High-profile barrister Saul Holt QC, in red tie, is appearing for Oakey Coal Action Alliance, one of three defendants in the case New Acland has brought.
High-profile barrister Saul Holt QC, in red tie, is appearing for Oakey Coal Action Alliance, one of three defendants in the case New Acland has brought. John Weekes

How's the serenity? Coal battle blasts off

The latest legal battle involving New Acland Coal took a cosmic turn on Monday.

A "sarcastic" exchange emerged, with a judge comparing the chance of the mining firm following through with a pledge to improve respect for the court to him getting in a space shuttle.

NAC is asking the Supreme Court to review Member Paul Smith's decision to reject the planned $900 million Oakey Stage 3 expansion.

The company submitted Mr Smith's personal feelings may have "coloured" his objectivity in the lengthy case.

An exchange from the Land Court hearing a year ago, where the judge and an NAC barrister both admitted using sarcasm, was played to the Supreme Court.

Mr Smith was concerned NAC staff made comments to media which potentially brought the Land Court into disrepute.

The judge said TV and newspaper stories wrongly implied his personal holiday contributed to delays in the case.

An NAC barrister said his client never intended "any disrespect" of the court or the judge.

"Is NAC going to communicate that to media outlets involved?" Mr Smith asked.

"Well, we can," barrister Peter Ambrose QC replied.

"Well, I could get in a space shuttle...it doesn't mean I'm going to."

Mr Smith said he cancelled a holiday and held late-night sittings during the case.

NAC previously accused Mr Smith of "bias".

On Monday, NAC also raised concerns about him referring in his judgment to The Castle.

The film reference was made in relation to one of Acland's last residents, Glen Beutel, who refused to sell his properties to NAC.

Mr Beutel was portrayed as an underdog, like character Darryl Kerrigan was in the movie.

"In many ways the truth of Mr Beutel's positon is far in excess of the fiction of The Castle," Mr Smith wrote in one paragraph of his 450-page judgment.

On Monday, NAC said Mr Beutel never suggested removing buildings in Acland was part of any dirty tactics.

NAC counsel Damian Clothier QC said the company was concerned about alleged insinuations it had behaved in "sneaky" ways.

Issues including noise, intergenerational equity and groundwater were also mentioned on Monday.

The trial continues. -NewsRegional


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