The great Sydney trade-off: finding the elusive, almost mythical sweet spot

By Matt Wade


The sweet spot in Sydney is an elusive, almost mythical place.

An affordable home close to the shops, with a reasonable commute to a decent paying job is difficult enough to find. But the juggle becomes even harder once you add school choices and the expectation of enriching leisure time including overseas travel.

Climbing the Sydney property ladder has become more difficult.
Climbing the Sydney property ladder has become more difficult.CREDIT:JIM RICE

We’re a city searching for a combination that delivers the best of all worlds or, at least, the best available.

For almost all of us, there will be compromise. The great Sydney trade-off: to live in beautiful scenery but spend three hours a day shuttling between home and the office. To live near the station but forever hear the rattle of the trains. To take a job with longer hours so the kids can go to private school.

“One thing that’s changed is that you can’t trade up the property ladder nearly as easily as you could’ve 20 years ago,” says leading urban economist, Terry Rawnsley.

“That means people are trying to squeeze all these different choices into a much more rigid housing market … part of it is that the city has grown by a million people over the past 10 or 15 years. A lot of those people are looking for a large enough home, in a place with good proximity to jobs and a high amenity local area. But Sydney hasn’t actually built a whole lot more of that.”

Despite the recent downturn in Sydney’s property market, Domain Group data shows the city’s median house remains above the $1 million mark. That’s 90 per cent higher than it was a decade ago.

Sydney has a lot of well-paid workers but years of weak wages growth has curbed the spending power of the city’s households. Polling published by the Committee for Sydney last year found eight in 10 Sydney residents felt cost of living pressures had intensified.

Higher lifestyle expectations have made trade-offs more complicated.

Sydney-based social researcher Mark McCrindle says that, for many, being average today means “one car per adult, the option of private schools, overseas holidays every few years, a new smartphone each every couple of years and a device or two per child”.


Many refuse to make Sydney’s trade-offs and leave the city. Analysis of census data published recently by The Sydney Morning Herald showed that over the past four decades, 129 people left the city each day for elsewhere in Australia while only 85 have moved the other way. Last year almost 120,000 people departed NSW for other states, most of them from Sydney.

Even so, the diversity of Sydney’s economy and a plentiful supply of well-paid jobs in knowledge-based industries including finance, professional services, IT, engineering, marketing and media remain attractive. The city continues to be a magnet for overseas migrants.

So what kinds of trade-offs are Sydney families making?

Housing headaches

The ups and downs of the Sydney property market are always in the headlines. Less attention is given to the profound ways they shape our behaviour.

The high cost of Sydney’s well-located housing is fundamental to many of the trade-offs made by locals.


A growing number of families are choosing high-density living near major employment and transport hubs. Units and apartments now account for more than one in four Sydney dwellings, about twice the national average.

McCrindle’s research shows many young adults in Sydney are choosing to rent in a well-situated neighbourhood instead of buying in a less convenient location.

“Rather than buying where they don’t want to live, like their parents did, they’ll rent where they do want to live,” he said. “Sometimes they will still buy but it’s an investment elsewhere.”

Census data shows the share of Sydney households who rent has risen steadily over the past decade. A recent study by the Grattan Institute think-tank found the proportion of homeowners declined in 87 per cent of Greater Sydney neighbourhoods between 2011 and 2016.

Rawnsley, an economist at consultancy SGS Economics and Planning, has noticed a small but growing trend for families to buy or rent a crash pad close to work or schools while keeping a larger house on the city’s outskirts or beyond.

“These are not uncommon stories,” he said.

“People who want to have a place in the Kangaroo Valley, or wherever, and an inner-city crash pad are taking their housing budget and splitting it in half to try and get the best of both worlds … they want to live a country lifestyle but be close to work during the week.”


Hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders sacrifice time commuting to facilitate housing and other lifestyle choices. It’s one of the city’s most common trade-offs.


The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates about 2 million Australians commuted for 90 minutes or more each day in 2016, many of them in Sydney and Melbourne.

Rawnsley says there has been growth in the “mega-commuter” in Australia’s big cities – those will to spend several hours each day getting to work.

About 2 million Australians commuted for 90 minutes or more each day in 2016.
About 2 million Australians commuted for 90 minutes or more each day in 2016.CREDIT:BROOK MITCHELL


There’s evidence workers will tolerate longer travel times to work in return for a well-paid job.

It suggests many CBD workers are prepared to trade off more time travelling in return for one of the well-paid (and possibly satisfying) knowledge jobs that cluster there, such as banking and professional services.

But Rawnsley says that in the midst of robust population growth over the past decade Sydney hasn’t done a good job of increasing the supply of affordable housing in areas with good access to jobs and other key services.

“That’s why you start to get these perverse outcomes where people are commuting for two hours or they’ve got two properties on their books,” he says.

Where to work

Trends in the jobs market, especially the high prevalence of dual-worker households, have a big influence on household choices.

McCrindle says many Sydney families are making complex work-related trade-offs.

“The data on busyness and stress indicates that many couples are taking on more work than they really have space for but they need the two incomes,” he said.

“It’s a financial decision more than it is a career or lifestyle decision – it’s a trade-off between time and money.”

In other cases, work-related trade-offs are not so much about income but the need to cater for two time-consuming professional careers.


There are also cases where shift work options can facilitate lifestyle trade-offs. Some employees, such as police and other emergency workers, are able to undertake a full-time workload in three 12-hour shifts per week. That might make the choice to live on the central coast or at a Blue Mountains bush block more manageable because of fewer (but longer) commutes each week.

Schools of thought

The share of students attending public schools in NSW is projected to growduring the next decade. New public schools such as Lindfield Learning Village and Inner City High have been swamped with enrolments, while fees at some of Sydney’s top private schools have soared more than 25 per cent in the past six years.

McCrindle says this trend in favour of government education is driven, at least in part, by schooling-related trade-offs made by Sydney families.

New public schools have been swamped with enrolments, and the demand is only expected to increase.
New public schools have been swamped with enrolments, and the demand is only expected to increase. CREDIT:QUENTIN JONES


“Parents who might have been thinking about an independent education – they might have had that background themselves – are saying, ‘Hey, let’s send the kids to that government school up the road’,” he says.

“That’s another one of those trade-offs because if they were living in a regional area or a lower-cost city, many of those parents would have gone for an independent education option.”

Schooling can also be part of a lifestyle trade-off for Sydneysiders who put a high premium on enriching life experiences, especially overseas travel.

The money saved by choosing a public school can be used to fund regular – and educationally valuable – trips.

Family matters

One trade-off being made by women in Sydney is to delay having children and to possibly limit the number they have.

Research by Macquarie University demographer Nick Parr recently revealed a strong trend among women in many parts of the city to delay having children until their 30s.

In the Paddington-Moore Park neighbourhood, 90 per cent of mothers giving birth were aged over 30 between 2011 and 2015, the highest share in Sydney.

Birth rates – which measures the number of births per woman – have fallen to very low levels in many inner-Sydney suburbs.

Professor Parr identified 20 local areas in Sydney where the 35 to 39 age bracket is the most common for women to give birth, mostly in relatively affluent suburbs in the city’s inner east and north.

The trend for women to establish themselves in a career before starting a family is one driver of this trend.

But it is likely the high cost of housing in inner suburbs of Sydney has also played a role as women delay having children so they can save for a deposit, or service a large mortgage. Districts with very low birth rates among women under 30 years of age overlapped with suburbs with relatively high house prices.

Some Sydney families may opt to have only one child due to the cost of housing and other spending preferences such as private schooling and overseas travel.


Matt Wade is a senior economics writer at The Sydney Morning Herald.



Matt Wade

Matt Wade is a senior economics writer at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Matt Wade

Matt Wade is a senior economics writer at The Sydney Morning Herald.




Help my cousin ASAP: Dominello to staffer

NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello would not say if he had a conflict. Picture: Nick Cubbin
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello would not say if he had a conflict. Picture: Nick Cubbin

NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello sent a staffer an email asking him to help his cousin Beth Dominello “ASAP” after receiving­ a complaint from her about the e-conveyancing system PEXA.


The Australian has obtained the correspondence through Freedom of Information laws after the newspaper revealed that Ms Domine­llo, a lawyer, had lobbied her cousin over PEXA late last year.

The Australian revealed last month that she told PEXA in an email she was going to contact the minister about her complaint.

About the same time, Mr Dominello­ said he would pursue reforms to introduce competition to PEXA in NSW, outside the nationa­l e-conveyancing system.

Tom Green, the staffer told by Mr Dominello to handle the complaint­, resigne­d from his offic­e last month in relation to a leak to a journalist of more than 100 motorists’ private details.

On October 9, Mr Dominello emailed Mr Green with Ms Domin­ello’s correspondence and said: “Hi Tom. Beth is my cousin. Can you prepare a response ASAP as they have lots of strong connections in the local and legal community. Many thanks. Victor.”

Ms Dominello had written just 10 minutes before: “Hi Vic. I thought I would forward you an email I have today sent to PEXA and the law society regarding the current practices on ADIs (authorised deposit-taking institutions or banks) when using PEXA.

“The whole thing is getting out of hand and there does not appear to be any avenues for making complain­ts with the big 4 banks being major shareholders.

“The system needs to be regul­ated for everyone as it is now having­ significant daily impacts on conveyancers and lawyers.”

In Ms Dominello’s forwarded email to the Law Society, she said: “We are constantly arguing with ADIs regarding upload of payout figures. I have been advised by CBA they will only look at a file and upload a payout in the hour leading up to settlement … this is unacceptable. The ADIs have written the rules when it comes to PEXA and they are not being monitored or held accountable.

“As we are being forced to use PEXA, it appears that the focus at present is on increasing the number­ of people using PEXA instead­ of the practical impacts of PEXA and how this can be improved­ to reflect a fair system.”

Mr Green wrote to Ms Domin­ello on October 10 and sympath­ised with her concerns.

On October 11, the contracts and regul­ation director at the ­Office of the Registrar General, Danusia Cameron, emailed Ms Dominello inviting her to an industr­y forum on the issue and copied in Mr Green.

In parliament last month, Mr Dominello declined to say whether he had declared a conflict of interest in relation to the PEXA issue given his cousin’s interest. He also was forced to defend himself over revelations he had helped another cousin, Ryde councillor Roy Maggio­, secure a $2.3 million grant that benefited his council ward.

Mr Dominello said yesterday: “If a stakeholder or community member writes to me, it is my job and that of my office to consider their enquiry and refer it to my department for appropriate action.

“I receive hundreds of emails. On this occasion the person who wrote to me happened to be my cousin, which I made clear when passing on her email to my adviser­.”

The opposition has referred the data leak to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The Australian snapped Mr Green meeting Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s chief of staff, Sarah Cruickshank, this week. Ms Cruickshank said she was meeting Mr Green to tell him he had no ­future in the government.







45 Boundary Rd, Box Hill, NSW 2765



CAAN has been notified of a Real Estate firm advertising home and land packages with lots as tiny as 300M2 and slight variations (305M2, 309m2) in Sydney’s NorthWest … nearby to ROUSE HILL

DESPITE the ‘clearing’ …  RE Agents advertise the site as located in the beautiful surrounds … with the ambience of rural living …

Could such developments be contributing to our habitat loss? Cough … cough …

Are such home and land packages for aspiring Aussie First Home Buyers … when it appears they are locked out by:

-low wages
-insecure contract work


MEANWHILE the Fed policies remain allowing developers and realtors to sell ‘new homes’ 100% overseas (FIRB Ruling and May 2017 Budget Reg)

AND foreign buyers can launder ‘black money’ through the Real Estate Gatekeepers!

BECAUSE this sector was made EXEMPT from Anti-Money Laundering Rules in October 2018 …


FURTHER … the NSW Govt introduced the ‘Greenfield Housing Code’ for lots as tiny as 200M2 X 6M wide in 2018!  SEARCH Caan’s Website to find out more about this Code!


The Nature Conservation Council alerted us on Thursday, 27 June 2019:


Image may contain: text and outdoor


‘Today, a scathing new report has revealed that masses of wildlife habitat are being bulldozed across NSW with virtually no oversight, accountability or enforcement of nature protection.

We are in the midst of an extinction crisis and the NSW Government is allowing unchecked mass destruction of our precious forests and bushland.

The NSW Auditor-General has found that since Premier Berejiklian relaxed land-clearing laws in November 2017:

  • Bushland the size of the Australian Capital Territory has been approved for bulldozing.
    • There were about 1,000 instances of ‘unexplained’ land clearing.
    • The government has been slow to respond to reports of illegal clearing.
    • Landholders who clear illegally are rarely held to account.’


Image may contain: mountain, outdoor and nature

Photo:  Nature NSW


VIEW this link to donate to help end deforestation in NSW!


SCROLL DOWN CAAN Facebook and Website daily to find out more!  WHY not keep a copy of these links with your records!





ROZELLE Residents have had to endure a decade of proposals for redevelopment of the former Balmain Leagues Club site …

now again to be drawn out …

with a Council approved apartment development to be interrupted by a compulsory acquisition for a dive site for the Western Harbour Tunnel!

AND if the compulsory acquisition proceeds the Tigers would be left without a cent of compensation!

State Government to squash long-awaited redevelopment of Balmain Leagues Club  Rozelle


Just after the Inner West Council approved amended plans for the long-awaited redevelopment for the Balmain Leagues Club, the State Government has revealed it would also like to use the land as a “dive site” for WestConnex.

What the Balmain Leagues Club site in Rozelle looks like at the moment. Picture: John Appleyard
What the Balmain Leagues Club site in Rozelle looks like at the moment. Picture: John Appleyard



The future of the long-awaited redevelopment of the Balmain Leagues Club is once again up in the air.


Shortly after the Inner West Council approved amended plans for its construction at a meeting on Tuesday, the State Government revealed it was considering using the site as an excavation entryway or “dive site” for the Western Harbour Tunnel.

This would mean the site’s redevelopment would not go forward.

Heworth took ownership of the Victoria Road block in March 2018 and just months after, in May, a $135 million proposal to redevelop the site was submitted to the council.

The development application included the construction of 173 apartments, shops and a new 3010sq m Balmain Leagues Club.

An artist impression showing what the amended redeveloped Balmain Tigers Leagues Club will look like. Picture: Grant Leslie Photography


It went before the Inner West Council on Tuesday and was approved by the Development Control Plan.

The next step for Heworth is to submit a revised development application, which will be determined by a state government panel.

Heworth development director Brian Hood said the company was amending the site’s DA for submission to council by the end of July, adding their legal advice was not to hesitate with their plans.

“We can’t stop them … (but) our plan is to keep moving forward to get the DA approved and replace what is there at the moment, which isn’t much,” he said.

“The move value we add to the site, the more money (the state government) have to pay.”

State Government is still considering using the Balmain Leagues club as a construction site for the Western Harbour Tunnel, while local government pushes for new development. Image credit: Matthew Vasilescu


The state government plans have since come under fire from Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne.

“This has been a long drawn out saga, but with revised plans now approved there is no impediment from council to the Tigers returning to their spiritual home,” Cr Byrne said.

“The very survival of the Tigers depends on preventing the state government from snatching this site.

*“The compulsory acquisition of the property would leave the Tigers without a cent of compensation.”

Cr Byrne has called on Wests Tigers chair Barry O’Farrell to intervene and stop the state government acquiring the site.

A previous court ruling required a Tigers Leagues club be included in the site’s redevelopment after the Balmain Leagues Club went into voluntary administration in 2018.

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne. Picture: Jordan Shields


Earlier this year, Wests Ashfield took on the Balmain Leagues Club’s outstanding loan to the NRL. They are now in the process of amalgamating.

The amendments to the Development Control Plan, approved at the Inner West Council meeting this week, focused on reducing traffic to Victoria Rd, moving the massing of residents away from Waterloo St and reducing retail.

Cr Byrne said it represented “a reduction in impacts on residents”.

Council received 87 submissions opposing the plan.

A total of 88 per cent were related to the height and scale of the development as well as traffic, retail impacts and character.

Inside the old Balmain Leagues Club site in Rozelle, left derelict since 2009. Picture: John Appleyard


However, prior to the council vote, Cr Byrne reminded councillors the state government had refused to rezone the site down to six- or eight-storeys.

Cr Byrne also said if the recommendations were not accepted, Roads and Maritime Services would be more likely to compulsorily acquire the site to build the Western Harbour Tunnel.

A spokesman for the RMS said: “Roads and Maritime has commenced discussions with the relevant parties on the potential temporary use of the former Balmain Leagues Club site to support the construction of Western Harbour Tunnel.”

The spokesman added they “commenced discussion with a number of parties” for potential temporary use for the Western Harbour Tunnel project.

Barry O’Farrell and the West Tigers declined to comment.







In simple dollar terms, a $60,000 income is supposed to be getting that $1080 tax cut now, but only another $376 out in 2024-25.

A $200,000 taxable income gets only $135 now, but $11,640 in 2024-25.



The government’s integrity on trial again. This time on tax cuts


Retail workers hit.
Tax cuts are the only immediate plan the government has to alleviate our ‘retail recession’Photo: Getty



To recap: The Australian economy is having its worst year since 1992.

The outlook for the new financial year is somewhere between more of the same and “uncertain” – Donald Trump permitting.

That’s why the Reserve Bank is slashing interest rates and asking the federal government to help.

As it stands, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have just one immediate stimulus proposal on the table to try to alleviate the “retail recession” – the $1080 tax refunds for low- and middle-income earners. (It will take more time, perhaps years, for the promise to restore its real infrastructure spending to something like Joe Hockey’s policy to come to fruition.)

In these circumstances, responsible government wouldn’t muck around with that single policy, lest unemployment starts ticking up faster.

But mucking around for petty political purposes is just what the Morrison  government is doing.

It’s merely cheap politics to delay those $1080 tax refunds as a means of wedging the Labor opposition on much more contentious cuts for the top 10 per cent of taxpayers in five years’ time.

*The government has already been successful in somehow getting media to focus on Labor’s indecision over the distant tax, rather than question  the government’s integrity in being willing to put those immediate, agreed, necessary and utterly non-controversial $1080 tax refunds at risk.

Australia needs government first and foremost to govern for the good of the nation, to do what needs be done quickly and play political games later.

To state the obvious, Labor is in opposition – it’s the government’s job to get immediate, important policy passed.

The argument that Labor should pass all the tax cuts now because it can always repeal them later is specious.

We know only too well how hard it is to remove a tax break after the event, even if it’s little more than a rort.

Novated leases, anyone?

*The political appeal for the Liberal Party is that if Labor votes for Stage 3 now and wants to scrap it later, the Coalition will be able to chant “but you voted for it”.

Multiple billions of dollars in cash refunds of franking credits for people who don’t pay tax, anyone?

The political game is even more pathetic when it looks like the government could get its legislation through the Senate with just a little work on the crossbenchers.

*Sure, Pauline Hanson has made noises about not passing Stage 3, but her track record is to make such noises and then roll over for the government after some token gesture.

Heck, Senator Hanson is on about $200,000 a year – she’s a prime candidate for the best of the tax cuts, so of course she will end up voting for it. That’s two One Nation votes.

Cory Bernardi is a sure thing, leaving a little coaxing and dealing to get one of the other two independents over the line. Shouldn’t be hard.

The fact that individual Labor MPs have chosen to publicly agree to a radical flattening of our progressive income tax system might say more about those individuals’ ambitions than longer-term grasp of what’s good for the nation.

The government has been torturing the data to come up with selected numbers to support its case. You can do that with numbers if you spin them hard enough and with a receptive media audience.

To keep those much-headlined claims in perspective, here again are the core numbers that count:

In 2019, someone with a taxable income of $60,000 – about the median wage – will pay 18.5 per cent of that in income tax. In 2024, under the government’s debatable “Stage 3”, someone on $60,000 would pay 17.8 per cent – a reduction of just 0.7 of a percentage point.

Someone with a taxable income of $200,000 in 2019 will see 33.5 per cent go in tax. Under Stage 3, that would drop to 27.8 per cent – a cut of 5.7 percentage points.

The gap in the percentage of total tax paid on $60,000 and $200,000 would be compressed by a third, down from the current 15 percentage points to 10.

Many people in the top couple of per cent of income earners think that would be very nice. But it would mark a serious erosion of Australia’s relative income equality when our wealth inequality is markedly worsening.

(In simple dollar terms, a $60,000 income is supposed to be getting that $1080 tax cut now, but only another $376 out in 2024-25.

A $200,000 taxable income gets only $135 now, but $11,640 in 2024-25.)

Like the blatant inequity of continuing the novated car lease lurk, playing political chicken with the $1080 tax refunds is a test of integrity.

Both major parties fail the novated lease integrity test.

The government is failing the immediate tax refund test miserably.








Still dogged by questions about his rise to the Liberal leadership, Scott Morrison is keeping his allies close, and rewarding those who voted for him in the spill.
By Karen Middleton.


Karen Middleton 
is The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent.


Scott Morrison’s inner circle

Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives in Osaka for the G20 summit.



When moderate Liberal MPs swung their votes away from factional ally Julie Bishop and behind Scott Morrison during last year’s leadership crisis, they did so at the urging of frontbencher Paul Fletcher.

In the string of WhatsApp messages leaked after former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in late August, it was Fletcher who told moderates they must back Morrison to counter what he suggested was trickery from Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the most senior supporter of original challenger Peter Dutton.

Cormann rumoured to be putting some [Western Australian] votes behind Julie Bishop in round 1,” Fletcher wrote to the group he labelled “Friends for Stability” in a message thread leaked to ABC TV’s Insiders.

“Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of Morrison so he drops out and his votes go to Dutton. Despite our hearts tugging us to Julie we need to vote with our heads for Scott in round one.”

Cormann has denied there was ever such a plan. None was ever executed.

But Fletcher’s manoeuvre, which was executed, did the same thing in reverse. The group abandoned Bishop and marshalled their votes behind Morrison, ensuring he stayed in the race at her expense.

Although Bishop was more popular with voters, this group decided Morrison had the better chance of beating their mutual opponent, Dutton, in the ballot.

Burned by disloyalty, Bishop quit the ministry and ultimately politics.

Choosing pragmatism over sentiment, the moderates argued they didn’t want to risk the right-wing, electorally unpopular Dutton becoming prime minister.

But Fletcher’s move also reflected a pattern of mutual assistance between Morrison, his centre-right New South Wales Liberal power base, and others who need or are needed by him – or whom he needs to keep happy.

It is a pattern that reaches back beyond Morrison’s preselection 12 years ago, to his time as the party’s NSW state director.

As well, it offered another glimpse of the prime minister’s network of friends, associates, rivals, confidants and beneficiaries who have risen through the ranks of government to serve alongside him.


This week, Peter Dutton spoke publicly about the leadership challenge for the first time since Morrison became prime minister.

In the Sky News documentary Bad Blood/New Blood, he claimed partial credit for Morrison’s election win, saying his failed challenge had put the Liberal Party in its “best possible position” since the Howard era.

The Sky program canvassed details of the challenge first revealed in The Saturday Paper the week after Morrison’s ascendancy.

Five of Scott Morrison’s supporters secretly voted for a spill and against Malcolm Turnbull in the early votes last August, ensuring the crisis continued and enabling Morrison to become a candidate.

The conservative NSW Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells described what happened.

Five of clearly the Morrison camp voted for the spill and voted to say ‘no’ to Malcolm Turnbull and then those votes obviously went that way [to Morrison],” Fierravanti-Wells told Sky News’s David Speers. “That’s as I read the numbers and numbers always tell their own story.”

*In other words, some of Morrison’s supporters voted from the start to ensure Turnbull’s leadership was irreparably damaged, despite Morrison’s public pledge of loyalty.

She said it was “very clear that that’s the way it had gone”.

The Turnbull camp had already figured out what was happening, The Saturday Paper was told at the time.

Turnbull lieutenant Craig Laundy attended a meeting of Morrison’s core supporters in the office of key backer Alex Hawke while the crisis was unfolding.

Two let slip about the secret voting strategy, which Laundy then reported back to Turnbull’s staff. They duly told their boss. But by then, with Turnbull having spilled his own position and invited the vote, the damage was done.

Morrison continues to insist he remained loyal and didn’t canvass support until Turnbull gave his blessing to both Morrison and Bishop to run.

*After that meeting, Turnbull and his supporters no longer believed Morrison.

*Present were key Morrison supporters who share his commitment to Christianity, including Hawke, Queensland factional player Stuart Robert, Brisbane MP Bert van Manen, NSW regional MP Lucy Wicks, and Perth-based MPs Steve Irons and Ben Morton.

*Hawke and Robert are machine men who, like Morrison, have links to the Pentecostal Church.

*Robert and Irons were Morrison’s long-time flatmates in Canberra during parliamentary sitting weeks.

*Like Morrison, 38-year-old Ben Morton is a former state Liberal Party director, in his case in Western Australia, and he was active in the NSW party before moving west. He worked in the government members’ secretariat, a centralised information unit, during the Howard era. Morton and Morrison are close friends.

*Paul Fletcher falls into a different category tied less by friendship than by mutual political benefit – as a one-time rival turned supporter and now senior minister. He was familiar with the leapfrog tactic he advocated on WhatsApp in August. Just such a manoeuvre helped him win preselection for the prized Sydney seat of Bradfield in 2009.

Fletcher was one of 17 to contest the blue-ribbon seat when Brendan Nelson resigned after losing the party leadership to Malcolm Turnbull. Also in the field was David Coleman, who would eventually win preselection for the seat of Banks and enter parliament in 2013.

After voting rounds knocked out the lower ranks, three remained: Fletcher, who had the backing of the party’s left; former opinion editor for The Australian newspaper Tom Switzer, who was backed by the right; and lawyer Julian Leeser, who headed the Liberal Party’s Menzies Research Centre and had the centre or so-called soft right.

All three had substantial credentials, with Switzer the newest to the Liberal Party.

To secure Fletcher’s win, some left-wing voters swung behind the quiet Leeser in the three-way runoff, ensuring he came second to Fletcher, leapfrogging Switzer and knocking him out of the race.

But the votes did not stay with Leeser to the end. In the final round, they mysteriously swung back to Fletcher and delivered him the preselection and ultimately the seat.

Centre-right powerbroker Alex Hawke, the member for the safe seat of Mitchell, has been credited with masterminding the move.

It was not the first preselection Fletcher and Coleman had lost.

Hawke was already an influential player two years earlier, when Scott Morrison secured preselection for the seat of Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, in a contest that had also included Paul Fletcher and David Coleman.

As has been canvassed in the years since, the Cook preselection turned nasty early. Candidate Michael Towke delayed the vote by mounting a Supreme Court challenge to the eligibility of some of the 165 preselectors.

Towke, a right-wing candidate who had recruited significant numbers of personal supporters to the Liberal Party, was objecting to the way some preselectors had been chosen.

Two other candidates joined the court action to oppose TowkeDavid Coleman and Paul Fletcher.

The judge reinstated the preselectors, the ballot ensued and Michael Towke nevertheless scored a resounding victory, 82-70.

Morrison, the Liberal Party’s former NSW director, had the backing of John Howard. But Morrison was knocked out in the first round, with only eight votes.

*As journalist Paul Sheehan wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald in 2009, a win by Towke – a long-time shire resident and a Lebanese Christian – would have meant that “a Lebanese Australian would represent the Liberal Party in the seat where the Cronulla riot and revenge raids had taken place 18 months earlier”.

*Damaging stories about Towke began appearing in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, over which he later won a defamation settlement.

After Morrison became prime minister last year, former Labor senator Sam Dastyari revealed Liberal operatives had contacted him at NSW Labor Party headquarters, where he worked in 2007, and asked him for a dirt file on Towke, who had previously been a Labor Party member.

Dastyari told KIIS FM that unnamed Liberals he called “Morrison’s people” had requested the information and that he had met them at a Sydney Chinese restaurant to hand it over.

“I’ve seen a lot of dirty things in politics,” Dastyari said. “… I’ve never had the Liberal Party come to us and ask for dirt … to fight one of their own internal opponents.”

In describing what happened, he paid Morrison the kind of compliment that can only come from a political enemy.


*“I would never underestimate Scott Morrison because I would never underestimate a guy who would turn to one of his political opponents to take out one of his own … A guy that will do that will do anything.”


*The Telegraph stories were used to justify a second preselection ballot. The situation took its toll and Towke signed a deed with the Liberal Party, agreeing not to be a candidate.


The state executive, not the local branches, managed the re-run and Scott Morrison was installed, sidelining the other candidates, including Coleman and Fletcher.

After Morrison won the prime ministership last year, both men – by then serving their second and third full terms respectively – were among those he promoted. Coleman was moved to the immigration portfolio and Fletcher was elevated from the outer ministry to cabinet.

After last month’s election, Coleman retained his immigration and multicultural affairs portfolio and Fletcher was promoted to replace Senator Mitch Fifield as minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts.

Fifield is retiring to take up a diplomatic post as Australia’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York.

Morrison’s other key supporters have also been well rewarded.

Late last year, he appointed former flatmate Stuart Robert as assistant treasurer, returning him to the frontbench two years after Malcolm Turnbull dumped him for helping a friend and Liberal Party donor sign a private business deal in China.

After the election, Robert was promoted into cabinet as minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and government services. Their other flatmate, Steve Irons, was made assistant minister for vocational education.

Alex Hawke was also promoted, still in the outer ministry but with the twin portfolios of international development and the Pacific – spearheading Morrison’s Pacific push – as well as being assistant minister for defence.

Ben Morton, who travelled with Morrison for much of the election campaign, became assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet – a position reserved for the most trusted allies.

Other backers received a boost, too.

Queensland MP Luke Howarth, whose threat to move a spill motion against Malcolm Turnbull back in August sparked the leadership crisis, has become assistant minister for community housing.

Jason Wood, among the first to sign the 43-signature petition that Turnbull demanded before calling the final spill and who helped Morrison’s unlikely election win by holding his outer Melbourne seat, has become assistant minister for customs, community safety and multicultural affairs – which caused some controversy after his comments about African gangs in Melbourne.

Another signatory and Morrison supporter Sussan Ley was returned to the ministry, having been dumped two years ago over travel expenses.

Initially in a junior job, Ley held off a high-profile independent challenger in her regional seat of Farrer and has been elevated to cabinet as environment minister.

In seizing the leadership, it was very important to Morrison that he be seen as having clean hands. He knew anyone blamed for causing the change could face a voter backlash.

In the Sky News documentary, Morrison was asked how he won the ballot.

“I talked to my colleagues,” he said. “They were very aware of the position that I’d taken all the way up until that point and the support that I had provided. And it was really then about, well, who was in the best position to really take us forward?

I mean, the country had just been through a very traumatic experience. They were looking for someone to really take hold of this and tell them it would be okay.

Morrison certainly took hold of it and went on to win the unwinnable election. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 29, 2019 as “Scott Morrison’s inner circle”. Subscribe here.







And a fear campaign that won the Libs the May 2018 Election

Economists predicted it will grow to $8 billion by 2019-20. But that was before the Coalition opened up a can of worms with Tim Wilson’s franking credits roadshow. 

AND as revealed in Sandy Keane’s report … it will cost not $8 Bn but $16Bn! 

Who benefits?  More than 80 per cent goes to SMSFs larger than $1M, with over 50 per cent going to SMSFs over $2.4M!

The top 10 per cent of SMSFs claimed an average of $40,468 in excess franking credits (2014/15); surpassing the $36,301.20 Age Pension for a couple! 

Gen X and Y Taxpayers with a 40 year old on the cusp contributes $7,300 a year with the number of these taxpayers 4.4 to the number of Boomers aged 65 or older …

Franking Credits are not sustainable!



How #FrankingCredits delivered victory to Boomers over own kids


How #FrankingCredits delivered victory to Boomers over own kids
Generational war (Image courtesy


Should Gen Y and Gen X be punished for an ill-considered tax loophole invented by Howard to snag retirees’ votes? Gen X Investment consultant, Harry Chemay, calls “fair go” — scrap the franking credits Kool-Aid!

IT WAS the morning after the night before and things were still surreal. Labor had lost the unlosable election and an elated Scott Morrison was proclaiming his victory a “miracle”.

With the barrage of analysis, counter-analysis, commentary and finger-pointing yet to be unleashed, it felt like a good opportunity to enjoy the calm before the post-election storm. So I decided that a decent hit out on the bike was the go.

As I do almost every Sunday morning, I checked the weather forecast, donned the appropriate cycling gear and grabbed the bike out of the garage. Looking for a route that was a bit more challenging, I pointed my trusty bike in the direction of Eltham, in Melbourne’s outer east. Off I pedalled.

Leaving early, my route took me through a still sleepy Brunswick, the inner-city suburb just north of the city, east through Heidelberg and finally to Eltham, nestled at the foothills of the Shire of Nillumbik.

Elated in Eltham, bummed in Brunswick

Eltham sits in the electorate of Menzies, and the incumbent Liberal candidate, Kevin Andrews, comfortably retained his seat with a Two Candidate Preferred (TCP) vote of 57 per cent. Having a well-earned brekky at the Eltham shopping strip it was hard not to notice two distinct themes.

Firstly, I was surrounded by people in their mid-fifties and beyond, a demographic oft-labelled “Baby Boomers”.

Secondly, these Boomers were (from their demeanour and the bits of conversation I caught), thrilled that the Coalition government had been returned for another term in office. It was fair to say that the mood in Eltham that Sunday morning was positively “chipper”.

The ride home took me through the heart of Gen Y-centric Brunswick, in the electorate of Wills, where Labor’s Peter Khalil held off a stern challenge from The Greens. There the cafés lining ultra-hip Lygon Street told a very different story.

The mood in Brunswick was distinctly more sombre, with none of the energy pulsating around Eltham. Poker-faced twenty and thirty-something Millennials sat huddled in cafes in quiet contemplation.

In the few short hours I spent riding that day, I saw the two sides of the election outcome; the winners and the also-rans. And as a Gen X, wedged between the Boomers and their Gen Y kids, I find myself asking one question: what exactly happened on Saturday 18 May 2019, and what does it mean for the various generations?

It was all about those Franking Credits

Labor’s proposal to end the ability of wealthy, self-funded retirees to claim excess franking credits attached to dividends received from Australian shares turned out to be one of the most contentious issues of the election campaign. If you aren’t sure what a dividend or a franking credit is, this short primer from Michael West is an excellent explainer.

Franking credits, introduced by the Hawke-Keating government in 1987, were originally designed to ensure that individuals were not subject to double-taxation — to avoid a situation where companies first pay income tax only to have their shareholders pay tax again on that same income. The franking credit was the mechanism to ensure that individuals effectively only paid “top up tax”, being the difference between the company tax rate and their (presumably) higher individual tax rate.

*This equitable relationship broke down in 2001 when the Howard government changed the law.

Where franking credits were higher than someone’s tax bill, they could claim a refund for any surplus — even those without any taxable income such as Age Pension recipients.

The cost to the budget back then was around $500 million. The real game changer however came in July 2007, when self-funded retirees over the age of 60 were allowed to have their private pensions (from their Self-Managed Superannuation Fund or public-offer Fund) no longer subject to tax.

These individuals can still however claim franking credits on the Australian shares they hold, even though they don’t pay any income tax on the dividends. Australia is the only country in the world that provides this level of largess to its middle and upper income retirees.

*Little did our lawmakers expect back in 2001 that the cost to the budget would blow out to nearly $6 billion by 2014-15. Economists predicted it will grow to $8 billion by 2019-20. But that was before the Coalition opened up a can of worms with Tim Wilson’s franking credits roadshow.

It advertised the unique advantages of “FreeMoney” up and down the countryside, firing up the older generation.  For more on how retirees are now piling onto the franking credits bandwagon post-election, see Sandi Keane’s story below as well as the series of explainers in Michael West’s Kitchen Table Archives.

How good are Franking Credits!

How big is this tax-payer funded benefit? For some Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) it can amount to between 25-30 per cent of the total income generated on an annual basis. And, in a nutshell, that was what the election furore surrounding the so-called “retirement tax” was about.

*Who benefits from maintaining the excess franking credit rebate? This question was put to the Parliamentary Budget Office during 2018 and their analysis was, pardon the pun, frankly unsurprising.

*According to their analysis (see table below) over 80 per cent of the benefit goes to SMSFs larger than $1 million, with over 50 per cent going to SMSFs over $2.4 million.


SMSFs currently cost the budget some $2.6 billion in excess franking credits, but what does the “typical” SMSF receive in franking credits each year? That question was also put to the PBO earlier in 2018, and the results of their analysis make for some pretty sombre statistics.

*According to their analysis, the top 10 per cent of SMSFs (by account balance for 2014-15) claimed an average of $40,468 in excess franking credits.

*To put this level of taxpayer funded income in its rightful context, it surpasses the $36,301.20 a couple receives on the current maximum amount of Age Pension.

The PBO data across all deciles (10 per cent increments) below show the extent of the average excess franking credits claimed by SMSFs, and how it is the largest SMSFs that gain the lion’s share of the excess franking credits gravy train:


*In essence then, we now have a two-tiered social welfare system for older Australians;

  • the Age Pension for aged Australians of more modest means and little in the way of dividend income from Australian shares; and
  • the excess franking credit refund scheme for predominantly wealthy aged Australians.

The budget blues

**So excess franking credits for self-funded retirees are a form of transfer payment from working Australians to retirees. That much is clear. But exactly how much does it cost Australian taxpayers each year?

The PBO analysis, based on 2014-15 tax data, suggested a figure of around $5 billion. Current estimates put the amount closer to $6 billion.

*What exactly does $6 billion pay for in the Budget? Well, based on the projections for the recently released 2019-20 Budget, that amount of taxation savings would cover…

  • 7 per cent of the Health budget, or
  • 17 per cent of the Education budget; or a whopping
  • 56 per cent of the amount allocated to “Assistance to the unemployed and the sick”.

That last one is perhaps the most galling, as it includes the Newstart benefit which has not increased in real terms in some 25 years.

The message this sends is unequivocal. If you have a go at gaming the dividend imputation system, you’ll get a go at taxpayer-funded largess. But if you’re unemployed and actively looking for work, you’ll get to survive on $40 a day.

Not sure I’m keen to subscribe to this version of the “fair go” for all Australians.

Is the party over?

So wealthy retirees get to keep their excess franking credits, but will their children enjoy the same largess? It is unlikely, as the current trajectory is fiscally unsustainable.

Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform at the Grattan Institute recently pointed out that incomes for households over 65 have more than doubled over the past 25 years, while at the same time paying virtually no more tax than people the same age did back then.

Rather, the share of older households paying any tax at all has fallen from 27 per cent in the mid-1990s to 17 per cent today.

Why does this matter? Because in a land of “lifters and leaners”, it’s tax-paying Gen X and Gen Y who are now doing the truly heavy lifting.

As Wood points out, Baby Boomers who hit their peak tax contributing years (in their forties) were likely contributing some $3,200 a year to support the older pre-WWII “Silent” generation via the tax-transfer system.

An average 40 year old today (on the cusp between Gen X and Y) is contributing an inflation-adjusted $7,300 a year.

This as the dependency ratio (the number of working-aged taxpayers to the number of Australians aged 65 or older) continues to fall, from 7.4 in the mid-1970s to 4.4 in the most recent Treasury Intergenerational Report, and forecast to plummet to just 3.2 by the year 2055.

It is pretty clear this tax burden can’t be sustained indefinitely.

At some point, the party will have to come to an end, and when it does, those supplying the franking credit Kool-Aid to wealthy retiree Boomers (namely Gen X and Gen Y taxpayers) will find themselves facing a retirement tax regime nowhere near as accommodating.

Let’s just hope it ends amicably, equitably and before the actuarial life expectancy of the youngest Boomer which, according to my reading of the Australian Government Actuary’s latest life expectancy tables, would be in around 30 years.

For if it doesn’t, we’ll have consigned an entire generation of Australians to a standard of living appreciably lower than that experienced by their parents. Hardly what you’d expect in the Lucky Country.

A slightly shorter version of this article originally appeared on the blogsite here.

Disclosure and Disclaimer:

This article has been prepared by Harry Chemay, an officer of Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 479416) (“Clover”). Clover is a registered financial services provider, however nothing in the above article should be construed as personal or general financial advice. The content of this article is meant to be of an informational nature only, and primarily reflects the opinions of the author.


Harry Chemay is a Co-Founder of, a “robo-advice” Automated Investment Service that aims to engage Australians with their finances earlier in life. He has over 22 years of experience across both wealth management and institutional asset consulting.

Harry commenced his career in financial services within KPMG’s private wealth division. He advised primarily within the accounting sector, with senior adviser roles at Horwath (now part of Grant Thornton) and WHK (now Crowe Horwath).

After more than a decade in wealth management, Harry transitioned from personal to institutional advice, joining Mercer investment consulting. He spent some four years at Mercer, providing advice and asset consulting services to superannuation funds, university endowments and financial planning firms.

An active participant within the wealth and superannuation space, Harry is a regular contributor to investment websites in Australia and overseas, writing on investing and financial planning.

Harry holds a Bachelor of Business (Banking & Finance) from Monash University in addition to post-graduate qualifications in both finance & SMSFs.

An avid cyclist since his teenage years, Harry is often found on the weekends riding around Melbourne’s hills. You can follow Harry on Twitter @HarryChemay .


How #FrankingCredits delivered victory to Boomers over own kids


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WHAT cannot be ignored … the overdevelopment of high-rise Precincts in Herring Road, Waterloo Road, Epping Road, Lane Cove Road &  everywhere in between and beyond … as locals say where will all the cars go?

WILL the neighbouring Fujitsu commercial building on Talavera Road be put at risk like those in Mascot?

Macquarie Park was a Business and IT Park providing jobs for locals

… but jobs are being lost for more  residential development and ever more shops for foreign buyers … the LNP Policies remain … despite crumbling towers across Sydney …

NOTE Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale’s response to Liberal Clr Lane (highlighted)



State Government approves first stage of controversial Meriton towers development

Ryde Council took a strong stand against it, but a state planning panel has brushed aside local concerns to approve the first stage of a $67m high-rise Meriton development at Macquarie Park.

Residential apartments in the first-stage Meriton towers development at 112 Talavera Rd, Macquarie Park.
Residential apartments in the first-stage Meriton towers development at 112 Talavera Rd, Macquarie Park.


The State Government has given approval today to the $67 million first stage of Meriton’s controversial four-tower development at Macquarie Park.


Despite fierce opposition from local residents, a 27-storey building at 112 Talavera Rd was given the nod in a 3-2 vote by the Sydney North Planning Panel.

The two dissenters were Ryde Labor councillors Bernard Purcell and Edwina Clifton.

They took a stand against the development application by the property giant after council unanimously voted to oppose the plan last December.

The 27-storey ‘Destination’ building will accommodate 212 residential apartments, retail, a childcare centre and multistorey car park with 251 spaces.

How the 27-storey Meriton tower will look in Talavera Rd.


Cr Purcell said the panel’s local representatives were “ridden roughshod over” at today’s hearing.

“This decision is outrageous and goes against the strong opposition of local residents,” he said.

“Council received about 400 submissions opposing this development, yet this wasn’t taken into account.

“The 27-storey tower is within the planning guidelines — but that’s our beef: the guidelines are completely wrong to allow this inappropriate development.

“There are major concerns about how traffic will cope with all the extra residents in the area.”

Stage 2 is set to include three 42-storey towers, down from 63 storeys after amendments late last year.

Cr Bernard Purcell.
Cr Edwina Clifton.


Cr Purcell hit out at Mr Dominello and Liberal councillor Jordan Lane for not attending the hearing today to speak against the Meriton DA, after both were strongly opposed to it ahead of the State Election in March.

“They got the political mileage back then and were nowhere to be seen today,” Cr Purcell said.

Mr Dominello said his opposition to the development had been “clear” since 2017.

“I have rallied thousands of locals to sign petitions and write submissions in opposition to the 63-storey proposal,” the Customer Service Minister said.

Ryde State MP Victor Dominello at the site of the proposed Meriton development on Talavera Rd late last year. He was taking a strong stand against the DA on the basis it was not an appropriate development for the area. Picture: John Appleyard



“Council voted to support the 27-storey proposal in November 2017 as it is in line with their LEP (Local Environment Plan).

“Meriton is currently suing the State Government in relation to its 63-storey proposal because the government put a freeze on this type of development.

“Council has received $2.5 million from the State Government to conduct a review of their planning laws. I will absolutely support council if they put forward a reduction in the housing targets and density following a review of council’s planning laws.

“Council must expedite the review of its planning laws.”


Meriton managing director Harry Triguboff says the first-stage approval is a “very good result” for the property giant, but it was soured by Cr Purcell and Cr Clifton’s “backflip”.

“These two councillors voted to support our 63-story proposal in December 2017 before the political games started, then they voted to keep the current rules in December last year, but now they say they don’t want those either. If you’re confused, then so am I,” Mr Triguboff said.

“Their vote went against the advice of council’s planning experts who acknowledged that the community opposition to the DA didn’t necessarily relate to this development and any relevant issues had been satisfactorily addressed.

*“In fact, not a single community representative attended to speak against the proposal at today’s meeting.”

CAAN:  Community representatives have been ignored since 2011 as have community submissions.

Harry Triguboff says his company’s towers development will only benefit the Macquarie Park community.


He said the DA was “fully compliant” and “addressed all technical and community issues as confirmed by the planning experts”.

“It is in the best location next to trains, jobs, universities, hospitals, schools and open space so it should have been approved,” Mr Triguboff said.

“It is time that the councillors stop the games and listen to the planning experts.”

Meriton says it will contribute $78 million in community benefits as part of the 112 Talavera Rd development.


Liberal councillor Jordan Lane joined Mr Dominello in blaming Ryde Council’s planning rules for allowing the Meriton development to be approved.

“Stage 1 of ‘Laxale Towers’ represents everything that is wrong with our broken planning laws,” Cr Lane said.

“That such an eyesore is legal under council’s LEP shows just how out of step the rules are with community expectations.

“I’ve been fighting for these laws to be changed since my election to council (in 2017), and opposed three separate times by the Labor/Greens alliance.”

Opposition: Cr Lane standing out the front of 112 Talavera Rd, Macquarie Park last year.
Building demolition works at 112-119 Talavera Road, Macquarie Park, in April.


*Ryde Labor Mayor Jerome Laxale said Cr Lane was either “deliberately misleading the community or has no idea about the history of planning law in Macquarie Park”.

*“Current planning law, which enabled this development, was forcibly changed by the Liberal State Government in 2014 through the Herring Road Priority Precinct,” Cr Laxale said.

“Council and the community opposed massive rezonings and increases in height, yet Victor Dominello and the Liberal State Government changed our local laws anyway.

“The last time council had control of planning in Macquarie Park, this site on Talavera Road had a maximum height of approximately 10 storeys. The Liberals changed it to 27 which is what they again approved today.

“Plus, if the State Government was so concerned about overdevelopment in Ryde, why didn’t they refuse the application today? They say one thing, and do another.”


As the political argy-bargy plays out, presales of apartments at the ‘Destination’ development have “exceeded all our expectations”, Meriton’s head of sales, James Sialepis, says.

“Savvy investors, local downsizers and first-time buyers have picked up on the site’s unique location right next to the recently opened Sydney Metro, Macquarie Shopping Centre, Macquarie University and hospital,” Mr Sialepis said today.

“Destination will complement one of Australia’s most significant economic centres which currently accommodates over 58,000 jobs and this is growing rapidly.”

He said that Stage 1 of the Talavera Rd development was scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2021.

“At a time when the construction of residential accommodation across NSW is slowing, Meriton has a proven track record of completion ahead of schedule,” Mr Sialepis said.









Duo out to derail metro over tunnel

George Altomonte and Opera Australia are pursuing Sydney Metro for compensation. Illustration: John Shakespeare
George Altomonte and Opera Australia are pursuing Sydney Metro for compensation. Illustration: John ShakespeareCREDIT:



At this rate, it’ll soon be hard to find someone who hasn’t started legal proceedings against one of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s transport bureaucracies.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Andrew Constance agreed to fork out $576 million to settle claims made against his department by light rail builders ALTRAC and Acciona.

Then there’s the $400 million claimed by businesses along the light rail route who are alleging that project delays brought them financial ruin.

But here’s an unlikely duo who have decided to try to cash in — this time not against the light rail but against Sydney Metro: Opera Australia boss Rory Jeffes and wealthy car dealer George Altomonte.

Both are irate that the Valuer-General decided neither had the right to any cash in return for tunnelling under their properties.

Opera Australia’s claims are connected to its Alexandria warehouse which has allegedly been damaged during construction of the metro, which this week received the green light to begin boring under Sydney Harbour.

Opera Australia has engaged Tim Hale SC as part of its legal action.

On the other side of the water, in St Leonards, lays Altomonte’s site.

Altomonte, who has a lucrative sideline in horse breeding at his Corumbene Stud, has hired barrister Janet McKelvey, a legal advisor for Lendlease during its development of Barangaroo.



George Altomonte and Opera Australia are pursuing Sydney Metro for compensation. Illustration: John Shakespeare







AT the core … it would seem once again that developers have influenced planning law changes to their advantage … with the weakening of consumer protections for apartment owners and buyers over the past two decades …

which also coincides with Howard Govt in the late 1990s luring foreign buyers with ‘flexible citizenship’ upon buying Australian real estate … and the consequent housing boom …

AND in 2004 was it at the behest of developers for the removal of home warranty insurance for buildings beyond four storeys?

THEN in 2012 the weakening of guarantees required to be made by developers and builders by the O’Farrell Government … ??

AS developers proceed to build apartment towers 60 storeys or more!


Building defects ‘crisis’ not fixed by government’s package: lawyers

The “crisis” confronting hundreds of owners of apartments with defects in Sydney and NSW will not by resolved by the state government’s proposed reforms, lawyers say.

In the wake of the evacuation of the Mascot Towers block, the Berejiklian government said it would introduce new consumer protection legislation by the end of the year, and has started consultation over reforms.

Residents packing up items including a piano from their units in the Mascot Towers Building.
Residents packing up items including a piano from their units in the Mascot Towers Building. CREDIT:STEVEN SIEWERT



*But lawyers in the field argue the proposed changes insufficiently counter the weakening of consumer protections for apartment owners and buyers over the past two decades.

*David Bannerman, a principal of Bannerman Lawyers, said his firm had acted for owners corporations’ in more than 300 claims over the past decade. He argued the restriction of home warranty insurance by the former Carr government to residential buildings below four storeys was at the root of much of the problems.


Paul Jurdeczka, a partner at Chambers Russell Lawyers, with nearly 20 years of experience in the area, said he did not think the government’s changes would “deal properly with the defects crisis facing NSW.”

Play Video

Mascot Towers now sinking into the ground

Mascot Towers now sinking into the ground

Play video


Mascot Towers now sinking into the ground

Another blow for residents of the ‘cracking’ Mascot Towers which are now sinking into the ground.


“Structural flaws and cracks may not be common, but water leaks and fire safety defects are,” he said.

The thrust of the government’s reform package, further details of which were released by Better Regulation and Innovation Minister Kevin Anderson this week, is to tighten liability in building design and construction. The government proposed to register the “designers” of builders – such as architects, engineers and others who provide plans for the construction of apartment blocks.

And it proposes to introduce an industry-wide “duty of care” so subsequent owners of apartments can seek compensation for negligence on the part of a builder, designer or developer.

But Mr Bannerman said in the hundreds of claims he had made on behalf of owners’ corporations, in only 2 per cent of cases did a builder cross-claim against a designer.

“Rarely is it the designers’ fault,” he said.

*Mr Jurdeczka said: “Design is not usually the main cause of building defects; poor quality construction is.”

Chris Duggan, the president of the Strata Community Association representing strata managers, said defects in strata buildings in NSW were “systemic.”

“Our managers deal with these buildings and owners who have to deal with the normalisation now of defects throughout strata,” he said.

“That normalisation has occurred through all of those consecutive erosions that have occurred.”

*As well as the removal of home warranty insurance for buildings beyond four storeys in 2004, another major change was the weakening of guarantees required to be made by developers and builders by the O’Farrell government in 2012.


*The seven-year statutory warranty for all defects was reduced to a six-year warranty for “major” defects and a two-year warranty for others – a difficult distinction to draw.

*Lawyers also argue the industry practice among developers and builders of using $2 companies for individual projects helps them avoid liability, and is not directly addressed by the proposed reforms.

Banjo Stanton of Stanton Legal said that for strata buildings above three storeys in NSW “the current system has encouraged the widespread use of $2 companies and cutting corners which has led to a large increase in defect issues.”

In the absence of home warranty insurance, consumers were often left with no real redress, he said.

At a meeting on Thursday night, owners at Mascot Towers were told they could be out of the complex for a few months longer than they were first told. An engineer would not be able to deliver a comprehensive report on the cause of the cracks for another four weeks, they were told.

One resident said the information had calmed tensions.

“Last night made me feel slightly more positive,” he said.



Residents packing up items including a piano from their units in the Mascot Towers Building.





Jacob Saulwick is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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