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Let’s delve into the last eight years of the NSW Coalition’s reign

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Hans Lovejoy

Many political actors rely on voters to forget their terrible past by distracting them with rapid-fire pork barreling and non-binding pledges just prior to an election.

With that in mind, the following is a potted history of The Echo’s reporting since the Liberal – National government was elected premier in 2011.

Like the dark 16 years of NSW Labor before them, the past eight years of the Liberal-Nationals has seen the continued ruination of everything that is good about humanity.

On the bright side, the state of NSW has now become – along with Victoria – the strongest performing economy in Australia. This is owing to a strong retail and real estate sector, mainly driven by Sydney’s property market and overseas investment.

Yet under this government, there’s been grand scale idiocy: cover ups, backflips, bungles, rorts, dodgy deals, ICAC findings and mass resignations.

This has accompanied large-scale environmental destruction, funding cuts to essential services like legal aid, diminished domestic violence support, the gutting of education (TAFE), flogging public assets off and significantly diminished civil rights which has enabled a rapid  expansion of the police state.

The Liberal-Nationals have done it all with poorly written and ambiguous laws, that were underpinned by skewed bureaucratic reports to suit their political agenda.

Almost all of these flawed laws were criticised by the legal profession and independent advocacy groups.

What have the priorities of this NSW Liberal-Nationals government been?

Let’s find out.

Former local Ballina MP Don Page (Nationals) was the local NSW rep for 127, oops, 27 years and retired in 2015. What did he achieve? Hard to say. Prior to the last four years being held by Greens MP Tamara Smith, the Ballina electorate had been a conservative seat for 88 years.

Free legal services axed in 2012

In November 13, 2012, The Echo reported that a state government-funded service that provides free legal advice to the public on coal-seam gas, planning reform and other other key environmental issues had its funding cut.

Senior solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) NSW, Sue Higginson (now Lismore Greens candidate), told The Echo at the time that, ‘after attacks in the media (Murdoch’s The Australian) and in parliament (Robert Brown from the Shooters and Fishers Party), we have had our funding slashed.’

In recent times the Lismore-based Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre faced similar cuts.

Cuts to TAFE

In November 13, 2012,  The Echo reported that 800 TAFE jobs were axed and fees were to increase under a major overhaul. Then-local Ballina MP Don Page (Nationals) spun the party line over why, and blamed the federal government.

He told The Echo, ‘The NSW government’s budgetary changes are largely due to a $5.4billion reduction in GST revenue coming to NSW from the Commonwealth over the next three years. The NSW government needs to live within its means’.

Then-Greens MLC John Kaye replied, ‘The O’Farrell government cut $300 million in payroll tax to the top ten per cent of the largest and wealthiest companies who could easily afford it’.

Labor have promised free TAFE if elected in 2019.

Education reform

On November 19, 2013 The Echo reported that around 16 local small schools could be severely affected by a state government planned shake-up which would see them lose their principal and have their funding transferred to larger schools under a ‘hub and spokes’ schools network system.

The recently released government ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ initiative says it would provide schools and principals with more authority to make decisions at the school level to improve student outcomes’.

In December 16, 2014 the NSW government begins overhauling Vocational Education and Training (VET), and introduces the Smart and Skilled program. The government claims students will, ‘have more choice when selecting courses and training providers.’ But it’s come under in- tense criticism; according to the NSW Teachers Federation, it will see a significant rise in student fees and debt and has followed TAFE teacher redundancies.

By January 11, 2017, the Technical and Further Education Commission Amendment (Funding Guarantee for TAFE) Bill 2016 is introduced by Labor and knocked back.

The bill is an attempt to guarantee that at least 70 per cent of vocational training funding in NSW goes to TAFE.

Recently the coalition government has diverted some TAFE funding to businesses to provide training.

The ‘Smart and Skilled’ reforms have not entirely been a huge success – even Murdoch’s The Australian reported in July 2016 that the ‘scheme is partly to blame for a dramatic drop-o in publicly funded training.’

Health under stress

Byron finally got a new hospital in March 2016, yet a year later, The Echo reported that the NSW health system continued to be in a state of crisis, according to the recent quarterly report from the independent Bureau of Health Information (BHI).

In May 17, 2017 The Mullumbimby hospital site was sold to Council for $1.

Apart from Franklin, there were of course many involved in lobbying for the handover of an asset that was built in part by the community.

Likewise in November 2018, the old Byron District Hospital was given back to the community for $1.

Bangalow’s outreach health service was sold to a private investor.

Council sacking laws   

In March 26, 2013 The Echo reported that then-local Ballina MP Don Page (Nationals) and local government minister was accused of failing to consult LGNSW over ‘Radical changes that would see a ‘fundamental shift’ in power from local councils to the state government. He replied the law was needed because ‘a small number of councils [had] become dysfunctional and if this legislation had been in place the problems would have been sorted out’.

The new council suspension laws were used by Page as reported on December 31, 2013. A NSW shire council roughly the size of Tasmania and with a population of only 2,000 had its councillors suspended (not staff), with NSW Treasury claiming the council was in a ‘very weak and deteriorating’ financial position. But mayor of Central Darling Ray Longfellow told The Echo that despite clear and early warnings of financial difficulty to Mr Page’s department, support was not forthcoming.

The Nationals candidate for Ballina is Ben Franklin, the US inventor, scientist and statesman who died in 1790. Franklin invented the lightning rod and the urinary catheter while also claiming credit for anything that increases his political capital in the Ballina electorate. He is good friends with former local Ballina MP Don Page.

Pork barrel hypocrisy 

In May 21, 2013 then-local Ballina MP Don Page (Nationals) who was local government minister, refused to support the inclusion of local government in the Australian Constitution for the upcoming referendum.

Page explained whyhe told ABC radio, ‘You could easily envisage a situation where a couple of marginal seats in a federal election would be benefited by large cash injections from the Commonwealth on the eve of the election to fund a particular piece of infrastructure. So you would have a large amount of money going to a project that was for political reasons but wasn’t actually part of the state plan.’

Local Government review, amalgamations

The long-awaited Local Government Review and taskforce report, spearheaded by then-local government minister and Ballina MP Don Page (Nationals) was released and reported in The Echo January 14, 2014. Byron was one Council earmarked for amalgamation. The report claimed ‘around a third of all NSW councils being at risk from weak revenues, infrastructure backlogs and declining populations; some are in crisis or very close.’ The government then introduced ‘Fit for the Future’ requirements for all councils whereby they needed to find extra revenue to be in the black.

The Fit for the Future regime required that councils become ‘financially sound, operating efficiently and in a strong position to guide growth and deliver quality services into the future.’ Paid parking was introduced into Byron Bay as a result, along with a rate rise. Byron then became ‘fit for the future’.

Local Government NSW, the body representing councils, blasted the short time-frame for councils to provide feedback and said, ‘While the report does not support forcibly amalgamating councils, it does provide a very detailed “merger” blueprint for a future state government with- out the current “no forced amalgamations” policy.’ The report also said, ‘People appear satisfied with the performance of local government – more so than with state and federal governments.’ There is a nugget of wisdom if every there was one.

By March 18, 2015 amalgamation of councils were on the table by the NSW government, raising concerns from the state’s peak body representing councils, Local Government NSW (LGNSW). By December 2015, the ABC reported the government had plans for 35 mergers, which would have reduced the state’s 152 councils to 112. Forcing councils to merge has in the past been unpopular and even had been reversed; QLD’s Noosa being a well-known case.

By January 25, 2017 The Echo reported a commitment by newly appointed deputy premier John Barilaro (Nationals) that forced council amalgamations in regional NSW would be now unsupported by his party. By July the government abandoned the plans but some mergers had already occurred. There are now 129 local government areas in NSW from a previous 152.

Bruns public caravan parks takeover

Throughout the last eight years in power, the Nationals and Liberals refused to hand back management of Brunswick Heads’ public caravan parks and Crown reserves to the Byron Shire Council. In 2006, the parks were controversially taken over by the state and handed to the North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) by former disgraced Labor MP Tony Kelly, with a claim they had been mismanaged. And ever since, major cost-shifting has occurred.

The Echo reported that when Council ran the parks in 2003–04, it made almost $1 million ($860,553) but under state control in 2011-12, NCHP paid only $196,818 from park income to Byron Council.

Domestic violence service axed

In March 15, 2017 The Echo reported that National and Liberal MPs allowed a 30-year-old award-winning domestic violence service in Tweed Heads to be axed.

The issue sparked a petition to save the Tweed Valley Women’s Service, and owing to its reaching 10,000 signatures, it was automatically tabled in NSW parliament. Significantly, the CEO of the parent service provider who axed the 30-year-old women’s service – On Track – inexplicably resigned. It emerged former On Track CEO Elaine De Vos supported former Nationals Party federal candidate Matthew Fraser in a video on his Facebook page. Labor’s accusations over the unexplained way in which a reputable service provider was axed by a parent service provider, whose CEO De Vos was Nationals Party aligned quit without explanation, were not refuted or explained by the government.

It’s unclear whether increased funds were spent by On Track responsibly or whether those funds are being sucked up in middle/top management wages.

Skewed rail study leads to roads

A long awaited regional rail study entitled Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study was released April 30, 2013, which recommended that services remain suspended and ‘rail assets be maintained to a minimum standard only’.

Remarkably light rail was not addressed, and instead the study focused on heavy, or freight rail. Such reports of course underpin government decisions and without including light rail, a case for rail trails can be made. 

Then-local state MP Don Page (Nationals) distanced himself from the report and previous election promises to reinstate rail. No comment was provided to The Echo regarding a commitment to light rail, or the lack of environmental provisions that he had called for. Fun fact – Premier Gladys Berejiklian was then transport minister, who handed down this transport study.

The Labor state government abandoned the rail line in 2004.

Nats claim CSG win

NSW coal seam gas (CSG) licences were approved under Labor pre-2011, then began rolling out under the Coalition after they won office in 2011.

On November 5, 2013, The Echo reported that then-local state MP Don Page (Nationals) was unsupportive of a 12,000-strong petition by residents calling for a north coast moratorium on coal seam gas. Page instead used parliament time to launch attacks on the region’s two federal Labor MPs and members of the public opposed to mining expansion.

On December 10, 2013, NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher resigned after his office was raided by ICAC.

Junior mining corp Metgasco had earmarked a property for exploration in Bentley, near Lismore, and it became national news after thousands of CSG-free activists surrounded the land.

Known as the Bentley Blockade, that property was owned by Peter Graham, a National Party member and former Lismore Councillor.

While political actors from different parties came to the blockade in solidarity, no Nationals MPs did.

By mid May, 2014, around 800 police were ready to descend on Bentley to break apart a massive non-violent blockade.

The government backed down and suspended the gas company’s exploration licence, then later struck a $25m deal with Metgasco.

Harsh draconian laws were enacted which imposed heavy fines and prison time on those who ‘locked on’ to mining equipment.

The son of Lismore MP Thomas George (Nationals) worked for Metgasco at the time. Franklin claims his party were the heroes in stopping north coast CSG. 

Land clearing jumps dramatically

In June 18, 2013 The Echo reported that the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and related biodiversity legislation would be ‘comprehensively’ overhauled.

In August 2018 the Guardian reported a combined native vegetation report for 2014-2016 was released by the OEH, after an eight-month battle by Guardian Australia using freedom of information laws to secure its release. It was almost two years overdue.

It showed ‘a sharp spike in native vegetation cleared legally in NSW during 2015-16, with 7,390 hectares cleared, double the 10-year average and eight times the area cleared in 2013-14’.

Infrastructure

In June 25, 2013, the state government announced its budget that included ‘nearly $1 billion to continue duplication of the Pacific Highway’. Yet this also included construction of the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section, which was already underway.

‘Health also came out high on the list, with the government promising $400 million to continue funding to up- grade regional hospitals including $8.9 million towards Lismore Hospital Stage 3A re-development, which has also been previously announced. The budget also trumpeted $22 million for refurbishing seven of the region’s court houses, but most of that will end up going towards the Coffs Harbour court house.

And according to the NSW Bar Association, a 4.5 per cent cut in the local court’s budget over the next three years is pegged, ‘which could lead to greater burdens on courts and lower revenue potential’.

Planning laws overhauled

In June 11, 2013 The Echo reported the NSW government’s planning White Paper proposes continuing with the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) and expanding the number of Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPP) to decide controversial developments.

The glossy and somewhat repetitive 214 page document was the government’s vision for a new planning system. In April 23, 2013, the long-awaited overhaul of NSW’s planning laws were released. Labor opposition Leader John Robertson said the planning laws gave developers everything they wanted. Then-planning minister Brad Hazzard said the government was slashing millions of dollars in red tape, making new homes cheaper to build.

Later on October 8, 2013, the NSW government’s controversial planning reforms were overwhelmingly rejected at the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) annual conference, held in Sydney. Critics said the reforms would strip the rights of communities to reject inappropriate developments.

In July 15, 2014 then-local MP Don Page told The Echo that his election commitment of ‘putting planning decisions back into the hands of the communities’ applied only to the abolition of Part 3A of the EP&A Act, ‘Whereby local developments could be called in to be dealt with via the department of planning in Sydney.’

By November 18, 2015, The Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015 was tabled, which aimed to override Sydney council’s local environmental plans (LEPs) and create a new planning body comprising a commissioner with committees. Part of the legislation also amends the NSW Planning Act. It was headed by Lucy Turnbull.

North Coast Regional Plan 2036

In March 29, 2017 The Echo reported on a long-awaited state government plan that will shape the future development from Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie.

The North Coast Regional Plan 2036 signals a modest rise in housing stock for Byron Shire to 3,150 new dwellings by 2036. Then-minister Anthony Roberts enthused in the introduction, ‘More than 12 million people visit the region each year, making it also one of the great tourist attractions of the nation.’

The 96-page glossy document and its implementation plan will be incorporated into Council’s planning ‘instruments,’ and play a significant role in how the future of the region is developed.

Like the previous draft plan, roads and airports feature heavily while railways do not. e report claims an estimated 83 per cent freight increase will barrel down the highways between 2013 and 2031.

Byron Shire’s housing stock is currently 16,100, the report claims, which will become 19,250 by 2036.

By comparison, Kyogle is expected to only increase 100 dwellings to 4,900 by 2036. Cities are the main focus of growth, with Tweed pegged to increase the most with 11,600 new dwellings, up to 56,050.

West Byron

May 17, 2017 The NSW Department of Planning and Environment continued to act as a propaganda public relations unit for West Byron developers, with a press release again spruiking one of the largest urban and commercial land release areas in a generation on sensitive wetlands.

Anonymous Sydney bureaucrats amended Byron Shire Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) to allow the project to proceed, however determination will be from the northern planning panel, headed by former Nationals MP Garry West.

Lennox Ski Jump

May 24, 2017 An economic benefit report for a ski jump proposal, taller than the Byron lighthouse on the pristine Lennox Head coastline, is yet to tabled by the NSW Office of Sport, adding to the outrage of residents opposed. The idea is eventually dropped, with Ben Franklin claiming credit.

E-zones

It’s September 25, 2012 and rural landowners claimed victory over Byron Council’s contentious plans to apply complex zonings on agriculture land after three state ministers intervened. The move applies to Ballina, Byron, Lismore, Kyogle and Tweed councils. The government ‘would not endorse the use of E2 and E3 environmental zones’ on rural land that is earmarked for far north councils’ local environmental plans (LEPs).

Nearly seven years later, Council is ‘implementing a review of E Zones in accordance with the Northern Councils E Zone Review Final Recommendations Report (2015)

Landcare under fire

In February 26, 2013, local state Nationals MP Don Page came under pressure over his government’s planned cuts to Landcare.

His government’s decision to cut the $30 million Catchment Action NSW program that supports Landcare and other environmental initiatives from July 1 ‘was difficult to comprehend’, said independent MP and former Armidale mayor Richard Torbay .

According to state parliament’s Hansard transcript from February 19, independent MP and former Armidale mayor Richard Torbay says support looks likely to be withdrawn after a planned merger with the Livestock, Health and Pest Au- thority and other authorities.

Land management service merge

On December 10, 2013 The Echo reported ‘sweeping changes which come into effect from January 2014 will see a combining of NSW government services for landowners’.

Part of these changes, if adopted, would eventually see landowners with two hectares or more be liable to pay rates to the newly formed Local Land Services (LLS). At the time in the northeast NSW region, landowners with ten hectares or more paid rates to the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) for land management services.

Marine windbacks

In January 21, 2014 prominent north coast ecologist Dailan Pugh criticised then local state MP Don Page (Nationals) for not being willing to ‘heed the science’ and stand up for local marine parks. The broadside follows the release of a statement of support for the state’s marine parks a er the government moved to allow amateur anglers to fish in breeding grounds and aggregation sites late last year. The statement was signed by more than 220 of the nation’s marine scientists.

Page retires in 2015  

Perhaps the writing was on the wall over CSG, or it could have been losing the local government portfolio and being relegated to the backbench. Regardless, Don Page MP (Nationals) announces he will not contest his seat in 2015 with nearly a year to go and retires on two fat pensions after 26 years as state Ballina MP.

School and sporting facilities upgrades, converting of Ballina and Byron Bay police stations into twenty‐four-hour stations and establishing the NSW Coastal Policy in 1990 were a few achievements, he said. Others were preventing high rises along the NSW coastline, the expansion of the Billinudgel Nature Reserve, introducing SEPP 44 to protect koalas and protecting environmentally important land at South Ballina from development as a major tourist resort. He also oversaw local government reforms as minister.

In his remaining 11 months, Page said his aims were to working on easing Byron Bay’s traffic congestion, a new central hospital for Byron Shire and the creation of a rail trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor.’ 

Murray-Darling fiasco

In August 16, 2017 The Echo reported that ‘Reverberations continue over the ABC Four Corners TV report alleging corruption and mismanagement of the Murray-Darling river’.

At a cost of around $13 billion, the Murray-Darling Plan aims to provide an equitable and sustainable management of the sensitive river system, which traverses four eastern states and the ACT.

The Echo asked locally based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin if he supported a judicial review instead of the current investigation, but instead he said, ‘The NSW government is committed to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, while seeking the best deal for NSW communities within that framework.’

‘The Four Corners program (ABC) raises very serious issues around the alleged improper water use in the Barwon-Darling system.

‘We take all breaches of the NSW Water Management Act 2000 seriously.

‘The independent investigation being run by Ken Matthews AO, former chair and CEO of the National Water Commission, will result in a preliminary report by the end of this month and the final report towards the end of this year.

‘Should he feel it necessary, Mr Matthews’s terms of reference allow him to refer any matters directly to NSW ICAC, which has the power to investigate the allegations of corruption referred to in your correspondence.

‘We will await the findings from Mr Matthews’s independent investigation and will cooperate fully with the MDBA’s review of compliance arrangements in the Murray-Darling Basin.

‘The secretary of Department of Industry has already referred the allegations raised in the ABC Four Corners broadcast to the NSW ICAC.’

In August 23, 2017 The Echo reported that then-Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham accused the government of purposely ignoring the Indigenous Barkindji people of Wilcannia. The Darling River runs through Wilcannia in northwest NSW and is affected by water shortages.

Mr Buckingham told parliament, ‘I have gone in to bat for the Barkindji people in Wilcannia.’

Also in parliament, the government refused to make public key documents concerning an alleged secret meeting between irrigators, their lobbyists and the state’s top water bureaucrat, Gavin Hanlon. Instead, government MPs stuck to the claim that the ongoing inquiry will address concerns.

In September 13, 2017 the National Party was still under pressure from Labor, the Greens and environmental groups after a report was released into water mismanagement and noncompliance in NSW.

The independent investigation was commissioned after damning allegations of water the and collusion with wealthy irrigators was exposed on ABC TV’s Four Corners.

Author Ken Matthews found, ‘water-related compliance and enforcement arrangements in NSW have been ineffectual and require significant and urgent improvement.’

According to the report, ICAC are investigating the allegations.

Then-NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham said, ‘The National Party should be permanently stripped from holding the water portfolio. We cannot have the fox in charge of the henhouse, especially when National Party donors are getting favourable treatment by ministers, MPs and senior public servants.

‘The current government made a massive mistake in putting the Department of Primary Industries in charge of water. ere is an inherent conflict of interest of making water allocations subservient to the interests of the agricul- tural industry.’

An independent natural resources access regulator has been recommended by the independent investigation. Meanwhile, conservation groups Nature Conservation Council and Inland Rivers Network are calling for judicial review, which has so far been rejected by the NSW coalition. Inland Rivers Network spokesperson Bev Smiles said, ‘ e [Murray Darling] river belongs to everyone, not just big irrigators. Water-sharing plans must ensure the environment and other users get their fair share.’

In January 16, 2019, The Echo reported ‘NSW Nationals MLC Ben Franklin has avoided commenting on the Murray Darling water management issues that has plagued his government and instead blames the recent mass fish kills on a natural occurrence’.

Franklin also declined to comment on whether he believed water-intensive large-scale cotton irrigation farming is appropriate for the climatic region of regional NSW.

But Richard Kingsford, the director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, told SMH at the time it was a disaster that had been many years in the making because too much water had been diverted from the system for agriculture.

The Echo asked Franklin, ‘Do you accept that the Nationals are responsible for this mess? Or was this a bipartisan effort, as you suggested it is for the Richmond River?’

Franklin replied, ‘The recent fish kill in Menindee was caused by severely low water flow owing to drought conditions, coupled with a sudden drop in temperature, resulting in a disruption to the existing algal bloom in the Lower Darling River, killing the algae and depleting the level of oxygen in the water.’

‘There is no denying that what we have seen in the Menindee is an unfortunate event; however, these events are not uncommon and can be result of many factors.

‘In fact, there have been major fish-kill incidents across the state, including in our own Richmond River over the past 20 years, as a result of high rainfall and high temperatures, stripping oxygen from the water.

‘Improving the water quality of the Richmond River is critical for the future of our community.

‘We have already committed funding through the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy, over ten years, which outlines nine management initiatives to address the major threats to the health of our rivers, especially from pollution and marine litter.’

Groundwater flogged off by DPI bureaucrats

On May 10, 2017 The Echo reported that groundwater located within Byron Shire were among 42 additional sources identified across NSW that will be opened up for new extraction licences. Yet the utility that supplies the region’s water, Rous County Council, said in their 2016 Drought Management Plan (page 73) that the potential secure yield for greater extraction ‘is not currently known’.

It’s a position broadly in line with UNSW professor Andy Baker, who says on www.conversation.com that ‘we still know very little about this precious resource, particularly about how it may be affected by increasing pressure and a warming world.’

Forestry and logging

July 2, 2013 Illegally logged old-growth forest in the Koreelah State Forest near Woodenbong was investigated by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) after pressure from a local conservation group and evidence presented to NSW parliament.

July 9, 2013 – Almost a year a er its illegal activity was un- covered, the Forestry Corporation of NSW was issued last week with fines of less than $1,000 by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for logging a koala high-use area in Royal Camp State Forest, south west of Casino. NEFA’s spokesperson described the ne of $300 for each penalty as ‘paltry’, adding there were ‘no requirements for remediation or protection of compensatory habitat’.

The fine and alleged logging is one of many accusations by NEFA.

In October 1, 2013 a brouhaha over logging old growth on private property adjacent to Whian Whian forest, just west of Byron Shire, entered into its third week, with campaigners continuing with non-violent blockades against the destruction by the NSW Forestry Corporation.

A logging track that was overseen by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) last week has also come under fire. Thee logging road was built by the Forestry Corporation and, according to the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA), is within what should have been 20-metre exclusion zones around two koala high- use trees and the endangered plant Slender Marsdenia.

Flogging public assets

From public lands (including native forests and Crown lands), historic public buildings, prisons, electricity networks, education, hospitals, human services and public transport, there are global trends in privatising government assets. The question is whether the result is a good one. A ‘bloated bureaucracy’ is a term often used to justify flogging public assets. Should services such health education, transport and jails always remain in public hands?

Former Greens MP Lee Rhiannon wrote in her pamphlet Sold Off, Sold Out in September 2017 that since it came to office in 2011, the NSW Coalition government ‘has sold off more than $62, billon in public assets’.

Are we getting value for money? Rhiannon claims the assets are often sold below its true value, then higher prices and charges follow. ‘Profits boom but services are downgraded, corruption emerges, there is a significant loss of earnings owing into Treasuries, there are inevitably job losses, wages and conditions for surviving employees are reduced, regional communities are the worst hit, economic health and quality of life suffer vital investment does not occur, and democratic control of the economy is diminished’.

A remarkable monopoly public asset sell off was the privatisation of the NSW Lands Titles Office, which earned the government $130 million a year. Rhiannon the 35 year lease for $2.6 billion went to a ‘consortium composed of Westpac’s investment arm, a local super fund and a London-based pension fund’.

In October last year, SMH reported that the new owner ‘surreptitiously hiked some fees by 1,900 per cent before it was caught and forced to amend them.’

The South Australian Labor government sold their ands Titles Office in 2017, while Victorian Labor government did the same in 2018.  

The last eight years of leadership

Way back in 2011, Barry O’Farrell’s Liberal-National Party won in a landslide, but then he resigned in 2014 after a ‘massive memory fail’ when giving evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Mr O’Farrell denied receiving a $3,000 bottle of wine from Australian Water Holdings (AWH) executive Nick Di Girolamo, but evidence of a handwritten not was presented indicating he had.

Step up banker and the highly religious Mike Baird, who replaced him. Baird won the 2015 state election on the promise to lease 49 per cent of the state’s electricity distribution network (poles and wires) for 99-years to the private sector and use the proceeds to invest in new road, public transport, water, health and education infrastructure.

But in 2017, www.businessinsider.com.au reported that the ACCC’s Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry preliminary report stated that an ‘Over-investment in the “poles and wires” infrastructure in Australia’s electricity network is to blame for high power prices.’

While Baird won in 2015, he lost the massive majority he inherited from O’Farrell. Deputy premier Andrew Stoner (Nationals) was replaced by former Dubbo cop Troy Grant.

Issues that arose from Baird’s leadership included his support for the tough Sydney lockout laws, which decimated the city’s nightlife and benefitted James Packer’s Casino. WestConnex became an issue, as did ignoring the backlash over local government amalgamations. Baird also reversed an earlier decision to ban greyhound racing in the face of significant community pressure. Locally, CSG erupted as a major issue in 2015, and despite Baird buying back the CSG licences, harsh draconian laws were enacted that imposed heavy fines and prison time for those who ‘locked on’ to mining equipment. 

The Nationals deputy leader Troy Grant quit politics in November 2016. Fairfax reported that he stepped down in the wake of the Orange by-election loss to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

Grant was also one of the MPs behind its forced merger policy in 2015 and 2016, which sparked community backlash. 

Baird lasted until January 2017 before quitting to work for the National Australia Bank. And now, dear reader, we are left with Gladys Berejiklian.

 

A final thought: ‘Capitalism fails to realise that life is social. Communism fails to realise that life is personal. The good and just society is … a socially conscious democracy which reconciles the truths of individualism and collectivism.’ – Martin Luther King

 

* This article was amended in the opening pars to reflect that the Lib/Nats were elected in 2011, not the Baird government.


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5 responses to “Let’s delve into the last eight years of the NSW Coalition’s reign”

  1. After reading the above I am now very sure of what The Libs & Nats
    are good at. ‘Wrecking what’s doing well & following their CSG God.’
    Labor’s not all that pretty either. It approved the CSG Licence but
    lost the 2011 election. Now – eight years later – I’m waiting on Tony
    Burke’s written answer to mine regarding his stand on Adani & his
    party’s full view on Climate Change. The [current] Shadow Water &
    Environment Minister is dragging the chain in answering simple
    questions.

  2. robot says:

    Of course our saints don’t misuse their minority influence in the upper house. Forget democracy, vote for our distinguished professionals and their mob of social science 101 dropouts. And yes, I’ll have the pepper. Is it real coconut, I mean dessicated by hand?

  3. robot says:

    Finally I understand. Past a certain time of night, about 10.30, to post you have to answer the quizzes.

  4. robot says:

    The quizzes are all to do with the built environment. No questions on butterflies or bees. I wonder why, like maybe the two sets are not conjoining. I work best in the early morning and the radio is better. Amy Winehouse at the moment, back to black. And no, the two sets are not mutually exclusive, as much as Green philosophy is not rational, or irrational, completely, just the latest fad.

  5. Christopher Axtens says:

    Fairly good coverage in this article. Some FACTUAL things need correcting. Mike Baird was NOT elected as Premier in 2011. Barry O’Farrell was the person elected as Liberal Premier of NSW in 2011. Mike Baird got the Premier’s job on the back of Mr O’Farrell’s troubles with a bottle of Grange and associate party fundraiser happenings. Baird was assured of winning in 2015 because of the size of the majority the Coalition got in 2011.

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