Bulldozer Baird has attracted a lot of public criticism recently on a range of issues, including banning greyhound racing, forced merger of local councils, destroying Sydney’s tree canopy as a by-product of WestConnex, demolition of Sirius building and its social housing in The Rocks, and extreme privatisation of NSW government services, to name just a few of the items on his current daily checklist.
But the issue of the Baird government’s handling of Crown Land in NSW has the potential to explode suddenly, like a hidden land mine or IED in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Most of Australia’s legal infrastructure was inherited from Britain, where the term Crown Land is the gold standard for the protection of land assets from commercial exploitation and environmental destruction.
Brits known implicitly that the title for Crown Land is held the ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, on behalf of all the citizens of the United Kingdom.
That used to be the case in Australia too.
But here in NSW the Bulldozer Baird’s government now see the 42 per cent of all land in NSW, which it manages on behalf of the Crown, and by extension the residents of NSW, as another rich source of under-used, lazy assets that Bulldozer Baird wants to use to fund his over ambitious strategies for managing the state of NSW, like it was just another large private corporation, where he is only accountable to shareholders.
To put it simply, Bulldozer Baird sees a piece of Crown Land as an asset that his LNP Government can turn into instant cash, by selling or leasing it off to the private sector.
The lucky corporation, or private individual, then goes onto on to make incredible profits off a piece of land that they have not had to pay a realistic market price to acquire .
On 8 September 2016, the NSW Auditor General released a scathing report confirming once and for all that the Crown Land estate was indeed being grossly mismanaged by the Baird Government.
The NSW Auditor General’s report made a series of recommendations to the government, with responsible minister Niall Blair responding that the government would accept everyone one of them.
Normally, a report from the NSW Auditor General, as serious as this one, would have gone straight to the government’s Public Accounts Committee for a detailed examination and response.
But not this time! Minister Niall Blair had other ideas.
On 13 October 2016, the NSW Upper House handed down another damning report on the mismanagement of Crown Land in NSW.
It too made a list of recommendations. In accordance with normal procedure, the Upper House gave the government six months to respond.
Bulldozer Baird’s government did not need six months to respond to the Upper House Inquiry. It clearly was never going to properly respond to the NSW Auditor General’s damning report.
On 19 October 2016, only six days, after it received the Upper House report on Crown Land mismanagement, it lobbed a 236 page new Crown Land Management Bill into the Upper House for immediate passage, with extremely indecent haste!
Only some last minute maneuvering by the NSW upper house crossbenchers got the community a stay of execution.
As a result Bulldozer Baird agreed to give the Upper House and the community a couple of weeks to consider this complex and voluminous rewrite of our Crown Land legislation.
Instead of properly addressing the abuses chronicled by various community groups, including Crown Land Our Land, the NSW Auditor General and the Upper House inquiry, Bulldozer Baird and minister Niall Blair have decided to legislate its way out its Crown Land problems, by making lawful all those things that were previously unlawful!
That’s pure gob-smacking arrogance, which we have become used to from the nice, boyish Bulldower Michael Baird.
Minister Niall Blair can even retrospectively declare, by decree, any previous unlawful use or occupation of Crown land as ‘lawful’. I kid you not, it’s there in clause 5.26(1).
This is nothing other than a shameful capitulation by the Bulldozer Baird to his LNP and ‘top end of town’ mates, who have been rorting the system for years.
Think of it as a form of institutionalised corruption, a more accurate name for the Bill would be the 2016 Crown Land Mismanagement Whitewash Bill.
As a bonus Baird’s Crown Land Bulldozer Bill will make it easy for the his government to dramatically speed up the process of selling off, or leasing, Crown Land to the private sector – developers, tennis court operators, builders, etc , who all seem to be major donors to the election coffers of LNP MPs in the NSW lower and upper houses.
The following article highlights one of the intended consequences of Bulldozer Baird’s plans to capitalise Crown Land assets, well away from public scrutiny, of course.
It is overdue that the Crown Land debate starts appearing on the front pages of local, state and national newspapers in Sydney and regional NSW