclared personal interests. The investigation uncovered evidence that Mr Edmonds approved risky loans and found that he was complicit in the use of fake company seals, had forged signatures, and had opened accounts in fictitious names. After investigating Mr Edmonds’ activities at the North Auburn branch of the Commonwealth Bank, instead of informing the Australian Federal Police of the fraud and other illegal activities, senior Commonwealth Bank officers simply asked Mr Edmonds to resign.
In 1996, as head of Burrangong Meat Processors, Mr Edmonds purchased the Gunnedah abattoir. A year after buying the Gunnedah abattoir Mr Edmonds closed the business and sold its assets. The abattoir had been operating for more than 40 years when Mr Edmonds took over its operations. In February 2010 the Young abattoir that had been purchased by Mr Edmonds suffered a fate similar to that of the Gunnedah abattoir. In February this year the Burrangong group became insolvent and the Young abattoir was shut down, leaving 300 local people unemployed. Company records show that Mr Hewson transferred his directorship to Mr Edmonds just days before the company collapsed.
Mr Edmonds employed Mr Hewson first as a senior manager and then as a director of one of the key abattoir companies that made up the Burrangong group of companies. I understand that Mr Hewson insists that the documents were forged and that he resigned as a director in 2004. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission [ASIC] records I have seen do not accord with Mr Hewson’s assertion. Mr Edmonds still owes his former employees more than $2 million in missing workers’ entitlements and superannuation. Some employees claim that their superannuation had not been paid every year prior to the company going into receivership, and voluntary contributions also have disappeared from the books. Approximately $20 million is still owed to local businesses and creditors in the Young area.
One of the unusual aspects of this saga is that Mr Edmonds planned to pay off his debts with the millions of dollars worth of unsold meat that was left over in the abattoir’s chillers. However, two days before the receiver moved in the abattoir was broken into. Its security cameras and alarm were turned off upon entry and its computer hard drives were stolen, along with the millions of dollars worth of unsold stock. Mr Edmonds claims he knows nothing about the circumstances surrounding the burglary. Mr Macdonald appears to have a number of connections with Mr Edmonds. He appointed Mr Edmonds as chair of the Government committee overseeing the National Livestock Identification Scheme, and they travelled overseas together on work-related matters. Five years ago consumer advocate Bruce Ford informed Mr Macdonald’s office of Mr Edmonds’ fraudulent activities. I understand that Mr Ford took this action after he discovered that Mr Macdonald had appointed Mr Edmonds as chair of the Livestock Identification Board.
I have seen the email from Mr Macdonald’s office in which it is acknowledged that the former Minister received the email with details of Mr Edmonds’ fraudulent activities. Mr Macdonald denied receiving this information on ABC television. Mr Macdonald’s contact with Mr Edmonds extended to work-related trips to China. Since the last State election in March 2007 Mr Macdonald made at least three taxpayer-funded visits to China. I understand that Mr Macdonald has acknowledged that he travelled to China with both Mr Hewson and Mr Edmonds, but is unsure if the three travelled together. Shortly after one of the trips to China the New South Wales Government entered into an agreement with China Shenhua to explore for coal on the Liverpool Plains. This arrangement was unprecedented as China Shenhua agreed to pay $300 million to explore for coal. I understand that Mr Hewson now owns a mining company.
When the agreement with China Shenhua went public in 2008 I called on former Minister Macdonald to disclose details of the agreement with China Shenhua. Although the former Minister denied there was any arrangement beyond the exploration, this coal company’s actions suggest that they were confident exploration would proceed to full-scale mining operations. The company has been buying up farms in the area where it would mine. Last month a senior vice-president of Shenhua Energy was quoted in the Australian Financial Review revealing the location of its mines and plans for coal-fired power plants in the Hunter.
The Greens urge the Independent Commission Against Corruption to expand its inquiry to include a more detailed investigation into Mr Macdonald’s association with Mr Hewson and Mr Edmonds, their trips to China and details of agreements with Chinese mining companies. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission should expand its investigations into matters concerning the companies with which Mr Hewson and Mr Edmonds are associated. [Time expired.]
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