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Seeking transparency in the ACT Government

By Paul Costigan 14 April 2016 39

Legislative-P1120744

There are many things about the current ACT Government that are causing concerns, to me and local residents I meet with often – and I think most of us voted for them. Now that’s a worry!

If all that was not enough, then along come a couple of Canberra Times articles concerning the employment of the TAMS Minister’s husband. According to the articles he is employed by developers on the push to super-size the Manuka Oval precinct. Wow! Now that caught many of us out!

I see loads of benefits in enhancing the Manuka Oval precinct. But….

TAMS-P1170802

In a better time the government may have initiated friendly and transparent forums to elicit the electorate’s ideas and aspirations for the whole site. I wish!

Once the options had been identified, the terms of reference for a competitive tender would have been drawn up in partnership with the residents. Easy!

Instead we have a giant developer spruiking why they should be handed some land to plonk a ‘vibrant’ super sized development into this peaceful urban village.

Everything about this so-called ‘unsolicited’ Manuka proposal is amazing. That such a proposal materialised at all without any of the usual competitive processes is evidence that something has perverted the way this government goes about planning and development.

There is just no way, unless they had been given a friendly nod or two, that corporate developers would be allocating such resources to ‘get the community onside’ in order to have the government sign off on this questionable deal.

LDA-P1170811

The community is yet again being forced to deal with a stressful process that is already favouring a set outcome – and one that delivers huge profits to someone – and that ain’t to be the local community!

TAMS Minister Meegan Fitzharris, whose husband is directly involved, is reported as saying that she will ensure that she stays out of any dealings and decision-making when it comes to Cabinet.

Then I have to ask, what are we paying her to do? A part-time job?

When the government meets to discuss such major proposals, the electorate should expect all of the ACT Cabinet to be contributing to the decision. To have a minister absent herself from any such matters is ridiculous.

If there is the possibility of any conflict (real or perceived), then any minister should have been wise enough to make the necessary prior family arrangements or to have simply opted not to be in this government – especially as a member of the cabinet.

She was elected by the electorate to represent the electors in all matters – not just the ones she chooses. The ACT Government structure allows for a very limited number of ministers. They have complex portfolios, but they accepted that when they took the job. They are paid to be there and to contribute – full time – not part time.

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I am actually party to an email discussion involving many people on development matters. One current thought is that maybe – just maybe – there could be benefit in talking to one of the relevant ACT ministers about planning, urban development, urban infill, and the importance of biodiversity and green infrastructure.

My advice is always that we should be open to talk to politicians. But when by their own actions and words our politicians consistently demonstrate that they are removed from the realities of the aspirations of residents and are openly very close to developers, their lobbyists and advisors, is there even a chance that you would have something in common and anything to talk about?

This ACT Government is already not respected on so many issues around planning and development. Having this issue of a Minister’s direct family connection to such an important and controversial development – is just not a good look and I cannot find anyone who does not think likewise.

People want to respect those who have been chosen to lead.

People want their government back! People like transparency.

The 2016 ACT elections are not far away – let’s hope this matter is addressed soon.

————————————————–

Background links – The Crimes’ article on the husband’s links.

Michael Moore on how serious things are.

A warning from someone who has seen it before.

 

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Seeking transparency in the ACT Government
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TOF 3:28 pm 28 Apr 16

Get to the meeting at 7pm tonight (Thursday) at Wesley Church Hal, Forrest,l where Gary Rake (Deputy DG of Environment & Planning ) will explain unsolicited proposals and Tony Harris (ex Auditor General NSW). Many questions to be asked and some solid motions to be put. Organised by Inner South Canberra Community Council.

JC 11:30 am 28 Apr 16

Mordd said :

Southmouth said :

dungfungus said :

For me I see no issue with how this has panned out this far and I don’t see a conflict of interest in having someone lobbying government with his wife being part of that government. If she was planning minister then yes but lobbying no. More so when what was presented to government was also given to the opposition too.

So, let me get this right.

1) Ms Fitzharris is a cabinet Minister in the ACT labor/Greens Gov;t.
2) her partner is engaged by a consortia to develop and/or sell this unsolicited proposal to said ACT Gov’t.
3) Ms Fitzharris will be sitting in Cabinet where the proposal will no doubt be discussed in some way, shape or form.
4) As TAMS Minister, Ms Fitzharris may well be consulted by Cabinet colleagues on the impact.
5) Where is the grantee that pre or post disclosure of this situation, of what information relating to the development and subsequent announcement of this unsolicited proposal, passed informally between Ms Fitzharris and her partner ? Only the most naive would think that would not have occurred.

If we set such a low benchmark for probity, transparency and governance as to “see no issue” with this as you say, and not to recognise a potentially serious conflict of interest, then there is no hope for effective governance, probity or decision making in the ACT Labor/Greens Government.

Hell, every ACT MLA/ACT Govt Ministers’ partner should immediately set up their own lobby company and lob in unsolicated development proposals top the ACT Government !!!

But then again, if people want to be apologists for this ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t that now just lurches from issue to issue, go right ahead. That’s actually why we have such a low caliber ACT Government in the 1st place.

Announced this morning on 2CC news – Ms Fitzharris’ (TAMS Minister in ACT Gov’t) partner has stood down from his role with the GROCON/GWS consortia that put up the “unsolicited” proposal to redevelop Manuka oval and surrounds.

So, that wasn’t a conflict of interest ????

Enough said.

Looks a lot like gutter politics actually. Muk taking an issue for political gain when there is no muk to rake.

rommeldog56 10:37 am 28 Apr 16

Southmouth said :

dungfungus said :

For me I see no issue with how this has panned out this far and I don’t see a conflict of interest in having someone lobbying government with his wife being part of that government. If she was planning minister then yes but lobbying no. More so when what was presented to government was also given to the opposition too.

So, let me get this right.

1) Ms Fitzharris is a cabinet Minister in the ACT labor/Greens Gov;t.
2) her partner is engaged by a consortia to develop and/or sell this unsolicited proposal to said ACT Gov’t.
3) Ms Fitzharris will be sitting in Cabinet where the proposal will no doubt be discussed in some way, shape or form.
4) As TAMS Minister, Ms Fitzharris may well be consulted by Cabinet colleagues on the impact.
5) Where is the grantee that pre or post disclosure of this situation, of what information relating to the development and subsequent announcement of this unsolicited proposal, passed informally between Ms Fitzharris and her partner ? Only the most naive would think that would not have occurred.

If we set such a low benchmark for probity, transparency and governance as to “see no issue” with this as you say, and not to recognise a potentially serious conflict of interest, then there is no hope for effective governance, probity or decision making in the ACT Labor/Greens Government.

Hell, every ACT MLA/ACT Govt Ministers’ partner should immediately set up their own lobby company and lob in unsolicated development proposals top the ACT Government !!!

But then again, if people want to be apologists for this ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t that now just lurches from issue to issue, go right ahead. That’s actually why we have such a low caliber ACT Government in the 1st place.

Announced this morning on 2CC news – Ms Fitzharris’ (TAMS Minister in ACT Gov’t) partner has stood down from his role with the GROCON/GWS consortia that put up the “unsolicited” proposal to redevelop Manuka oval and surrounds.

So, that wasn’t a conflict of interest ???? Enough said.

Tim Bohm 12:03 pm 19 Apr 16

Well said Paul

What are you thoughts on cleaning up ACT politics, starting with an ACT ICAC, just like in SA, WA, NSW, QLD and VIC?

Cheers
Tim Böhm
Like Canberra Party Founder
Bullet Train for Australia President

ungruntled 11:23 am 19 Apr 16

rubaiyat said :

rubaiyat said :

Skytran… were the most technically developed of the systems I found. They also are much cheaper, faster, quieter, environmentally superior etc..

How can they be the most technically developed when they don’t even exist off paper and even what is on paper has no consistent details? Your extraordinary long 20 metre spans, through conveniently missing treetops, is contradicted by Skytran’s few renders. Which ones are we supposed to believe? None of them match.

Despite the vagueness of this vaporware technology you claim it is “cheaper, faster, quieter, environmentally superior etc.”! Based on what? Absolutely nothing has been built, not even a working prototype pod.

I suppose you arrived at that conclusion by examining “all options”?

Have you ever worked on a major project?

Done any good deals on the Brooklyn Bridge?

Rubiayat, have I missed something here?

From what I have read & recall of Arthur’s comments, he is not suggesting Skytran by brand, but “a magnetic levitation system”, an example of which is Skytran.

Surely, that he has been able to find an alternative option to the trams is a good thing.
That our Assembly has not even looked at other alternatives (even if they are rejected as not best or appropriate options), is an indication that the government processes are not up to even basic standard.
In this context, it was the issue of “government processes” and “due diligence” that was at issue & being discussed. Not transport, not particular types of transport. Just the processes by which the decisions are being made in the Assembly.

That being so, your attack on Skytran is off the mark – do you have a particular interest in trams for the ACT?
Your attack on Arthur personally, does not seem to me, to fit the spirit of this forum.
It may also be useful for you to bear in mind, that when one attacks the messenger, rather than the message, one has already lost the argument.

rubaiyat 9:56 pm 18 Apr 16

rubaiyat said :

Skytran… were the most technically developed of the systems I found. They also are much cheaper, faster, quieter, environmentally superior etc..

How can they be the most technically developed when they don’t even exist off paper and even what is on paper has no consistent details? Your extraordinary long 20 metre spans, through conveniently missing treetops, is contradicted by Skytran’s few renders. Which ones are we supposed to believe? None of them match.

Despite the vagueness of this vaporware technology you claim it is “cheaper, faster, quieter, environmentally superior etc.”! Based on what? Absolutely nothing has been built, not even a working prototype pod.

I suppose you arrived at that conclusion by examining “all options”?

Have you ever worked on a major project?

Done any good deals on the Brooklyn Bridge?

Arthur Davies 5:10 pm 18 Apr 16

First & foremost, I used the transport process as another example of just how poor the present decision making processes are, how secretive, & how they lead to very bad governance with no “due diligence”. I did not intend to start a major discussion of the pros & cons of various transport options, but to back up the original article’s point of poor development planning.

However I think I need to clarify a few points:-

I have no interest in Skytran other than wanting better transport for Canberra & they were the most technically developed of the systems I found. They also are much cheaper, faster, quieter, environmentally superior etc.

Such a system is new, someone has to be first, & when it works, the first one gains maximum benefit compared with the slow followers. However it does have risks as any innovative system has, however we are being continually told we have to be innovative! The way to do it would be to build a small track first, say around one of our Unis, then extend it to the nearest town centre, then to the next town centre, covering intermediate community centres on the way, & so on. No big risk up front.

Rapid transit systems are not radial, they have no hubs but rely on automatic points to direct pods to their destination (it has been called a transport internet, not a bad analogy).

Intermediate stations would be quite small & would generally be at community centres so siting is easy. The town centre stations would be much larger to carry the volume of passengers at peak times. If a lift breaks down, the adjacent stations would still operate, a pest not a disaster, like a road closed for maintenance or a bus breakdown.

Peak passenger numbers are 7,000 passengers per hour per track, i.e. 14,000 per hour for a double track, much more than stage 1 trams can carry.

Rapid transit rails are quite small & are suspended above the roadway, not over the footpath, pole spacing by memory is up to about 20m.

In my discussion re investigating all options, this must apply to ALL projects, buses included. For instance I understand that the Govt intends to trial electric buses this year, so they did investigate this option as well as diesel, well done!

But I believe that future comments should concentrate more on the Govt’s processes (or lack of them), the way they meet the whole community’s needs, real consultation (including being able to say no when needs be) etc.

rommeldog56 10:16 pm 17 Apr 16

dungfungus said :

For me I see no issue with how this has panned out this far and I don’t see a conflict of interest in having someone lobbying government with his wife being part of that government. If she was planning minister then yes but lobbying no. More so when what was presented to government was also given to the opposition too.

So, let me get this right.

1) Ms Fitzharris is a cabinet Minister in the ACT labor/Greens Gov;t.
2) her partner is engaged by a consortia to develop and/or sell this unsolicited proposal to said ACT Gov’t.
3) Ms Fitzharris will be sitting in Cabinet where the proposal will no doubt be discussed in some way, shape or form.
4) As TAMS Minister, Ms Fitzharris may well be consulted by Cabinet colleagues on the impact.
5) Where is the grantee that pre or post disclosure of this situation, of what information relating to the development and subsequent announcement of this unsolicited proposal, passed informally between Ms Fitzharris and her partner ? Only the most naive would think that would not have occurred.

If we set such a low benchmark for probity, transparency and governance as to “see no issue” with this as you say, and not to recognise a potentially serious conflict of interest, then there is no hope for effective governance, probity or decision making in the ACT Labor/Greens Government.

Hell, every ACT MLA/ACT Govt Ministers’ partner should immediately set up their own lobby company and lob in unsolicated development proposals top the ACT Government !!!

But then again, if people want to be apologists for this ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t that now just lurches from issue to issue, go right ahead. That’s actually why we have such a low caliber ACT Government in the 1st place.

JC 7:28 pm 15 Apr 16

MERC600 said :

dungfungus said :

Given the history of secrecy around the adoption of trams for Canberra & the past impossibility to gain access to all the facts & figures (far from a unique Canberra problem I am sure), such a review must be carried out by a body totally independent of the government. This is far from a trivial issue, a consultant hired by the government is simply not good enough, the Govt writes the terms of reference & have the opportunity, officially or otherwise, to influence the final report. I worked for a consultant for many years & I know how the system works. If a consultant wants more work in the future, they have to try to give the client the result they want (without fudging it too much).

Whilst I for one agree with most of what u say Arthur, unfortunately for the future of Canberra, I think you are flogging a dead horse raising these issues as they pertain yo the ACT Labor/Greens Government. Why ?

Because of us – the voters. Just look at the comments in posts #2 and #7 (from JC) as proof evident of that. It certainly is a detached & rarefied existence living in the Canberra cocoon !!!

Yeah I right. Firstly Arthur is factually wrong. No consultant was hired by the government. This is an unsolicited approach by a private enterprise.

They presented a proposal to both government and opposition. No decision made what so ever. Yes one member of government is married to someone in the consortium, that intrest has been declared and Simon public record. Said government member is not planning minister.

So really what is the issue except some cheap gutter politics?

JC 7:25 pm 15 Apr 16

HenryBG said :

Yes Paul. When I saw the title, I literally snorted.
Every single ACT Govt ‘consultation’ I have ever been to has been geared to ‘telling people what is probably going to happen’ rather than genuine consultation. They are presumptuous and stressful, as you say, and seem to rely on people being too busy to fight the proposal.
There seem to be a number of partner-related conflicts of interest. Undeclared conflicts I find disgraceful but unsurprising given the way the ACT Govt and their Directorates operate.

So what was undeclared in this case?

JC 7:23 pm 15 Apr 16

Masquara said :

Charlotte Harper said :

Besides no decision has been made, no firm plan presented to government for consideration, both government and opposition given the same briefing by the people proposing it. But early to be getting ones knickers in a knot isn’t it?

If people don’t start “getting their knickers in a knot” now, it will be fait acompli & the community effected, will, once again, have had no say in how things go.

If you look at then thread when this was first announced you will see that I am no big fan of this proposal.

For me I see no issue with how this has panned out this far and I don’t see a conflict of interest in having someone lobbying government with his wife being part of that government. If she was planning minister then yes but lobbying no. More so when what was presented to government was also given to the opposition too.

JC 7:19 pm 15 Apr 16

JC said :

dungfungus said :

I think you are clutching at straws in this opinion piece. Fitzharris did the right thing in this situation which was declare her interest and abstained herself from the bureaucratic process regarding it. This is nothing new and is practiced all over the country, to attack the government because of this seems petty.

ACT is a small jurisdiction with a small number of residents and an even smaller number of consultants. If Fitzharris’s husband is in the construction or planning sector then its more than likely he would be involved in many projects to happen in the ACT. What exactly do you imply by saying she should “make the necessary prior family arrangements”? Because her husband is employed in that sector, is it fair to ask her that she not pursue HER interests? Anyway, since when do all of cabinet discuss planning matters? Thats why we have a PLANNING Minister.

Im sure the development will be examined on its merits and the democratic process will take place, as has occured with most development proposals in Canberra.

Well, I dunno. And it used to be said that ACT voters were the most politically aware in Australia ? amoungst the pearls of wisdon and denial in the above is this :

” Because her husband is employed in that sector, is it fair to ask her that she not pursue HER interests? “

Not only is her husband employed in that “sector” as you say, he is a prime proponent of the unsolicited proposal from DWS/Grocon for the redevelopment. He is employed by that consortium to help sell this proposal to the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t.

If u see nothing very, very wrong in that, then you are in denial.

If Megan was planning minister then yes I would have an issue. But she isn’t.

rubaiyat 2:59 pm 15 Apr 16

We all live in hope eternal.

Thought I’d give SkyTran another burl and see if I could find any sign of Tron leaping off the screen into the real world.

What I found was an awful lot of noise on the Internet, nearly all the same graphics, 3D mockups and non-specific diagrams with wildly hypothetical costs.

SkyTran, currently called Unimodal, has been saying a system would be running NEXT year since 1990. Currently after a couple of shots in Tel Aviv they are claiming a line supposedly started last year, no it wasn’t, would be completed by this year, no it isn’t, from Herzilya to a Tel Aviv Beach. They do seem to have drawn a line on a map, and it seemed to come as a surprise to the residents of Herzilya who were none too excited when they got wind of this vaporware transport system.

Searching the Internet you would think the principle product of Unimodal/skyTran/Douglas Malewicki is Press Releases. Mountains of them.

Nothing concrete or anything you can ride in. Even the solitary dummy skyTran pod seems to be “Look, don’t touch”.

What I did find were about a dozen other PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) Systems, most of which have actually been built and run. One had progressed to closed down and dismantled. So if Canberra is to investigate all options, it will have its work cut out just on PRTs.

The only trouble, as was pointed out on one site, is that PRT is impractical overkill and under-delivery for low density suburbia and totally inadequate for inner urban high density areas. So it fails to meet either space, let alone link them.

You can read up more about PRTs here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit

pajs 11:42 am 15 Apr 16

As the comments indicate, this kind of article does nothing other than pander to lazy cynicism. It contains no evidence, incorporates no responses from those it questions or maligns, as well as being factually incorrect (the assumption non-solicited development proposals don’t happen without government involvement). In the interests of fairness, I think you should get an alternative view, or at least solicit a reply from ACTPLA or one of the other parties mentioned.

rubaiyat 11:06 am 15 Apr 16

For those not familiar with Arthur’s long running promotion of SkyTran a transport system which has very little concrete detail beyond photoshopped renderings and a few cheap 3D animations:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyTran#/media/File:SkyTran_Seattle2.jpg

See if you can work out any details. Enough to cost or quantify the system. Skytran is not offering any.

Looking at the render, the substantial posts are at about 6m intervals. The height is stated to be 4m elsewhere but looks more like 6-7m here, scaling up from the people shown. The access to the pods is via a very steep stair, akin to an aircraft stair, but verballed elsewhere as a combination of a stair/escalator and a lift for the mobility impaired.

Despite the queue of pods, the waiting platform seems diminutive for entering and departing occupants. I can not for the life of me see how all the tens of thousands of commuters per hour will be able to disembark/embark in pods slung in mid air as shown.

This is not a mass transport system, and the reason why it has not even gone ahead in a test loop in a Tel Aviv campus, let alone a major city, seems self evident.

The same as the robot Taxi Service marketed as Autonomous Cars is of similar pie in the sky costs, fancifully carpooled and running on mysteriously non-congested roads avoiding all other traffic.

rubaiyat 10:22 am 15 Apr 16

dungfungus said :

Proper Evaluation Procedures

In your rush to do exactly what you are accusing the Government of doing ie Reaching a conclusion and working backwards, you have omitted several key points of your pet project, your almost constantly hidden agenda of promoting SkyTran.

Where is the:

13. Proven technology.

14. Working system.

15. Capacity.

16. Disability Access.

17. Emergency fall back in event of failure. It is 4 metres up in the air moving at very high speed according to SkyTran’s brochure only data.

17. Real world costings.

It is now April 2016 and still all we see are 3D rendering and some very poor 3D animation.

You are always having a two way bet on all points.

1. Any transport system “must explore all systems”. All? Not just stopping at adding your favoured pie in the sky (literally) option. Where do we stop? How much time, money and effort does Canberra expend endlessly exploring every option. New alternatives will always pop up. This could be the perpetual exploration of “All Options”.

2. Why does not exploring “All Options” apply when procuring buses or building roads or purchasing ACT government vehicles? Or anything?

3. Why does your stated objection to tree felling (something we agree on) not apply to your option which is tree height, AND running throughout all Canberra along Canberra’s tree-lined footpaths.

4. How will your system ever be viable spread out over Canberra’s 815 sq km (and growing) especially at its furthest extremities where usage will be least?

5. How will your system address intra-suburb transport, without a centralised radial network? eg How do you get from Banks to Theodore?

6. Where is the testbed Tel Aviv track (not built nor any progress)? Why should Canberra buy your pig in a poke as opposed to any other pig in a poke?

7. How are all the escalators, stairs and elevators going to be built and maintained on our sometimes narrow footpaths over 815+ sq km? Where are your costings for those very expensive open air (All weather?) structures/machinery?

8. How weather proof is your proposed system considering its altitude, light weight construction and awkward access?

9. What happens when the lifts and escalators are inevitably out of action?

10. What exactly is the extent of your proposed network?

11. Over what time scale do you see this system being installed, when initial research, prototyping and testing have not even begun anywhere?

12. What is your risk costing for this untested, unquantified system?

These are only a few points (I have already posted many more) that I can come up with off the top of my head, but are nowhere in your list.

I note the updated entry on Wikipedia, about the only (year old) “facts” discoverable, which looks like it has been written by SkyTran itself.

In the words of Wikipedia:

“This article contains content that is written like an advertisement. Please help improve it by removing promotional content and inappropriate external links, and by adding encyclopedic content written from a neutral point of view. (March 2015)”.

What exactly is your interest in and obsession with SkyTran? Any financial or consultancy disclosures you need to make? It seems a singular obsession with something well off stage.

rubaiyat 9:17 am 15 Apr 16

wottaway said :

I thought there was plenty of transparency in government, after all, anyone can see through the lies of the current bunch. They do things backward by putting concrete plans into motion, ask the public quietly what they think and then shop around for “professionals” who will back the government’s ideology. With this “evidence” in hand, they tell the same electorate who opposed the outcome “It is what you voted for.”
The situation couldn’t be any clearer.

In other words ANY politicians.

But you make out that it is just the side you don’t like that engages in these tactics.

rommeldog56 9:03 am 15 Apr 16

puggle said :

You need to make “Political Donation” as your Number 1 priority, first.

Or join a Union peak body, or ride a bike, or like trams, or be a property developer, or be a consultant, or……….

rommeldog56 8:57 am 15 Apr 16

rubaiyat said :

Holden Caulfield said :

This is just another example of ultra poor administration and decision making from this Labor/Greens ACT Gov’t.

Can’t wait to get back to the ultra poor administration and decision making from a Liberal ACT Gov’t, so all can go back to being Right with the World.

It is beyond comprehension that u would “presume” that an alternate ACT Gov’t would make similar poor decisions. They will all do that to a greater or lesser degree. If they do, then vote them out at the next election too.

To do otherwise is to entrench the sort of ultra poor decision making and fiscal priority setting from ACT Labor/Greens Govt for ever. It will never change because ACT voters do not send the right message at the ballot box.

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