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
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!
While a murder of lawyers – under the direction of federal attorney-general-bigot Brandis – combs over legislation in an effort to limit personal freedoms and extend corporate ones, our own coalition state government is joining in the fun.
According to Fairfax, NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson (Nationals), has instigated a joint federal/state crack- down on ‘agri-terrorists’, or those who trespass onto intensive animal farm industries and film the activity.
As such, the NSW Primary Industries Legislation Amendment (Biosecurity) Bill 2012 is up for amendment.
Barnaby Joyce (federal Nationals) is also keen to help keep people ill-informed and dumbed down about what they eat and is joining the fray at the national level.
Clearly the effort by activists is to stop or reduce the appalling way in which some animals are farmed. If better legislation were enacted to improve the conditions of animals subjected to inten- sive farming, would there be a need for these laws?
It’s like introducing a bad law to prop up bad behaviour.
Regardless, the 2008 US doco Food, Inc. is a good place to start if you want to be informed about intensive large-scale ani- mal farming. It posits that corporate agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.
While free speech works in mysterious ways, it gener- ally only favours those who write the legislation. Thankfully there’s still public submissions. The state legislation is open for public comment until June 27 and is available at www. dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/legislative-review.
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!
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.
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.
This week, The Echo is proud to introduce Liberal premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, as the first troglodyte in our new occasional column: Political dinosaur of the week.
Prerequisites to be included in this column are an inclination to wreck pristine environments and act against conventional science, open transparency, human rights, basic decency and ethical behaviour.
So, who is Colin? This 63-year-old former economics lecturer and barbarian was elected to public office in 1990. He represents the WA Perth electorate of Cottesloe and retained his seat in 2013 with an impressive 64.7 per cent. But ever since taking office, he has racked up a formidable list of accomplishments that hark back to the dark ages.
In 2010, his new drug laws made cannabis cultivation a crime in that state, among other draconian measures.
His contention that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs is incorrect, it’s more of a drive-through drug that leads to cheeseburgers and fries.
Barnett the barbarian also doesn’t like education, having refused Gonski reforms.
But his pièce de résistance was last week annoying almost the entire country, including Byron residents, with his stone-age plan to cull sharks. Every prehistoric predator over three metres will be shot and disposed of at sea if they come within one kilometre of his coastline. Bravo!
Klling off an endangered species at the top of the food chain fits perfectly with the state of current politics.
The likely result will draw a shiver of more sharks into a uncontrollable bloodied feeding frenzy. And just like politics, it will be a wholesale butchery on their brethren. Which would it be more interesting?
As NSW police minister I thought it important to let you know that a court case instigated by your legal team was thrown out of court and found to have wasted time and your department’s resources.
I know it may sound like a trivial matter, but it was actually a significant test case in civil liberties.
Residents who were peacefully protesting against an unwanted Metgasco CSG test site at Glenugie near Grafton on January 7 this year were arrested on questionable grounds.
It appeared like a fairly sloppy piece of legal work; charges were also changed at the last moment.
But most concerning was that magistrate David Heilpern last week suggested there may have been political interference.
He said, ‘In this case I find myself asking what could possibly be the reason for continuing on with such an innocuous charge in these circumstances?’
I think it’s in the public interest to know who was behind this.
Who pressured a police prosecutor to proceed with ‘vexatious’ charges? It’s possible you know already… but if not, maybe you can find out who it is so they can be made accountable? As you would know, such behaviour undermines the public’s confidence and the capacity of the police to keep law and order.
I believe the police force for the most part carry out their duties professionally; however, directives and the tone of any organisation come from the top. I sincerely hope that you agree that police should not act as private security guards for corporate interests and that this matter should be explained publicly.