Consultants: corrosive and conflicted - Submission to NSW inquiry into the
17 September 2023
The Big Four receive the lion’s share of NSW Government spending on consultants.2 Rather than focus on the merits or otherwise of particular types of consulting or the work of particular consulting firms, this submission goes back to the problems identified in Neither frank nor fearless: over-use of consultants hollows out the capabilities and skills of the public service and it leads the governme. [...] In 2021, the Department told the IPC that as long as economic assessment by mining company consultants was broadly consistent with the Guidelines, the Department paid little attention to the accuracy and integrity of the assessment. [...] Both consultants are closely linked to the NSW coal industry.7 The IPC approved the Mangoola project, but rejected much of the economic assessment, concurring with The Australia Institute’s criticisms of the methods and the Department’s “statement that the applicant’s EIS was prepared in accordance with the economic guidelines.”8 The Department’s decision not to at least commission its own review. [...] Cadence Economics estimated the value of the project at over $1 billion.26 The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment again commissioned Brian Fisher of BAEconomics to review the work of Cadence Economics, which was approvingly done in just four A4 pages.27 The Department also commissioned Brian Fisher to write a more detailed Review of the key economic interactions between the Dendrobiu. [...] Despite these reports and the recommendation of the Department, the IPC refused the project as being not in the community interest, largely due to potential drinking water impacts.29 In both the Dendrobium and Narrabri Gas examples, the Department was under pressure to recommend approval of controversial projects.