Bulletin 30. After Inquiry hearing 1 June 2018

 

Yesterday was the last scheduled day of the Inquiry hearing. There have been thoughts of calling more witnesses or recalling existing witnesses, but this is unlikely to happen. There will probably not be a great rush to produce the final report: this may takes some months.

We ended with three witnesses (Mr Dyer, Mr Baird on Monday and Mr Warburton yesterday) who staunchly defended the idea of moving the museum to Parramatta. Yet it remains clear that, as surely as the Titanic hit the iceberg, this project will end in disaster. The sooner it is stopped, the less damage will be done.

This bulletin is a quick summary of the evidence of yesterday’s witness, Mr Bay Warburton (not Ray, as I wrote in the last bulletin): former Chief of Staff for Mr Baird he now works for Mirvac. Incidentally, Mr Secord (opposition member of the Inquiry) had worked as Chief of Staff in a previous government and had experience of the role and its duties.

When the transcripts appear on the website, we will be able to analyse the statements and once again demonstrate a mass of undemocratic action, unnecessary secrecy, foolhardy and economically Basically, Mr Warburton justified the ‘move’ by stating that the museum was ‘remote’ from the ‘Sydney cultural ribbon’, that the trustees and the directorate were critical of the condition of the museum, that it could not handle major exhibitions, that the move had received a mandate from the 2016 elections, and particularly, that it had been ‘recommended’ by Infrastructure NSW.

He said that the idea to move the Powerhouse had been on the table for five years or more, and originally had bipartisan support

A valid argument was made that there was a gross imbalance in the cultural spending between the traditional CBD and the new centre of population, ie Parramatta. This is reasonable and supported by everyone.

When he said that ‘moving the Powerhouse would benefit the museum itself’ the very staid audience of 32 people could not restrain either a gasp of amazement or outright laughter.

Though he did not micro-manage the project he had responsibility for the overall management and to ensure that the proper processes were followed. He is proud of his efforts in this regard.

On the Inquiry panel was, for the first time, I think, Ms Natalie Ward, MLC (Coalition) since last November. She took numerous points of order when she felt that the witness was being questioned too rigorously by Mr Shoebridge or Mr Secord. An example was when Mr Shoebridge questioned Mr Warburton on the fact that there was no consultation with the museum trustees before the announcement of the move was made and that in fact the trustees learnt of this idea from an announcement in the Daily Telegraph. Ms Ward asked the chairperson to chastise the audience because they were too noisy, but in my opinion we were amazingly restrained.

When quizzed about his interactions with developers during his time as Chief of Staff Mr Warburton said that he had had no such discussions. Discussions had been held with UTS and other bodies. The government had estimated the site value at $160 to $200 million. Urban Growth and Property NSW had carriage of such matters and he was not deeply involved.

More to come when the transcripts appear, and particularly when we investigate the degree to which Infrastructure NSW did indeed recommend the move. The evidence so far is that Infrastructure NSW has clearly not recommended the move, eg in the so-called Business Case Summary, INSW states that they took as their starting point the decision of the government to relocate the museum.

I hope that this gives a flavour of the event: when the transcripts appear they can be forensically examined. Again, we will prove the stupidity of this ‘move’ and again our views will be comprehensively ignored: we still have not one answer from the so-called consultation meetings held last July. But we have not given up yet, and momentum is slowly building. Excuse the plagiarism and the woefully bad drawing, but the attached picture is relevant.

 

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Tom Lockley 
(tomlockley@gmail.com , 0403 615 134, PO Box 301 Pyrmont 2009
tomlockley@gmail.com is the best method of communication)

SAVE THE POWERHOUSE
Australia’s major museum of arts and sciences in Sydney’s most evocative heritage building. For more information
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