There are Registered LOBBYISTS and then there’s these guys…

How can we make any decisions about whether lobbying is a good or a bad thing when not all lobbyists are registered — and those that aren’t have less transparency and greater secrecy?

almost 600 third-party lobbyists registered in Australia

-that number doesn’t account for unregistered lobbyists

The ready mingling of political donations, unregistered lobbyists and, at least at the federal level, a lack of meeting diaries, seems to confirm the fears of the electorate that lobbying is indeed a sinister project of vested interests.

THE DARK-ART OF LOBBYING

There are registered lobbyists and then there’s these guys…

How can we make any decisions about whether lobbying is a good or a bad thing when not all lobbyists are registered — and those that aren’t have less transparency and greater secrecy?

BERNARD KEANE AND JENNINE KHALIK

SEP 10, 2019

 5

*While there are almost 600 third-party lobbyists registered in Australia — working for firms and representing a number of clients — that’s only a part of the lobbying story. That number doesn’t account for unregistered lobbyists.

*There are in-house lobbyists (large companies, often multinationals, have their own government relations team, often running into the scores), large industry peak bodies that represent themselves, and law firms, accountancy firms and fund managers that offer their clients, as a sort of side-service, lobbying services as well.

These lobbyists have far less transparency than third-party lobbyists, and their activities are correspondingly more secretive.

*They also represent, or are themselves, major political donors: the big four accounting firms have jointly become the biggest source of political donations in the country, but also act as major lobbyists for their clients, many of whom are likely to be political donors themselves.

This is a much murkier kind of corporate lobbying, the kind that contributes to perceptions of soft corruption in politics.

Scott Morrison recently urged the public service to aim for serving “middle Australia” rather than lobbyists who “stay at the Hyatt … have lunch at the Ottoman … kick back at the Chairman’s Lounge at Canberra airport after a day of meetings”.

In New South Wales, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is currently investigating lobbying, access to government, and influence.

It notes that “lobbying is not only an essential part of the democratic process but that it can positively enhance government decision-making”.

🧐

And lobbyists INQ spoke toall but one on the condition of anonymity — said Australians tended to conflate lobbying in general with Washington-style lobbying, which as one lobbyist noted, is a “different beast”.

A powerful lobbyist group in the US that is seen to have “bought” politicians and influence is the National Rifle Association (NRA)which donates heavily to political election and re-election campaigns.

Another prominent example is that of disgraced American lobbyist Jack Abramoff. One lobbyist said: “There is a perception, wrongly or rightly, that crossing the floor is based on money that goes into their personal pocket for re-election campaigns.”

*But a survey by the Centre for Policy Development in 2017 revealed 65% of Australians said they think lobbyists had too much influence, and 73% of Australians think politics is fixated on short-term gains.

*A 2010 investigation into lobbying by ICAC made numerous recommendations — including a register for third-party lobbyists, the publication of ministerial diaries (in NSW), and a code of conduct — which have since been put in place.

*But as the current inquiry notes, not all recommendations were followed through.

In a submission by lobbying firm Barton Deakin to ICAC, CEO Matt Hingerty stated: “We would not be opposed to the diary disclosure rules being extended to all MPs, nor for formal meetings with senior public servants.”

Indeed, it’s noteworthy that third-party lobbyists like Hingerty and others INQ spoke to are supportive of greater transparency around lobbying, particularly in regard to areas of lobbying not currently caught by lobbyists registers at the federal and state levels.

A submission to ICAC’s current investigation by the Human Rights Legal Centre (HRLC) warns it is not enough and that in-house government relations people should be put on a register (which would potentially be much larger than the current register).

*The HRLC also called for all lobbying communicationsnot just “face-to-face” interactions to be recorded and made publicly available online. 

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has also echoed the suggestion that all types of lobbyists should be on a register.

The ACCR pointed out that industry bodies are not registered or bound by registry rules, meaning businesses could exercise influence through peak bodies instead.

*It gave the example of mining and petroleum companies including BHP, Rio Tinto, South32, Orica and Newcrest Mining, which did not make any political donations in 2017-18 “but are all paid members of the Minerals Council of Australia, which gave a total of $94,900 to political parties in that period, including the NSW Liberal Party”.

One suggestion Hingerty made and fully supported was the instatement of an independent officer who could be approached by political staffers and bureaucrats to seek advice on a lobbying experience and potentially escalate it as something to formally investigate. 

“You might get invited to something, the footy, by a property developer and a young staffer might think ‘Hey, that’s great, that’s my team I’d love to do that’ — a freebie.

Most offices have policies on this … but it’d be good for them to ring up a commissioner [independent officer] saying, ‘I said yes to this thing but I think I should say no, what do you reckon?’” 

The experienced professionals who argue that third-party lobbying is no dark art but an important part of the democratic process are also the ones who back greater transparency for lobbyists and the process of lobbying itself. They don’t believe they have anything to hide.

Whether their colleagues among in-house lobbyists, accounting and investment firms agree is less clear.

*The ready mingling of political donations, unregistered lobbyists and, at least at the federal level, a lack of meeting diaries, seems to confirm the fears of the electorate that lobbying is indeed a sinister project of vested interests.

*There’s unlikely to be any restoration of electoral trust in politics without the public having a greater understanding of what goes on inside ministerial offices across the country.

Dig Deeper: Further reading, watching, and listening.

Politics Podcast FiveThirtyEightWho pays the Piper? Parliamentary libraryCleaning up Canberra policy proposal Jackie Lambie Network

SOURCE: https://www.crikey.com.au/2019/09/10/the-other-side-of-lobbying/

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

THE DARK ART OF LOBBYING: Looking at the Who, What, and Why of Lobbyists

ABOUT LOBBYISTS … From the point of view of a leading Coalition Lobbyist … yeah … pull the other one …

A lobbyist who keeps abreast via Alan Jones and Sky News!

HOW can we get a fair go with this happening by appointment … behind closed doors?

HOW can we get a fair go when there’s lobbying and political donations ahead of us in the queue?

Lobbyist:

…I won’t go do something I don’t believe in…

AS evidenced to date what ‘they believe in’ has meant everything is going their way … not ours …

View:

IMPORTANT RELATED ARTICLES!

There are Registered Lobbyists and then there’s these Guys

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/11/03/there-are-registered-lobbyists-and-then-theres-these-guys/?fbclid=IwAR2iafwwDEMhmRvM816WArGUCAQPQCaAxMtU30EldV5ClEn_oaJkVpiswD8

Time to Out Lobbyists Who Fly under the Radar

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/07/06/time-to-out-lobbyists-who-fly-under-the-radar/

SEARCH CAAN WEBSITE to learn more about Lobbyists …

THE DARK-ART OF LOBBYING

Looking at the who, what, and why of lobbyists

They’re everywhere in Canberra, but how much influence do lobbyists really have?

BERNARD KEANE AND JENNINE KHALIK

SEP 10, 2019

 10

If you look closely enough wandering around Australian Parliament House, you will see men — and it’s mostly men — in suits and orange lanyards mingling in the courtyards and drinking coffee around cafe tables.

The orange lanyards signify that they are lobbyiststhird-party lobbyists with free access to the private areas of Parliament House. A few of them are more like consultants — they don’t do much lobbying themselves, but advise lobbyists and clients on how to lobby more effectively.

Their names are on the official Lobbyists Register, these days maintained by the Attorney-General’s Department. There are currently 586 people in over 260 firms on the register.

The reality of modern policymaking is that those affected by policystakeholders, in bureaucratic parlance devote considerable resources to influencing it, trying to get the ear of politicians and bureaucrats to shape legislation and regulations to better serve their interests.

*And the more tightly they are regulated, the more they will seek to shape that regulation.

They may be big corporations, industry peak bodies, unions, charities, or NGOs. Lobbyists are the primary mechanism to do that.

As the Australian Professional Government Relations Association points out: anyone can have a meeting with a politician, but some use experts and that’s where lobbyists step in. They understand that they’re representing vested interests. “Mother Theresa didn’t need her own lobbyist, her work spoke for itself,” one lobbyist quipped. 

In a quiet part of Parliament House, a lobbyist leans back into a couch and explains to INQ that lobbying isn’t the dark art many think it is. He wanted to remain anonymous because he said there was no purpose to him being in the media.

While according to him nothing sinister goes on, he says some lobbyists did go to bars where staffers hung out and made informal representations — “but it’s not something I do”.

*And, true, go to a bar in Canberra’s inner south on Wednesday nights, where political staffers and politicians knock off after work on sitting weeks and down a few drinks, and you might be able to spot a lobbyist or two chatting to the mostly white, mostly male, and mostly socially awkward decision makers.

But most claim a strong sense of ethics. “I’ve never worked for a company where I’ve been in any way ashamed of the outcome … [I have not] used methods that were underhanded. I won’t go do something I don’t believe in and I won’t go and do something I think, straight away, it’s not going to work. And I won’t use methods that would potentially damage me.” Some of those damaging methods include lobbyists threatening to go after a politician. 

Much of the work of lobbyists lies in maintaining relationships and understanding what’s important to politicians.

Each morning on his way to work, Sydney-based lobbyist Matthew Hingerty tunes into 2GB radio station to listen to shock jock Alan Jones to find out what the hot topics of the day are. He knows Sydney’s radio programming by the minute and it’s essential to his job as a political lobbyist to be abreast of Australian politics. When he arrives at the Sydney office of government relations and lobbying firm Barton Deakin in the heart of the CBD, Sky News is switched on, and it stays on for the rest of the day.

For Hingerty, attention to the news is habitual. He was a former federal political staffer earlier in his career. Now he is the CEO of Barton Deakin, a firm composed primarily of former Coalition staffers.

A working day includes setting up meetings with ministers and politicians, and presenting information to them, including research by the companies and organisations they represent. “There’s lots of meetings with clients, with stakeholders, a lot of phone calls — a lot of it is mundane,” said Hingerty. Barton Deakin, one of the biggest firms in the country, represents 77 clients, including Apple, Atlassian, National Home Doctor Service, MS Research Australia, McDonald’s and Amazon.

“To the layperson it all sounds very reasonable that all contact between lobbyists and … MPs and bureaucrats should be written down but 90% of what we do is routine black and white stuff — checking up clarifications on government policy announcements, secretarial stuff, preparing for meetings.”

For lobbyists, some clients are on retainer, and others come on board for a single project. Either way, most lobbyists don’t accompany their clients into meetings.

Some lobbyists deal with ministers and staff directly themselves; others are more like coaches who show clients how the system works, and how best to make their case to key decision-makers.

Lobbyists know how to make their case quickly and succinctly in ministers’ offices, which are almost absurdly busy, especially when parliament is sitting. Hingerty, who was a staffer for former Liberal MP Joe Hockey and later NSW minister George Souris, says in his political days that he would always put a lobbyist’s request for a meeting at the top of the pile.

“Why would I do that? Because I knew they weren’t going to waste my minister’s time. I knew that the client didn’t have to be in the room. I knew they’d be pre-prepared, they knew what they wanted to say.”

Clients themselves are another story. “There is nothing worse [than when] somebody comes through the door, they’ve got flipcharts, graphs, and they waste time with small talk … and you’re already behind time. A good lobbyist will ring ahead and say ‘hey, this is what my client wants to speak to you about just so you can be ready’. You know you’re going to get the most value from the meeting.”

*More than half of in-house lobbyists, according to Guardian Australia, have a history within political parties or government, and a quarter were once staffers.

Hingerty believes previous history with politics is what makes a good lobbyist. “I think you need to have a level of maturity and seniority, you need to have been in and around government for a period of time just so you can understand it and you don’t waste the time of your client and ministers and shadow ministers.”

“Business doesn’t quite get the language of government, and government doesn’t quite get the language of business,” said Hingerty, reflecting a common sentiment among lobbyists who see themselves as translators and middlemen.

Dig Deeper: Further reading, watching, and listening.

Influence in Australian politics needs an urgent overhaul – here’s how to do it The ConversationI was a lobbyist for more than 6 years. I quit. My conscience couldn’t take it anymore. VOXLobbying in Australia: how big business connects to government The Guardian

SOURCE: https://www.crikey.com.au/2019/09/10/dark-art-lobbyists/

POLITICAL DONATIONS HIDDEN FROM NSW PLANNING AUTHORITIES BY BIG CORPORATIONS

The former Anti-corruption Commissioner Anthony Whealy QC said he suspected the important transparency measure was “often ignored” and went largely unenforced.

Whealy said it would be preferable if corporations did not see it necessary to make political donations at all.

“The perception, and sadly sometimes the reality, is that the donor expects favourable treatment … this is totally unacceptable.”

Serena Lillywhite, chief executive of Transparency International Australia, said the failure to declare donations was “fundamentally bad for our democracy”.

lobbying and undue influence increasingly characterising the political landscape in Australia

Note that which CAAN has marked with an * throughout …

SHARE!!

Political donations hidden from NSW planning authorities by big corporations

Exclusive: some of Australia’s biggest companies have failed to declare sizeable sums when seeking approval to develop property

The Transparency Project Australian political donations

Supported by

Susan McKinnon Foundation

About this content

Christopher Knaus and Imran Ariff @knausc

Mon 7 Oct 2019 

New South Wales Parliament House
 Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations have been hidden from NSW planning authorities by 13 companies, a Guardian investigation has found. Illustration: Getty

Some of Australia’s biggest corporations have hidden political donations from planning authorities, which is a criminal offence in New South Wales, a Guardian investigation has found.

Woolworths, Caltex, Origin Energy, AMP and Incitec Pivot are among 13 companies that declared sizeable political donations to the Liberal and Labor parties to the Electoral Commission, but failed to declare them when seeking approval to develop property in NSW.

The revelations have prompted an investigation by the state’s planning department, which pledged to “take action” if it confirmed breaches detected by the Guardian.

 Read more

The law compels companies to declare recent donations above $1,000 when lodging applications to develop or modify property in NSW, a measure designed to prevent property developers from corrupting the political process.

The former anti-corruption commissioner Anthony Whealy QC said he suspected the important transparency measure was “often ignored” and went largely unenforced.

“You can have as many prohibitive laws and regulations as you like,” Whealy told the Guardian. “However, the absence of an efficient regulator, and the absence of effective oversight, leads inevitably to the law being disregarded. Apparently this is what has happened in these instances.”

Guardian Australia cross-checked property records against donations made in NSW and found hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations had been hidden from planning authorities by 13 companies.

Woolworths failed to declare more than $100,000 in donations to the NSW Liberals and Nationals while seeking to secure minor approvals for a supermarket at Mullumbimby, near Byron Bay.

After being contacted by the Guardian, the company acknowledged the error, committed to a full review of its past planning applications and referred itself to the NSW planning department.

“While we fully disclosed historical political donations to the NSW Electoral Commission as required, it would appear that parts of our business which manage planning applications were regrettably not aware of these disclosures,” the company said.

For Graphic: Number of undeclared donations by company

View Source Link below!

In another case, the wealth manager AMP, which endured a torrid time at the banking royal commission, failed to declare a $1,650 fee for membership of the Liberal party’s Millennium Forum and several other small donations to the NSW Liberal and Labor parties while seeking approval for a luxury apartment development at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

*The Millennium Forum – which facilitates interactions between corporate Australia and the Liberal party – gained notoriety at the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2014 over allegations it was used to funnel prohibited donations to the Liberal party from property developers.

AMP said it did not believe it needed to disclose the Millennium Forum membership fee to planning authorities because it “was not considered to be a political donation”, and noted the development application and the donations were lodged by separate AMP entities.

Other companies have previously been prosecuted for failing to declare payments to attend political party events.

Australian politics: subscribe by email

 Read more

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said it would launch an investigation into the undeclared donations after the Guardian passed on its findings.

“In the event that any breach is identified, the department will take action in accordance with its compliance policy,” a spokesman said.

“Applicants are responsible for disclosing their own political donations at the time of submitting their application, and face penalties for failing to do so.”

The spokesman said the department’s compliance team had carried out annual audits of donation disclosures since 2016, investigating dozens of cases and taking appropriate action where required. It has also recently improved disclosure processes to prevent “inadvertent failures” to declare donations, and prosecuted companies including AGL and Optus.

Most of the companies said the errors were “administrative” in nature, and said the donations had been declared to electoral authorities, just not to the planning department.

But failure to comply with the laws can still have significant consequences, regardless of whether the error was deliberate.

Most recently, Optus was convicted of a criminal offence, fined $25,000, and ordered to pay $40,000 in legal costs for accidentally failing to declare six donations worth $5,400 to the Liberal and Labor party while seeking approval for work in the Snowy Mountains ahead of the ski season.

The donations it failed to declare were described as “small payments to attend events”.

*Whealy said it would be preferable if corporations did not see it necessary to make political donations at all.

*“They would not be made unless the donor expected to get something out of it. This is the reality,” he said.

“The perception, and sadly sometimes the reality, is that the donor expects favourable treatment … this is totally unacceptable.”

Fuel giant Caltex failed to declare $16,727 in donations to the NSW branch of the National party in applications made in 2010 and 2013 to modify its Kurnell fuel refinery.

A spokesperson for the company said it was policy to disclose all donations to the relevant electoral authorities, but “it is not clear why there are discrepancies between these disclosures and those made in development applications in 2010 and 2013”.

Origin Energy, which left $4,565 off forms requesting approval to modify the Eraring ash dam, said an “administrative oversight resulted in us not detailing our attendance at a small number of political events when we lodged our application”.

The company said it had “subsequently updated [its] donations disclosure”.

*ABC Tissue, whose then managing director Henry Ngai sat on the board of the Huang Xiangmo-founded Australia-China Relations Institute, admitted it made a $25,000 donation to the NSW Liberal party without filing a disclosure form in an application to modify its Wetherill Park paper mill.

A company spokesperson said that “at the time [it] completed the application” the company was “not aware” of the donation, even though it was declared to the NSW Electoral Commission.

Scott Nash, a barrister practising in local government and property planning law who has experience lodging disclosures, said transparency measures were key, as a “development application may be determined by the elected [local] councillors”, and a record of donations assisted them in identifying any “conflict of interest preventing them from voting”.

“It would be naive to say the source of funding doesn’t affect decision-making in the political process.”

Serena Lillywhite, chief executive of Transparency International Australia, said the failure to declare donations was “fundamentally bad for our democracy”.

“Lobbying and undue influence is increasingly characterising the political landscape in Australia,” she said.

Beef suppliers Teys Australia, ski resort operator Kosciuszko Thredbo and waste management specialists Veolia Environmental Services combined for $8,898 in undisclosed donations on planning applications. Veolia said the matter was under review, but had no further comment. Teys and Kosciuszko Thredbo declined to comment.

*Riverina Oils and Bio Energy, which manufactures consumer oil products, conceded that an “administrative error was made” in a 2015 application that omitted $2,000 in donations to the NSW Liberal MP Daryl Maguire.

“We have officially informed the planning department of the administrative error,” a spokesman said.

SOURCE: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/oct/07/political-donations-hidden-from-nsw-planning-authorities-by-big-corporations?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX01vcm5pbmdNYWlsQVVTLTE5MTAwNg%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MorningMailAUS&CMP=morningmailau_email

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

THE CROWN ALLEGATIONS SHOW THE REPEATED FAILURES OF OUR GAMBLING REGULATORS

In conclusion … ‘Any government that wants to clean up gambling has the tools to do it. An integrity investigation into Crown announced today by Attorney-General Christian Porter may help achieve some reform, especially around allegations of Crown’s involvement with criminals and money laundering.

The exploitation of vulnerable people by gambling operators across the country needs its own inquiry, and governments need to find the will to regulate in the genuine interests of ordinary people.

OPINION

The Crown allegations show the repeated failures of our gambling regulators

The Conversation By Charles Livingstone

31 JULY 2019

Poker hand and poker chips.

PHOTO: Regulators have failed to properly monitor Australia’s casino operators. (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: Integrity investigation ordered into Crown Casino allegations

RELATED STORY: ‘Outrageous’: Crown wants more apartments at Barangaroo tower

RELATED STORY: Why James Packer might want to get out of the gambling business

Regulatory failure has been a hot topic in Australia recently.

Royal commissions into the financial and aged care sectors have revealed major regulatory failures.

The harm done by these oversights has been significant.

Regulation is not just red tape. It protects the interests of those who put their faith, money, and in some cases, loved ones, into regulated institutions.

Crown, Australia’s biggest casino operator, has been linked to organised crimemoney laundering and fast-tracked visas for big gamblers. All of these issues are the responsibility of gambling regulators.

Yet, regulators appear to have missed it, despite their key role in preventing criminal influence affecting gambling operators.

One of the main entrances to Crown Casino in Melbourne.

PHOTO: Crown is Australia’s biggest casino operator. (ABC News: Jane Cowan)

‘Underwhelming’ performance

Not that this is a surprise. The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has been under scrutiny for some time.

In 2017, the Victorian auditor-general pointed out that VCGLR’s capacity to regulate Crown (and other liquor and gambling venues it also regulates) was underwhelming.

In its conclusions, the Auditor observed:

There is a need for VCGLR to improve its oversight of the casino. VCGLR is not able to demonstrate that its casino supervision is efficient or effective as is required for best practice regulation of a major participant in Victoria’s gambling industry.

In 2016-17, punters using Crown’s Melbourne casino lost $1.56 billion. The Victorian government’s share of this, via tax revenue, was $207.7 million. The Crown casino in Perth relieved its patrons of $622.8 million. The WA government got $61.9 million of this.

This revenue is important to cash-strapped state governments. With few sources to raise revenue, and many big-ticket items to fund, states need revenue.

Even so, Crown’s contribution to Victoria’s revenue stream is modest. The 2018-19 state budget papers estimate a contribution of $237 million from the casino, compared to $1.119 billion from pokies in pubs and clubs, and $1.876 billion in total gambling taxes.

Does Crown get special treatment?

Yet, Crown has many advantages when compared to its rivals in the gambling business.

It operates monopoly casinos in both Victoria and WA, pays a low tax rate compared to its suburban rivals in Victoria (pub and club pokies pay about 37 per cent of gambling revenue to the state), and has far fewer constraints on its operations.

In Victoria, for example, Crown has smoking areas inside the casino, has unlimited bets on many of its pokies, has ATMs on-site, can operate 24 hours a day, and appears to be able to get planning approval without any of the usual fuss.

In the case of the proposed development at Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour, its unsolicited bid for a skyscraper with casino, luxury apartments and a hotel sailed through with support from both government and opposition.

Crown clearly enjoys beneficial access to decision makers. This also appears to extend to regulators.

An artist's impression of Crown Sydney casino and hotel.

PHOTO: An artist’s impression of Crown Sydney casino and hotel (far left), which sailed through the approval process. (Supplied)

Failures to ensure responsible gambling

Headline stories about suspected criminal involvement in casino operations are worrying, and demonstrate just how little apparent scrutiny regulators apply. But more worrying from a public health perspective are the regular breaches of “responsible gambling” principles that are supposed to govern legalised gambling in Australia.

For example, Australia’s largest pokie operator (and Woolworths subsidiary), ALH Pty Ltd, was caught (via whistleblowers) collecting information on patrons that could be used to encourage heavier gambling, and in some cases plying them with free drinks.

In NSW, the Illawarra Steelers club was fined $100,000 after it was revealed the club advanced large sums of cash to punters, disguising it as large-scale liquor sales.

Crown casino in Melbourne was fined $300,000 by VCGLR after whistleblowers revealed that pokies had been tampered with.

*Whistleblowers also revealed that Crown provided punters with plastic picks for jamming pokie buttons to facilitate continuous operation. The VCGLR found this to be irresponsible and banned the picks, but no fines were levied.

Man playing pokies in Sydney (Mick Tsikas, AAP)

PHOTO: There are allegations of poker machines being tampered with. ((Mick Tsikas, AAP))

Regulators are supposed to be concerned with protecting vulnerable people and minimising harm. But evidence suggests that in this area, they have also failed.

The day-to-day exploitation of the ordinary gamblers who contribute most of the money that goes into gambling industry in Australia (about $24 billion every year) attracts less interest, but is arguably at least as important.

The Victorian auditor-general’s report focused on this issue, as well.

VCGLR has not adequately performed its compliance functions. Compliance activities are not sufficiently risk based and have been focused on meeting a target number of inspections, rather than on targeting inspections where noncompliance has a high risk or high potential for harm. This approach to compliance does not support the legislative objectives for harm minimisation.

The VCGLR can hardly be unaware of the extent of its failure to achieve compliance with regulatory requirements.

Last year, VCGLR’s sixth review of Crown’s casino operator licence found, amongst other issues:

  • failures of governance and risk management, contributing to compliance slippages
  • a lack of innovation and progress regarding Crown’s approach to responsible gambling, such as might now be required of a world-leading operator to meet heightening community and regulatory expectations.

A lack of political will

It’s not just regulators who are at fault, of course.

Politicians have also demonstrated little appetite for much in the way of harm prevention.

Regulators may be wilfully ignorant in their selective vision, but they do so in the knowledge that few governments want gambling disrupted.

The memorandums of understanding between Clubs NSW (whose members operate about 70,000 pokies) and successive NSW governments show how deep the ties are between gambling operators and governments.

Political donations are equally significant measures used by casino and other gambling operators.

Not to mention the revolving-door recruitment of influential individuals to act as lobbyists and “government relations experts” practised by the gambling industry (and Crown in particular).

Current board members of Crown include former head of the Australian departments of health and finance Jane Halton, former Liberal Minister Helen Coonan, former Australian Chief Medical Officer John Horvath and former AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou.

These are very well-connected and influential people, who lend their credibility to Crown, along with their expertise in dealing with government and regulation.

So is there any good news?

The good news is that there is much that could be done to improve gambling regulation.

Improved surveillance of criminal activity in casinos is one such step. Increased tax rates might even fund it.

Andrew Wilkie, Peter Whish-Wilson and Jacqui Lambie addressing the media inside Parliament House

PHOTO: Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, centre, with senators Peter Whish-Wilson and Jacqui Lambie calling for an inquiry into Crown and its efforts to lure Chinese gamblers. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)

On the harm prevention front, public health experience in multiple areas (such as tobacco control, alcohol policy, and motor vehicle injury reduction) demonstrates that there is a great deal that can be done to minimise or prevent harm from inherently dangerous products.

Our recent report, published by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, pointed out 104 things that could be done to prevent or reduce gambling related harm.

Many of them would require better-equipped regulators, with more powers and stronger penalties at their disposal.

What we know from the whistleblowers and investigative journalists (and most pointedly not from regulatory activity) is that Australia’s biggest and most prominent gambling operators regularly flout regulation, and apparently get away with it.

Any government that wants to clean up gambling has the tools to do it. An integrity investigation into Crown announced today by Attorney-General Christian Porter may help achieve some reform, especially around allegations of Crown’s involvement with criminals and money laundering.

However, these are the tip of the iceberg.

The exploitation of vulnerable people by gambling operators across the country needs its own inquiry, and governments need to find the will to regulate in the genuine interests of ordinary people.

Charles Livingstone is an associate professor in the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University. This article first appeared on The Conversation.

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-31/how-did-crown-escape-the-scrutiny-of-gambling-regulators/11369038

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

EXTRACT … The Goss on AJ Influencer …

Broadcaster Alan Jones gave a pep talk to new Liberal MPs at a function hosted by lobbyist Michael Kauter.

Broadcaster Alan Jones gave a pep talk to new Liberal MPs at a function hosted by lobbyist Michael Kauter.

Right-wing lobbyist Michael Kauter and his physician husband David Gracey took a break from duchessing One Nation leader Pauline Hanson last week to welcome some of Canberra’s newest Liberal recruits.

Alan Jones tells the Liberal troops to go for fear campaigns

By Michael Koziol and Samantha Hutchinson

July 22, 2019

Photo: Radio Today

Alan Jones tells the Liberal troops to go for fear campaigns

By Michael Koziol and Samantha Hutchinson

July 22, 2019

Right-wing lobbyist Michael Kauter and his physician husband David Gracey took a break from duchessing One Nation leader Pauline Hanson last week to welcome some of Canberra’s newest Liberal recruits.

Ostensibly, the guests of honour at the couple’s chic Woollahra pad were Wentworth MP Dave Sharma, fresh-faced senators Andrew Bragg and Hollie Hughes, and Liberal member for Reid Fiona Martin.

Broadcaster Alan Jones gave a pep talk to new Liberal MPs at a function hosted by lobbyist Michael Kauter.

But inevitably it was shock jock Alan Jones who stole the show. After noting brevity was the order of the day, Jones commenced a 20-minute sermon on water, road tolls and renewable energy – which apparently has the country “on the brink of poverty”.

And Jones’s key missive to the freshly-elected troops? “Don’t be worried about running a fear campaign, because Australians are afraid.”

To find out more about Influencer Alan Jones … !!! View:

ANH’s BRUSH WITH FAME … & A LITTLE ABOUT HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF … 

 SHARE!

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/06/16/anhs-brush-with-fame-cough-cough/

Image result for david rowe cartoon broadcaster alan jones

From: David Rowe

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/national/cbd-sydney-alan-jones-tells-the-liberal-troops-to-go-for-fear-campaigns-20190721-p5299k.html

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

NSW INDEPENDENT PLANNING COMMISSION ORDERS APPROVAL OF CAMPBELLTOWN’s VARROVILLE CEMETERY

KEY POINTS …

-Varroville Homestead and local residents have been fighting the proposed development since 2013

-the council had its powers to block the application taken away in June last year

IT’s all about money … making lots of it … and inviting more custom from over the seas … due to high immigration and visa manipulation …

Interesting … which lobby group intervened on behalf of the multi faith interests of the Jewish, Muslim and Armenian groups?

Sadly as has happened in Windsor further loss of our Australian Heritage …

NSW Independent Planning Commission orders approval of Campbelltown’s Varroville cemetery

By Kevin Nguyen and Danuta Kozaki

16 JULY 2019

A rustic rural house

PHOTO: Varroville Homestead played a significant role in the agricultural development of early NSW. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

The owners of a heritage-listed property in Sydney’s south-west say a proposed 133-hectare cemetery will “engulf” their homestead, after the State Government intervened to green light the plan.

Key points:

  • The heritage-listed Varroville Homestead, built in 1850, will be in the middle of the cemetery
  • Campbelltown Mayor George Brticevic said the State Government’s intervention to approve the cemetery was “undemocratic”
  • The planned cemetery has space for 136,000 full-body burials

Photo: The Scenic Hills Association

*The NSW Independent Planning Commission yesterday directed the Sydney Western City Planning Panel to approve the Varroville Crown Cemetery.

*The planning commission said the construction of the cemetery, which would allow for 136,000 full-body burials, was in the public interest because of limited burial space near urban growth areas accessible by public transport.

But while multi-faith communities facing dwindling burial space were rejoicing, the local council and the custodians of heritage sites decried the decision as “undemocratic”.

Jacqui Kirkby and her husband Peter Gibbs own the Varroville Homestead, which will be located in middle of the cemetery.

*Varroville Homestead and local residents have been fighting the proposed development since 2013.

The planning commission said the cemetery would have minimal impact on the homestead, but Ms Kirby disagreed.

A map showing the location of significant sites around the planned cemetery.

PHOTO: The Varroville Homestead sits in the middle of the proposed cemetery site. (Supplied: IPCN)

*“We live on an eight-hectare block that will now be entirely engulfed, 360 degrees, by this cemetery,” she said.

“Who puts a cemetery around a privately-owned state heritage-listed property?”

“There will be roads criss-crossing all over this environmental protection area.”

Jacqui Kirby, with a serious expresion on her face, looks into the camera

PHOTO: Jacqui Kirkby has been fighting the proposed cemetery for over six years. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

*The property, established in 1810, was a farming estate, with the homestead built 40 years later.

*Once construction of the cemetery is complete, the site will have six new buildings including a chapel, function building, cafe and gatehouse.

*The proposal has angered the local council, which had its powers to block the application taken away in June last year.

Campbelltown Mayor George Brticevic said the construction would destroy Scenic Hills, a protected open space.

“There’s no transparency,” he said.

“It’s undemocratic and it’s really a kick in the guts for the council.”

A man in blue suit and tie standing in front of a garden

PHOTO: NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff says religious group who had faced running out of burial space “can now move forward”. (ABC News: Danuta Kozaki)

But NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said the cemetery approval was a “positive outcome” because religious communities had been facing a critical shortage of space.

“Our friends in the Muslim community were due to run out of burial space within two to three years,” he said.

“In the Jewish community, [we] were due to run out of cemetery land within five years, and for smaller Christian communities such as the Armenians [they were] also [set to run out] within in a very brief time frame.”

The Jewish and Islamic traditions forbid cremation and require permanent and perpetual burial.

Mr Alhadeff said there had been many hiccups in the process to get the site approved.

“The good thing is we can now move forward,” he said.

A rustic rural house

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-16/campbelltown-cemetery-approved-in-win-for-multi-faith-groups/11312540

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

Australia’s business lobby has mastered the art of dressing self-interest up as national interest

Australia’s business lobby has mastered the art of dressing self-interest up as national interest

Richard Denniss

Economic ‘reform’ is only urgent when it comes to cutting its own tax rates or increasing red tape for union enemies @RDNS_TAI

Wed 10 Jul 2019 

Comments526

‘In Australia the business lobby groups, not economists or voters, get to tell us what our economic priorities should be.’
 ‘In Australia the business lobby groups, not economists or voters, get to tell us what our economic priorities should be.’ Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The only time the business community pretends to take economics seriously is when they want to slash their taxes – or other people’s wages. The economic evidence to support the case for multimillion CEO bonuses is as weak as the economic evidence that cutting penalty rates would boost employment. But in Australia, when self-interest and power combine, a lack of evidence is rarely a problem.

The economic case for tax reforms such as the introduction of carbon taxes, resource super profit taxes and wealth taxes is as overwhelming as it is irrelevant. When economic theory and evidence combine to suggest a carbon tax would be a simple and efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the business lobbies bury their heads in the sands of their winter escape. There is zero chance of our self-appointed “business leaders” lifting a finger to push for climate policy reform in the next few years. No matter how good such change would be “for the economy”.

But when it comes to cutting their own tax rates or increasing red tape for their union enemies, there’s an endless flow of opinion pieces, summits and media appearances making the case for “urgent reform”. They are more interested in the policy changes that directly benefit them than the ones that are the most important for the economy.

 Labor’s support for tax cuts is an unfathomable betrayal of principle

Van Badham

Van Badham

 Read more

Politics in Australia has become the art of dressing self-interest up as national interest and no one does a better job of feigning concern for mum-and-dad investors and working families than the industry groups that raged against regulations designed to protect small investors and strongly supported cuts to the incomes of working families.

So, if the business community were genuine about serious economic reform – and that is a very big if – what should they focus on? While there’s no right answer to that question, there is a right way to go about looking for that answer.

Step one would be to identify all of the policy areas where big changes might drive significant economic benefits. In addition to reforming the way we currently subsidise carbon pollution instead of taxing it, some obvious areas for “serious” economic reform include:

  • Making childcare more affordable for low- and middle-income working families to boost the number of women in the labour force.
  • Changing our education system to resemble the structure, and the outcomes, of the systems found in the Nordic countries.
  • Providing cheap and fast public transport to connect affordable housing to the centres of job creation.

I know, I know, that’s a list of social policies not “economic reforms”, but step two in any rigorous process to identify economic reform priorities would be to develop a rough estimate of the potential benefits of a policy change.

While around 60% of working-age women (15-64) are active in the Australian labour market, in New Zealand the figure is 65%, and in Iceland, the country that regularly tops the list for gender equity, 72% of working-age women are in work.

If the Australian labour market and childcare sector was as supportive of women’s choices as Iceland’s are, then our GDP could increase by more than $183bn. How good is that for social policy?

Australian politics: subscribe by email

 Read more

Similarly, the cost of our failed experiments with private school subsidies are enormous. The quality of education we provide to Australian children is falling far behind the education kids are getting in Singapore, Canada and Finland. And we are slipping further.

It’s as if giving billions of dollars in public money to private schools with indoor pools and orchestra elevators is doing nothing to improve educational standards in Australia. Most economists would agree that targeted investment in education does more to drive long-run economic growth than anything else. But, as with carbon pricing, who cares about what economists actually say when the opinions of the powerful are so freely available? And while it’s true the business lobby groups frequently opine about the need to control government spending, Australia’s business elite are remarkably silent about the billions in public money that have flowed into their own kids’ exclusive schools.

Then there is congestion. In our major cities, congestion imposes huge costs on the vast majority of Australia’s workers, their families and businesses. Not only does reducing congestion allow people to save money on housing and transport, it improves the quality of their lives and the productivity of our economy. It too should be main game for those interested in serious reform.

But alas, in Australia the business lobby groups, not economists or voters, get to tell us what our economic priorities should be. And in Australia, despite the fact that we are a low-tax country with low rates of union membership, the business community tells us that the “serious issues” we have to urgently address are more tax cuts (that they want), and new attacks on workers (that the unions don’t want).

To be clear, there is no “right” tax system and there is no “right” industrial relations system. We should always be open to debating the options. But in what world, after 20 years of cuts to taxes and worker protections, could more tax cutting and losses of worker protection be the number one reform priority?

 Do you understand the Hecs changes? Read this and be afraid for the entire economy

Naaman Zhou

Naaman Zhou

 Read more

Last year we were told that cutting penalty rates would be great for the economy. Now, even the small business lobby concedes penalty rate cuts did not create a single job. Such an outcome should come as no surprise, as Professor Martin O’Brien observed: “Of the 151 academic papers the [Fair Work] Commission referred to in its decision, not one contained sound empirical analysis of the employment impact of penalty rates.”Advertisement

Just as we spend billions of dollars subsidising new coalmines and private schools with no complaint from the business lobby groups allegedly concerned with serious economic reform, we just spent $158bn on tax cuts – one of the most expensive bills to ever pass through the Australian parliament – without so much as a Senate inquiry into the consequences.

It’s time we reformed the way we talked about reform. The dictionary says reform means “change for the better”, but in Australian public debate it has simply come to mean “change demanded by the powerful few”.

There’s no doubt we should reform our tax system, our industrial relations system and the way our government provides a wide range of important services. We could of course choose to emulate the tax and spending policies of Donald Trump or we could learn from the Nordic countries – which have the strongest economies, the best education systems and the best health systems in the world.

If business lobby groups were genuine about the pursuit of serious economic reforms they would present the evidence that shows it is more important to change Australia’s unfair dismissal laws and cut taxes than to make the childcare system more affordable. But they aren’t more important, so the business lobby groups won’t. Powerful groups don’t need evidence. That’s what makes them powerful.

• Richard Denniss is chief economist at the Australia Institute

SOURCE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/10/australias-business-lobby-has-mastered-the-art-of-dressing-self-interest-up-as-national-interest?CMP=soc_567&fbclid=IwAR3W1qZl5bST3dfChx8-8L3BUOKbdC4Yh_KBjrpIfVoXaFSKjQha6fBheQ8

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

TIME TO OUT LOBBYISTS WHO FLY UNDER THE RADAR

FROM Jacob Saulwick City Editor SMH …

We’ve seen ‘em on the ground … lobbyists attach themselves ‘to do good’ campaigns …

FROM THE COMMENTS …

As someone has suggested … ‘commercial in confidence’ is a bogeyman with commercial interests overriding the public’s right to know that everything is above board …

AND

If a person is named as likely to come into the realm of ‘public influencer’ … then shouldn’t their ‘public diary’ be public property?  All day, every day?

FURTHER …

No federal ICAC
for some reason the Liberals oppose it
nothing to hide
nothing to fear

I am surprised 100% of people don’t think this government is in business for anyone but themselves and their mates.

RELATED ARTICLE: https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2019/07/06/berejiklians-moves-quickly-to-consolidate-power-and-silence-dissent/

Time to out lobbyists who fly under the radar

Jacob Saulwick
Jacob Saulwick

City Editor July 6, 2019

View all comments

Almost three in four Australians think people in government “look after themselves”.

More than one in two believe government is run “for a few big interests”.

The lack of trust represented by these viewpoints is increasing and, according to a paper recently prepared for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, is “likely to undermine support for representative democracy as a system of government”.

*Gladys Berejiklian’s administration has an opportunity to address this.

One way trust in representative government erodes is if the community believes its representatives do not tell them the real reasons for which contentious decisions are made. To this end, bodies such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption have recommended, and governments have adopted, to some degree, rules making attempts to influence public officials a bit transparent.

James Packer with Lawrence Ho, the Macau casino magnate who plans to buy a 19.9 per cent of Crown from Packer for $1.8 billion.
James Packer with Lawrence Ho, the Macau casino magnate who plans to buy a 19.9 per cent of Crown from Packer for $1.8 billion.CREDIT:SEE CAPTION INFO

But there remain huge holes in the methods used to promote disclosure of lobbying practices in NSW.

Take a high-profile example: why was a company controlled by one of the country’s richest people able to build a luxury hotel and apartment tower on a virgin slab of publicly owned harbourside land? Not to mention gaining a casino licence for that site without public tender?

Maybe it was simply that the time was right for James Packer and Crown’s excellent idea. But maybe a 2012 meeting between Packer and then premier Barry O’Farrell – at Alan Jones’ apartment – played some role in conditioning O’Farrell’s support for Packer’s Barangaroo complex.

Or maybe that meeting was completely inconsequential. Either way, the fact that the meeting was never disclosed until last year, in Damon Kitney’s authorised biography of Packer, hardly bolsters community confidence in the decision-making process.

(The biography does not say whether the meeting occurred before or after Packer first unveiled his harbourside casino idea, which O’Farrell greeted with enthusiasm the following day. O’Farrell and a Crown representative did not respond to requests for comment. And to be fair to all involved, the hotel and casino project subsequently underwent the scrutiny of multiple independent government reviews, including ones chaired by David Murray and former Supreme Court judge Ken Handley, as well as numerous planning inquiries.)

RELATED ARTICLE

Billionaire Lawrence Ho.
JAMES PACKER

The sons also rise: Macau casino tycoon on his long bond with Packer as he swoops in for Crown stake

In any case, this is not a question of potential corruption. It is a question of whether a meeting may have amounted to lobbying – and the public’s right to know about such meetings involving politicians or public officials.

And if a similar meeting occurred today, it is unclear if the public would get to know about it.

Former premier Mike Baird introduced a system by which government ministers must disclose their meeting diaries.

But would a private lunch at Jones’ home be recorded in the public diaries? Maybe, maybe not.

A register of lobbyists is another method that has been put in place to promote transparency in decision-making. But neither Packer, as a direct representative of his company, nor Jones, who was a relentless champion of the Barangaroo casino, would qualify as lobbyists for the purpose of the register. You might need to walk around with a large “L” around your neck to trouble the lobbyist register.

For its part, the ICAC has long thought more should be done. The last time the anti-corruption body conducted an investigation into lobbying in NSW, in 2010, it made 17 recommendations.

Five have been implemented.

In 2014 legal academics Yee-Fui Ng from Monash University and Joo-Cheong Tham from Melbourne University conducted a report for the Electoral Commission about the regulation of lobbying in NSW. Of the 22 recommendations in their report, six have been implemented.

Now the ICAC is looking at the issue again. It commissioned a research report by the Melbourne academics, from which the above figures about the lack of trust in government derive. Late this month or in early August it will start to hold public hearings about what might be done to improve the regulation of lobbying conduct and transparency in NSW.

RELATED ARTICLE

A lobbyist is defined as anyone who lobbies (for financial reward) on behalf of a third party.
POLITICAL DONATIONS

Experts fear lobbyists can get around donor ban to political parties

*A few themes are likely to emerge. One is that the definition of lobbyist is too narrow. There is a good case that people who work in other professions in which government decision-making is vital – I’m thinking property development – should be better captured by lobbying regulations, even if they do not class themselves as “lobbyists”.

The recent ICAC inquiry into the former Canterbury Council, which is yet to make its findings, showed how developers and planning consultants working on their behalf can persistently make their case to officials, and yet not be caught up in the disclosure obligations on lobbyists. There’s a hole here to be filled.

A second theme is that there should be more of a positive onus on officials to disclose relevant contacts.

Let’s say a public official meets someone advocating for their interests, and it later emerges that this official could influence those interests. Why should they not tell the world about that meeting once the opportunity for the official to influence those interests has arisen? We want officials – politicians or public servants – to be talking to people in the real world.

But in the absence of a positive culture of disclosure, it is too easy to think the worst when they do. We want some openness about what influences them.

ICAC expects to issue its final report into lobbying regulation in October.

Jacob Saulwick

Jacob Saulwick is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/time-to-out-lobbyists-who-fly-under-the-radar-20190607-p51vfb.html

CAAN FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Community-Action-Alliance-for-NSW-744190798994541/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

WEBSITE:

https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.wordpress.com/

Berejiklian’s Moves Quickly to Consolidate Power and Silence Dissent

Berejiklian stinks billboard

Berejiklian’s Moves Quickly to Consolidate Power and Silence Dissent

BY ▪︎ PAUL GREGOIRE ▪︎ 11/04/2019


The Berejiklian government seems to have taken its election win as an indication from the NSW electorate that it has carte blanche over its governing of the state, as in a little over a week after its return to office, it made some unprecedented moves to consolidate power.

Under the Administrative Arrangements (Administrative Changes—Public Service Agencies) Order 2019 – which was made on 2 April – the returned Liberal Nationals government concentrated the state’s public services into eight departments, down from ten.

Significantly, the Coalition scrapped the Office of the Environment and Heritage (OEH), which was the department tasked with state environmental protection oversight. The environment portfolio will be swallowed up by NSW Planning: an ominous greenlight for developers.

And the soon-to-be formed Planning and Industry super-department will also be incorporating the Office of Local Government. This will obviously see concerns raised by local councils in regard to projects backed by planning minister Rob Stokes or industry minister John Barilaro firmly silenced.

The premier told reporters last Friday that the merging of the various departments is all about delivering “better services, better infrastructure, in a more timely manner”. And Berejiklian has explained little else. But, why should she? She’s been handed a blank cheque to do as she pleases.

Gagging opposing voices

“Subsuming local government and the environment in planning will degrade their capacity to effectively respond within government in those areas,” said NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker, who was just voted in for a third term as member for Balmain.

“The result of this will be a lessening of the voice for the environment in government,” the Greens planning spokesperson continued, “and the marginalisation of local government when it comes to planning considerations.”

According to Parker, local councils “have long been a thorn in the side” of the NSW government. But now, with the powers vested in the Local Government Act 1993 falling into the hands of the planning minister, the voice and power of local councils will be lost in the state bureaucracy.

Opposing your own

And at a time when climate change has become a primary issue for the Australian public, Gladys has come out swinging, making changes that ensure any environmental considerations will be superseded by the interests of infrastructure projects or the priorities of industry.

“The Office of the Environment is the voice for the environment in government,” Mr Parker told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “By loading it into planning, as a tiny element of this mega bureaucracy, means their voice will be diminished, and their independence will be jeopardised.”

In the past, the OEH often played a key dissenting role in opposing planning projects that threatened environmental degradation. However, in order to maintain that role, those advocating for environment will now be speaking out against their own senior management.

Exterminating Blinky

The Berejiklian government is well aware of the stifling effect that engulfing environment within planning will have. Indeed, the Coalition government has long seen environmental concerns as a hindrance to its neoconservative agenda.

In 2016, the NSW government repealed the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, while the Native Vegetation Act 2003 was dropped the following year. This resulted in much weaker environmental assessments and protections, particularly on private land.

The easing of the native vegetation protections led to a daily clearance rate of about fourteen football fields of koala habitat. In 2016-17, 2,845 hectares of NSW forest and woodland was cleared, while over 2017-18, this jumped to 8,194 hectares.

And while these measures appease Liberal National backers, they’re also causing the eradication of the koala. It’s dwindling numbers have led organisations like the World Wildlife Fund to call for it to be listed as an endangered species for fears it could become extinct in this state by 2050.

Elevating the risk

Another development that has raised eyebrows is the merging of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) with Justice. This will bring together those who deliver services to marginalised people with those who administer the state’s correctional facilities.

“It’s very problematic,” said NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge. “Because we want to break that institutional link between FACS and Justice, in the sense of young people moving into out-of-home care, then into juvenile justice and graduating into adult prison.”

Mr Shoebridge explained that there’s an “undoubtable link” between children who are forcibly removed from their families subsequently getting caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

The Greens justice spokesperson has grave concerns that “this government, and the ministers that they’ve chosen, are going to further entrench that cycle”, rather than work collaboratively to break the link between out-of-home care and prison.

The continuing stolen generations

And again, its First Nations peoples that will disproportionately bear the brunt of any increased risk the merger of FACS and Justice will produce. Currently, around 37 percent of young people in out-of-home care are Indigenous, while they only account for 5 percent of the state population under 18.

Last November, the Berejiklian government served up further injustice to the First Peoples of this land, when it passed legislation that requires a decision to be made as to whether a child in out-of-home care can be returned to their family within 24 months, and if not, they’re to be adopted out.

Grandmothers Against Removals founding member Aunty Hazel Collins explained in February that the forced adoption laws don’t “allow families the time frame to adequately fight through the judicial system to get their children back.” And she described this as a form of cultural genocide.

Return of the conservatives

Mr Shoebridge further said that he fears the merging of the departments reveals that the Berejiklian government “is even more out of touch, with a handful of extraordinarily powerful, but distant, ministers, directing a very complex machine, which is the NSW government”.

And with another four years up her sleeve, and highly opposed projects such as WestConnex and the Allianz Stadium redevelopment forging ahead, who knows what Berejiklian has next in her sights. But, one thing is for sure, these mergers have cleared the way to make her government’s plans easier.

“It also deskills the public service. It removes critical checks and balances,” Mr Shoebridge warned. “With this push for an efficient, centralised administration, we know from experience, it’s individual people with their individual needs who end up getting run over.”

SOURCE: https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/berejiklians-moves-quickly-to-consolidate-power-and-silence-dissent/

 

 

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, South Pacific Head Office. The church is proposing to develop apartments on Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Questions raised over churches’ ability to become property developers without paying tax