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Who believes in friendly fascism!

Here’s how it happened that Berejiklian and Baird, with Prime Ministerial and media compliance, turned a rocky but sophisticated transport and land use context in a great World City into a laughingstock of cost overruns, contradicted outcomes, cronyism, secret financial deals, direct Budget gifting without due diligence, political fusion between levels of government, community disenfranchisement, and an ever-growing list of Berejiklian Silly Ideas and Big Lies. 

In doing this, they all but destroyed the Menzies brand of responsible management and discredited Mike Baird’s “asset conversion” credibility.

Crypto means hidden. Fascist is putting the interests of the state above the rights of citizens. “30-Minute Club” was those who knew least saying trust us, we know best. They were sweet innocence relative to the NSW’s brutal de-democratisation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the model depends on GSC supporting developers which it does in many ways - but its methods lack veracity for which see densification targets 


Who did what

2012 saw four changes which mark it as the most disastrous year in Sydney’s history, leading to more and more mistakes in a city with a record of failed PPPs. The events were

  1. Transport Minister Berejiklian cosseted metro paid lobbyists onto her staff, and broke a major election promise, without any sanction from her Leader or colleagues, especially Treasurer Mike Baird (it had been Labor Treasurer Michael Costa who, responsibly, in 2009 had proven Berejiklian’s NW Metro to be infeasible and unsuitable).  AT THIS POINT BEREJIKLIAN TURNED INFRASTRUCTURE ECONOMICS ON ITS HEAD - SHE SUBSIDISED THE PROPONENT AT OUR EXPENSE instead of the Proponent paying us for its services, development rights and taxing abilities.  THE MEDIA MISSED THE SIGNIFICANCE
  2. A new Infrastructure NSW commissioned expert consultancies and concluded that the Main West rail system should be upgraded to 40,000 passengers per hour in each direction, with deferral of metros and the 2nd Harbour Crossing, with “Zero Gate” and other probity reforms, and
  3. Berejiklian rejected iNSW, and dumped COAG’s requirement for a “City Plan” to avoid more absurd brainstorming, and announced four metros which meant a 50% reduction in Bradfield coverage with no risk analyses or due diligence costings nor any electoral or Parliamentary legitimisation
  4. The “pre-planning” was so incompetent that the whole Illawarra Line had to be dropped and a silly competition started between the State and Sydney University over the siting of a new metro train station (on alternative routes). A sensible 2008-09 discussion about a new CBD N/S rail spine was forgotten while a 1998 idea of shifting trains out of the centre was ignored. 
  5. Probity and due diligence were dissolved in project development and approval processes, with direct Budget gifting by PM Turnbull to Chief Commissioner Turnbull’s distorted Parramatta tram with no due diligence or even financial plan  as a singular example.
  6. Lucy Turnbull was on COAG’s City Expert Advisory Panel from July 2010 to sometime in 2012. That year COAG abolished its city streams, but the Secretariat would not advise the details of dates.

A series of PR moves produced the "30-Minute Club" including "Three Cities" in response to RG's methodical critiques.  GSC was a hollow drum.

And next

Progressively, Baird and the Turnbulls extended and deepened the vortex. The reality became that Berejiklian did not develop costings and assessments of options so had no credible way to counter professional accusations that she was wasting $20-40 billion on her pre-selected schemes (what Turnbull called “ideology & stupidity”). 

Berejiklian and Baird countered questioning with Big Lies such as “transformative”, “metros carry more passengers than double-deckers”, and “privatisation windfalls will transform the NSW economy”.

As the profound defects of the NW Metro are now coming to fruition, Berejiklian is deepening the wounds by throwing out whacky further ideas for metros and road schemes, as distractions, again with the media unaware. The Federal Government has been complicit through allocations to pet projects in successive Budgets – an extraordinary one being $100 million to favoured consultants for a small business case.

The total of “waste” since Greiner’s expulsion is about $40 billion. The regions that have suffered more broken promises and more deferred if not delayed benefits include the current PM’s electorate, the Northern Beaches, the Inland Rail communities, the cities of Wollongong and Newcastle, the congested CBD and innerwest, the parking and congestion nightmares in former PM Turnbull’s electorate, and the outlying development zones whose commuters are further clogging interstate freeways.

And there is still no “City Plan” with Prime Ministers caught in the vortex of authority that is centred on a State Premier who specialises in creative paperwork, with no “safe separation”. As the Property Council put it in 2009, 

  • NSW has stumbled along for years without a comprehensive transport plan for Sydney. NSW has planned project by project with no big picture to set priorities and look at overall system management. It’s time to bite the bullet, admit past mistakes and develop an integrated long term transport plan for Sydney.

Simultaneously, the Planning Institute agreed and added, “Sydney is too important”. All such bodies have fled the scene under the deluge of current one-off metro, connex and tram lurches.


One of Australia’s most noteworthy public policy analysts, Professor Garry Sturgess, remarked in “To Join Interest with Duty”:

The checks and balances of the Westminster system do not depend on a wide dissemination of the higher virtues, but merely on the self-interest of competing ministries, competing political parties and, in federal systems, competing governments. Out of this contest and challenge comes greater transparency and a greater responsiveness to the  rich variety of interests in society.

We also know that vigilance is the price we have to pay for democracy. The over-arching trends in NSW, which have spread to Canberra’s “Bubble”, have a distinctively different shape and colour. Their beliefs bear no resemblance to Sturgess’s words and their abilities fall well short of competing and challenging: 

  • The maestros know better than do experts and communities except that they have to live in silos and steal when they’re caught out (regularly) 
  • They care about dynamics like getting cranes in the air rather than probity, economics, community and intergenerational equity – and “options” are anathema to them
  • They like to help mates, and their mates came out of their demonstratable-corrupt banking channels 
  • They are more comfortable making nation-changing decisions at the breakfast table than in national councils and in their own Cabinets, not that they’re shy, it’s better to keep secrets en famille, close to the chest.

Such thinking constraints are expressed on society through identifiable people and processes. That comes out in the chronologies which follow. The “30 Minute Club” is a microcosm of Malenomics where the original principals were Rhodes Scholars in Economics, two of, and Law, also two of including the last PM. Five are ex-bankers. 

The facts of the matter indicate all should have their epaulettes stripped-off, as will be seen when discussing performance and the even more decrepit administrative disorders that have been introduced. 

The exclusion of genuine community engagement, the breaking of Treasury guidelines including due diligence protocols, and the brutal interventions into budgetary and Cabinet collegiate approaches as shown in Baird’s and Berejiklian’s greyhounds and other blunders, make Australian politics similar to totalitarian politics.

Take the Kremlin, it featured:

  1. The absence of overt political parties – here, greyed-out blaumange
  2. Vigorous crypto-political action* through bureaucratic, factional manoeuvring – everywhere here
  3. Forced taxation and appropriation of property and production – value capture is a con to shift risk and tax
  4. Suppression of any sign of free press – mixed but self-censorship is widespread
  5. Illicit circulation of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and other manuscripts, through “samizdat”, reflecting “Groupthink’s” loss of sense of reality by factions – we use the internet and blogs, to little effect
  6. Clunky infrastructure and cranky cars, famous as being well behind the West’s technologies – we are famous for sloppy engineering and non-integrated project-by-project “compacts” and “city deals
  7. State monopolies over the means of production, distribution and exchange – Feds are threatening to dispossess energy companies if they move to implement agreed competition policy
  8. Interventions in other countries – allied to the Trump and opposed to NZ.

* Documented brilliantly by the Australian legend, Arthur Lee Burns

The Kremlin was the central focus of a vast political and economic Communist system in Russia and its then satellite republics. The character was autocratic and repressive, though progressively relaxed up to the removal of the Berlin Wall and Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika

As in Australia, “local” government was disempowered. includes what they do, how long they’ve been at it, and what got them to where they are.

The following chart shows the realpolitik of how decision-making became corrupted under Bairdijiklian Malenomics



TRANSAC, Grattan & Intergenerational Deterioration

Three conclusions seem to be reasonable in this context: 

  • the failure to meet accepted standards of project assessment and the exclusion of consequential damage to the Bradfield-era heritage rail system means that Metro and associated tunnel actual or theoretical funds should not be expended until it is known what the contingent liability from the Bradfield degradation will be. This is a “Catch-22” that is consequential to ideology-based decision-making that is so decried by PM Turnbull. Minister Constance should be encouraged to meet his promise to release details of real estate factors while all black-outs in Business Cases (full, not summary) revealed.

  • iA and its chairman emphasised the importance of feasibility testing of options and then business cases for short-listed  prospects. Its comments on WestConnex suggested that better pre-planning might have reduced costs as well as community rejection. There are options that have the potential to produce better outcomes more cheaply and quickly.  Agencies are incapable of innovating but this analyst’s work is replete with them.  It is time to prove the PM was serious in saying he would improve iA accountability – this analyst’s proposition sits in the PM’s briefcase and should not be deferred any longer

  • The inherent complexity between Metro system development, the cannibalisation of the Bradfield-era double-decker system, and the risky air-space residential densification of the MTR model, makes this a potentially disastrous case study: sacrificing the hard-won proceeds of privatisation on a system that is unlikely to meet more than 4% of new dwellings over 15 and more years does not have the ring of success about it.

Federal protections have failed – the 2009 COAG determinations were not implemented and iA post-Eddington is a cheerleader for Metros, making egregious errors of fact and logic (especially regarding the 2nd Harbour Crossing, the West Metro and the Waterloo-Green Square metro/tram/BRT confusion). After Greiner’s iNSW was monstered in 2012, iNSW retreated into a safe shell from which it has not re-emerged. 

Misfeasance is the illicit conduct of a lawful activity. Most of Sydney’s blunders fit into this category – the exploiting of weaknesses in accountability chains by policy mavericks and incompetents which has the appearance of “hiding lobbyist corruption in plain view”.  In their naivety, they hide whatever is intended to be concealed - corruption, mistakes, narcissistic bosses’ demands or whatever. The targets are politicians, local councils, media and corporates, all of whom lack a questing spirit and relevant knowledge. 

It is probable that there is corruption, especially given the weird history and non-economics of the NW to Bankstown Metro, but there is no explicit evidence yet and the extent is unknown. There is no agency capable of investigating communications in and between Australia and Hong Kong which is possibly where the odium started. 

It was incumbent, in this analyst’s view, on the former Premier Baird to demonstrate his non-involvement given he had worked in HK for the HK Metro’s funder/banker and the stakes for the Proponent are apparently the biggest in recent history. 

There is no national corruption watchdog which is negligent given the political and economic entanglements that now are becoming plain in the Pacific, Asian and S-E Asian zones and expressing themselves in cities and regions.

There is also simple Galbraithian “identification”. The current entanglements through Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and associated official bodies is amazing when one recalls the effectiveness of TRANSAC which had no commercial entanglements. 

The Campsie densification shows how far GSC has been marginalised because of its legislation, its forced acceptance of even the least legitimate Government idea, and the continuing domination of capricious politicians in dislocated project and housing areas (adding Canterbury Racecourse when it’s not even mentioned in the District Plan). Its role in forcing densification without electoral mandate and proper Parliamentary is politically and professionally inappropriate. 

iA wrote in its analysis of the WestConnex situation that “A more comprehensive options analysis may have identified these evolutions or other approaches earlier in the planning and delivery process, potentially mitigating some risks around project certainty and scope”. The last PM talks about “engineering and economics” yet his Smart Cities Plan and apparent relationships with iA and DIRD are firmly in the “ideology” bucket.

The Grattan Institute’s Roads to Riches(2016) found the most likely systemic remedy:

Commonwealth and state governments have established new bodies, such as Infrastructure Australia, to improve infrastructure spending. This is a positive move. But in their current form, these bodies have limited impact.  A better approach would involve three steps. 

  1. Governments currently cherry-pick the evaluation method that suits the result they want. Instead, they should not be able to commit to a transport infrastructure project before tabling in parliament a rigorous like-for-like evaluation of the net benefit, conducted by an independent body. Governments would then be free to make and defend decisions on the basis of a clear rationale for investment. Politicians would be less eager to invest in projects that don’t stack up.
  2. Once governments are only building projects where the community benefit clearly outweighs the cost, their second step should be to aim to build all such projects. Quality assessment, not arbitrarily imposed budgetary limits, should determine the level of investment. In other words, if a project has net benefits to the community, the government should build it. 
  3. Third, Commonwealth funding for projects should be disentangled from states’ GST entitlements. 

The Commonwealth should fund infrastructure that is important to the national economy, regardless of where it is based. It should not then override its own allocations by compensating states that did not receive funds.

More disciplined selection of infrastructure projects would have a double benefit. It would mean less wasteful spending and better transport networks, built where they will make the most difference.

Only through such a path could Dr Garry Bowditch’s prescription gain any traction (AFR June ’15):

  • Community support and trust towards credible infrastructure plans must be earned with sound community engagement and better customer service outcomes. These must form the central plank of the new long-term infrastructure-planning regime, not just a focus on assets and projects. This is by far Australia's most pressing infrastructure imperative.

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O'Farrell's failures etc

In 2010-11 the Leader of the Coalition in Opposition, Barry O’Farrell made profound promises about fixing Labor’s “planning stench”, ending backroom deals, not recycling broken promises, and killing their “metro fiascos”, largely through the creation of iNSW under the Libs’ greatest of all previous Premiers, Nick Greiner. 

The CEO of the NSW Business Chamber was reported in February 2010 as

  • welcom(ing) the commitment of the NSW Coalition to establish Infrastructure NSW as a means of identifying, prioritising and delivery of infrastructure for NSW”. The creation of such a body, accountable to the Premier, is an important step in re-establishing trust in the selection process for the infrastructure process in NSW,” said Stephen Cartwright ... 
  • NSW can deliver infrastructure better and the model proposed by the Opposition would directly improve governance and transparency in this area. 
  • The prioritisation and sequencing of infrastructure, as proposed by the Opposition, also ensures a pipeline of projects providing greater capacity for government to control costs and greater certainty of work in the sector.

Then quickly followed in 2012 iNSW’s cost-effective transit proposals in its State Infrastructure Strategy, which was monstered by then Transport Minister Berejiklian; and the Coalition’s first Business Case issues which arose in the Eastern Suburbs tram and the WestConnex and NorthConnex roads. 

The planning system was moved away from major project inquiries under the Planning & Assessment Act 1980 that had served the Wran and Greiner Governments well (before being corrupted by Labor), to a “business case” approach with progressive revelations of exclusion of options and PR-based supporting documentation (see the Bankstown Metro case).

As iA later put it in their schizophrenic manner (supplication at the front of reports, critique in the depths), about WestConnex, there was a 

  • “Cycle of a submission in October 2012, a July 2013 business case, a revised cost-benefit analysis in 2014 and a revised business case in 2015 that included further revision to the cost-benefit analysis – ‘A more comprehensive options analysis may have identified these evolutions or other approaches earlier in the planning and delivery process, potentially mitigating some risks around project certainty and scope’”.

The Transport Long Term Master Plan in 2012 was the start of Berejiklian’s ideology-led and probity-light “strategic” statements. (One on Rail Futures lasted less than a month – of course, June to July 2012.) . At the time TfNSW refused to consider Gibbons’ work, leading to “Transport thinking stuck in bureaucratic black box” (DT 5 Apr ’12); and Andrew Clennell cited their arrogant failure to consider any or all options in his classic “Liberal Bromance between Barry O’Farrell and Nick Greiner hits great divide” (DT 29 Oct ’12).

That is the significance of 2012 – the blunders then metastasised into profound damage to intergenerational sustainability, all to please the Hong Kong masters. Berejiklian has centred all NSW development agencies into her own fiefdom, presaging a shift away from Menzies’ democracy. The comedic equivalent might be The Joker in Batman; the historical one, Caligula who was regarded as the tyrant-builder-fanatic. That is the danger.

A recent Reachtel poll reported by the SMH found that 74.3% of those polled thought that  was the same or worse than Baird; while the Australian’s spin was that Berejiklian was carrying Baird’s dead cat in her handbag. The simple facts are, the policies were and are the same and the two BBs were in lockstep from about 2008 with nary a report of disagreement (Google at The Bays notwithstanding – that was a Berejiklian Special).

In particular, O’Farrell and Baird made excuses for Berejiklian every time her statements, policies and projects were found to be based on wrong data, wrong principles and/or wrong motives – so the real governmental syndrome survives because the media are blinkered and complacent, councils slow if not stupid, and the Libs who had opposed Labor’s Metro “fiasco” are silenced.

The special “club” that the Turnbulls set up with them and Baird/Berejiklian and their favourite officials set the basis for the greatest planning mistake in Australian history. 

Here’s what it looked like BUT it’s frozen in time as PM Morrison has made no visible repairs (the ex-Aus’s Mathieson went out with MT who, when appointing him after a series of outstanding predecessors, had said he was nice to have around – he bridged Baird’s, Berejiklian’s and Turnbull’s offices, the whole shooting match. (The PM said he had consulting his wife who was and is a NSW official). 

Dr Kennedy was a direct appointment from Turnbull’s Office after DIRD’s previous CEO criticised the negativity and non-performance of that Office (in a Yes Prime Minister mode, that predecessor was transferred to Arts). Kennedy had managed the City Deal set-up which has been criticised on the “Planning Betrayals” website:

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Accountable appointments - cost of cronyism

NB this and related material was provided to the named parties and none commented or objected.

Increasingly property and planning lobbies shifted from sensible positions under Labor to unquestioning acceptance of the same and worse under Berejiklian. At the same time long-awaited reviews of local government and planning Act reforms were started, mangled and abandoned, in a disgraceful hotchpotch of mayoral chains, professions’ cowardice and developers’ and lobbyists’ avarice.

The situation in 2019 is that not one major community need is being met. Out of avoided due diligence, as in the chart, came stupidity, waste, corruption and cronyism. The case studies show generalised and systemic manipulation but the summary against three vital indicators of legitimacy, against the list of project failures that is mapped on these sites, is


So not one project was "legitimate"

Corral lobbies

The cross-membership between agencies and lobbies is extraordinary and has to lead to questions as to what each side achieves what they cannot do through transparent but ethical external Chinese Walls as with previous, more professional administrations. A code of interaction between agencies and lobbies is needed, around these principles:

1. Targets: agency or official office/rs with responsibility for decisionmaking and/or advice in an ASIC industry sector/s. Includes ministerial offices, central bodies overseeing agencies, and audit/review roles

2. Lobbyists: industry association, company or individual representing members and commercial interests in the related ASIC sector/s

3. Persons in the target bodies must not

a. Attend meetings with or otherwise advise lobbyists

b. Communicate in any form with lobbyists

c. Accept any favours or gratuities, present or future, from lobbyists 

except in accordance with synchronised PMO/NSW guidelines and real-time, on-line public reporting.

The 1980 EP&A Act served Wran and Greiner well, all the parvenus would not listen

 The Metros selected the wrong vehicles, meaning the lack of inter-operability (the criminal 2012 version of the “dual gauge problem”), the forced need to rebuild major line sections to permit the herding structures on stations that need neither, and the closure of major lines for extended periods 


Look at "Planning Betrayals" and weep

“Planning Betrayals” deals with most of the subsequent contentious issues, with the CBD to Bankstown Metro Business Case being the litmus test of whether or not the 2012 “reforms” worked for communities, for lobbies, or no one. 

All key data were blacked out, all 110. No public benefits were substantiated, indeed later Minister for Transport Constance opined that several billion dollars might have to be given to developers of the Central Station precinct to make it work. The commercial model was predicted to be improbably which was confirmed when Minister for Planning Roberts said that massive value capture hikes might be needed in the metro’s development zones. No – it’s all a farce, the model was broken from the start and Baird’s asset conversion became asset depletion.

The Bankstown Metro has failed in every respect, with massive plagiarisation of my “repairs” – compensation action underway. In short, the value capture model was never going to work and the densification targets have been exposed as incompetent and mischievous, the engineering was third-rate, community engagement was insulting, and the end look of paying $20 billion to the PRC’s HK MTR for their property speculation is sick.

Turnbull’s and Baird’s dream of the “most exciting urban redevelopment scheme in the world” would be humming along in even better state had Berejiklian not booted out Google, manipulated the Fish Markets redevelopment to force a move of the cement batching plant from Blackwattle Bay to Glebe Island, $4 billion not been wasted on moving Roselle 20%-worse congestion by just 1 kilometre to a worse place with added construction congestion – as if … and the PM would have seen a true busting of CBD and innerwest congestion.

Instead of which the PM is seeing every one of Berejiklian’s brain explosions cause more congestion, now adding Botany/St George with a wasted $400 million on a dud rail duplication fiasco that was long known to be irrelevant.

The Berejiklian “new way” is that there is no value-for-money and no due diligence, no legitimacy, no media or professions’ awareness.  But there is a heap of IP theft and secretive manoeuvrings.