Diary

Gadfly
Not so glad to be Glad

Our Gladys this week played a crowd-pleasing game of Twister. With one hand on the square called “love”, a foot on “insubstantial relationship”, and another on “not really a boyfriend”. With all her might she tried to keep off the tile called “tickle from the top”.

The contortion was painful to behold. Yet, there she is – still Our Glad, sort of.

It’s a boyfriend problem, and, heck, Dodgy Daryl is barely a boy, let alone a friend. Gladys, the private person, reached out to some of the slimiest media outlets to let us know what it’s like to love someone in an insubstantial way. Furthermore, she’ll “never speak to him again”.

All kinds of surprising people have strewn her pathway with petals. Apparently, Armenians have put aside the strife in Nagorno-Karabakh and offered undying support, and surely that must include the Kardashians.

But as long as all the fluff and fervour is blitzing feeble-minded citizens, it is easy to forget that Gladys is the premier of the largest, most significant part of the Australian federation and yet she allowed a money-grubbing huckster to run rampant through the corridors of Macquarie Street.

This was the result of her “blind eye” policy – the very policy that allows sleaze to germinate.

Gladys was quoted in the media saying that, as premier, she has passed security clearances that nobody else has to pass. The question is, did she disclose to the security people her secret relationship with a rolled-gold spiv?

And what of the $30 million she approved for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, for which then MP Daryl Maguire had enthusiastically lobbied? And the $250 million in unsigned slush fund grants to local councils?

Too many questions; let’s get back to the spin and the Poor Gladys Show.

Serving up News corpses

The ABC’s 7.30 covered Gladys’s ICAC grilling by wheeling out not one but two Moloch hacks to help us with our thinking.

Caroline Overington says Glad is too terrific for words and she’s not the one under investigation. Samantha Maiden, meanwhile, called the premier’s PR strategy “brilliant … audacious”.

You’d think the ABC would have enough in the till to send out its own people to investigate and report on the biggest story in town. Instead, there is a cloying need to interview Moloch operatives in the name of “balance” and maybe in the hope they will be nice to Aunty.

It must be heartening to the dark corners of the Nasty Party that while waiting for the glorious day when the last “Majestic Fanfare” is played, they can trust the national broadcaster to keep serving up Moloch voices.

Have Manchurian candidates taken over the programming? Where’s Kevvy Rudd when we need him?

Betting on no accountability

By now it’s painfully obvious that when terrible rorts are exposed or dreadful calamities occur, rarely if ever is an individual brought to account.

From the mass poisoning of endangered grasses, to the overinflated price paid by the government for tradeable water rights or land on the outskirts of a proposed airport, to when fake figures are sent from a minister’s office to discredit a political opponent, or taxpayers’ money is turned into slush funds to prop up government MPs, or untested and infected passengers are ushered off a cruise ship, or corporations manage their affairs for the benefit of crooks and crims – when has anyone been made accountable?

There’s a smug shrug with an expectation things will move on and tomorrow’s media will deliver a new distraction.

The way Schmo slouches in parliament with his back to the opposition, a self-satisfied look on his dial while examining his phone, says it all: I’m not bothered by complaints of corruption, disorder and misfeasance. I’m Schmo and I can blather my way out of anything.

Does anyone think for one moment a single person from Packer’s casino operations will ever face condign punishment for having criminals wash money through their ghastly gambling halls, or for signing a false and misleading advertisement denying that criminal influences infested their operations, or that directors jumped to the whims of Jamie Packer, who was holed up somewhere in the Black Lagoon while threatening and menacing a private equity manager?

A breathtaking piece of evidence came from Crown director Jane Halton, who claimed she felt pressured by the small but perfectly formed executive chairman John Alexander to sign on to a misleading newspaper advertisement Crown ran defending its operations.

This is the same Jane Halton of children overboard infamy – the accusation being that as the public servant in charge of Little Winston Howard’s people-smuggling taskforce she was sceptical of information from military sources discounting the line peddled by politicians that asylum seekers on the sinking SIEV 4 had thrown their children into the sea.

Of course, it never happened. Halton says she did not act dishonestly during the children overboard affair.

In recent evidence to the inquiry it is clear she has not turned her mind to whether it was appropriate for the Crown casino at Barangaroo to open before the commission makes its final report and recommendations about the gambling licence.

Naturally, she is seeking re-election to the Crown board.

Airport intrigue takes off

What’s going on at Badgerys Creek? Maybe a synopsis is required.

The creek has gleaned unwanted headlines owing to Dodgy Daryl’s lobbying on behalf of Louise Waterhouse. This particular Waterhouse is the daughter of Bill Waterhouse and sister of Robbie Waterhouse, both of Fine Cotton fame, and the racing family owns an impressive chunk of 233 hectares within the “Aerotropolis” – the economic hub that the state government wants to see spring up in the zone.

The vision was that these 233 rural hectares would transmogrify into a technology and business park, dubbed “SmartWest.Sydney”.

The Waterhouse interests enthusiastically predicted the proposal would generate $1.7 billion in business and 5300 jobs. Fabulous, except that it was zoned Metropolitan Rural, instead of the more pleasing Metropolitan Urban, and road access was needed.

Roads and Maritime Services in New South Wales didn’t want to know about it, so Louise met with Commonwealth infrastructure officials about moving the roads around. Those officials didn’t support the changes, so it seemed appropriate to go straight to Grassgate Gussy Taylor, whose electorate of Hume takes in the site at Badgerys Creek.

But nothing much came of that meeting either. Possibly, Gussy was busy with someone in the main street of Yass.

By this stage Daryl Maguire was on the case, helping to “grease the wheels”. He arranged a meeting for Louise with then Roads minister Melinda Pavey and then he sprung her on an unsuspecting Sarah Hill, the head of the Greater Sydney Commission.

Hill was so affronted that she walked out of the meeting. To add a bit more grease to the wheels, Dodgy Daryl gave Waterhouse Aunty Glad’s personal email address, saying the premier would give it “a tickle from the top”.

No tickle, it seems, was forthcoming. And by then property broker William Luong was on the scene advising Louise to “sell the whole lot”. It was pointed out that Ron and Roy Medich had sold their spread at the creek for an estimated $500 million, so the Waterhouses were looking potentially at $300 million.

However, the proposed Chinese developer Country Garden was iffy about the zoning and access issues – the very things that had plagued the Waterhouses. In Daryl’s view the developer was too coy. “They’ve never got their testicles out, put them on a razor blade and then worried about an earthquake,” he said.

As Mr Luong explained to ICAC, the land is still unsold. “I think no one wants it,” he said.

Vivienne Thom, fresh from her High Court exploits into Dicey Heydon’s harassment of associates, is now beavering away on the $32.8 million paid to billionaire Nasty Party donors Tony and Ron Perich.

Their land was valued at $3 million, but Deputy PM and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack helpfully explained that when new runways are needed people will look back and say, “What a bargain.”

Mountains of money

The Perichs have also spent some time suing the government over its airport plans. At one point, the family wanted $52 million in compensation when the Commonwealth sought to acquire 38 hectares.

Tony Perich, who lives in the Blue Mountains, told The Catholic Boys Daily he has a “passion for Western Sydney”, although he’s not so passionate about inner Sydney.

“Why would I want to move into Sydney when I have the Blue Mountains out there, I’ve made my money out there, the people have been good to us,” he said. “I will never move to Sydney. Ever. Ever. I don’t believe in it.”

So good to know. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 24, 2020 as "Gadfly: Not so glad to be Glad".

A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.

Richard Ackland is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.