Topic: nsw govt
The first time this writer ever spoke to Dr Judy Messer, chair of the Nature Conservation Council was about 1995. This was soon after we bailed out of The Wilderness Society Sydney office (which is a ripping yarn itself about s*xual harrassment of this writer by a co worker - hell hath no fury etc - and other impossible working conditions) when we moved into a quite dormant Friends of the Earth Sydney office. At least it was close to a clean slate was the thought.
The good doctor said "Where is your money from?" I was a little gobsmacked having worked 3 years on the successful NSW wilderness protection campaign on a shoestring up to the March 1995 election of the ALP. No greeting with 'how are you going', or 'what's new'. No 'what campaigns are you working on', or 'where is your office' or the like. Messer we soon understood was a power player at intimate levels of NSW politics and that meant for her knowing the money trail. A member of the Sydney Water Board as govt appointee for 10 years on a bursary of some kind.
(It was an experience similar to the one conversation with Opposition Attorney General Smith former Crown prosecutor some 10 years later. In a similar power dynamic his first question - "where is your money from?" he wanted to know. It's a fair enough question to ensure bonefides but it is also so very NSW. No trust, grasping milieu.)
Last evening 9 October 2009 we saw director of Total Environment Centre on (now also web cast) NSW Stateline on the debacle that is waste policy here (available in due course from ABC here) but not Angel's likely role in that outcome. It jogged our memory. We don't trust Angel but compere Dempster gives him credit. So why the reservations here - well the list is substantial but sticking to the waste policy area for now it involves Messer and waste and now dead Frank Miller and Angel coming in over the top of the real campaigners - as usual.
But first we need to introduce yet another policy wonk - John Denlay, guru on waste issues. He was our mentor for this writer's time 1995 to 1997 in closing the dioxin spewing Waterloo Incinerator: Opposed by Greenpeace, South Sydney Council, Eastern Suburbs Greens (including this writer then Bondi councillor) and Friends of the Earth Sydney (Denlay's group). But not opposed by Total Environment Centre advisedly according to John Denlay and my own experience as Bondi Ward councillor elected to close the old monster. They wanted an upgrade and an effective escape hatch for waste burnt into the atmosphere and toxic ash. A very bad idea. They called it "waste to energy".
This TEC record is instructive for what follows at Woodlawn too given Angel's pre-eminent role in the green group interface with the NSW ALP ministry from 1997 onwards.
Above is a NCC conference resolution from 1995 from our file from JD to me to present over two pages from our file about how to really address land fill. During this time Angel was a nobody on waste policy. It was all John Denlay's leadership.
By 2000 Denlay had married and left NSW. Despite high hopes of the Carr Govt wrestling waste volumes down with innovative 'extended producer responsibility' and industry plans and metropolitan waste boards, including closure of notorious waste escape hatches (Waterloo incinerator simply gasifying the refuse), by 2000 the wheels were falling off.
The NCC had an expert working group called Waste Crisis Network. Frank Miller was on WCN. FM was a rural land holder at Braidwood, esteemed member of local Green Party, and FoE Sydney rep on WCN following the Denlay pioneering work on policy. The other members are mentioned below in this explosive letter to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. Notice the date 6 June 2000. The folks on WCN were the cream of the green movement on waste and probably had 100 years of experience amongst them hands on. They weren't light weights by any measure. The handwriting at bottom left is the SAM editor's writing in a telephone file note confirming who authorised the letter for WCN (old lawyer habit):
Independent MP Richard Jones pushes this controversial development here 2 days later in NSW Parliament and apologies for the faded image off old fax paper:
Now notice the date of this letter by Messer countermanding the reference to ICAC dated 14 June 2000 duly signed:
There is no doubting Messer wanted to destroy the credibility of the ICAC referral by the cream of the waste campaign of the NSW green movement, indeed the NSW Environment Minister quotes the letter in parliament 29th August 2000 in making their excuses:
The so called "junior officer" Frank Miller in the Minister's reply was at leat 70 years of age and backed by his whole committee.
Notice this line item in the NCC budget papers of that year up to June 2000 - $37,500 for "water reform process", that is main business of the Sydney Catchment Authority, and Messer's own Sydney Water Board, in papers prepared by Geof Lambert as treasurer (a very credible professional scientist/psephologist), with this writer an elected NCC executive member who resigned that year in disgust at anti environmental decisions being forced through the executive.
And this additional amount of state grant:
And notice this record of nearly $150,000 1999 to 2000 on forest assessments work. All serious money for desperate NCC:
The policy back story is here: Having failed after 5 full years to wrestle down waste volumes as promised the Carr govt wanted an escape hatch - Woodlawn mine site near Goulburn according to out of sight, out of mind tradition that has got western civilisation where we are today. The more greenwashing by the operator the better as here regarding methane harvesting April 2007:
Back in 2000 via minister Refshauge a friendly was appointed to an inquiry to locate and assess Woodlawn mega tip. This is waving the white flag, creating the notorious escape hatch not so different conceptually to the Waterloo Incinerator issue mid 90ies, this time a hole in the ground and water table problems, previously toxic ash and dioxin air pollution:
Notice from the sender details at the top the draft has been forwarded to both NCC and TEC head office in a deliberate strategy to sideline the NGO expert working group within their own Waste Crisis Network:
What a coup in divide and rule by the Carr Govt - leveraging their grant money and the wages to the NCC head office?
NCC then issues a friendly, green tinted, grotesquely naive press release.
Unduly friendly once you read the context: Veteran campaigner Miller can see the work of the WCN being dismantled and shafted:
The expert working group has not been consulted on the press release yet he is being listed as approving the release. That's a fraud actually:
The allegation to ICAC for one is being sanitised. See this background from Miller as spokesperson for WCN on the real policy reality of an industry/govt capture in the inquiry announcement:
And what does this have to do with Jeff Angel at Total Environment Centre? Well Jeff a well known confidant of the NSW Government is copied in to the Miller memo of 15 June 2000 so he is very much involved.
Angel writes to Miller later that year cutting him down even further with something to do with a media spot by Angel on an REP - regional environmental plan - for the catchment (?):
Angel has a reputation for speaking over the top of the real campaigners on the coal face on diverse policy areas from forests (just ask ChipStop convenor Harriet Swift), to waste (here), to Snowy River (Carl Drury) to Lake Cowal (Ruth Rosenhek) and on and on it goes. SAM here was puzzled what this REP for this waste matter is all about.
But today we googled and found this explanation in Hansard regarding the issue of conflict of interest within the model for the Sydney Catchment Authority for regulator/operator model. The very issue that came up with the msyterious submission to the Woodlawn Commission of Inquiry from the SCA against Woodlawn and then changed by SCA midstride to grudging acceptance.
Presciently Ian Cohen MP refers to the relevant REP in his speech in parliament in 1998 here, and notice all the players are mentioned in his speech on the SYDNEY WATER CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT BILL Second Reading, 1 December 1998 and see bold:
The amendments have been drafted with the assistance of longstanding water campaigners such as Dr Judy Messer, a board member of Sydney Water; John Connor from the Nature Conservation Council, a peak body in the environment movement; Keith Muir from the Colong Foundation; Graham Douglas and Noel Plumb from the National Parks Association; and Michael Mobbs, the only person in Sydney who can credibly argue for a more sustainable existence in that he lives in Sydney’s only sustainable house. Many people should follow Mr Mobbs’ example. I have not yet visited his house but I have heard a great deal about it. His home reflects the attempts being made in non-urban areas to achieve sustainability and no run-off of pollutants from living areas. Michael Mobbs has certainly achieved that.
I also commend Kathryn Ridge from the Greens’ office, who has worked long and hard on preparing the necessary material. She has done an excellent job. Both the ministerial representatives and the Opposition acknowledge that this bill was the product of extreme deadlines. I have received copies of correspondence from Dr Judy Messer, who has been a director of Sydney Water for almost 10 years. She indicated her concerns about this bill directly to the Premier. She stated:
I wish to express my strong concern that, in terms of its powers, functions and scope as outlined in the Bill the Sydney Catchment Authority will not achieve the admirable outcomes that you wish to see eventuate.
The Greens share the deep concerns expressed by those who have had a long history of involvement with this issue. For example, John Connor from the Nature Conservation Council sent a letter to the Premier expressing similar concerns to those of Judy Messer. Mr McClellan spoke on a number of occasions about the need for any legislation to establish a completion date for a regional environmental plan [REP], which is a prescriptive instrument that controls the actions and decisions of State agencies and local government authorities; the incorporation of water quality objectives set by the Environment Protection Authority or the Healthy Rivers Commission; consent authorities not approving a development application unless it has a neutral or positive impact on water quality; and the development of amelioration or action plans to address existing developments which are causing pollution.
An REP which incorporates these elements will be groundbreaking, but there is no confidence that this vision will take shape if it is not clearly outlined in the bill. Such articulation is crucial to ensure that the Sydney Catchment Authority [SCA] has no role in setting the catchment water quality and environmental flow objectives for its operations. Such a conflict is untenable and must be addressed in the bill. Later I will give my recommendations for addressing the regulator-operator conflict that is inherent in the SCA. That conflict relates to the setting of objectives, the financial framework, the role of the board and the contract of engagement for the chief executive officer.
In relation to ending the ad hoc political decision making in relation to Sydney’s catchments - and certainly that is an issue of ministerial discretion - the Minister for the Environment should be the Minister responsible for Sydney Water, because the SCA is to have primary responsibility for protecting the catchment and catchment water quality. As Dr Judy Messer so aptly put it, there is not only considerable conflict of interest but also an inordinate amount of ministerial authority. She said, "This allows virtually unfettered powers to the Minister without imposing adequately defined duties and responsibilities". The ministerial discretion powers must be subject to the operating licence, which needs to be mandated and created following a period of public exhibition within a specified time frame.
So what was Angel's performance like in that 'interview opportunity' back in the day in late 2000? Did he sanitised the Woodlawn ICAC issue, did he go soft on the Carr Govt, his mates who confided in him and appoint him to various committees? We don't know but Frank Miller had some choice words to say. We would love to know what the "offensive" fax is that Miller sent to Angel. We can guess it's a doozy.
Dr Messer in particular, and Angel as well, have some profound questions to answer regarding their style of 'leadership' of certain peak green groups this last 10 years given the flow of big grant money while allegations of corruption are raised against state departments. Their greenie record of environmental protection is a dismal failure once you get behind all the PR and mates network. These two are an eloquent argument for "grassroots democracy" in a Green Party to subordinate compromised sclerotic small g green leadership.
About 7 years ago if vague memory serves Cohen MP said to this writer in exasperation on the telephone 'what is it with NCC, I'm telling you Tom I won't work with them anymore'. No wonder given all of the above.
Frank Miller died broken hearted a few years ago, and this is just another inadequate apology to him from this writer: For failing to run sufficient political protection for his sound and idealistic work in the snakepit that is Sydney politics, green and otherwise. We were as beaten as he was.
These are his words, as if from the grave but actually from October 2000, and worth a read despite the prose style, and very wise:
On Stateline last night Angel complained about insufficient proportion of waste levy hypothecated to recycling and waste reduction. But 9 years ago he had nothing to say about his ALP Government setting up a policy framework "to secure the future of the multi national mega tip industry for the next 100 years" which provides an escape hatch at government and industry level and no real pressure to innovate waste reduction. Thanks for nothing Mr Angel.
The serious allegation is that both Messer then and presumably Angel were out of their depth when they betrayed in 2000 the trust of the real waste campaigners at the coal face in 2000 to sustain their relationship with the Carr Govt, and stay on that drip.