James Boyce

While the Corporation seems to have avoided the predictable fall out that would have resulted from a sizeable donation to the local branch, Walker Corporation and its associated company, McRoss, have long been amongst the largest donors to the ALP nationally.

In 2003-4 the corporation was the second biggest corporate donor to the ALP, providing $225,000. The most recent figures available from the Australian Electoral Commission, for 2004-5, show they were the single largest corporate donor to the Labor Party.

However the Tasmanian ALP might like to talk to their New South Wales colleagues about the potential costs of doing deals with this apparently generous donor. The NSW Government was forced to pay $60 million of taxpayer funds to Lang Walker as ‘compensation’ after the Government moved to protect some Sydney Harbour foreshore land at Ballast Point.

And, from Crikey, 2004:

And, if Lang Walker gets his hands on this money, it will provide him with some nice seed capital in his adventures in Tasmania, where he is using Graham Richardson, the Swiss bank ‘mate of Rene Rivkin and Trevor Kennedy, to try and lobby the State Government into allowing him to exploit the Ralphs Bay Conservation area, east of Hobart.

More ALP links, Richo gladhanding Lang Walker into a meeting with Paul Lennon, who took over as premier after the late Jim ‘Crispy’ Bacon retired from the job earlier this year.

THE public denial of any donations by the proposed developer of the Ralph’s Bay Conservation Area, Walker Corporation, to the Labor Party or its various front groups, must refer only to the very recent past.

While the Corporation seems to have avoided the predictable fall out that would have resulted from a sizeable donation to the local branch, Walker Corporation and its associated company, McRoss, have long been amongst the largest donors to the ALP nationally.

In 2003-4 the corporation was the second biggest corporate donor to the ALP, providing $225,000. The most recent figures available from the Australian Electoral Commission, for 2004-5, show they were the single largest corporate donor to the Labor Party.

However the Tasmanian ALP might like to talk to their New South Wales colleagues about the potential costs of doing deals with this apparently generous donor. The NSW Government was forced to pay $60 million of taxpayer funds to Lang Walker as ‘compensation’ after the Government moved to protect some Sydney Harbour foreshore land at Ballast Point.

Walker had paid all of $800,000 to the owner of the land for an option to develop it for apartments, even though it was not zoned residential. But when the Government moved to acquire it as a reserve after a community campaign, Walker had to be compensated for the lost value of the development, even though he did not own the land and the proposed apartments had not been approved.

Given the Tasmanian Government’s incompetent and shady dealings with other corporate mates, the government
needs to come clean on every contact and understanding reached with the Walker Corporation before taxpayer funds are put at similar risk here.

James Boyce
West Hobart

Also:

CRIKEY 13 July 2004

The Labor Party knows Lang Walker very well. This is what NSW Greens MLC, Lea Rhiannon told the NSW Upper House last November

“The research is quite remarkable. Over the past four years the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party has received donations from at least 80 companies involved in the property industry.

“For instance, the Walker Corporation gave $165,000; McRoss, also associated with Lang Walker, gave another $122,000; Meriton donated $294,500; Multiplex donated $258,350; the Mirvac Group donated $98,000; Leightons gave $147,550; the Lend Lease Group gave $241,850; and Paynter Dixon Construction Pty Ltd gave $298,450.

“Eric Roozendaal must be flat out banking the cheques. It is little wonder that he needs to relax with a night at the Colosseum, where I understand he is going tonight. Of course, these are only donations to the New South Wales branch of the ALP. Hundreds of thousands of dollars also flow to the national office of the ALP and to their branches.”

And this is what the Sydney Morning Herald reported in February last year about political donations Federally. “Lang Walker’s McRoss Developments favoured Labor with $178,000 over $120,000 for the Liberals”.

So the irony is delightful, a case of the biter bit, sort of, except that it is the NSW taxpayers that will have been bitten in the end if this judgement is upheld in any appeal.

But seeing how the government acted because of pressure from all those well-heeled folk in Balmain and next-door Birchgrove, it might be a good idea to force the Leichhardt Council to strike a special rate to contribute towards the cost of rewarding Mr Walker and his company for the “lost opportunity”.

After all they will derive the greater benefit from preserving Ballast Point unsullied. It will enhance their property values, not those of someone out at Penrith, at Newcastle or in Gunnedah.

But no, somehow I don’t think that will be done. The people of Balmain and other parts of the inner city are very skilled in making the rest of the city and NSW pay for the enhancement of their million dollar lifestyles and property values.

And, if Lang Walker gets his hands on this money, it will provide him with some nice seed capital in his adventures in Tasmania, where he is using Graham Richardson, the Swiss bank ‘mate of Rene Rivkin and Trevor Kennedy, to try and lobby the State Government into allowing him to exploit the Ralphs Bay Conservation area, east of Hobart.

More ALP links, Richo gladhanding Lang Walker into a meeting with Paul Lennon, who took over as premier after the late Jim ‘Crispy’ Bacon retired from the job earlier this year.

Also:

STATELINE

Stateline New South Wales Transcript: A Nice Little Earner
Broadcast: 16/07/2004
Reporter: Quentin Dempster

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Western suburbs angst over deficient infrastructure won’t be helped by a Land and Environment Court ruling to award 60 million precious taxpayer dollars to property developer Lang Walker.

It’s a potential nice little earner for Lang Walker, who’s been in dispute with the Government’s Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, following the compulsory acquisition of Ballast Point.

The Government negotiated an agreed price with Caltex to acquire the site, a very popular move with harbour heritage supporters.

But Lang Walker, claiming an equitable interest through a prior $800,000 option-to-purchase contract with Caltex, won a court ruling for $60 million in compensation.

Here’s a background extract from Geoff Sims’s report last year.

GEOFF SIMS: February 19, 2002, and Ballast Point was claimed on behalf of the people.

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: It was an opportunity for us to seize waterfront land and create a park for generations to come.

GEOFF SIMS: And it would happen — guaranteed.

ANDREW REFSHAUGE, DEPUTY PREMIER: If needs be, we can go through the just terms compensation act.

GEOFF SIMS: Seven months went by before Dr Refshauge told the local member, Sandra Nori, in September last year, that the Government had formally taken control under compulsory acquisition.

He was actually jumping the gun a little.

Caltex, the owner, had to be compensated.

It was over to the Valuer-General to resolve the amount of compensation.

On December 23, Caltex was offered $14.4 million for the 2.5 hectare site.

It accepted and immediately pocketed the money.

But a developer was also involved.

McRoss, owned by Lang Walker, had an option to develop the site and had been putting pressure on Leichhardt Council to rezone it from industrial to residential.

Veteran Green campaigner and local resident Tom Uren knew that could spell disaster.

TOM UREN, CAMPAIGNER: Whilst it’s industrial, the Land and Environment Court can’t overrule the council.

GEOFF SIMS: The council never did rezone the land and when the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority took title of the land from Caltex, it became designated ‘core’ land, which means it can’t be developed.

So if Walker Corporation failed to get the zoning changed and its option to buy therefore fell away, why should it be considered for government compensation at all?

MAIRE SHEEHAN, MAYOR OF LEICHHARDT: It’s an absolute mystery.

I have no idea why it’s occurring like this, because as far as I understand it, McRoss does not own the site.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: That’s true, but the Land and Environment Court has ruled in developer Lang Walker’s favour that its option to buy was what’s called an equitable interest for which it must be compensated.

Significantly, Justice Robert Talbot was critical of Leichhardt Council’s tactics in maintaining the industrial zoning for Ballast Point.

JUSTICE ROBERT TALBOT, LAND & ENVIRONMENT COURT OF NSW: If the council had not resolved to maintain the industrial zoning, the land would have been re-zoned and thereby released for residential development.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: So the court set out to hear submissions from the parties on the value of the site with residential zoning.

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, on behalf of the Government, argued only 69 apartments would likely be approved on the site, therefore commercially valuing Ballast Point at $40 million.

Lang Walker argued the site would take 138 apartments — value $80 million.

The court cut the baby in half, awarding $60 million.

Formal orders are still to be issued and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority has announced when that happens it will appeal.

$60 million for an option worth $800,000 — not a bad little earner.

Thank you, taxpayers.

With very great respect, thank you, your honour.

And,
What the Greens reckon:

Peg Putt MHA

Greens Opposition Leader

Friday, 7 JULY 2006

DEPUTY PREMIER DIGS DEEPER HOLE

Lennon Cronyism Disgraces Tasmania

The Tasmanian Greens today said Tasmania has been disgraced before the eyes of the nation and that they remain unsatisfied with attempted explanations of cynical deals of the Premier and Deputy Premier on Ralphs Bay and the Tasmanian Compliance Corporation (TCC) which were obviously concluded before the recent state election on the understanding that the fruits would drop after the poll.

Greens Opposition Leader Peg Putt MHA believes that Bryan Green has scuttled his own claim to have made a simple error of judgement in signing the TCC deal now that he has admitted, only as a result of further forced admissions over Crown Law advice, that his office procedures have not been up to par – in other words, not of the standard required by the Premier’s Code of Conduct for Government Members.

Ms Putt vowed to keep the pressure on Premier Lennon and Deputy Premier Green in Parliament next week.

“Nationally Tasmania under Lennon is being seen as a place where cronyism is rife and that both the Premier and Deputy Premier seem to have cynically locked in deals before the State election on Ralphs Bay and the TCC respectively, promising that the fruits would drop after the poll,” Ms Putt said.

“The electors of Tasmania have been treated like mugs by this manipulative pair, and they have disgraced Tasmania in the eyes of the nation.”

Ms Putt said that there was still an imperative for the Deputy Premier to resign or be sacked, and that the Premier now also had the heat on him over his secret Ralphs Bay dealings.

“Continuing to dig a hole for himself, Bryan Green has now admitted that his office has been a debacle and he needs to tighten it up, but only after this was demonstrated in Parliament when he was forced to trot out excuses for why he didn’t act on key Crown Law advice.”

“We have an effective admission from the Deputy Premier that the TCC affair was more than an error of judgement as he tried to claim this week, unless you call having an incompetent, disorganised office something other than a failure to institute proper standards of administration and accountability expected of a Minister of the Crown.”

“Clearly the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Government Members regarding diligence and professionalism have been well and truly breached or the Minister wouldn’t have to now move belatedly to fix up his office procedures and tell his staff that it is their job to keep him informed.”

“Is the staff member who didn’t pass on key advice still in the office because this excuse is a fabrication?”

“It is obvious that there was a nod and a wink from the Premier to Walker Corporation over coming back with the obnoxious Ralphs Bay proposal post poll when the views of mere voters no longer had to be taken seriously, whether or not Mr Lennon is prepared to admit it.”

“Tasmania is now getting a dose of what Lennon means by stable government, riding roughshod over high standards and public opinion, refusing to act firmly enough on Ministerial wrong-doing, and vilifying those who try and call him to account.”

“There are more questions to be answered over Ralphs Bay and the TCC deal, and every reason for concern that Bryan Green has not been sacked, and that the so-called ‘clean breast’ of Tuesday was in fact a damage limitation exercise which failed because the full truth was not told.”

“The need for a body along the lines of an Independent Commission Against Corruption to be established in Tasmania is being demonstrated far too frequently,” Ms Putt said.