It’s that time of year again which political junkies love and state politicians in power hate: the annual NSW budget estimates.
Before the eyes glaze over, it’s worth pointing out that it’s a rare opportunity to witness our elected ministers and unelected senior public servants squirm under questioning from their political opponents, away from the noise of parliament.
The setting is intimate – they sit opposite each other over tables in a small room – and it’s all streamed live, online.
Expenditure, performance and departmental effectiveness are all on the table. Awkward? You bet. And yes, incredibly boring at times due to incredibly boring MPs and bureaucrats.
It requires great stamina to persevere, as those with a dull tone may in fact be attempting to deflect all manner of inadequacies and questionable conduct.
Take Treasury’s inquiry on Friday, starring 40-year old newbie Andrew Constance (Liberal) and his bureaucratic sidekick.
Treasurer Constance sat mostly with chin in in hand, staring with pure contempt and disdain at Labor and Greens MPs as they asked him questions. Didn’t everyone know who he thought he was?
And in the background, Liberal MP and Lennox Head local, Catherine Cusack, continually interjected with shrill indignation at the questions. She was told to ‘shut up’ on more than one occasion.
Besides mindless politicking – did we learn anything?
Shadow minister for the environment Luke Foley seized on comments by NSW environment minister Rob Stokes, who apparently flubbed his government’s policy on meeting a declared target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
‘The minister was confused as to whether the state even has a 20 per cent renewable energy target or whether only the Commonwealth’s target applies,’ Foley said. ‘The NSW Liberals & Nationals Plans to Boost Renewable Energy policy, released before the 2011 NSW election, clearly states their intention to ‘provide a blueprint to increase the proportion of energy from seven per cent to meet the target of 20 per cent renewable energy consumption by 2020.’
Meanwhile there were no surprises that health minister Jillian Skinner (Liberal) supports the federal government’s $7 GP co-payment policy, which has been roundly criticised by doctors, nurses and the Australian Medical Association. Shadow health minister Dr Andrew McDonald claims Ms Skinner has not commissioned economic modelling on its impact.
And proposed large-scale Crown lands legislation which would give state bureaucrats almost total control of public lands seems to be on indefinite hold, after minister for lands, Kevin Humphries, told the committee that there was ‘a lot of interest in it.’
‘There will need to be a focused response from certain sectors of the community that have a significant stakeholding in Crown land. We have received 650 submissions… we might have to go back to some of those sectors for more consultation.’
And lastly – not included in budget estimates – was the bizarre revelation that minister for primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson (Nationals), read a joint AGL/Dairy Connect press release to answer a question about the ability of coal seam gas to coexist with the dairy industry. Greens Jeremy Buckingham, who asked the question, called her an industry mouthpiece. In typical tit-for- tat schoolyard fashion, Buckingham was then labelled by the minister as ‘anti-mining, anti-agriculture and anti-development.’
Yes, the political tide is at an incredibly low ebb – thankfully there’s a public rally to encourage debate at a higher frequency.
People In The Park, Missingham Park in Ballina. 2pm, Sunday.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
Congratulations, Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers party, for trying to give big business ‘a voice’ in Sydney.
Because if there’s one thing missing from Australia’s social landscape, it’s the voice of extremely rich middle-aged wealthy white people.
The idea of forcing tens of thousands of businesses to vote in Sydney City Council elections came without warning and is ‘outrageous’, says Local Government NSW (LGNSW).
But with help from extremely rich wealthy white people Alan Jones and Rupert Murdoch, this debacle has been given a special oxygenated bubble in which to exist.
Indeed no-one except govcorp – ie this government, the corporations and local Nationals MP Don Page – thinks this is a good idea. So much for supporting small businesses, which is the backbone of our economy.
The core argument appears to be comparing Sydney to Melbourne’s existing model, but as shareholder activist and Melbourne councillor Stephen Mayne told The Newcastle Herald, the Melbourne model was ‘exclusive’ to Melbourne and was intended as a counterbalance to the city’s largely left-wing residential population. ‘The result [in Sydney] will be a pro-business, pro-growth council,’ he said.
But there are smelly fumes belching from this secret deal with the coalition: Fairfax reports that the ICAC had been asked to look into links between former Liberal state energy minister Chris Hartcher and his former adviser, ‘who had worked on a “local government strategy” for the City of Sydney.’
US dollar challenged
News on wars and the MH17 crash overshadowed an important development on the global financial chessboard late last month. Five leaders from emerging superpowers recently agreed on the formation of a bank to rival the US-run World Bank and IMF.
It’s called BRICS, and it stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and it will be lending its cash for infrastructure and development projects in emerging economies.
Additionally, a $100 billion fund has been established to protect the nations involved from any future US-led financial crisis.
If properly governed, it will give these countries an enormous advantage over US-dependent countries such as Australia should/when such a thing happen again.
So will this cartel take any cues from the Rothschilds? Mayer Amschel Rothschild reputedly said in 1790: ‘Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.’
NSW Libs also a disgrace
‘I’ll tell you what’, property developer Hilton Grugeon ‘might’ have said. ‘I like this painting that hangs on your wall so much, that I’ll buy it from you for $10,000. No, really.’
And there begins the public career collapse of NSW Liberal MP Andrew Cornwell, former chief whip to the NSW Baird government, after Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings last week.
More than the bottle of plonk that robbed O’Farrell of the top job in April, this goose took wads of cash in an envelope from a developer as well as from the current lord mayor of Newcastle.
Idiot alert: accepting money from developers was banned in NSW in 2009. It’s also put lord mayor of Newcastle and ex-property developer Jeff McCloy under pressure to resign.
So where is this stupid greed-based saga headed?
Apart from paying off his tax bill, Cornwell gave the money to his beloved party for its 2011 election war chest.
Funny that, as it’s the subject of ICAC enquiries.
There are now nine MPs who have stood down from the current coalition crop since they took office in 2011, including the premier, police minister Mike Gallacher and energy and resources minister Chris Hartcher.
Will the people of NSW take notice of this endemic corrupt behaviour before the upcoming 2015 election?
Hans Lovejoy, editor