The laws by Shepherd, he shall not want

tony-shepherdThe AIMN is often criticised for its claim of being an independent information alternative.  I assume the criticism comes because most articles and comments tend towards progressive social justice and philosophy.

The definition of independent is “free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority; not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.”  I am not a member of any political organisation or union.  Nobody tells me what to write and nobody checks it before I publish it.  I am not paid to write.  I therefore defend our claim to independence, but cannot do the same for the head of our supposedly independent Commission of Audit, Tony Shepherd.

As head of the Business Council of Australia, Shepherd advocates for Australia’s 100 biggest companies, and was chairman of construction and services giant Transfield Services until he quit in October after more than a decade on the board.

Transfield has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in federal government contracts in recent years, including reaping $180 million from operating detention facilities on Nauru. In February we learned that Transfield Services will be paid $1.22 billion by the Australia government to run both offshore detention centres

Mr Shepherd left with more than 200,000 Transfield shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000.

Mr Shepherd’s Commission of Audit was tasked with looking at possible cuts to the ABC and SBS. Considering he is an advocate for pay TV providers in his position as chairman of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA), this is surely a huge conflict of interest. The group, whose members include Telstra, Foxtel and ESPN, in January issued an invitation to a party at Parliament House in Canberra.

”Tony Shepherd AO, chairman, ASTRA, invites you to join the leaders and stars of Australian subscription television to celebrate the quality, creativity and diversity of content watched by 7 million Australians,” it said

Shepherd is also a director of the international arm of Virgin Australia and heads the WestConnex Delivery Authority which will award contracts to build the proposed Sydney toll road, co-funded by the Abbott government. The WestConnex is at an early stage in Infrastructure Australia’s four stage priority list. Its Benefit Cost Ratio is thought by many observers to be negative.

In October last year, more than 100 people gathered at Leichhardt Town Hall to hear public transport experts Michelle Zeibots and Gavin Gatenby point out the many flaws in the shaky case for Australia’s most expensive infrastructure project.

This led to Leichardt Council presenting a Notice of Motion stating

“The WestConnex is a very bad transport plan. In fact it is not a transport plan at all it is just a very long, very expensive private road. It will generated very high carbon emissions in both construction and use and it will force people off public transport and back into their cars.

It is also has a very bad urban development plan which has been conveniently linked to the private tollway plan.

It would appear that the government is somewhat opportunistically seeking to imply that high rise development along the route of a private tollway somehow equates with encouraging higher density development near public transport hubs. There is no logic to this at all only a hungry grab for land for developers. This is not the future that Leichhardt Council and her residents and local businesses aspire to. The “WestConnex Revitalisation Land Use Planning” , should it go ahead will destroy the Leichhardt we know and love.”

It would be interesting to see who is buying up land in that area.

WestConnex is the biggest urban infrastructure project in the country – with $3.3 billion of taxpayers’ money already committed to it – and hardly anything is known about it.

Taxpayers do not know how many cars are expected to use this motorway. They do not know its estimated impact on local roads. They are yet to be told its precise route. They’re in the dark on construction methods. Even the need for the WestConnex is not known.

WestConnex is really a connection of three motorway projects the NSW government says will cost about $11.5 billion together.

One of the three projects – the second to be built – will be another M5 East tunnel in southern Sydney and a connecting road to Sydney Airport. The state says it will be able to build this for $3.6 billion to $3.8 billion, with construction starting in 2016 and finishing in 2020.

This forecast – presented with no justification to back it up – seems vastly underestimated.

When the former NSW Labor government appealed to the federal government for funding for pretty much the same project in 2010, it put a $4.5 billion price tag on it (with inflation, that would probably be close to $6 billion by 2020). Even then the federal government’s advisor Infrastructure Australia said the $4.5 billion figure was likely to be understated.

So on what basis are Abbott and the NSW State government now so confident that they can do the job for billions less than their predecessors?

The public servant running the project to date, Paul Goldsmith, said

”When we started the business case, we recognised this as a very difficult place to build a motorway. It’s a very expensive place to build a motorway and this is why we developed a couple of industry partners to have some input into developing solutions for that part of WestConnex. We haven’t got a fixed solution but we have a whole bunch of ideas and we’ve got some short-listed solutions to that area.”

In other words, the government is sure it can build this section of motorway for $3.8 billion but it either does not know how or will not say.

Tony Shepherd’s board of businessmen should be providing the workings, analysis and assumptions of WestConnex, in the same way they would if governments proposed massively expensive new welfare, disability, education or health programs.

Research shows us that in most industrialised cities, including Sydney, car use is declining due to fuel prices and other living pressures, while demand for public transport continues to grow. Sydney is a model example of this shift. So while Prime Minister Tony Abbott believes the ”humblest person is king in his own car”, the evidence says many of us are opting out of this 1950s mindset.

The claim that WestConnex is an integrated transport solution is also deceptive. ”Integrated” transport can be interpreted as allowing different travel modes to complement each other. A more holistic understanding implies the incorporation of social, economic and environmental elements, and policies to reduce the need for travel and the impact of journeys made.

WestConnex does neither. First, widening the M4 and M5, and building an 8.5-kilometre tunnel, does not enable private transport users to integrate walking, cycling or public transport as part of their journey. Second, it does not meet key environmental, social and economic outcomes. The government’s business case executive summary provides no insight into how WestConnex will meet environmental criteria or encourage healthier transport choices.

Perhaps that’s because building large motorways increases greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution levels, dependency on fossil fuels and inequitable access to mobility.

Choosing roads over integrated public transport options is not logical, but ideological, as shown by Abbott’s plans to abolish funding for urban rail, while promising support for WestConnex, Perth’s airport gateway road and Melbourne’s east-west link. Mike Baird’s so-called innovative financing model for the WestConnex is underpinned by this same neo-liberal ideology.

Failure by successive Labor and Liberal governments to recognise the need for affordable, reliable, efficient, integrated transport options has earned Sydney the title of the world’s fourth-worst major city for transport and infrastructure.

Public money should be spent on projects such as an integrated light rail connection up Parramatta Road and building Parramatta Council’s proposed full light rail network in western Sydney.

It is time to invest in 21st-century public transport systems that can connect communities, cut environmental impacts, and generate long-term economic success.

Considering Tony Shepherd’s many business involvements presenting a multitude of conflicts of interest, was he really the man to head the Commission of Audit? It appears to me that Tony Shepherd is recommending what is good for Tony Shepherd and the countless businesses he represents.

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47 replies

  1. {Considering Tony Shepherd’s many business involvements presenting a multitude of conflicts of interest, was he really the man to head the Commission of Audit? It appears to me that Tony Shepherd is recommending what is good for Tony Shepherd and the countless businesses he represents.}….

    and that as the Baird put succinctly …. “is the be all and end all’ ..of it. Another bullseye KL. Abbott is only fooling those hard line Torys who are bogans like himself. Obviously they are dwindling in numbers which has put the brakes on the Murdoch polling companies Newspoll and Galaxy. While their silence is as good as a very bad poll for the Govt and Abbott. Their sudden vacation says even more.

  2. Kaye Lee, you are doing great work, because people cannot read this stuff anywhere else. The majority of MSM journalists are just not up to it, or not interested, or too biased to consider it.

  3. Joe,

    In fairness, most of the stuff in this article did come from the online MSM or links they sent me to. I have just put together stuff from a lot of different articles. Each, on their own, had a particular focus, but when put together it makes a very questionable picture.

  4. Joe,

    Kaye Lee, you are doing great work, because people cannot read this stuff anywhere else. The majority of MSM journalists are just not up to it, or not interested, or too biased to consider it.

    I’m sorry, but this is malarkey. Kaye Lee is a wonderful collator and presenter of information. For me she constructs the best articles of anyone here at AIMN. But the notion that you can’t find this information anywhere else is nonsense. Google any random paragraph from this article and you’ll see how silly the idea is. Indeed, Google most of the paragraphs.

    Certainly you can’t read the specific agenda-driven collation that she presents anywhere else, but that’s hardly material. It’s not the job of the MSM to run the political agenda that we desire.

  5. A most illuminating article by Ms Lee, especially as a former resident of Leichhardt when Council first brought the light rail system out of the CBD by converting the old goods railway.

    As for the MSM being given some credit, I was amazed that yesterday’s ‘Illawarra Mercury’ (Fairfax stable) filled its entire front-page with a rare editorial condemning the Commission of Audit report, opening with:

    “Amanda Vanstone calls it a vision of the future. We call it a vision of hell.”

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/2254892/farewell-to-a-fair-go-commission-of-audit/?cs=390

  6. Dan,

    That is why I am uncomfortable receiving praise for what I post. I hasten to point out, as I have done many times, that I am a collator, not a creator. I am a draftsman, not an architect. I hope it makes a contribution by saving people time putting things together because the more you do so, the more complete the picture becomes. I am sharing information that is freely available to anyone online.

  7. Boycott Virgin.

  8. And buy more of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream 🙂

  9. Kaye, you really are the best collator I have had the pleasure to follow. Thank you so much for you tireless work. More information is more power to the people.

  10. Dan Rowden, it might not be the MSM’s responsibility to provide ‘agenda driven’ reports but it is their responsibility to delve into the many conflicts of interest which would allow Shepherd’s unsuitability for this job to be demonstrated. Yes, odd elements about him and his tentacles, do appear here and there but it’s only when KL or some of the few like her collate it that it arouses the outrage we should all feel about the hand picked crew of self interested inexperts behind this report. I mean, Amanda Vanstone FFS.

  11. Kaye Lee,

    Dan,

    That is why I am uncomfortable receiving praise for what I post. I hasten to point out, as I have done many times, that I am a collator, not a creator. I am a draftsman, not an architect. I hope it makes a contribution by saving people time putting things together because the more you do so, the more complete the picture becomes. I am sharing information that is freely available to anyone online.

    Indeed, I’ve always appreciated that you hasten to note those things. Your peerless skills (here at AIMN) at collating and structuring such information are also noted. Your articles are always readable and interesting because of those skills. I do worry sometimes about citation issues and such but for AIMN purposes it probably doesn’t matter much.

  12. I agree about the citation but I have to say, after a lifetime of writing university papers, I am so happy to not be doing rigorous referencing. I put in some links but that all takes time and sometimes I forget where I found stuff if I don’t use an exact quote. If I was professional I couldn’t copy and paste. It is a luxury that I hope is not overstepping the bounds.

  13. Would it be “agenda driven” for newspapers to objectively document the interests and history of the report’s authors? Can you imagine if a Labor government asked union bosses to produce a report on worker’s rights? The MSM would be all over it… in the public interest of course.

  14. mars08,

    Would it be “agenda driven” for newspapers to objectively document the interests and history of the report’s authors?

    Depends. To what level of detail and to what purpose? Who decides what detail matters and what doesn’t and for what reasons? We know who Shepherd is, basically. How much detail can be presented before a political and ideological agenda begins to appear? Or begins to appear to appear.

    Sometimes I wonder if those who are quick to criticise the quality of the work of journalists have a proper appreciation of what it means to be one (in the context of what we seem to demand of them).

  15. I have a relative who works for the ABC and she said you just can’t get them to agree to interviews. I would imagine that print journalists are also mindful of getting a berth on the plane, and being the one who gets to ask a question at a press conference. Their job relies on access to politicians.

    As for Shepherd, I made little comment. I just pointed out a few of his jobs which appear to me to raise a conflict of interest. I do not consider that an ideological or political agenda.

  16. Oh for crying out loud Dan!!! Are you serious?

    Well… how about a few prominent newspaper articles listing (in one place) the jobs previously and currently held by the authors and their expertise relevant to creating an independent Commission of Audit. Just that… nothing else. No more than you’d expect in any résumé.

    Is that unbiased enough for you? Is that appropriately free of any agenda? Is that suitably non-specific? Is that bland enough for our intrepid journalists to handle? Is that sufficiently fucking fair and fucking balanced for you?

    BAH!!

  17. Just when I think you can’t be more informative Kaye Lee you bowl me over with your general knowlege ,collating ability,way with words etc.
    I hope you get as much enjoyment from putting ‘pen to paper’ as we get from reading your amazing contribution to the demise of the WORST Government EVER

  18. mars08,

    Just out of curiosity, what is it you imagine is going to be the practical result of a story detailing, in detail, the resumes of the Commissioners?

  19. Let me field that one. My aim is to inform in the hope that the information will be shared. I am not expecting to be able to bring down a government mid-term but I certainly hope to contribute in a small way to their defeat at the next election. I believe they were elected by an electorate who was not given the correct information. They are still trying to mislead the electorate by sacking all experts and employing people with vested interests who will tell them what they want to hear. I want to motivate people and to empower them. Knowledge is power. Background information about manipulation of that information is pertinent. Following the money has led to many revelations. A bottle of wine brought down a Premier. Should Tony Shepherd be deciding what money is spent on considering his current employment and investments?

  20. Okay Dan. I was just making a suggestion in the interests of open, transparent, accountable government. II don’t expect that anything momentous would happen. Just a more informed electorate. But you seem focused on sticking to your opinion. Enjoy. Knock yourself out.

    Just out of curiosity, what is it you imagine is going to be the result of having NO story detailing the resumes of the Commissioners?

  21. They are all such bloody crooks, my heart weeps.

  22. Dan,

    Another thing I hope to do is keep the bastards honest. I realise I am only talking to a few people but word spreads. I hope to remind all politicians of every flavour that they are accountable. Transparency and honesty are crucial as mars08 points out. There are great journalists out there who are trying valiantly to inform the public. They aren’t the ones who were invited to Kirribilli House to attend Credlin’s soiree to reward them for their services to journalism. They are under pressure to come up with breaking news all the time. I have the luxury of sitting here in my jammies with my elephant memory ably assisted by google going back over years of their work. I would point out that many of the MSM articles I quote from are guest posts by experts. I also go to source documents, often prompted by comments that people make that pique my interest to investigate further.

    I think you and I understand each other to a small degree insofar as you can understand people you have never met who are typing in circumstances you do not know. You are a regular and valued contributor here. What is it that you hope to achieve by reading/writing the articles and making comment?

  23. Ok, so I had a full reply to mars08 and the system won’t let me post it. WordPress sucks.

  24. Kaye Lee,

    You say you are, in part, motivated by keeping the bastards honest. I totally relate to that motivation and purpose. I don’t consider AIMN to fall outside of my “bastard” parameters, regardless of my dedicated and intractable leftism.

  25. OK that me smile and I can only agree. Keep me honest, I like it that way 😉

  26. Kaye Lee, I don’t care of you’re a researcher, collater, writer, or what; this was a damn good read.

  27. Kaye, most of us don’t have the time or the skill to gather such significant information as you present in your articles. You gather facts and make extremely clear and powerful points. Such sharp articles that are evidence based are rarley found in any form of mainstream media. It is staggering and disheartening that there is such a volume of readily accessible information that does not reach mainstream Australia.

    Thank you for giving voice and credible representation to so much that most of us only know bits of or experience via our social justice instincts. Thanks for giving us hope, through your articles and the comments they elicit, that there are like minds out there and therefore some chance of stopping the lunacy that is dismantling much that has made our society, and our lives, somewhat free, equal and healthy.

  28. I was a journalist for 45 years, mainstream and political, and although I tried to be inquisitive and inquiring when considering stories, I wish I had Kaye Lee’s collative and forensic skills. I would not want to be a journalist working in the MSM today, the demands to produce ‘content’ preclude real journalism so much. Read the books by ABC correspondents to understand how the pressures of the job (eg multi tasking) interfere with the actual work of journalism. That said it becomes a choice for a journalist, do you re-present the blurb that’s presented to you or do you take that blurb, examine it, see the shit for what it is and then chase the truth? I appreciate that KL and others not only see the shit but take the time to examine it and give it back to us analysed in such perspicacious ways. Keep up the good work

  29. This is all good information sharing and debate. But, who is Actually going to do anything about the Chronyism that Blatantly exists between the LNP and it’s Corporate Mates?

    No One.

  30. Ricardo,

    It is flattering to hear such kind words from a true professional. Being fed so much shit is what prompted me to start writing. It was like that day when you realise your parents aren’t omniscient. I have always known that politicians push their own agenda but this government has gone too far. I could stand the lies no longer.

  31. Pat,

    I understand your frustration. Tony is susceptible to public backlash. He has no courage and is a self-confessed weathervane. If we spread the information and enough people make the effort to write emails to their local members or join the protest marches maybe we can force some changes because he doesn’t want to risk voter backlash. He has already taken a step backwards on the PPL but it saved no money so we need to keep pointing out the inequity of wasting money on fighter jets and welfare for the rich and bribes to polluters and politicians entitlements when they are cutting pensions and the minimum wage and taxation for mining companies.

  32. What better way to display Australia as ‘open for business’ than to employ the very representative of the group of moneyed elites you know who backed you…..

    Gives you the answers you asked for and then some all on the public purse.

    It IS time we questioned the so called ‘independence’ of these Commissioners indeed.

    Thanks for your perspective Kaye, great as always….

  33. It seems that the Commission of Audit wants those on higher incomes to rely (exclusively ?) on private healthcare insurance rather than wholly or in part Medicare; it also considers that these folk should not receive the private Healthcare insurance rebate – echoes of Labor’s means testing of the rebate.

    The problem is, if you allow the wealthy, or anybody for that matter, to effectively opt out of the ‘universal insurance’ system it ceases to be universal and is thus diminished to the point of being a safety net for the less privileged. This would destroy Medicare as a universal and non-selective system and we cannot permit that.

    The disturbing thing is that the government say that they want to have a mature conversation with the electorate but that seems to mean a one sided conversation, with a Health Minister who, like a muppet, pops up for doorstops and then disappears.

  34. Interesting article in the SMH:

    Experts sceptical about Health Minister Peter Dutton’s health funding ‘crisis’

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/experts-sceptical-about-health-minister-peter-duttons-health-funding-crisis-20140503-zr3gl.html#ixzz30hVPvDGH

    (Funnily enough between the few minutes it took me to read the article and decide to post it, the headline had changed to that “softer” version. The joys of on-line editions, I suppose.)

    Kaye Lee,

    Tony is susceptible to public backlash

    This is very, very true, and not just true but interestingly and usefully so. The Government is susceptible to negative public reaction and we should always keep that in mind. On that note:

    “Voters abandon Abbott as backlash mounts over ‘deficit tax'”

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/voters-abandon-abbott-as-backlash-mounts-over-deficit-tax-20140504-zr43d.html#ixzz30hWXJsVR

    I know it’s only a Galaxy poll, but if they can’t fudge it for the Government, then it can’t be done.

  35. Pat,

    This is all good information sharing and debate. But, who is Actually going to do anything about the Chronyism that Blatantly exists between the LNP and it’s Corporate Mates? No One.

    At the Federal level you may be right. At State level I’d say a few NSW Liberals would not share your view just now. Plus I suppose it’s not done and dusted for Arthur as yet …

    One can only hope …

  36. The WestConnex is being built for one purpose only and that is to serve the recently privatised freight terminal at Botany, which was leased last year to a private consortium for around $5 billion for a 99 year lease. The announcement for the ports lease and the WestConnecx happily coincided with the government announcing around $1.8 billion of the lease money being directed at the private toll road.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-12/nsw-leases-ports-to-industry-super-funds/4626068

    As usual, much of the detail of the lease arrangement is obscured by the usual “commercial in confidence” provisions, but one could reasonably infer that the leaseholders demanded a way to get their trucks out of Port Botany much faster, and the government were only too willing to oblige with the development of a new toll road, no doubt under more “CiC” provisions, so the public remain blind to the deals done and how much they are being screwed-over by the privatisation of former public assets and services.

  37. Kaye Lee,
    Your articles are exactly what a modern democracy needs. The electors must be made aware of what happens to facilitate public projects. Keep up the good work. I only wish your work was in front of all electors. Keep up the good work.

  38. Have all the checks and balances that made good governance (such as declaring a conflict of interest) been overthrown?

  39. Shepherd strikes me as an especially slimy sort of character, but I wonder if it would be possible for any notable person from the business sector to be appointed to any audit commission without there being accusations of conflict of interest. If so, who would that be?

  40. Dan… Why not just counterbalance him with someone from the CFMEU? 😀

  41. Aha! Problem solved.

  42. Shepherd is a little shyster . Alberrici who is usually soft really tested him especially on his ridiculous comment about his comment 11 visits to the doctors. Thank goodness. This disgraceful comment needed to be commented on.

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