Budget Estimates is truly one of the most revealing and best educational services that the NSW government offers. MPs from the opposition grill ministers and agency bosses without mercy, for hours.
Its truly, truly, terrific.
Of course, a lot of the questions are taken on notice, but there are other gems that slip, so the public can be better informed of how the political tent operates, or doesn’t.
At the recent September 2 NSW Budget Estimates, NSW Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke (Nationals) and Resilience NSW boss, Shane Fitzsimmons, faced some tough questions around how their departments have responded to the floods.
As any astute resident would know, the interests of the Liberal–Nationals government appears more in bloating unaccountable do-nothiong-bureaucracies, rather than adequately funding, for example, councils and emergency responders who live locally, and know how to help their communities.
It’s Orwellian in its epic proportions.
Anyway, here are a few take-aways from the September 2 hearing:
Lismore-based Greens MP, Sue Higginson, asked Resilience NSW’s Shane Fitzsimmons, ‘Is there public transparency around the leases [for temporary pod accommodation]? Are the leases and the price that we’re paying for those leasing arrangements publicly available?’
‘I’ll take it on notice’, replied Fitzsimmons. When Cooke was asked how many people in the Ballina and Lismore electorates have received Back Home grants, she also took that on notice.
Given the future of Resilience NSW is uncertain, owing to the premier wanting a future agency being ‘leaner and nimbler’, Cooke was asked what the future holds for the 250 odd staff. It wasn’t clear from her answers if she had any idea.
As for the number of those in emergency accommodation presently, Cooke says there are around 1,200, with, ‘The overwhelming majority of those people are in the Northern Rivers region’.
Higginson asked Cooke whether building on flood-prone land in Mullumbimby was appropriate.
Cooke replied that she didn’t know about the site, despite the premier having visited it.
Higginson also asked Cooke, ‘Minister, are you satisfied with the relationship between the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation and Resilience NSW… are you satisfied that we’ve got the best working relationship in the recovery at the moment?’
She replied, ‘No issues have been brought to my attention’.
She then launched into a largely meaningless speech about Resilience NSW’s land swaps, buybacks, ‘and all of that sort of thing’.
BTW, the NSW Liberal-Nationals government have been in power for nearly a decade, and they are now behind in the polls.
It’s six months before the March election next year.
Hopefully there won’t be much left of this government after 2023, much like there wasn’t at the federal level after this year’s federal election.
Hans Lovejoy, editor