Technician’s control room error causes metro trains to shut down

Matt O'Sullivan
By Matt O’Sullivan

July 29, 2019

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A shutdown of Sydney’s new metro rail line on Monday morning was caused by a technician inexplicably breaking the glass on a fire suppression system, triggering gas to be pumped into a control room and forcing its evacuation.

The “serious incident” at 9.20am caused delays for thousands of commuters for the next 90 minutes, forcing stations along the $7.3 billion Metro Northwest line to be evacuated and replacement buses put on to eventually transfer passengers to their destinations.

At the time, 17 driverless trains were running along the 36-kilometre line in both directions between Rouse Hill and Chatswood. Two of the trains were stuck in tunnels for about 15 minutes before they were moved on to stations where passengers could get off and catch buses.

The control centre at Rouse Hill was evacuated on Monday morning.
The control centre at Rouse Hill was evacuated on Monday morning. CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS

Transport officials initially blamed the shutdown on a “communications system issue”.

But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the incident was due to “human error”, caused by a technician in the metro line’s control room at Rouse Hill in the city’s north west breaking the glass on a fire suppressant system.

“In breaking the glass, gas was released through the control centre, which led to an evacuation. Because of the very nature of the gas released, it meant there was no oxygen to ensure that people were safe inside the centre,” he said.

Firefighters arrived quickly on the scene. No fire or smoke was detected

The metro line was shut down for about 90 minutes on Monday morning.
The metro line was shut down for about 90 minutes on Monday morning.CREDIT:YIANNI ASPRADAKIS

Transport systems around the world including Sydney’s have mechanisms in place for critical areas which, in the event of a fire, result in oxygen being sucked out of rooms to suppress flames and protect equipment. Staff are evacuated before their safety is placed at risk.

Mr Constance said he expected the private operator of the metro line to “look closely at this” incident, and details about why the technician activated the suppression system.

“We will always take key lessons out of incidents like this,” he said.

The control centre for the trains is housed in buildings adjacent to a large stabling yard for the line’s fully automated trains at Rouse Hill. Up to 30 people typically work in the control centre.

Two of the driverless trains were stuck in tunnels for about 15 minutes.
Two of the driverless trains were stuck in tunnels for about 15 minutes.CREDIT:YIANNI ASPRADAKIS

Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples said the system worked “exactly as it was planned and designed”, citing the evacuation of the operations control centre, and the stopping of trains to ensure “that everyone was safe”.

“[It is] important we learn some lessons out of this and the metro operator is certainly looking at that. But the back-up system did come into play and we were able to stand up the system,” he said.

Within an hour of the alarm, a decision was made to shift to the back-up system to allow a gradual recovery of services on the metro rail line.

The delays coincided with the first day of major changes to the bus network in Sydney’s north west, which has linked more bus routes to stations along the metro line but come at the cost of a number of services to the central city including the 610 from Rouse Hill to the CBD.

Mr Constance said the government would continue to monitor the response of commuters to the changes, but cited a drop of up to 25 per cent in patronage on some buses to the CBD as evidence people were switching their travel patterns to use the new metro trains.

“You can’t change services without upsetting someone. At the same time, it’s about the greater good to benefit the majority of people,” he said.

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Matt O'Sullivan
Matt O’Sullivan

Matt O’Sullivan is the Transport Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.


NSW DEVELOPERS INC were unable to build the housing supply quickly enough to meet the overseas demand …

HOW many more unsuitable sites have been developed?




Neither the developer ECOVE nor the builder ICON are the subject of the lawsuit, but they could still be liable through cross-claim!

The Opal Tower owners are suing the original owner of the site, the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) and, under a revision to the Home Building Act in 2011, considered the “developer” as it owns 12 affordable-housing apartments in Opal Tower.

Rather than the ‘people of NSW … and Australia’ having to foot the bill perhaps the NSW Government in turn could recoup the funds from those who created the Housing Ponzi?

Opal Tower unit owners launch multi-million-dollar class action against NSW State Government

Exclusive by Nick Sas

29 JULY 2019

A sign that says 'no stopping' in the foreground in front of a tall apartment building, Opal Tower.

PHOTO: Sydney’s Opal Tower was evacuated on Christmas Eve, now residents are launching legal action. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

RELATED STORY: How to avoid living in a ‘lemon’ — what you need to know before buying an apartment

RELATED STORY: Hundreds still homeless as report finds Opal Tower beams ‘burst’ under pressure

RELATED STORY: ‘Safety lower than required’: What the Opal Tower report actually says

Owners of units in Sydney’s Opal Tower are seeking millions of dollars in compensation from the State Government in a class-action lawsuit.

Key points:

  • Opal Tower was evacuated on Christmas Eve after residents heard a loud cracking noise
  • The class action lawsuit claims a “breach of warranty” and that the design and construction of the tower lacked “due care and skill”
  • The NSW Government owns about 40 apartments in Opal Tower

In documents lodged with the NSW Supreme Court late on Friday, owners of the western Sydney apartment tower are suing the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA), the owner of the land on which the Opal Tower sits.

The Sydney Olympic Park Authority is a NSW State Government-controlled entity, meaning residents are effectively suing the Berejiklian Government — not the developer or builder.

The lawsuit claims a “breach of warranty” and that design and construction of the $170 million apartment complex, which was evacuated on Christmas Eve after residents spotted cracks in its foundations, was not designed or constructed with “due care and skill”.

It is claiming a breach of the Home Building Act, in that the tower was not built in accordance with the plans and specifications.

“Opal Tower was not reasonably fit for occupation,” the claim states.

The ownershundreds of whom have now been in temporary accommodation for more than seven months, are also claiming losses due to a drop in the value of the apartments and a loss of rental value.

A concrete floor next to a glass sliding door appears significantly cracked. A person's show is visible in the corner of shot.

PHOTO: Part of the cracking on level 10 of Opal Tower. (Supplied)

No exact monetary figure has yet been put on the suit, but the claim is expected to run into the multi-millions.

Some owners paid up to $2.5 million for apartments in the building, and larger apartments demanded rents of more than $750 per week.

Since the Christmas Eve evacuation, property insiders say the market has put a red mark on the building, with almost no buying, selling or new rentals of the 392 apartments in the tower.

The lawsuit is being led by Opal Tower resident Terry Williamson, who is being represented by law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

Mr Williamson and the law firm both declined to comment.

Welcome to Sydney’s ghost towers

Welcome to Sydney's ghost towers

Record apartment rental vacancies and a softening housing market are creating an odd phenomenon — apartments with no-one in them.

The exact number of residents involved in the lawsuit is not yet known.

It is an open class action, meaning all owners are group members unless they opt out.

The ABC understands the response from owners has been strong.

The first steps of the process kicked off last month, with documents lodged to the NSW Supreme Court by Corrs Chambers Westgarth seeking what is known as a “preliminary discovery application” to gain access to designs and contracts relating to the design of Opal Tower.

Ecove, the developer of Opal Tower, and Icon, the builder, are all aware of the impending lawsuit following the application. Though they are not the focus of the lawsuit, they could still be liable through cross-claims.

Living under Sydney’s ‘dome’

Living under Sydney's 'dome'

Welcome to Ryde, where the new realities of inner-city living are colliding with locals who remember life before the rush.

Rather than suing the builder or developer, the ABC understands SOPA has been picked out because it was the original owner of the site and, under a revision to the Home Building Act in 2011, considered the “developer” as it owns 12 affordable-housing apartments in Opal Tower.

There is also a guarantee it will have the money to pay the compensation — if the class action suit was successful — whereas the developer and builder could be forced into administration.

SOPA said it would not comment as the matter was before the courts.

The class action is also predicted to have wide-ranging flow-on effects and could act as precedent for residents in Mascot Towers, which was evacuated last month, and any other apartment blocks suffering endemic structural problems sweeping the industry.

According to Ecove, 117 apartments out of 169 that were still vacant in April in Opal Tower have now been re-occupied.

Another 40 apartments will be ready next week, leaving 12 still unoccupied.

A yellow tape measure is held out against a beam in the Opal Tower building. Exposed grout is visible.





HOW can Australia return to 70% home ownership of just 2 decades ago … with the overseas competition for our domestic housing? And the Real Estate Sector exempt from anti-money laundering rules!

Key Points …

-the median price for a detached Sydney home soared by 86 per cent between 2012 and 2017; since fallen by 14 per cent

-HIA analysis shows it takes 1.6 average incomes to service a typical Sydney mortgage

Two Reminders that housing affordability remains a major social challenge

-housing cost no. 1 worry in NSW

-ownership fallen fastest among the poorest 40%; particularly younger Australians


Domain: Sydney’s auction clearance rate is at its highest in more than a year. Photo: Peter Rae

Call that a housing slump? As prices rise again, many will be stuck renting

Matt Wade
Matt Wade

Senior economics writer

July 28, 2019

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Was that it? The property downturn in Sydney and Melbourne looks to be at an end.

Domain group data released on Thursday showed house and unit prices in Melbourne rose a little last quarter while in Sydney the median price for houses and units fell by just 0.4 per cent.

Illustration: Matt Davidson
Illustration: Matt DavidsonCREDIT:

“There are signs things are turning around in Sydney and Melbourne,” says Domain economist Trent Wiltshire.

The property boom in both cities lasted five years but the bust might be over in about two.


Claudia Clamer is hopeful of a good price when she sells her Normanhurst home.

Sydney house price falls slow as property market downturn nears its end

Domain’s figures show the median price for a detached home in Sydney soared by 86 per cent between 2012 and 2017 and has since fallen by 14 per cent. In Melbourne house prices rose by 73 per cent from trough to peak before falling back by 10 per cent.

A few years back federal and state governments were under real pressure to improve housing affordability.

But the steady flow of headlines about falling property prices lately has overshadowed the issue.

So has that price correction done much to alleviate the housing affordability crunch that vaulted to the top of the national agenda during the boom?

There’s no doubt conditions are now more favourable for first-time buyers – their numbers have risen sharply since the property market turned.

The Housing Industry Association’s latest housing affordability report

for the June quarter shows the combination of lower property prices and lower interest rates means affordability has now improved steadily for two years.

But the analysis shows it still takes 1.6 average incomes to service a mortgage on a typical Sydney dwelling without financial stress. In Melbourne that ratio was 1.4 average incomes.

Sydney’s median house price is still above the $1 million mark and looks likely to remain above that daunting threshold. Melbourne’s median detached house has settled around $820,000.

Grattan Institute economist Brendan Coates, who researches housing, says recent house price falls have not dealt with housing affordability challenges.

*Not enough has been done to address the underlying causes of the problem, especially by providing more housing supply in well located neighbourhoods, Coates says.

CAAN: overseas buyers market increased competition for domestic housing, and with the Real Estate Sector exempted from Anti-Money Laundering Rules (October 2018); such policies contrary to the interests of Australian First Home Buyers

Tim Readon, an economist with the Housing Industry Association, says it could take a decade to significantly improve housing affordability in Sydney and Melbourne.

There have been two reminders during the past fortnight that housing affordability remains a major social challenge, despite the recent price corrections.

The property price slump in Sydney and Melbourne may be over.
The property price slump in Sydney and Melbourne may be over.CREDIT:ARSINEH HOUSPIAN

First, new polling shows housing costs still rank among our biggest worries, especially in Sydney and Melbourne.

*According to the latest quarterly Ipsos Issues Monitor, which asks respondents to select the three “most important issues” facing the community, housing is still the No. 1 worry in NSW. Housing was ranked the third biggest concern in Victoria.


Fenella McGowan and her husband Lee Johnston have signed up to a housing concept known as build-to-rent-to-own.

Victoria fast tracks build-to-rent projects as more Australians rent

The share of survey respondents worried about housing costs rose in both states last quarter.

Sydney and Melbourne have both experienced two big property booms since the late 1990s. That’s made the reaction to rising property prices much more complex than in the past.

The cost of housing has become a source of public unease, even trepidation.

And that’s changed the way politicians speak about property prices.

Back in 2003 – at the tail end of Australia’s last great housing boom – then prime minister John Howard dismissed concerns about high property values, saying: “I don’t get people stopping me in the street and saying, ‘John, you’re outrageous. Under your government the value of my house has increased.'”

Play Video

Trio of sentiment boosting themes underwrite record-run

Play video4:08Domain House Price Report: June Quarter 2019

Prices have experienced modest growth in Melbourne, Hobart and Canberra in recent months, and fell less sharply in almost every other capital.

*According to Howard, “most people feel more secure and feel better off because the value of their homes has gone up”.

*Political leaders don’t say things like that anymore because polling suggests the reaction of many home owners to rising prices is now tinged by anxiety.

During the last property price rally, which peaked in 2017, the cost of housing began to register as an acute public concern. It began to rank alongside more traditional bugbears including healthcare, crime and the cost of living.

There are signs public unease over the cost of property has became deeply entrenched.

*The second reminder came from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which released a survey earlier this month showing the share of Australians who own their own home continues to fall.

*The proportion of households that owned their own home fell to 66 per cent in 2017–18, down from 70 per cent two decades earlier.

The survey also found 20 per cent Australian households now own one or more residential properties other than the home they live in (5 per cent of them own four or more properties).

But the share of renters climbed to 32 per cent, 5 percentage points higher than in 1997-98.

*Coates says home ownership has fallen fastest among the poorest 40 per cent of Australians, particularly the poorest 40 per cent of younger Australians.

Go back three decades and home ownership was fairly constant regardless of what your income was – there was just as much chance of owning your own home if you were low-income or if you were high-income, although the home you owned was obviously quite different,” he says.

“Fast-forward to today and home ownership among the poorest 40 per cent of income earners has crashed whereas home ownership trends among the top 40 per cent are relatively unchanged compared with three decades ago.”

The recent improvement in the share of first-time buyers in the housing market might slow this trend.

But the chances are, Coates warns, that home ownership will continue to fall among younger people, especially those on low incomes.

The consequences will be far-reaching.

Matt Wade

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

Illustration: Matt Davidson






AS revealed on 60 minutes for your records!

CROWN Casino the facilitator for the foreign High Net Worth to launder their black money in Australian property … residential, commercial and agricultural …

AUSTRALIA’s biggest export … Our Title Deeds!

AND … Chinese Communist Party influence activities in Australia.

Xi Jinping’s cousin a high roller as Crown comes under pressure over crime, influence

By Nick McKenzie, Grace Tobin and Nick Toscano

July 28, 2019

A cousin of Chinese President Xi Jinping was aboard a private jet for high-roller gamblers when it was searched by federal agents on the Gold Coast in 2016 on suspicion that it was involved in international money laundering.

The initial target of the police search of the jet’s passengers was an alleged criminal fugitive and business partner of Crown Resorts, Tom Zhou. But the search also revealed that one of Mr Zhou’s travelling companions was Mr Xi’s cousin, Ming Chai.

Ming Chai, cousin of Chinese President Xi Jingping.
Ming Chai, cousin of Chinese President Xi Jingping.

Multiple sources have confirmed that police and security agencies, including ASIO, have since made detailed inquiries about why Mr Chai – a Crown resorts “VVIP” (very, very important person) – was aboard the flight with Mr Zhou, who is an alleged crime figure and Communist Party influence operative.

*A trove of thousands of leaked files from inside the Australian gaming giant shows how Crown and its high-roller agents have encouraged and facilitated the travel to Australia of several figures of interest to police and security agencies.

The files also appear to expose links between Asian criminal gangs known as “triads”, which are involved in high-roller junket businesses, and Chinese Communist Party influence activities in Australia.


"Mr Chinatown", Tom Zhou

Crown’s unsavoury business links: how Australia’s casino got tied up with criminals

Police and security agencies are now asking questions about the movement in and out of Australia of Chinese high rollers with links to the Chinese Communist Party or organised crime syndicates or, in some cases, both.

A number of Crown’s business partners and VVIPs are Australian and Chinese nationals who have led key Communist Party influence organisations in Sydney and Melbourne.

“This underbelly of Chinese Communist Party influence is something that we are only just beginning to understand,” said Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Alex Joske.

The leaked data reveals that Crown had an “emergency channel” with Australian consular officials to fast-track the movement of Chinese nationals into Australia “where we may have hundreds of millions of dollars of turnover at stake”.

“The purpose of the ‘special line’ is not for last minute girlfriend additions … we should try to avoid using our emergency channel unless it is critical,” one leaked Crown email states.

The revelations by The AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes have shaken the casino giant formerly controlled by one of Australia’s richest men, James Packer. They also raise serious questions about state and federal agencies, including gaming authorities.

Who is Ming Chai?

In a statement, Crown Resorts said of its relationships with junket operators and individuals: “Crown does not comment on its business operations with particular individuals or businesses.”

However, it had a “comprehensive” anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program in place, “which is subject to regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC”.Play Video

ACCC releases digital platforms report

Play video2:27Crown Unmasked – The Plane

In 2016 a private jet was searched by law enforcement on the tarmac of Coolangatta airport. It’s passengers were worth billions each, and each held secrets precious to Crown casino.

In a statement through his lawyer, Mr Packer “adamantly” insisted that he had played a “passive” role in the company’s operations.  He has not been an executive at the company since 2012 and resigned as chairman of Crown Resorts in August 2015 and as a board member in December that year.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said all visa applications were assessed against the law. “Our offices in China are well aware of the risks … and they scrutinise and manage applications accordingly,” the spokesperson said. The department had “no evidence” of conditions being waived for Crown.

A deep relationship

The leaked documents reveal how Crown Resorts formed a deep business partnership with Mr Zhou — an international fugitive, alleged crime boss and the subject of an Interpol red notice,according to multiple security officials with knowledge of the matter. Crown helped Mr Zhou’s associates get Australian visas, according to the leaked Crown data.

The data also reveals Crown’s dealings with Mr Chai, who is also a former Chinese police official and high-rolling Crown gambler.

Mr Zhou has been accused in various Chinese courts of extortion, standover tactics and even arranging for acid to be thrown in a man’s face.

Mr Chai has faced publicly reported corruption allegations in China, though he has never been charged, and is the business partner of Mr Zhou. Both men were aboard the New Zealand-bound jet when the passengers were interrogated by federal agents at Coolangatta airport on August 17, 2016.

Mr Zhou is a multi-millionaire Crown “junket” operator whose “Chinatown junket” specialises in luring gamblers from China to the casinos in Melbourne and Perth. The Australian passport holder also heads three organisations in Melbourne that are aligned to and backed by the Chinese Communist Party, according to material published by these same organisations.

Who is Tom Zhou?

One of them, the Huaxing Art Troupe, answers to the United Front Work Department, the organisation that works to influence Chinese diaspora communities and overseas political systems to advance the aims of the Communist Party.

The search of the private jet revealed the extent Mr Zhou’s networks. In 2016 and 2017, Mr Zhou was paying a suspended Victoria Police Special Operations Group officer, Greg Leather, and other serving and former law enforcement officials to work for him as private security.

Mr Zhou’s dealing with these officials arose after Crown arranged for a firm run by former detectives to help Mr Zhou run his business.

Mr Leather, who has returned to the force after suspension, worked as a security agent for the jet passengers and subsequently worked for Mr Zhou, including advising his associates on how to use weapons on Mr Zhou’s hunting property in rural Victoria.

Victorian police officer Greg Leather and a client shooting at a property in Murrindindi owned by Crown junket operator Tom Zhou.
Victorian police officer Greg Leather and a client shooting at a property in Murrindindi owned by Crown junket operator Tom Zhou.

Serving and former officials have provided security to Crown customers, including Mr Zhou and Mr Chai, on several private jet flights, according to flight records.

Mr Zhou’s alleged involvement in serious criminal activity and violence is documented in several Chinese court cases. The leaked internal Crown files reveal that, on his recommendation, Crown reassured the Australian government that several of Mr Zhou’s Chinese associates were of good character and should be allowed to enter Australia.

“[He is a] friend of our VVIP Mr Zhou,” states one internal email outlining why Crown should vouch for one Zhou associate to the government.

Mr Zhou and Mr Chai’s activities provide a rare insight into the connections between the vast sums of money and politically connected people moving out of China to gamble at Crown, and the Chinese Communist Party’s influence activities.

How a junket can launder money

Twelve serving and former government officials who are aware of aspects of the scandal allege that failures in Crown’s corporate governance were to blame as well as a failure by state gaming regulators and police and security agencies to act on repeated warnings about Crown’s operations.

“For Crown, it’s all about the dollars,” said one official.

Complicating efforts to act has been Crown’s political reach and power.

*Former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg has claimed that two federal ministers and one backbencher had lobbied the force, asking it to make it easier for Chinese high rollers to enter Australia on private jets despite agency warnings about some passengers.

Former Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg.
Former Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg.CREDIT:60 MINUTES

“There were ministers that approached the agency, approached me personally, indicating that Crown, and subsequently the junket operators that worked with Crown, weren’t receiving a facilitated service for private jets coming into Australia, into Perth and Melbourne,” Mr Quaedvlieg said.

“[They were] seeking some arrangements which smoothed out the processes … [so they could] land on a private jet at Melbourne airport, receive the minimal amount of clearances, put them in cars, get them into the casino and spending money.”


Crown casino, Melbourne.

Brothel owner and alleged money launderer is Crown casino’s business partner

Mr Quaedvlieg was sacked from the Border Force for assisting his girlfriend, a low-ranking part-time employee, to apply for full-time work.

The president’s cousin

Mr Chai is a former Chinese police official turned Communist Party princeling with impeccable connections to President Xi. Mr Chai’s father — the president’s uncle — is a former high-ranking police official. Mr Chai now has an Australian passport and lists his business address at a mansion in Melbourne’s bayside suburb of Brighton.

Mr Zhou, his business partner, ran a casino promotion empire – known as a junket – that was licensed and partly bankrolled by Crown. Crown relied on his “Chinatown junket” to funnel China’s wealthiest people to its high-roller rooms in Perth and Melbourne and provide them with tens of millions of dollars in gambling credit.

Crown casino’s connections

Mr Zhou’s partnership with Crown began after he fled the justice system in China when authorities there implicated him in serious financial crime. He has also been accused in various Chinese courts of extortion, standover tactics and even arranging for acid to be thrown in a man’s face.

“The facts of a crime are clear and the evidence was reliable and sufficient,” according to one court filing from the Intermediate People’s Court of Wuhan province. It also reveals that Chinese police allege Mr Zhou had been “misappropriating huge amounts of money”. The file states that Mr Zhou “absconded abroad” and would be dealt with “separately”, a likely reference to his Interpol arrest warrant for financial crime.

As well as being one of Crown Resorts’ top 50 Chinese punters – he turned over at least $27 million in 2014 and had a projected turnover of $50 million in 2015 –  Mr Chai has formed investment businesses in Australia not only with Mr Zhou but a second Crown junket operator, Simon Pan.


Crown Resorts casinos must ensure public trust.

Keep black cash out of Australia’s casinos

Mr Pan runs a brothel about one kilometre from Crown in Melbourne that has been implicated in the human trafficking of Asian women.

Know more? Send us a confidential and encrypted message on JournoTips

Nick McKenzie

Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won seven Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.

Nick Toscano

Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.





Image may contain: sky, cloud, night, tree and outdoor

CAAN Photo:  Chinese developer JQZ, Prime Precinct, Waterloo Road, Macquarie Park; Ryde LGA … a Precinct within a Precinct

FROM the perspective of the Electorate, the ratepayers and taxpayers … both the ‘taller slim’ apartment towers and ‘dumpy buildings’ of massive Precincts have a huge negative impact on what were ‘our neighbourhoods’

The Architect may well have a ‘grand vision’ beautiful even … but the reality, it would appear, is somewhat different, isn’t it?

BECAUSE ‘They, the deve-loper’ always want more $$!

AND the consequences have been borne out by the 85 per cent defective builds on completion!

P.S. CJ, Councils are there to work for their ratepayers, and both Councils and Ratepayers have been disempowered, it would appear, by political donations influencing our governments …

Godzillas in the suburbs’: The truth behind Sydney’s ugly apartment blocks

Andrew Taylor
By Andrew Taylor

July 28, 2019

Suburbs across Sydney are scarred with “big, fat, dumb” apartment buildings that provide poor living spaces for residents, according to two of the city’s leading architects.

Philip Thalis, who is also a City of Sydney councillor, accused developers of pursuing profits by cramming apartments into buildings with excessive footprints.


‘Godzilla’ apartment blocks springing up in suburbs across Sydney.CREDIT:FAIRFAX MEDIA

“What worries me is these overblown buildings, these Godzillas in the suburbs, are a really bad model,” he said.

Chris Johnson, the chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, a group representing the development industry, said councils and restrictive planning rules were to blame for “dumpy buildings”.

“Councils need to be more flexible with height to encourage slimmer towers,” he said.

Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

CAAN Photo: ‘Ryde Garden’ regarded by the neighbourhood as an eyesore … perhaps apart from the ‘visually impaired’ …?

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoor

CAAN Photo: ‘Ryde Garden’ by Chinese developer Country Garden

Shaun Carter, a past president of the NSW branch of the Australian Institute of Architects, said tall, thin towers were preferable to lower, bulkier buildings: “We know these qualities make better buildings, better streets and better cities.”

Architect and City of Sydney councillor Philip Thalis is critical of apartment buildings with large footprints, which he called "Godzillas in the suburbs".
Architect and City of Sydney councillor Philip Thalis is critical of apartment buildings with large footprints, which he called “Godzillas in the suburbs”.CREDIT:LOUISE KENNERLEY

But squat buildings are cheaper to construct, Mr Carter said. “The less external envelope you have, the less glass, the less you have to insulate and waterproof and the less expensive materials you use.

“This is clearly beyond some builders and developers in Sydney at present,” he said.

Steve Mann, the chief executive of the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW, said developers were constrained by planning rules set by councils and the state government.

“Currently regulatory authorities are so prescriptive with controls and development tax is so high that developments are moulded by these constraints,” he said. “The building is ‘poured’ into the controls.”

*The State Environmental Planning Policy No. 65, and its companion Apartment Design Guide, imposes standards for natural light, outdoor access and size on new apartment developments, yet there is inadequate enforcement of these rules, Cr Thalis said.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

NDT Photo: The Meriton proposal for Talavera Road, Macquarie Park. With a 63 storey tower

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper, tree and outdoor

CAAN Photo: 7 Towers, ParkView, the Herring Road Precinct, Macquarie Park corner of Herring Road and Epping Road. Similar development to be repeated on both sides of Herring Road!

But Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said NSW leads the country when it comes to ensuring high-quality design of apartments.

If we are to have taller buildings, the trade-off must be a greater contribution to safe, useable attractive public open space,” he said.

Cr Thalis said apartment buildings with large floor plates had been built across Sydney in suburbs such as Kirrawee, Mascot, Pagewood, Homebush and Wentworth Point.

“Their sheer mass is a problem,” he said. “They’re not broken up into smaller buildings, they don’t have areas of landscape integrated with their site planning. They’re just monoliths.”

"Dumpy buildings" have been blamed on councils and planning rules by groups representing developers.
“Dumpy buildings” have been blamed on councils and planning rules by groups representing developers.CREDIT:JOHN VEAGE

Cr Thalis said monolithic buildings made fantastic warehouses but “they’re not great as places to live”.

*Chris Knapp, the head of Bond University’s Abedian School of Architecture, said slender buildings had greater visual appeal and caused less overshadowing.


Tallawong Station south plans

Apartments springing up near new metro stations sign of what is coming

“For occupants, it means more availability of daylight and natural ventilation,” he said.

However, Professor Knapp said tall building can “breed” anonymity: “Once people live too far from the ground, they become detached from the pedestrian realm and the sense of community and connection one has with their neighbourhood.”

Cr Thalis and Mr Carter said a maximum of six apartments per floor of an apartment complex was ideal.

“This usually would mean a more friendly place to live, a more personal corridor space, more area given to apartments, and more surface area for the apartment which would, in the hands of a skilled architect, means greater amenity and better architecture,” Mr Carter said.


Ugly ducklings or swans? Debate rages over multi-storey developments

Ugly ducklings or swans? Debate rages over multi-storey developments

*But Mr Johnson said limiting the number of apartments on each floor would drive up property prices: “We need to consider affordability in the number of apartments per floor.”

*CAAN: Hehehe … really, isn’t it about more apartments per floor and storey upon storey … deve-lopers make a motzer?

Cr Thalis said he was not opposed to increasing the city’s density, but a focus on short-term profits had led to the building defects crisis and the evacuation of apartment complexes at Sydney Olympic Park, Mascot and Erskineville.

Mr Carter said building should not be just about making profits.

“They need to be people’s homes and workplaces first and foremost,” he said. “That’s why good regulation is needed to make sure this is what actually happens.”


Damage to the loft apartments at 19 Gadigal Avenue, Zetland.

Sydney’s stupidest building boom was born in a bonfire of regulation


More skilled and stringent planning assessment was needed to improve the design of apartment towers, Mr Carter said, with architects should be “tied” to a building until the occupation certificate is issued.

*He also said there should be greater public sector involvement in building affordable housing to improve standards and lower maintenance costs.

*In contrast, Mr Mann said planning was a “broken system” that did not respond to community needs.

“State and local controls could be used as a baseline with buildings that can show better community outcomes to be allowed to be assessed outside of the controls on their merit and response to the needs of the community,” he said.

Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.





ASK  … WHO is behind Australia’s population boom?  The Population and Housing Ponzi?

Cough … cough …

IS it the deve-loper lobbies … The Property Council of Australia … and guess who wrote their policy before entering politics?

AND the Urban Taskforce?

WHY do we have to accommodate an extra 400,000 people annually?

IS it about 400,000 buying ‘a hole in a wall’? And fridges, washing machines and sheets flying off the shelves?

WHY do we need more development that will be 85% defective on completion? Why do Sydneysiders have to get outa the way?

AS residents battle to keep their peaceful neighbourhoods ‘as-is’ say their area can’t cope with the number of people coming to live in their suburb …

Property Council of Australia’s CEO Ken Morrison said ‘high density growth is good, as long as infrastructure and amenities keep pace.’

WHY?  So their coffers overflow? With high-rise is it because storey upon storey deve-lopers make a Motzer? And now they want terraces, manor homes and townhomes too … in NSW it is the State Liberal Guvmnt that has disempowered our Councils, and specified huge housing targets for Councils to meet!

In RYDE LGA a number of Precincts across Macquarie Park, Top Ryde, North Ryde, Meadowbank, Gladesville with heights ranging from 10, 20, 30, 42 storeys and 63 storeys was proposed!

NOT in our backyard: Locals battling councils over high-rise plans

By Ellijahna Victoria

Jul 25, 2019

Play Video High-rise revolt

Families across the country are banding together as councils and developers move to build multi-storey dwellings in their suburbs that would “destroy the city”.

As Australia’s population booms, the government is making way to accommodate the extra 400,000 people moving into the country every year.

But residents who want to keep their peaceful neighbourhood as-is say their area can’t cope with the amount of people coming to live in their suburb.

In Dingley Village, south-east of Melbourne, furious neighbours say the Kingston Council’s plan to allow higher-density developments in residential streets will turn the village into a metropolis. 

Locals in suburbs around Australia are fighting to keep high-rise developments out of their neighbourhoods. (A Current Affair)

“I think it’s terrible. Once you start building three storeys, you’ll probably have 60, 70 unit developments around here. They’ll just buy up three, four blocks in a row and then they’ll just go to town,” one resident said.”It’ll be horrible, I’ll be wanting to move out I think, because I think there’s too much hustle and bustle, won’t be able to move at the shops you know, they won’t have enough food there ’cause they’ll run out all the time,” another resident said. The council’s proposed changes include allowing three-storey housing in “incremental change” areas, including parts of Dingley Village and along the Frankston railway line, that have existing two-storey (nine-metre) restrictions.

Councils are approving larger developments to accommodate a booming population. (A Current Affair)

Cr Rosemary West, who has been championing the residents’ concerns said the unwanted changes would not only affect Dingley Village, but also other neighbourhoods.


But City of Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley claims the rezoning proposals would only see three-storey housing in seven per cent of the area.”What Kingston is doing is accommodating that population growth around our activity centres, so around those areas that have that infrastructure to support that population growth and protecting what we have in our quieter neighbourhood streets,” Cr Oxley said.

But local residents say in some cases, there aren’t enough facilities in the area for all the newcomers. (A Current Affair)

Dingley Village Community Association spokesman David Madill said the proposal was not justified or necessary.”At the moment, we are providing more people per year moving into the village than the council is required by state government to provide,” Mr Madill said.Just a few suburbs away in Melbourne’s Cranbourne North, residents of Tulliallan Estate have been fighting the developer’s plans to build 139 homes on land earmarked as public open space.Rebecca Hyland from the Tulliallan Action Group said they were upset by the developer’s conduct as they bought into the estate with the promise of sporting fields, which was included in all marketing brochures given to them at the time.

Residents of Tulliallan Estate are fighting to keep homes off land they claim was promised as sports fields. (A Current Affair)

“Everyone in this community has sacrificed their big backyard with the promise of green space,” Ms Hyland said.Trish Roberts is another worried resident in Melbourne’s Oakleigh South, where a developer wants to squeeze 89 townhouses at a former school site.“There’s facilities to cater for what we’ve got now, but you start loading more and more people here, there’s nowhere for them to come to park to start with, there’s a bus that goes half an hour, stops at 10 o’clock at night, the train station’s a half hour walk away,” Mrs Roberts said.

Councils are approving larger developments to accommodate a booming population. (A Current Affair)

In Brisbane, West End residents including Seleneah More are up in arms about yet another high rise development.”In 2004, one of the highest building you could build around here was six storeys. Then from 2011, it’s gone to 30 storeys,” Ms More said.

Those living in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville are also fighting a builder who wants to demolish a historical factory to make way for 2600 apartments.Capital city growth made up 79 per cent of our total population growth last year. Melbourne had the largest increase with more than 119,000 people, followed by Sydney with 93,400 people, and Brisbane with 50,100 people.

Trish Roberts from Oakleigh South is worried about the plans to build 89 townhouses on a former school site. (A Current Affair)

Property Council of Australia’s CEO Ken Morrison said high density growth is good, as long as infrastructure and amenities keep pace.”It’s still tough to get in. The housing’s expensive in our big cities. So that is another reason that people are looking to other forms of housing – apartment dwellings attached, attached dwellings, townhouses and the like,” Mr Morrison said.Town planner Bill Kusznirczuk said what’s happening to suburbia is just a normal evolution and councils are under pressure from state governments to plan for the future.”You cannot afford to keep building out. It’s as simple as that. It’s not sustainable, and it’s not smart,” Mr Kusznircuk said.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019





Sports Minister Mr Sidoti may be confident …. unlike the Opposition and the community … based on infrastructure cost blowouts to date …

FROM Twitter …

Michael Daley


· Mmm. Don’t want to say I told you so but…. ⁦


⁩ and ⁦


⁩ said that there was ONE seamless $730 mill contract for demo and rebuild. Now they say that’s not true! And they’re blaming Lendlease. Hopeless and shameless.

Sydney Football Stadium rebuild in chaos as Lendlease leaves project

The NSW government said Lendlease had not been able to meet the government’s requirements to rebuild the stadium on the Moore Park site.

Earlier report from Nick Dole:

Sydney stadium builder Lendlease cannot sue NSW Government because it failed ‘objectives’, Minister says

By Nick Sas

27 JULY 2019

An artist's impression of the stadium and Sports Minister John Sidoti.

PHOTO: Sports Minister John Sidoti said the new stadium would come in on budget and on time. (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: Lendlease booted as Sydney stadium builder for not meeting targets

RELATED STORY: Sydney Football Stadium demolition to begin two months before NSW election

The company originally contracted to build the $729 million Sydney stadium then booted off the project has no grounds to sue the NSW State Government because it “failed objectives”, the Sports Minister says.

Key points:

  • The ABC revealed yesterday Lendlease has been booted off the project over a suspected cost blowout
  • The NSW Government has guaranteed the project will come in on time and on budget, regardless of the decision
  • NSW Labor said the process has been “a shambles”

As revealed by the ABC yesterday, multinational construction company Lendlease, which completed the “stage 1” demolition of the former stadium, will no longer be a part of the build — or stage 2 — after failing to meet the Government’s objectives.

Speaking about the decision today, Sports Minister John Sidoti said Lendlease could not sue the Government because of its failure to meet those objectives.

Mr Sidoti would not reveal the “objectives” Lendlease failed to meet. However the ABC understands the builder was dumped over a cost blowout.

“The facts are very-simple,” Mr Sidoti said.

“It’s a two-stage process and they haven’t met the objectives of the Government, so we’re looking for someone who can.”

The Sydney stadium re-build is part of the State Government’s $2 billion stadiums package it took to the March state election.

It has spent $360m on Bankwest Stadium at Parramatta, which opened in April, and is promising $810 million for a refurbishment of Olympic Stadium in Homebush.

It also spent $200m buying back Olympic Stadium from a private operator.

The now-demolished Sydney football stadium

PHOTO: The now-demolished Sydney football stadium (ABC News)

The talk of cost blowouts has led some political watchers to draw comparisons to the Sydney CBD light rail project.

The NSW Government last month settled a year-long legal dispute with construction company Acciona over the project, agreeing to a $576 million compensation payout. It brought the total cost to more than $3 billion almost double the original $1.6 billion budget.

Mr Sidoti said there were “lots of figures being speculated” about the cost of the stadium project — and the suspected cost blowout from Lendlease.

But he gave a guarantee the project would come in at its original $729 million budget.

“The time frames have not changed, the costings have not changed,” he said.

“It will be delivered on time and on budget.”

NSW Labor has described the process as “a shambles“.

The ground is home for NRL side Sydney Roosters. Coach Trent Robinson said although the team would like to get back to its home turf sooner, he trusted the State Government’s decision.

“Obviously [to get back sooner] is the ideal,” he said.

“But I know they’ve done that [changed builders] for a reason, and budget’s been a big talk in the re-building of [Sydney stadium].”

The project is set to be complete in 2023.





The 61-storey building would include residential premises and a hotel. Picture: Supplied

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Related Article and CAAN raises questions about this Developer Lobby’s constant push for ever more ‘over development’, and why should Sydney communities get out of the way for ‘overseas buyers’?

Maintaining Local Character Wins Over Future Vision For Pyrmont

July 26, 2019

The NSW Government is on a path to reject the future for the comfort of the existing neighbourhood character of Pyrmont says the Urban Taskforce.

On the same day that the state government’s Independent Planning Commission rejected future plans for South St Leonards prepared by Lane Cove Council by preferring the existing character of the precinct the NSW Government through its Planning Department has rejected futuristic plans for the Star site in Pyrmont in favour of maintaining existing local character.” says Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson

“The Star proposal was to energise the Pyrmont Peninsular into a Global Waterfront Precinct but the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s recent determination dismisses the proposal for the future in favour of preserving the local character of Pyrmont. The report says the Star project would ‘adversely affect the established character of Pyrmont’.

Just imagine if across Darling Harbour the Sydney CBD had stopped all development 100 years ago to protect the established character of the city as it was in those days before the arrival of the skyscraper.”

“It seems that the Guideline released by the Department of Planning in February 2019 titled ‘Local Character and Place Guideline,’ which includes no buildings above 3 floors, is now becoming the dominant determinant of planning in NSW.

But the planning system should be about managing growth for the future population including the 725,000 new homes required over 20 years. We are told that Sydney will grow from 5 million people to 8 million people in 40 years time. Local character will have to change somewhere.”

“The Planning Department’s rejection of the Star proposal raises concerns about setting a precedent but this is exactly what has happened in the Sydney CBD continually over many years. The report talks about eroding the established and desired future character of Pyrmont but all large cities grow and change and this leads to a new desired future character.”

“The Department’s report includes an independent Design Advice from Professor Peter Webber who is critical that the building is connected to a Casino. He says ‘in Western Cities the highest and most prominent buildings were limited to those serving religious or civic functions,’ but we have moved on from the Middle Ages with cities like New York, London and Tokyo developing striking clusters of tall modern buildings.”

“While the Government’s report says it is avoiding setting a precedent in Pyrmont an even bigger system wide precedent seems to be developing with government decisions preferring existing local neighbourhood character over a robust future and this can only slow down development in NSW.”

Read The Full Pdf Here

Media Enquires: Chris Johnson, Chief Executive Officer

The Star's proposed Ritz Carlton (pictured) is expected to be rejected by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment on Thursday

Photo: The Daily Mail





Is the Planning Department finally conceding community views … having lambasted the Star Proposal?

-yet another ‘black money laundering’ Casino … wt *!

That the 66 storey tower was not in the public interests … as a venue for gambling …

-a precedent for even more tower buildings on nearby waterfront sites …

-incompatible with the surrounding built environment

-at 8 X the height allowed under existing rules

-with significant overshadowing of public spaces

and obstruct views of residents in existing buildings

WITH China imposing capital controls …

Perhaps the market for wealthy Chinese gambling is drying up?

HAS the Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson overlooked

-the current 85% defective building crisis intensified by the overseas buying frenzy …

WHY should more neighbourhoods be forced to get out of the way of higher density development for ‘overseas buyers’?

Unduly prominent’: The Star’s gamble on luxury hotel tower in doubt

By Megan Gorrey and Carolyn Cummins

The Star’s half-a-billion dollar plan to build a luxury hotel and residential tower on its Pyrmont casino site appears unlikely to proceed, after the state’s planning department signalled it would not support the development.

Citing “unacceptable visual impacts due to its scale” and poor design, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said the 66-storey building was not in the public interest.

Proposed tower for The Star.
Proposed tower for The Star.CREDIT:STAR.COM.AU

The proposed tower would be “unduly prominent”, have adverse impacts on views from residential properties and cause overshadowing in winterthe department’s report to the state’s independent planning authority said on Thursday.

“The [plan] would introduce a new tower form that is inconsistent with its immediate context and would result in unacceptable visual impacts due to its scale, isolation and visual dominance of the existing Pyrmont character and fails to promote good design and amenity of the built environment.”

*In August 2018, The Star lodged ambitious plans for a luxury 220-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and 204 residential apartments, as part of a half-a-billion dollar gamble to lure wealthy Chinese tourists.

*The $530 million proposal also included a neighbourhood centre, library and function spaces.

The interior design for the new Ritz-Carlton hotel at The Star casino, Sydney.
The interior design for the new Ritz-Carlton hotel at The Star casino, Sydney.

A spokesman for The Star said the casino was “extremely disappointed” with the department’s rejection of the plan and it would “consider the avenues and other opportunities available to us”.

The spokesman said that Sydney needed hotels and to build “new and refreshed tourism infrastructure or risk losing international visitors to other states, other countries”.


'Aesthetic disgrace': Proposed tower on casino site divides opinion

‘Aesthetic disgrace’: Proposed tower on casino site divides opinion

“We want to spend half a billion dollars on helping NSW increase its appeal to the inbound visitor market.”

The project has been divisive. Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich and the lord mayor of the City of Sydney, Clover Moore, voiced concerns, while local residents opposed its “excessive” height.

Because there were more than 25 submissions against the project, the proposal will be determined by the Independent Planning Commission.

The report said the development would “symbolise and draw attention” to the casino as a venue for gambling and would not result in the public benefit needed to offset or justify its “negative impacts”.

*”[It would] establish a very undesirable precedent which would potentially encourage applications for further tower buildings on nearby waterfront sites,” the report said.

It said the 237-metre tall tower would be incompatible with the surrounding built environment and would appear “isolated, dominant, and visually intrusive”.

The planning department said the proposal should not be approved.
The planning department said the proposal should not be approved.

“The proposed modification is not in the public interest. It is considered that the application should not be approved,” the report said.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said that the department’s assessment “reflects the consistent and widespread opposition to the scale of this proposal”.

“The report is the result of an exhaustive process and provides some clear advice for the independent decision-maker to consider.”

A planning department spokesman said it had made a “thorough and rigorous assessment” of the proposal and found that “on balance the public impacts outweigh the benefits”.

*The Star’s spokesman said the planning department received 83 objections from members of the public – “well below other major projects”.

The spokesman said the proposed tower did not include any additional gaming facilities and the six-star hotel tower would deliver “a unique dining precinct for locals and tourists”.

Cr Moore said the council was “delighted” with the department’s assessment, which she said had taken the community’s concerns into account.

**“This massive tower would be eight times the height allowed under existing rules, cause significant overshadowing of public spaces and obstruct views of residents in existing buildings.”

*“This proposal was submitted outside of current planning controls, using the infamous part 3A of the Planning Act, a now discredited piece of legislation designed to override community concerns.”

*Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson expressed disappointment, saying the aim of the proposal was to “energise” the Pyrmont peninsula into a “global waterfront precinct”.

*“While the government’s report says it is avoiding setting a precedent in Pyrmont, an even bigger system wide precedent seems to be developing with government decisions preferring existing local neighbourhood character over a robust future and this can only slow down development in NSW.”

Megan Gorrey

Megan Gorrey is the Urban Affairs reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Carolyn Cummins

Carolyn Cummins is Commercial Property Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald.





Morrison began the week by asking Labor: “Whose side are you on?”

It’s a question he could just as well have posed to his Coalition colleagues.


Paul Bongiorno 


Scott Morrison, who famously shrank the Liberal Party to near-invisibility to win the May election, was this week confronted by his party’s reappearance, and he doesn’t much like it.

In just the second government party room meeting since polling day, Morrison read the riot act to backbenchers for unhelpfully freelancing in the media.

In parliament, he sat frustrated as Labor mostly ignored him in question time.

On Tuesday, every question from the opposition went to the minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor.

When Labor’s Justine Elliot asked Taylor if he would rule out a nuclear power plant being built in her seat – encompassing Tweed Heads and the neighbouring Gold Coast Morrison appeared agitated. He swung around to Taylor as he approached the despatch box and mouthed “rule it out”.

But Taylor, who has been accused of being a climate change sceptic, and was somewhat cynically appointed by Morrison to this uber-sensitive portfolio, missed the cue.


giddy angus taylor @FinancialReview#auspol

Instead, Taylor wore his druthers on his sleeve. He said the government’s priority was keeping the lights on while bringing energy prices down. “We will focus on outcomes, not the fuel source.” He said there were no plans to change the moratorium on nuclear power generation but then went on to declare “we always approach these things with an open mind”. The Labor benches cheered. Across the chamber, one MP yelled: “Great work, Angus. Well done!”

The singling out of Taylor paid early dividends for a change in tactics that Anthony Albanese flagged to his dispirited troops at Labor’s caucus meeting on Tuesday morning. He told them Morrison was a “negative, nasty pollie. All about tactics”.

He said to counter Morrison, Labor needed to keep its questions tight and targeted, relying on the element of surprise. Government ministers, particularly the more controversial or poorer performers, need to be exposed. A key Labor strategist says the opposition also intends to ignore the one-man band leader as much as possible. “We’ll treat Morrison as if he is just another minister,” he says.

In Taylor, they have more than enough to target.

After trying to avoid admitting that emissions have in fact risen in every year of the Coalition governmentespecially after the repeal of the carbon price – he still couldn’t quite admit the truth of the situation. The closest he got was that “from year to year and quarter to quarter, emissions go up and down”. Again, it was almost certainly not the answer Morrison would have preferred, nor the one scribbled on notes he had passed to the sweating minister during his hour-long grilling.

Labor is also pursuing Taylor’s alleged conflict of interest over the poisoning of about 30 hectares of protected grasslands on a Monaro property owned by a company named Jam Land.

As Guardian Australia reported in June, the minister himself holds an interest in the firm via his family investment company, Gufee. After lobbying by Taylor in 2017, the office of then environment minister Josh Frydenberg canvassed whether protections for the grasslands could be weakened and if any change had to be published.

On the face of it, Taylor may have misled parliament by saying he had “no association” and had remained at “arm’s length at all times from the company Jam Land”. Taylor says he has always declared his interest in Jam Land and denies he lobbied for a change in compliance for the company.

Labor grilled Angus Taylor on his meeting with departmental officials about the designation of critically endangered grasslands in his electorate

Labor grilled Angus Taylor on his meeting with departmental officials about the designation of critically endangered grasslands in his electorate. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Morrison was certainly miffed at being ignored. As he closed down question time with the usual formula, he added, “I would invite the opposition to perhaps ask me a question tomorrow. They didn’t do that today.”

But if he was dark with his political opponents, he was even more disconcerted by his own Liberal and Nationals MPs taking the agenda out of his hands.

Morrison’s problem, of course, is that he has a majority of just two. This empowers and emboldens backbenchers, who can quickly threaten to plunge the government into minority if they don’t like what the prime minister is delivering, or failing to deliver. The risk for Morrison is they can empower themselves even more by becoming a crucial number on the crossbench.

*The push for nuclear power has considerable backbench support. Even Morrison was predisposed, before political expediency saw him back away in the run-up to the election.

Senator James McGrath@SenatorMcGrathseeking support for Parliament to conduct an in-depth inquiry into a nuclear power industry in Australia.

But another issue – the push to increase the Newstart unemployment benefit – is building a head of steam. It was raised in the government party room and one of its highest-profile advocates is former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. Meeting these calls could derail the government’s ambitions to deliver a budget surplus, not only for this year but for the next three as well.

Just how anxious Morrison is about all this was revealed in a report by The Age.

Immediately before the election, the government ordered a bipartisan parliamentary committee to remove its call for an increase to the Newstart allowance. The inquiry was into the causes of long-term welfare dependency. Then social services minister Paul Fletcher ordered the committee chair, Liberal Russell Broadbent, to remove the specific Newstart recommendation. The committee reluctantly complied.

*Labor was merely calling for a review into the unemployment payment at the election. It has now hardened its position on a review to establish how big an increase is needed.

Whatever the increase, it will not come cheaply. Deloitte Access Economics priced a $75 a week boost at close to $3 billion a year. But it will be a sad commentary on our national politics if it’s reckoned the poorest and most vulnerable in our society should be sacrificed on the altar of dubious fiscal rectitude.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

*And apart from lifting 722,000 out of a meagre subsistence, economists such as Chris Richardson and the Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe point out there is a real economic benefit from a boost to spending power.

A fed-up prime minister scolded his MPs for taking their concerns outside the government’s internal forums.

He told them “government is not a blank cheque” and that they disrespect their colleagues by pursuing their own policy agendas. By that he obviously meant they disrespected him. Morrison told the joint party room meeting they needed to be “mindful of what we took to the election and what we didn’t take to the election”.

The group carpeting had little effect. Within a couple of hours, Barnaby Joyce gave Network Ten an interview again spelling out why Newstart should be raised.

Outspoken conservative Craig Kelly told The New Daily he wanted the family home to be included in the pension asset test, if the pensioner in question had accessed their super to purchase the home. Kelly is also among a group of government backbenchers calling for a freeze to the 9.5 per cent superannuation guarantee. He says he doesn’t believe voters would regard it as a broken promise if Morrison delayed the transition to 12 per cent super. As with Malcolm Turnbull before him, Morrison may come to regret intervening to save Kelly’s preselection as a Liberal candidate.

Earlier, in parliament, Morrison ruled out extending the freeze to the super guarantee. In the senate, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann gave a terse “yes” to guarantee the higher employer contribution.

But Labor is not convinced. Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says Kelly and the backbench Liberals are giving a clue to what the treasurer’s retirement incomes review is really all about. He claims it is “more cuts to super and more cuts to the pension”.

There are two retirement incomes that the government definitely doesn’t want to talk about. And those come from the after-politics jobs that Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne have lined up for themselves. The former defence minister is now working in defence consultancy for consulting giant EY, while former foreign minister Bishop has taken a position with Palladium, a company that has won multimillion-dollar contracts to run Australian aid projects.

The prime minister tabled a report from the secretary of his department, Martin Parkinson, that found the two recently retired ministers were not in breach of the ministerial code. The code bans ministers from taking jobs for 18 months after leaving office in areas where they had direct dealings in their portfolio.

The non-government parties in the senate were unimpressed with Parkinson’s findings and they have set up their own inquiry.

Also perturbed was one of the government’s newbie members – the recently elected Queensland Liberal senator Gerard Rennick. He made the prime minister’s mood even darker when he told the party room that anyone who is friends with Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop needs to tell them to stop taking jobs that are impossible to defend.

Both Pyne and Bishop were on the old parliamentary super scheme; their pensions would be in the vicinity of $200,000 a year. Russell Broadbent accepts neither has breached the guidelines but, as he told ABC TV, he is concerned about the perception voters might get that all politicians are in it to “gain financial advantage”.

christopher pyne julie bishop jobs

Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop in Parliament. Photo: Getty

Morrison began the week by asking Labor, “Whose side are you on?” It’s a question he could just as well have posed to his Coalition colleagues.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 27, 2019 as “One man banned”. Subscribe here.

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David Rowe on Angus Taylor ‘Emissions & Omissions Emissary’ and Jam Land