Saturday, August 02, 2008

Lony history of corruption

In our fight against political donations, I have occasion to mention the recorded case of NSW Premier Robert Askin receiving $15,000 in a brown paper bag in relation to a development proposal. I then encounter raised eyebrows. Many people just do not want to believe this. But it is necessary to fully appreciate how deeply embedded is this practice in NSW.

More on donations is now emerging from Alan Saffron’s biography of his father Abe Saffron in his forthcoming book Gentle Satan. The Sydney Morning Herald reveals that at one stage Abe Saffron was paying Askin (and the police commissioner) $5000 to $10,000 per week. And that was in the money of the 1960s and 1970s. Alan says Askin was totally corrupt. “In his early years as premier Askin would meet Saffron at restaurants at arranged times and speak to him on the phone regularly. But as Saffron came to the attention of law enforcement agencies intermediates were used”. He says Askin was also the recipient of payments via horse races that were fixed as “a courtesy to premier Askin”!

It is noteworthy that 11 developers received knighthoods from Askin.

But our battle against political corruption, started in 1999, is making progress. The report of the Select Committee on Electoral and Political Party Funding is out with many worthwhile recommendations. We need to work hard at getting them adopted.

Voice of Community Needed

Sydney Morning Herald 21 June 2008

Why planning needs the voice of the community
The passage of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Bill 2008 late last Tuesday night will sound the death of community participation in planning in NSW.

The then premier Neville Wran introduced in 1979 the original Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. In the decade before this, Sydneysiders saw the emergence of green bans and the rise of resident action groups. The end result of this activity was the push for planning to change.

Jack Mundey, a former recent chair of the Historic Houses Trust, was instrumental in campaigns in the late 1960s and 1970s in saving The Rocks, Woolloomooloo, Centennial Park and Kellys Bush in Hunters Hill. It was the actions of Mundey and the Builders Labourers Federation - which imposed green bans at the requests of conservationists, residents and community groups - that apparently influenced Wran's legislation.

The original planning legislation was based on consultation, something that is foreign to the current legislation. Consultation on the discussion paper "Improving the NSW Planning System" was limited.

The rights of residents will be eroded so they will not have a say about how their neighbourhood develops. What impact will this have on our streetscape, our heritage and our environment? The end result will inevitably be conflict between neighbours.

The residents in Kogarah municipality are proud of their homes, their streetscape and their suburbs. The mums and dads will only recognise the scope of the legislation when a neighbour attempts to build an inappropriate design next to their property.

Then, Minister Sartor, you'll see the rebirth of community activism across our local communities.

May the ballot boxes of September 13, in the local government elections across NSW, send strong signals in your direction that the legislation is to the detriment of our heritage, our environment and our communities.

Anne Field Kogarah

Inquiry needed



23 February 2008

Save Our Suburbs demands inquiry into Government Planning Policies

The staggering revelations about developer donations inevitably lead to questions about the NSW Government’s high-density policies (termed “urban consolidation”). The Department of Planning has

never provided credible justification for this policy which provides huge profits for high-rise developers who in turn make large political donations.

It is undeniable and well documented that high-density is detrimental to the public good [1]. Greenhouse gas emissions per person are greater in high-density [2]. The policy overloads infrastructure. Choking traffic congestion and longer travel times result. Sewers overflow, electricity supply is at breaking point and there are chronic water shortages. High-density policies create land shortages that result in unaffordable housing. Concrete, tiles and bitumen replace trees, gardens and public open space. Sustainablility is adversely affected.

Current media coverage reveals the huge donations high-density developers make to the political parties. What is not yet being publicised is the long history the Department of Planning has of working closely with developers. The Department demands that councils submit strategies for high-density (under threat of taking away their planning powers) and developers who subsequently stand to benefit are actively involved in the assessment of these strategies [3]. Under these circumstances, a good example from the top state planning department is not being set for councils. Proposed changes to the planning system, involving state appointed planning panels, are unlikely to improve the situation.

It needs to be questioned why a policy detrimental to the public interest is being forced onto communities, as this policy provides huge profits [4] to organisations that are actively participating in its formulation and implementation and which make massive donations to the major political parties. Save Our Suburbs demands an Upper House inquiry into the motivation for this policy.

Further information: Tony Recsei 02 9487 2061


[1] See

[2] See

[3] For example as at 16 November 2000 the Departmernt’s “Residential Strategy Advisory Committee” consisted of:

John Collins (DUAP Assistant Director-General and Chair)

Peter Woods (Mayor of Concord and President of the Local Government Association)

Bruce McDonald (Director of Strategic and Economic Planning, Penrith Council)

Ian Costley (Mirvac Group - standing in for Robert Hamilton, the General Manager)

Neil Bird, (Urban Pacific Ltd)

Peter Lean (Urban Development Institute of Australia).

After this situation was publicly revealed on the ABC Stateline program of 30/03/01 the committee was replaced with a less obvious method of involving developers in the planning process but the overall effect is the same.

[4] In a letter to the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning dated 17 November 2000, Ian Costley, Development Director of Mirvac reports on the financial viability of development that would result if a residential strategy submitted by Ku-ring-gai Council were to be accepted by the Department. In this report internal rates of return of up to 128% on Mirvac’s equity investment were considered “not viable”.