Alleged conflict of interest over trigeneration vote
- Kieran Adair
- Thursday, 17 January 2013
Liberal Councillor Christine Forster has been forced to defend herself against allegations she failed to declare a conflict of interest during her vote against the City of Sydney’s trigeneration plans last November.
City Hub understands former Councillor Chris Harris lodged a complaint with City of Sydney CEO Monica Varone following the vote, claiming Ms Forster’s employment as the Asia Oil news correspondent for Platts, a specialist news service catering for the Oil industry, represents a significant conflict of interest on this matter.
Mr Harris claimed it is inappropriate for her to attempt to block the city’s efforts to stop using fossil fuels as she earns at least part of her income writing for a fossil fuel industry publication.
Ms Forster defended herself, arguing her vote did not represent a conflict of interest, insisting the knowledge gained through her role as a journalist ensures she is in a solid position to judge the trigeneration plans.
“I do not believe there is any conflict of interest between my work as a journalist reporting on the oil and gas industry and the City of Sydney’s plans to construct trigeneration power plants,” she said.
“My work as a reporter has given me in-depth knowledge of the Australian gas industry, [and] I would think the people of Sydney would value that knowledge and want me to contribute to the debate on trigeneration, rather than see it as a conflict of interest.”
The trigeneration plan, championed by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, is hoped to reduce the City’s carbon emissions by up to 70 per cent over the next 20 years.
When asked about the complaint, a Council spokesperson confirmed “a complaint was received in early December and has been referred to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, as is standard practice”.
Ms Forster has since made a disclosure that she has a non-significant non-pecuniary (monetary) interest regarding this matter, with Mr Harris signalling he intended to challenge this disclosure as insufficient.
Ms Forster has worked as a senior journalist for Platts for more than two years, focusing on Australian and Asian upstream oil and gas and downstream oil refining sectors.
Platts describes itself as a leading global provider of energy, petrochemicals and metals information, and a premier source of benchmark price assessments for those commodity markets.
Platts’ clients range from exploration companies, miners and refiners to end users such as utilities, airlines, steel companies and automotive manufacturers.
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