The release of the Business Case does not allay concerns about the process

The previous section demonstrates that the Business Case is fundamentally flawed. But the very latest tactic from the Government is to say that there is no problem at all, and that answers to all our questions can be found in the Business Case. This is a typical ‘look over there’ tactic that is used by many people who are being subjected to criticism for which there is no defense. We are now expected to ignore the controversy over the museum move and accept that that matter has been resolved, and that we now have to examine the slightly more defensible idea of making a gutted shell of a heritage building into Sydney’s third or fourth lyric theatre.

Of all the questions asked on July 31 2017 and 4 May 2018 only very few have been answered by the papers released (see reference).[55]

A very important point must be made here. The people organising the Business Case and therefore the ‘move’ itself, are not experienced or indeed qualified, in museology. The notable exception is Root Projects. In contrast, a Linkedin search of the local Johnstaff employees, for example, did not find any employee with significant museum-related experience or qualifications, and this firm has the responsibility of preparing the Business Case.

All these employees charged with making the ‘move’ happen are further constrained by having to adhere to Government policy which means that they have to defend the indefensible. The huge strain this imposes on these workers may explain some recent events.

There are even more restrictions placed on these hapless people. I am reliably informed that the process of answering correspondents is long and convoluted. Responses to the simplest queries must be checked by multiple agencies, and finally approved at the political level[56], and this explains the paucity of entries on the New MAAS Museum website, set up for consultation in July 2017.

On 29 August 2017[57] Mr Harwin advised us of the membership of an Expert Advisory Group / Panel, mentioned by Ms Torres on 30 June 2017 who ‘provided guidance throughout the process.’[58] Members of the group were listed by Mr Harwin as Dr Patrick Greene, previously the chief executive officer of Museum Victoria; Professor Graham Durant, the Director of Questacon; Mr Mark Carnegie, well-known as an arts philanthropist, Doug Hall; director Art Gallery and GOMA, Brisbane; Peter Root, the Managing Director of Root Partnerships who has had an extensive involvement with the Powerhouse Museum; Penny Hutchinson, previously the head of Arts Victoria; and Edmund Capon, former director of the Art Gallery of NSW. Mr Hall assisted Johnstaff consultants from about June 2017,[59]  and we have found evidence of two Expert Advisory Group / Panel meetings held in September 2017, attended respectively by three and four of the six members, but at the date of printing have not found evidence of any influence that the panel has had. However we have been informedthat an this Expert Advisory Panel ‘provided their guidance throughout the process’.

There are just a few problems with this assertion. Firstly, there is no evidence of any effect that the advisory panel has had on the process[60]. Secondly, the group was not formed until over 2 ½ years had elapsed since the project was inaugurated. Thirdly, it appears that they have met, incompletely, only twice plus a possible on-site ‘briefing’ at Ultimo[61]. Finally, Trevor Kennedy has been informed by Mark Carnegie that he knows nothing about this matter. Without concrete evidence to the contrary, it appears that the formation of this group is nothing more than a ‘box ticking’ exercise: the idea is that the group has been formed, but they have produced nothing and so no notice has to be taken of them.

For the record, the ‘move’ idea has been specifically opposed by two former directors of MAAS, at least two directors of other comparable institutions, four former trustees, nine professional curators and at least five other museum experts of similar standing. There are also many experts in other art-related areas, including the architect who designed the museum conversion and at least two other (younger) architects who are practicing at a very high level.

It is disappointing, but typical, that these former senior employees, curators and trustees are not respected at all, even though many of them still work voluntarily in arts / sciences / educational / museum fields, have dedicated their lives to these pursuits and have contributed many well-researched documents to the ‘move’ debate.. One of our email correspondents, discussing the Business Case papers, puts it well:

Notably absent from the list of stakeholders[62] are the museum’s own community of supporters, notable donors, former trustees and sponsors. Not to mention Life Fellows.

Also not a single museum or heritage group in Parramatta or western Sydney is a stakeholder, nor worthy of being consulted. Not even Old Government House, Parramatta Park, or Parramatta and District Historical Society, the first local historical society in Australia, founded just 12 years after the RAHS in 1913. They must think that Parramatta is the museum equivalent of terra nullius, with no museums in Parramatta or western Sydney.

Teams of highly qualified and experienced people are examining these released Business Case documents, and are finding them riddled with inconsistencies, statements made without supporting evidence, and evidence that is itself on very shaky foundations.

Documentation of the so-called Final Business Case and its Summary, released on April 28 2018, is being put online, as it becomes available, at https://powerhousemuseumalliance.com/ as: Business case: Access to Documents, and Business Case: Responses. A resource bank of information is also available on the non-government website http://maasbusinesscase.com/.

The examination of these documents has been made very difficult by the manner in which they were released, but despite this, good progress is being made.

Back to booklet home page        (this is the last section!)

References:

[55] The Business Case has been released, therefore we no longer need to ask why it has not been released. It is notable that the release of any part of the Business Case was not a Government initiative: they had to be forced to do it and did not help its dissemination by putting it online. The question asked on page 5 of the 31 July booklet about whether a tower building would be built on the Parramatta Museum has been answered in the affirmative. We were gratified to note that the records of the Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust had been consulted, in answer to our question on page 11-12 of the 31 July question booklet. These are all the answers we have been able to find to the date of printing of this booklet.

[56] This was told to me in a private situation by a senior current PHM employee, well in a position to know the facts of this process. I am only prepared to name the person and provide the evidence in documentary form to an independent assessor of whom I, and my informant, approve, but the way is clear for the Government to release any details of their procedures which indicate that truthful replies may be given by public servants without censorship at the political level.

[57] Inquiry evidence, page

[58] https://new.maas.museum/faq/

[59] Inquiry Evidence, Mr Harwin,  6 June 2017, page 19

[60] Search of Business Case papers for names of panel members, ‘Expert Advisory Group’, ‘Expert advisory Panel: except for Peter Root, members appear on from one to four occasions and there are 4 mentions of the group /; panel.

[61] The meetings occurred on 7 September 2017 and 25 September 2017. Attendance was as follows>

Attendee

7/9/2017

25/9/2017

Limkin (CIPMO)

Yes

Yes

O’Mara (DPE)

Yes

Yes

Parry (MAAS)

Yes

Yes

Hutchinson*

Yes

Yes

Greene*

No

Yes

Root* (Root Partnerships)

Yes

Yes

Durant* (Questacon)

Yes

Yes

McNally (Planning)

Yes

Yes

Merrilees (MAAS)

Yes

No

Denham (MAAS)

Yes

No

Frew (Treasury)

Yes

No

Walcom (DPC)

Yes

No

Carnegie*

No

No

Hall*

No

No

 

 

 

 

[62] MAAS Project Communications and Engagement Strategy for the New Museum in Western Sydney (attachment O).