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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Fact checking 4 Corners push of a falling wall re Sydney transport woes
Mood:  rushed
Topic: nsw govt



While agreeing with the overall thrust of the show last night there are some omissions and clarifications of significance:

1. Obeid MP, hardly objective, quotes $35 B valuation of 1997 energy sale proposal. This figure is also quoted by Keating in (complete with banker consultancy conflict) the SMH in recent years putting the sale at $35B but conflating the 1997 and 2007 sale plans which are radically different. Keating here 6 May 2008 and note his disclosure eventually of financial conflict to Lazard Carnegie Wylie bankers, in


However other literature we have seen from that 1997 controversy puts the 1997 sale figure at $25B not $35B. So we remain agnostic on the true figure. To be sure it's a big number but so is a $10B discrepancy.

 2. In fact the Iemma plan excluded various infrastructure reducing the sale down to some $10-15B. It took John Kaye MP (Greens) to expose Keating's in effect false advertising of the sale on the opinion pages of the SMH. Keating wanted people to think it was the 10 year delay that caused the price reduction from $35B to $15B and '$20B in lost income', when really it was apples with oranges. Tsk tsk. Perhaps this deception related to this:

NSW power sale fees to tip $150m | Business | News.com.au 11 Dec 2007

3. The unfettered market axiom assumed in the 4 Corners view of history behind the 1997 proposal is shallow and potentially very dangerous. SAM will publish material from that 1997 campaign from UK experience which is damning, by academic Claire Gerson, and circulated to all NSW MPs via FoE Sydney green group at the time by this writer by hand under their parliamentary office door. A practice that is now banned.

4. Further to point 3, Argentina privatisations were a disaster. The gigantic Enron bankruptcy in the USA another disaster for social fabric and subject of withering doco on google video - Smartest Guys In The Room. And Lehman Bros collapse more recently in the GFC. In this sense public ownership of essential services has been vindicated big time. These are huge democratic issues beyond a once off sale of the family silver.

5. As per the second episode of the long running West Wing tv show "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" because a rail project stalled doesn't mean it was the failure of the 1997 sell off that caused it. A whole list of broken promises for rail was mentioned.

The rail extension to Bondi Beach we know alot about (and published source materials here ages ago) as then ward councillor at Bondi, and chair of the council environment committee. Bondi Rail was private public partnership with Macquarie Bank with Lend Lease involvement. So it was off Govt budget not part of the energy sale income. Second it was opposed for high priced ticket, failure of design over lack of mid way station, destruction of public park, cost of excavation in soft terrain for beach front station, and fear of high rise on air space rights (just like Bondi Junction/Gold Coast is today).

6. An irony of point 5 is that 4 Corners last night showed Lee Rhiannon MP (Greens) who back in 1997 was a private Bondi citizen and a strong local voice against the Bondi rail/private capital. Rhiannon and her protege now Mayor of Balmain Jamie Parker, are shown promoting north west rail against the Metro in 2009. Horses for courses: 1997 against Bondi rail, 2009 for NW rail showing just how political the Sydney snakepit really is.

7. Perhaps one of the biggest omissions is the political-economic reality of the disastrous thankfully stalled plan for a $5B secretive truck tunnel from Rozelle to Port Botany with cancer smog stacks in marginal Marrickville (held by Carmel Tebbutt on the Rees team replacing Iemma).  

SAM here posted on this recently with YouTube background on container traffic. And note feature in SMH yesterday business section of container ship gigantism at least pre GFC (and note error in that story re alleged promotion of exports when Sydney has low container exports - it's all imports). Without that construction largesse another project of similar size has been vomited up in the form of the $5B metro in a similar geographical location.

8. Another big ommission is that not all income of the 1997 energy sale was likely to end up in transport. More likely it was intended for a raft of political fixes and boondoggles. The green movement in NSW are as implicated in this as much as anyone:

(a) We know of possibly an extra $billion spent on the Chatwood-Epping rail build (supposed to go Parramatta) due to complaints over a postage stamp of Lane Cove NP, in particular via Dr Judy Messer then chair of Nature Conservation Council and north shore egomaniac. The redesign involved was rejected by leading greens in FoE Sydney, Karen Morrison and others. This wasted $1B possibly more than anything probably cruelled the extension to Parramatta. (But it did boost the need for a democratic Green Party beyond such as Dr Messer, or Jeff Angel, who also championed the deal with Carr to entrench logging in public forests for 20 years 1/4 saved, 3/4 trashed).

(b) we know of another $450M via John Connor (now of ALP aligned Climate Institute) which Carr planned to insert into a NSW version of Howard's $1B Natural Heritage Trust package in the sell off of Telstra. Indeed the 1997 energy sale plan was quite a monkey see, monkey do version of Carr copying Howard in 1996 federal election win. In NSW substitute power assets for telco, but it was all about smashing unions and getting the money. And people wonder why Carr jumped directly to Macquarie Bank from the premiership?

9. We could swear we heard the presenter Wendy Carlisle suggest to ex RTA supremo, now Metro supremo Les Wielinga, that the 'NSW public more in sorrow than anger will see an extended metro when they believe it'. That is transposing the old saying. Just a small slip up but still confusing. Yes, a double check shows the journo fluffed her line, but we knew what she meant and so did big Les Wielinga.


10. The use of press gallery journo Simon Benson of free market News Corp (Sydney Daily Telegraph) ideology is to put it mildly somewhat biased sourcing (and to think he started out as environment reporter). Of course Benson will sledge any attempt to prevent unfettered privatisation and weave whatever smear he can over such an outcome having built his journalistic career on the hegemony of the NSW Right. What else is new.

11. In terms of real politik, voters ditching the NSW ALP as per the vox pop at the end of the show won't mean much in safe Liberal Party seats in the north west sector (where this writer is based 6 months now). That's the cruel real politik of the situation for voters. And perhaps even their own fault since they voted in the M2 tollroad way back in 1994-5 and 1999 when the NGO sector - including arrest of this writer as a protester - called for rail not tollway road  vision for Sydney. In that respect both Labor and Liberal are indistinguishable.

Posted by editor at 12:06 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 October 2009 2:26 PM NZT

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