We’ve been Borsaked
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
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
Bruns plan fallout
One of the biggest ever development plans for Bruns was quietly adopted on June 2.
Being quiet about this is expected considering the strong and clear public opposition, but adding to the fiasco has been appaling public relations by North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP).
It was a sloppy and rude campaign by the dubious government-run corporation; it tried to sell us the idea that major holiday parks and Crown reserve upgrades are needed but failed to convey anything of meaning through long, complex bureaucratic documents and an information session debacle.
It’s something residents in Evans Head are also facing, with major upgrades planned at their holiday parks too. And like here, they are responding with a strong community voice.
Crown lands are inherently designed for public, not private, use, but we have been continually insulted by NCHP manager Jim Bolger arrogantly telling the community what public lands are accessible and which are not.
Should this absurdity just be ignored? And with boundary-encroachment issues also remaining, it’s clear money will be made for the state government at community cost.
It’s inevitable we will see a price rise for accommodation.
The key to the entire issue lies in the independent audit that examined the public submissions that Bolger collated.
Author Dr John Mackenzie said, ‘Several significant and frequently raised issues that were beyond the scope of the planning process have not been included in the analysis.’
‘For example, issues raised concerning park governance, the inconsistency of the POMs with the regional character and the community-engagement process featured prominently in the reviewed submissions but were not included in the analysis.’
His suggestion is that ‘Inclusion of these issues in the Issue Categories should be considered. This would not result in any changes to the recommendations, but could also provide decision-makers and the community with a more comprehensive understanding of points raised in the submissions.’
But for NSW Crown Lands bureaucrats to concede that point would inevitably result in more questions.
The Echo asked specifically if the minister responsible would respond to that recommendation but was ignored.
So bravo to the bureaucrats in the NSW Crown Lands department. The appalling trend of privatising public assets is almost complete and it’s unlikely this would have been legit without big changes to Crown Lands legislation too. Bravo!
Two party pigs
Who is worse – a new NSW premier who refuses to explain un- declared donations and subsequent plum appointments, or an opposition leader who ignored the code of conduct regarding bribes and took six months to tell someone he had an offer?
Sounds complicated and boring, but all that can be said about modern NSW politics is that govcorp morons are shouting at each other from across the room over who is worse. And somehow they think the public will find that acceptable.
Can these idiots be any more insulting?
Yes – both parties also voted last week against an amendment to the Mining and Petroleum Acts to establish an Independent Expert Mine Licensing Committee, as recommended by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) following the inquiries into corruptly granted coal mining licences.
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) says they also combined to replace a broad ‘public interest power’ to cancel mining licences and replace it with a narrower ‘fit and proper person’ test.
Unlike the classic ‘corporations are people too’ line, it appears to ensure corporations are better people.
And why has this happened? Just follow the money.
According to Buckingham, ‘Since 1999, the mining sector has donated $5,753,721 to the Liberal, National and Labor par- ties and they are still not prohibited political donors.’
If any public faith is to be restored, the mining licences that were handed out by disgraced Labor MPs Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald need to be cancelled and re-examined by someone with integrity. Integrity? Ha!
Gateway without a gate
The NSW coalition (Liberal/Nationals) suffered further embarrass- ment this week after its ‘Gateway Process,’ which assesses mining proposals on strategic agricultural land, saw two of the six panel members resign.
According to The Australian (Newscorp), the NSW Farmers Association questioned the independence of the government- appointed panel’s chairman Terry Short, a soil expert, who had to declare an interest in two of the three applications being assessed by the panel.
In addition, Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham put the boot in on fossil fuel lobbyists; he said Mr Short and his panel were forced to grant a ‘Conditional Gateway Certificate’ for a mine in the Bylong Valley west of Newcastle, despite assessing the mine as failing 12 out of 13 criteria. ‘It’s ludicrous that the Bylong mine failed 12 out of 13 criteria, and the Spur Hill mine that failed nine out of 11 criteria, are still granted a certificate and progress to the next stage of planning assessment.’
This again casts doubt over this government’s credibility and its continuous bleating of having the ‘toughest CSG regulations in the country.’ Mr Stoner’s office again offered up that rhetoric in reply to The Echo when asked what he will bring to the north coast as its minister.
In return, The Echo suggested to Mr Stoner’s office perhaps the present safeguards weren’t working given the overwhelming protests by farmers at Bentley, Leard, The Pilliga and other min- ing sites. The Echo then asked if the minister would intervene and stop Metgasco’s plans at Bentley given the public outcry.
Unsurprisingly there has been no reply – The Echo understands the Bentley land earmarked for fracking is owned by a high-profile Nationals Party member, as was the case in Glenugie.
The Game of NSW Unknowns
Ah, the colony of NSW. Bound to serve at the Queen’s pleasure since 1788, it has a long rich history of free-trade barbarism and territories won and lost.
With bloodied battles, treachery, deal making and women and wine, it would make a great HBO series.
The script reads: Within two years in office and after 16 years of Labor, the coalition led by lord Baz has proved it too is a victim of the dark forces against democracy: lobbyists.
Lord Baz throws himself on his sword after being ICACked and while the blood still flows, his round table must quickly regroup to an- nounce nervously that it will restore honesty and trust in government. Ha! Regardless of the myth of political integrity, just who are these loose rabble of coalition shark bait in the NSW lower house ? (The lower house is the Legislative Assembly; the upper house is the Legislative Council and can veto the lower house.)
Mike Baird (Liberal) Premier
Newby Mike is a big fan of God, particularly Henry VIII’s interpretation, Anglicanism. So much so that young Baird trained for a year at a bible school in the USA after an economics degree. And after a short stint as an investment banker, he followed daddy Lib MP Bruce into politics.
An early blunder as treasurer saw him misplace but then find a billion dollars, but since then he’s been a typical neo-con economic ‘manager’.
Expect $19 billion of cuts from the public sector and public assets in years to come. Is this a result of Labor’s previous mismanagement or a big neo-con job so the top one per cent can continue to squeeze the middle class?
Regardless, this flat-earth regressive with a limited range of empathy has voted against embryonic stem research, euthanasia and does not support same-sex marriage.
His Abbott-like attributes should cause some alarm – they are apparently chums. Unenlightenment aside, Baird’s big battle is to bullshit us into believing there is such a thing as political integrity.
Case in point is his questionable decision to give Lord Baz’s killer, Di Girolamo, a board role on State Water Corporation in mid-2012. Apparently Girolamo had no experience doing such things.
Additionally there’s the $200,000 a year appointment to a government board of businessman Roger Massy-Greene, whose company had also donated to Mike Baird’s election campaigns.
To top off the lobbyist connection, Baird’s former chief of staff, Stephen Galilee, now runs the Minerals Council of NSW.
Business is back, baby.
Andrew Stoner (Nationals)
Sir Stone-alot let a microhydro business sink in his Oxley electorate last year.
It was appalling to witness the fossil fuel industry and his governance ruin the hopes and dreams of innova- tion and best practice for the nation and state.
Pelena Energy, based in Dorrigo, manufactured small-scale hydro engines which generated free energy from running streams and creeks.
There was no dam needed for it to operate, which is funny because it reflected Sir Stone-alot’s ‘giving no damn’ policy.
To be fair, Pelena Energy’s Peter Lynch told The Echo it was a bipartisan effort by both sides of politics that ruined him, along with the Clean Energy Council which is run by fossil fuel goons.
As typical of Nationals Illuminati, Sir Stone-alot must support fossil fuel expansion.
This means being against farmers, agriculture, the outback, the big scrub, the natural environment, regional NSW and anything with wide open spaces.
Did nothing as Crown Lands minister over cost-shifting revenue from Byron Shire caravan parks and reserves to NSW govcorp.
Jillian Skinner (Liberal)
Young Liberal spawn are tested for allegiances to deregulation (cutting red tape) and privatisation (sale of public assets and services).
Skinner, 70, represents Sydney north shore elites and has been a long-term Lib since 1988.
As minister for health and medical research, she propagates Liberal party spawn in pH balanced water with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potas- sium. There, she hatches perfectly formed Young Liberals.
Gladys Berejiklian (Liberal)
Dame Gladys Berejiklian is the perpetual winner of the most unpronounceable last name in politics. Could it be the orthodox Armenian heritage? Spent her youth with a commerce degree and then financial institutional work.
As a young Liberal, the Skinner laboratory spawned Gladys from fungi.
Her press releases as minister for transport have not included anything for regional NSW and last year she handed down a towering edifice of excrement to north coast residents entitled Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study.
It was highly flawed as it failed to address light rail, only examined a small portion of the railway, inexplicably inflated previous figures on costings and gave the answers Macquarie Street wanted. Bravo, whatever.
Anthony Roberts (Liberal)
Recently replaced the disgraced and odious Chris Hartcher as mining minister and seems to have fitted right in – his recent visit to the northern rivers last week was entirely insulting as he tried to paint Bentley residents next to a proposed drilling operation as ‘extremists’. Since when was
Mining MP Anthony Roberts pictured with John Winston Howard’s other advisers protecting your home against invasion ‘extreme?’ Nobody likes to be labelled but Roberts is an ex-John Howard advi- sor/suckhole clown.
Brad Hazzard (Liberal)
It’s a big gig, planning. Perhaps the biggest in gov- ernment as it entails asking the mining industry and Jamie Packer what they would like.
But we were told we needed a planning reform, so off with it! Expect meaningless words to follow, such as ‘putting community first’.
As a long-serving Lib and lawyer on the NSW front bench, Hazzard’s DNA is also carefully extracted for propagation in the Skinner laboratory.
Don Page (Nationals)
Member for Ballina, minister for local government and the north coast. Lives in Byron Bay.
Katrina Hodgkinson (Nationals)
As minister for primary industries and small business, the Hodge presides over the disastrous local land services (LLS) where around five per cent of rural landowners recently voted on a board election.
The newly branded and bloated bureaucratic department provides landowners ‘services’ and landowners must pay the state special lev- ied rates which may or may not be consitutional.
Pru Goward (Liberal)
As minister for family and community services, Pru was asked to resign recently because her department could not manage around 75,000 cases of reported child abuse, according to a report by the NSW Ombudsman.
She was also under fire to resign last year for lying, according to Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph. She told Parliament there were 2,068 caseworkers looking after vulnerable children, despite ‘a leaked Ernst and Young report saying instead staffing levels never reached that figure.’
Fatigue, disgust and a lack of space prevent more; however, the show rolls on at www. parliament.nsw.gov.au.
The portfolios published here will no doubt change as Lord Baird marks his territory.
Dear Mr Henderson,
As CEO of Metgasco, you have once again proclaimed a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards northern rivers residents.
Thank you for the clarity. A least we know your intention is to push ahead with mining this area despite deep and wide- spread public resistance, as demonstrated at the Bentley site outside Lismore.
Unfortunately, it’s a clarity that the NSW minister for the north coast, Don Page, has been unable to share. He still won’t say if he supports your activities or the farmers that will be affected.
Regardless, I do take umbrage to the false and misleading claim on Metgasco’s website that NSW is ‘running out of gas’.
Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) State of the energy market 2012 says domestic demand for the state is not increasing.
It’s tiresome to address these lies over again – if we protect the domestic supply there will be no problems other than the smoking ruin that you leave in your wake. It just goes to show how powerful the mining lobby is, huh?
I do however support one lofty ideal on your website: ‘to supply the gas to local industry in the north east corner of NSW before sup- plying gas to the broader eastern coast energy market.’
Such benevolence could extend to actually doing your toxic business elsewhere. After all, Australia is a big place and it’s quite easy to get lost in. Or better still, perhaps you could repurpose your corporation for the inevitable renewables take-over?
Anyway, the intention to mine a region that boasts world-class farm produce and tourism is simply an act of war, regardless of what- ever weak legislation and politicians are in place.
In conclusion, I will not give credibility to the insane premise that the expansion of your industry is acceptable in light of clear evidence that suggests it’s stupid.
NSW govcorp report card
The NSW Coalition celebrates its third year in office this week, but as usual there is a muddled message emanating from govcorp’s Macquarie Street HQ.
Predictably both the coalition and Labor claim opposite results with essential services, education and health. It’s either being reduced or restored, just like the environment and business.
But we do know that with three coalition MPs facing ICAC probes, neither side can claim much integrity. Former Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher, along with fellow central coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber, are now swimming with Labor’s Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Tony Kelly in the same festering soup.
Banning lobbyists and corporate funding has always been the simple solution for turning around a toxic system that rewards greed over public service. But who’s game to make that change? Of course the (mostly) boys’ club won’t allow it; it’s the only way they know how to generate prosperity.
However, the nuanced art of politics is about bending the truth for personal gain, not snapping it in two. At a local level, political discourse continued at sub-sonic depths this week with three north coast Nationals MPs claiming that federal Labor MP Justine Elliot and the Greens voted against road funding in the lower house.
What? Voted against spending on roads?
Coalition MPs Geoff Provest (Tweed), Don Page (Ballina) and Thomas George (Lismore) were ‘alarmed’ the Roads to Recovery program could be scrapped. Mr Page said it would represent ‘a $2.9 million cut which local councils had no way of making up,’ and that part of the amendment was a key element of ‘continuing the road to recovery program post 30 June 2014.’
Interestingly, Mr Page was the only MP who made a comment with figures attached; the other MPs just frothed rhetoric.
But the amendment in question, the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014, clearly says ‘There is no net impact to the Australian government budget from this bill.’
When handballed back to Labor, federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese told The Echo that the press release was ‘bullshit,’ and that it was sent as a bulk press release by regional Nationals MPs.
He vigorously defended Labor’s roads budget and blasted the inaction of the coalition over infrastructure. As for any financial implications from the bill, Mr Albanese said that the Roads to Recovery funding is covered by the forward estimates and, as it was not an appropriations bill, there were no financial implications. (There are two types of bills, and non appropriation bills have no financial consequence.)
Do such vague and complicated shenanigans do the community any favours? I think I’ve just been bored to tears by Geoff, Don and Thomas.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It seems incomprehensible that a political party – one that claims grassroots origins – should say in its ‘About Us’ webpage that it believes in ‘decentralisation of power to our local communities’ when its practice is quite the opposite.
Parties often profess ideals at odds with their actual policies, but let’s take a step back first. It’s a party with Western Australian rural conservative roots that expanded after a few name changes to include all states in the 1920s. Its constituents were graziers and farmers who wanted – for obvious reasons – to limit union and workers’ rights while also pushing for protectionism (that’s government intervention to protect industry from overseas competition).
And sometime after inception, they aligned themselves with the Liberals at both a state and federal level and generally the pair have been known as ‘the coalition’ ever since.
Like a sucker fish to a shark, they are associated with hard-right policies (that’s free trade, not protectionism).
So fast track to now. Last week the federal Nats were reported by Fairfax as having their political donations rise ‘tenfold in four years’ from coal seam gas companies.
It reflects nicely in their future energy blueprint, which proudly boasts: ‘The coalition will introduce an Exploration Development Incentive that will allow investors to deduct the expense of mining exploration against their taxable income.’
At the state level, last week the NSW National Party faced internal squabbles with the dear Libs after a redistribution of NSW electoral boundaries. Turf wars aside, a freedom of information inquiry last week into communications between Metgasco and NSW Nationals Tweed MP Geoff Provest now no longer exist for public scrutiny. And having local Nationals MP Don Page in power should be beneficial to this community. But those 10,000 people seeking his support to make the region CSG free, or those wanting the return of the Bruns parks to Council could fairly claim he is the minister for Sydney, not his actual portfolio of the north coast.
All reports lead to Rome
If I were tasked with reviewing local government (councils) throughout the state, it would be in my best interests to write something that maintained centralised state power. It’s called keeping your job.
As Leonard Cohen sang, ‘Everybody knows that the dice are loaded.’’
Yes, my report would hose down accusations by councils of state cost-shifting and promote amalgamation of local governments.
And that’s exactly what we have in the local government review, which was released last week. Presumably it provides the region’s state representative (Nationals) and local government MP Don Page with the mandate to promote those recommendations.
Amalgamating shires has never been popular and is of questionable benefit. The Queensland shires of Noosa, Douglas, Mareeba and Livingstone reversed their decision to amalgamate with surrounding shires last year.
As for cost shifting, the state government refuses to explain to The Echo why it won’t return the Brunswick Heads caravan parks and reserves it stole from Byron Council, despite proof it resulted in our local government being financially worse off.
Of course the state wants to maintain power and will take more power from local government/community at every opportunity.
It’s something that is achieved with an uninformed public and complicit media.
But if the state’s 152 councils were to commission a review instead into the NSW government, would that result in better cost savings and efficiency outcomes for the public?
The rorting in NSW Rail, the belligerent NSW Forestry Corporation and the toxic North Coast Holiday Parks would be a great start.
If you look closely, there’s a sentence that remarkably made it into this local government report: ‘People appear satisfied with the performance of local government – more so than with state and federal governments.’
The state’s constant power grabs only help to reinforce that view.