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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release December 2003

Due Process in NSW 2

Hi SOS Members

We know that the State Government cannot justify its high-density policies. The politicians can provide no evidence that urban consolidation will be for the overall public good. They cram more and more people into our suburbs without upgrading infrastructure. The result is human tragedy in our hospitals, out-of control crime, stifling traffic congestion, crumbling public transport, overflowing sewers, water shortages, power outages and unaffordable house prices.

The real driver behind this iniquitous imposition onto our society is of course developer donations (as was first publicised by us in Quentin Dempster's ABCTV Stateline program of 30 March 2001).

An important article was published in the Australian Financial Review of 12 December. "Insiders, spin-doctors and dog-whistlers" by John Menadue discusses the growing threat to our democracy. It states:

"Money has replaced (political party) membership as the driving force in political campaigns. In America it is called dononcracy. In NSW the ALP is so successful in raising money from the corporate sector, and property developers in particular, that it can largely ignore party members. Insiders with access to money rule the party, not its membership. ................... While the major parties refuse to treat the community seriously, and run away from public discussion, their natural constituencies will remain disenfranchised. Those enfranchised are property developers and a handful of voters who are polled in swinging electorates".

We know that during the 1999 NSW electoral cycle developers gave more than a million dollars to the NSW ALP which is more than four times the amount donated by their traditional support base, the unions. And we know that developers have an unwholesome input into the development and implementation of planning policies in the Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources. Developers sit on the Minister's Residential Strategy Advisory Committee. Councils are instructed to "provide evidence of thorough consultation with the development industry" when drawing up residential strategies - developers who subsequently will make profits from the implementation of these strategies. This presents possibilities of a disquieting conflict of interest.

The Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources (DIPNR) was formerly termed DUAP (which wags termed "Department Underwriting ALP Pockets" - presumably due to imagined possibilities arising from potential conflicts of interest). The name was then changed to the Department of Planning which also quickly developed bad connotations. It has now been changed again to DIPNR.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS PERTURBING SITUATION?

Dr Jean Lennane has alerted me to a new United Nations Convention against Corruption, which Australia has just signed or is about to sign. Several sections in this international agreement, if put into effect, could counter problems relating to accountability and corruption. The document can be viewed on the Internet on http://untreaty.un.org/English/notpubl/Corruption_E.doc

Some sections of the convention that caught my eye are:

Political Donations
Clause 3 of Article 7 of this convention requires States to ensure that transparency is enhanced in the funding of candidates and political parties.

Conflicts of Interest

Clause 4 requires systems that promote transparency and prevent conflicts of interest (like developers advising the Planning Department on the approval of Council residential strategies).

Public Officials taking up Positions in the Private Sector
Article 12 requires restrictions to be placed on former public officials taking positions in the private sector which could relate to their former functions (like the previous head of the Department of Planning recently taking up employment in the development industry. There is not the slightest reason to doubt that this was innocuous but the potential for influencing former colleagues should publicly be seen to be restricted).

Corruption
Article 13 requires the active participation in decision making processes of individuals and groups outside the public sector to prevent corruption.
This will be useful in our stance against the manipulative and token way in which public participation in planning decision making in NSW is organised.

Once the anti-corruption convention is signed and ratified we must lobby strongly to ensure its provisions are put into effect to counter the appalling abuses of process currently so evident in New South Wales Planning.

Tony Recsei
President
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)


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