Tag Archive | public sector cuts

NSW, YOU’RE STILL BEING “O’FARRELLED” IN 2013!

2012 was a big year for Barry O’Farrell. He and his state government were busy wielding the axe through various tiers of public services and government agencies causing grief and carnage wherever they struck, from education to health to emergency services. He also had big development plans for the state on the agenda that many of us didn’t see coming, as he swept into office on the promise of ‘giving planning powers back to the people.’ What a lie that has turned out to be. On this point alone he has failed miserably, as 2013 looks to become a year of even more broken promises, even more bloodshed, even more breakdown of our state’s core functioning values as this greedy, dangerous, thick sculled premier leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes… Watch out NSW – You’re still being O’FARRELLED!

Yes Barry would like to wish us all a happy new year. But a word of advice… Just be careful if you intend spending part of your summer walking through some of our beautiful National Parks… you may just get shot at by some of the many shooters that Barry has allowed into our wilderness areas as they mistake your silhouette for that of a stray animal. He passed legislation in a deal with the Shooters and Fishers party allowing him to sell off our electricity infrastructure in exchange for access to the parks. Since then its been revealed that ”this decision would annihilate current rules around wildlife management in NSW and significantly curtail the ability for [National Parks and Wildlife Service] to manage lands reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974,” according to leaked advisory notes drafted within the former Environment department.

One Sally Barnes, the former head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who is linked to the notes, is now the chief executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage overseeing the move to allow hunting in parks. The notes also asked ”We are trying to open up parks to visitors – how can this be compatible?… NSW has a balanced approach with hunting allowed in state forests and on private land. If NSW wishes to be the Green State why would NSW be the first state to move to allowing hunting in national parks?” It has also been revealed that two key officials involved with the move, the Game Council’s chief executive Greg McFarland and Andrew Mallen are themselves under investigation for illegal hunting practices, trespassing, and the inhumane killing of a feral goat last month. Now that is a great example for other hunters to follow.

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And if the shooters don’t cause enough damage to our ever increasingly fragile ‘protected’ ecosystems, then the grazers just might, as Barry and co have allowed trial grazing to go ahead within National Parks too. And ducks are under fire, those dreaded webbed toed vermin that they are. They have to be eradicated, so Barry has reintroduced duck hunting to appease his political comrades the Shooters.

Even our underwater friends won’t be safe, especially if you’re a critically endangered grey nurse shark. You’ve been O’FARRELLED! too, your habitat protection sites have been revoked at Bass Point and reduced elsewhere at Green Island and Magic point, in a deal that opens up these areas to more recreational fishing at a time when most countries around the world are trying to add to maritime protection zones, not take them away.

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Of course sharks aren’t the only ones in trouble down on the waterfront. The closure of a world class fisheries research centre at Cronulla sees no reprieve despite extensive political and scientific lobbying on many fronts including that of Fred Nile. It’s been well and truly O’FARRELLED! It will be closed, and now there is talk that the heritage listed adjoining pool may be lost too, as its purpose is now diminished, according to a heritage advisor enlisted by, you guessed it, Barry O’Farrell.

It’s quite clear he doesn’t really give a toss for the environment, our Barry. Late last year he axed nine green schemes including Green Business Grants, Renewable Energy Development Grants, Schools Energy Efficiency Grants, Hybrid bus trials and the Fleetwise program aimed at reducing emissions from company vehicles. These cuts were claimed by Barry to reduce household power bills, however according to Greens MP John Kaye “the Green schemes have only driven up power prices by about $76 over the last five years, compared to the almost $700 added by wires and poles investments.” This comes after the governments scrapping of solar panel rebates not long after they came to power. But on another front, O’Farrell was quick to point the finger at the federal govt after the PM walked away from a deal that would hand environmental decision making to the states, claiming ”It’s clear the Prime Minister caved in. She blinked to pressure from the green groups who wrongly characterised this as a watering down of environmental standards.” Watching Barry’s view on ‘environmental standards’ unfold now its clearly better he was given as little environmental power as possible.

COAL SEAM GAS PROTEST SYDNEY

Image AAP

But if you think he’s just a mean spirited and heartless political hard case, well that’s just not true. Our man Barry shows absolutely no hostility to the gas and coal mining industry, as we have recently seen. He has basically allowed coal seam gas exploration and drilling to go ahead practically anywhere in the state, and many gas drillers are already taking advantage of his generosity. Directly after passing CSG legislation across NSW, 22 licenses were renewed, now that’s a lot of mining money riding on that one decision, is it any wonder it was rushed through? A ban on the controversial ‘fracking’ technique of extraction was also lifted. It’s just an afterthought that residents of Camden and South Western Sydney are a little angry having recently bought land and not being told any news that AGL would be drilling 66 gas wells right under their new neighbourhoods. Or the fact that the environmental effects of coal seam gas drilling are widely documented to cause irreversible damage to water aquifers and extensive ground contamination, not to mention surface methane leaks or cracking of surface stone such as the sandstone plateaus in western NSW which are now showing cracks throughout as a result of nearby gas seam exploration, or the countless irreplaceable millennia-old Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings throughout the state which are now at serious risk.

“The O’Farrell government has recklessly given these coal seam gas companies the green light to renew their exploration licences despite a record in NSW of toxic coal seam gas water spills, community opposition and regulatory failures,” said Prue Bodsworth of the Wilderness Society. “By offering these licence renewals, 21.3% of the State will be covered by coal seam gas exploration, which is far too high considering the massive risks to our food-producing land, water catchments and health. O’Farrell has now actively opened up over five million hectares for coal seam gas mining, putting a dark cloud of gas drilling over millions of NSW residents and our most special natural areas and waterways.”

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Image AAP

And its not just the mining industry Barry is cosily happy with. The developer lobby has a special place in Barry’s heart too, he has bent over backwards to make sure our state makes them feel at home. This is the year Barry’s magical planning white paper comes to fruition, basically turning all planning rules and residential zoning on its head. Barry’s rebadged planning body, Urbangrowth NSW, headed by former party leader John Brogden, has been given universal power to determine future growth areas of development with the input of developers, and has already carved up large chunks of Sydney and surrounds for high growth development. Urbangrowth will have the powers of compulsory acquisition, removal of regulatory barriers (‘red tape’) to speed up development, as well as access to surplus government land. Councils are to be bypassed, in fact, residents won’t have a say against these multi-story high density developments sweeping across their neighbourhoods provided they pass the certain ‘criteria’. You won’t even know that a development is going up next door until the concrete starts drying.

And with Urbangrowth NSW now running the show in cohorts with developer groups, don’t expect the suburbs you live in to look anything like they do now in another couple of years. “Take note of the name of the Housing Supply Sub Committee of Cabinet” said Brogden. It was called “not housing sustainability, not housing affordability – but housing supply”.

And its not just about fast tracking of developments in predetermined growth zones either, don’t think old inner city terrace suburbs such as Paddington or Woollahra will be spared. Legislation has just been passed allowing owners to now bypass local Development Control Plans, effectively taking away any protection of how these suburbs will remain, and allowing developers to bulldoze or alter heritage homes if they prove to be increasing housing supply. ”DCPs are the fine-grained controls that protect local communities from inappropriate development,” says David Shoebridge, Greens MP. ”This government intends to gut them.”

Heritage consultant David Logan, who worked on DCPs in eastern Sydney is also critical. ”Someone only has to say: ‘look, I’m providing more housing than you currently get in existing terraces in Paddington’ and the consent authority would be really hard pressed to keep those existing buildings [under the proposed changes],”he said. So I guess, landowners and ratepayers, and anyone else who likes to live in or even look at genuine heritage neighbourhoods, you too have been O’FARRELLED!

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But it gets worse. Under new strata laws proposed, if you live in an apartment, for example a nice art deco unit block with a garden, and you are quite happy to stay there, so long as 75 percent of the owners agree to sell to a developer (remember that’s only three out of four owners), you won’t have a say, you will be forced to sell, removed from the equation. Can you just imagine developers eyeing off all of those ‘underutilised’ brick apartments across Sydney, and starting to put pressure on owners to sell so they can increase the heights and densities returning the favour to our man Barry. Now it’s beginning to sound a bit like communist China.

Speaking of China, Barry is trying to attract cashed up investors from that part of the world by offering fast tracked visas for big investors under his new 188 and 888 Significant Investor Visa program, allowing anyone who invests $A5 million into the NSW economy not only to gain a visa for themselves, but allow their family to ether via the express lane. ‘Investment’ includes such forms as real estate, bonds, even cash. So in other words, someone from China says, “Hey Barry, I’ve got 5 million to put in your bank, or I’ve got 5 million to build a highrise here in Sydney,” that will do the trick. No language requirements, just show them the money and you get your family ticket. Now that is democracy at work. (for the rich).

But as private investment is ramped up and the coal seam gas and land grab continues at breakneck speed, funding from his own departments seem to have mysteriously dried up. Planned art gallery expansions in both Newcastle and Albury have both had the plug pulled by Barry O’Farrell, leaving the councils of those cities to bridge the gaping holes in financing themselves. The proposed expansion at Albury is now at risk as council weighs up the costs of funding it alone. TAFE and university course funding has been cut to regional centres as well, forcing courses to close and pushing students in those centres to go online in order to complete their studies.

The interesting thing with Barry is that he is willing to do whatever it takes to grow the state with private investment and high-rise development, while at the same time cutting back on all the basic governmental services that a growing community needs – health, education, policing etc. We are heading towards a Chinese style direction of high density urbanisation, and in return we are losing our own standards of living, our heritage, our way of life, the right to determine our own planning controls and standards.

Image Lee Besford

Image Lee Besford

2013 will be another big year for the growing list of epic failures for Barry O’Farrell. I have no doubt the voters will punish him the next time an election comes around, the question is, how much damage can he do during his term in office, and how will our cities and our state look by then. Heritage is not something that can be replaced with a change of government. What we are talking about here is a dangerous and reckless premier and government. Even if they serve only one term in office they have unconditional potential to cause irreversible damage to the environment, our heritage, our levels of public service and amenity, and our standard of living in general. Never before has NSW seen such a dictatorship government so intent on working together with developer and mining groups to the unvoiced detriment of everyone else.

It’s not too late, there is a lot we can all do to stop this absurdity. The planning white paper is at being released in February, so write a letter or email to the office telling them you disagree with the powers being proposed, the complete lack of community input to determine how our suburbs will look, the lack of heritage controls, and the scale of overdevelopment being proposed for many growth areas. Now is the time. Look into groups such as the Better Planning Network and get involved.

Title image The Australian.

Watch out NSW, You’ve been “O’Farrelled!” – Part 1 post here.

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WATCH OUT NSW, YOU’VE BEEN “O’FARRELLED!”

There’s a new phenomenom sweeping the state of NSW, Australia. It all started March 26 2011 after the election with a statement by the incoming premier Barry O’Farrell “We’ll govern for all.” Since then the O’Farrell government certainly has left its mark on the state, and many members of the public have felt the effects of Barry’s ‘governing for all.’ With job cuts and scale backs as well as back room deals with gun lobbyists and developers on the agenda, the public are reeling, wondering who or what could be next on the chopping block. So get ready for it NSW, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!”

Yes, it’s been a trying year for the state, some would even argue on our Australian way of life, as big bad Barry and his Liberal government, who swept to power in a landslide, have gone about their methodical prescription to change the face of NSW in so many ways. Before he’s through will we even recognise our great state and its constitutional form of democracy? Who knows…

Recently, the regional town of Grafton felt it, they’ve certainly been “O’FARRELLED!” as their historic jail has now been scaled back in service from a 250 bed centre to housing just 60 remand prisoners with the loss of over 100 jobs for the tight-knit community. Many townsfolk bravely stood night and day to form a road block outside the 119-year old fortress in order to stop the trucks coming to take the prisoners away to newer, ‘cheaper to run’ prisons such as Cessnock. As realisation crept in that they had finally lost their battle and the police lines moved in to break up the picket, protestors simply turned their backs, a potent symbol of how the O’Farrell government had turned their backs on the town’s own plight.

While finances are at the top of Barry’s agenda, not much consideration was given to the employment the jail achieves in a regional town like Grafton, which has, by this event, experienced ‘it’s darkest hour’. What will those 108 prison guards do now in times of rising unemployment, we all wonder. When he said back in 2011 “We’ll govern for all” he obviously didn’t mean them.

Grafton jail protestors, image SMH

But Grafton is not the only one to be “O’FARRELLED!” in recent times, that much is clear. Public servants, you are running scared. Nurses, teachers, emergency services, researchers, you’ve all been “O’FARRELLED!” along the line with pay freezes and lay-offs en masse under the government’s wage reforms. Public sector wages would be capped at 2.5 percent per annum, despite the CPI rising by 3.6 percent, leaving a shortfall of 1.1 percent. Over 35,000 public sector workers rallied in the Sydney Domain on September 8 2011 to protest against the attacks on public sector jobs, wages and conditions announced by Barry O’Farrell, which included a decision to axe several thousand public sector jobs. 67,000 teachers carried out a 24 hour strike on the same day.

Earlier this month it was announced that Community services workers will be cut by 968 positions over the next four years and the health department could lose more than 3600 over the same period, in a move that NSW Public Service Association Assistant Secretary Steve Turner said was “clear the Government doesn’t care about our most vulnerable children and their families, regarding their proper care as just another number to be slashed on the budget sheet.” Opposition Leader John Robertson was scathing of the cutbacks. “Sacking nearly 1,000 community services workers at the same time one in five reports of children at risk are not being followed up is nothing short of a disgrace” he said. “Cutting 968 staff from the department responsible for protecting the most vulnerable children in NSW will only see more children falling through the cracks… The latest job cut figures confirm that almost 8,000 jobs will be lost from hospitals, schools, fire stations, road safety and community services under Barry O’Farrell.”

Domain protestors. image directaction.org.au

Retail workers, you too have been “O’FARRELLED!” with the premier de-regulating trading on Boxing Day, meaning your hard earned holidays are being eroded and trading continues during this festive and traditional public holiday period.

Workers compensation laws too, have been “O’FARRELLED!” in a big way. Items such as weekly benefits beyond 2.5 years, medical expenses beyond 12 months, journey claims, claims to spouses killed at work, and legal costs are all in the target of Barry’s cuts, in effect altering worker’s rights immeasurably. The Workers Compensation Amendment Bill was rushed through the NSW Parliament in under 72 hours and was reported just 11 days after it was established. Any genuine inquiry would have taken at least 6 months, says MP David Shoebridge’s office. The committee received 353 submissions and held public hearings over just three days. Unions and workers of NSW were rightfully outraged.

Barry the butcher. image The Greens

Privatisation has been a big spinner for Barry too. Sydney Ferries, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!” Soon you’ll be run by a foreign company Veolia Transport and let’s wait to see what that entails. No doubt job losses, route changes and ticket price hikes for the iconic ferries in a bid to bring down running costs.

And state electricity, why you’ve been truly “O’FARRELLED!”. Barry did a deal with the Shooters and Hunters party to gain their support to sell off the state’s power generators, passing that bill through and at the same time “O’FARRELLING!” our state’s National Parks, many of which will now be open to hunters blasting their guns in wilderness areas – great job Barry. 40 percent of National Parks land coverage including those with World Heritage Listing such as Barrington Tops and Dorrigo will be open up to hunters. “Barry O’Farrell’s shown today that he’s prepared to break every promise that he’s made to get a deal up to get this through,” opposition leader John Robertson told reporters. “A premier who promises not to allow hunting in national parks is about to allow a shooting spree to open up in some of the most pristine parts of the state,” he said.
Inheritance
believes this is political wheeling and dealing on a whole new level, trading one totally unrelated law to get another one through parliament. Where is the consultation, where is the study? And regarding the power sell-off, expect electricity prices to soar even further. A similar sell-off in South Australia skyrocketed bills up to 30 percent.

Now the NSW Govt has become a joint sponsor of “Shot Expo”, a weapons show, along with gun makers Winchester and Beretta. The Greens MP David Shoebridge said ”It’s just astounding the Game Council is using taxpayers dollars to co-sponsor a pro-hunting event with weapons manufacturers. This state government has no limits on how far it will go in promoting a pro-gun culture, including joining with death merchants to plug guns and hunting. NSW has run down hospitals, broken public transport and thousands of public servants being sacked, but the O’Farrell government still has the cash to promote gun ownership and hunting.”
Great way to spend our tax dollars Barry.

NationalParks protestors. image davidshoebridge.org.au

The State Records office, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!”. In a little publicised event, the public Reading Room, Formally located in the Rocks, central to the public need to conduct research within its premises, has now been shut down and moved to the outer west suburb of Kingswood. So if you live anywhere near the centre of the city, you will now have to travel 40km away to gain access to the State Records, to a site with no public transport. It’s a real slap in the face for the history of our state.

NSW Fisheries, you’ve had the “O’FARRELL!” treatment too. The Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre is being forced to close against its will and broken up with up to 150 local job redundancies following. This is a world class facility with experienced researchers. Protests were held outside parliament after reports that bureaucrats tried sneakily to reclassify it to avoid the need for presenting a business case, and petitions of 18,600 names couldn’t even warrant a meeting with Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson. Now THAT is arrogance. Sutherland Shire councillor Phil Blight made his statement to the protest “It’s a centre of excellence, perfect for the research and management of fish stocks and shark monitoring. It has the facilities, the tanks, the laboratories, the storage areas, the freezers, an extensive marine library – all the things that will have to be built again at Port Stephens or Mosman or wherever the staff are to be sent. It makes no sense.”
View this web link http://www.savecronullafisheries.net/
Debate rages within the department and public as to the benefits of breaking up such an institute but in the end O’Farrell won out, as he always seems to do. Why oh why Barry?

Fisheries protestors.image SMH

And now, planning laws in the state of NSW, you are being completely “O’FARRELLED!”. This could be the most dangerous and damaging “O’FARRELLING!” to the people of NSW yet. Barry and his planning minister Brad Hazzard have released their green paper aimed at ‘cutting red tape and de-politicising’ planning and speeding up the system, when in fact it would be taking powers away from local councils and removing the rights of residents to have their voices heard when it comes to opposing DA’s. This instead would go to a panel of non-elected representatives including independent certifiers, and so long as the DA passed basic criteria, public consultation and the right for individuals to make submissions would be void. The possibilities for corruption are rife, allowing developments through without public input and moving the process out of local hands, as has been demonstrated with private certifiers in the past, where developments have been built that did not comply. While we certainly have had issues regarding council’s attitude to heritage preservation in the past (and continue to do so), at least in theory they are meant to represent local constituents and should try to do so – tell us Barry, who are these new panels there to represent?

The opposition and the Greens call this a developer free for all, whereby the O’Farrell government is effectively creating a ‘tick and flick’ system of planning. With housing affordibility and population growth key drivers in this debate, pressures are immense from Canberra and indeed developer lobbyists who are trying to maximise their opportunities to build as big and as high as they can in the midst of this population boom. With land running out on the urban fringes and public transport not keeping pace with the growth of the city (yes, Barry), so-called ‘infill’ development within existing areas is on the agenda, as it can be cheaper and larger scale than greenfield sites. We, the residents, who are mostly AGAINST over-development, and the councils who, as stated, are meant to represent us, are in their way. So taking us out of the equation is good for the economy, good for the state, and most of all, good for Barry, and the developers who will run riot once these laws are passed.

image The Age

Make no mistake, this is about boosting housing densities and giving developer groups free reign. The Sydney Morning Herald broke a story in January 2012, which outlined government strategy to ask developers where they would like new greenfield sites to open for them, earning praise from developer lobby groups such as Urban Taskforce and the Property Council of Australia. “While supporting the positive moves for greenfield sites, the Urban Taskforce believes a similar leadership role is required for the even harder supply problem of urban infill sites,” the chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, said. ”The government could call for expressions of interest for infill sites and then set up a special approval approach.”

“You’d like to see a similarly efficient process for urban renewal opportunities – there is still overwhelming demand within the existing footprint,” said the Property Council of Australia CEO, Glenn Byres. Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sent an ominous warning to councils. ”The desirable course is to work with councils, but at the end of the day the state government and I, as Planning Minister, have the capacity to rezone without their concurrence,” he said.

With the heritage office of state government already reduced to a shadow of its former self in the name of the “Heritage Branch”, lumped in as an offshoot of the planning department, this doesn’t bode well for us in the game of heritage preservation. Rather than expanding to keep pace with the extent of new planning laws, the heritage branch is shrinking and becoming virtually toothless in its powers. We could effectively see whole areas of Sydney changed radically to accommodate more and more high rise, high density development, and the increasing traffic, pollution, and congestion that entails. Not to mention the continued disappearance of gardens and backyards within our cities and suburbs. But what should be lamented most here is the loss of community input, the trampling down and cheapening of public view, of what we, the people want for OUR planning future. To deny us that right, is not what you were voted in to do, Mr. O’Farrell, the man who claimed “to govern for all” and “put planning back in the hands of the people.”

Domain protest. image ABC

Americans made a big issue of getting angry over having their Olympic uniforms made in China, it made for lively debate in congress and became world news headlines (ours are also made in China but no-one seems to care). So how will we, Australians, now react when our very public planning rules are being turned on their heads by a dictator-like short term Premier and his developer-friendly goals suited only to appease the big end of town. We as citizens are being systematically stripped of our democratic rights, we should be up in arms over this.

Democracy, NSW, 2012, you too have been “O’FARRELLED!”.
Be concerned, be very very concerned…