Baird Witch Project
are a long way now from that day, way back in 1993, when Juan Antonio
Samaranch said "Sydernee! Sydernee!" Many ravens have
come home to roost, and the Olympics are still nine months away.
the night Samaranch spoke, thousands of airheads danced in the streets
and the Olympic bid supremo, NSW's Transport and Tourism Minister Bruce
Baird, preened himself mightily.
then, the Olympics have become one of those glorious fiascos which descend
on Sydney from time to time like a force of nature, laying bare the
seedy inner workings of the political and business establishment.
the time the Olympics come, none of the original sports bureaucrats
will be left on SOCOG and Michael Knight may never hold down a job in
this town again. Graham Richardson will probably survive, but he is
a shameless and indestructible politics junkie, thriving even in the
most poisonous political evironment ... like those super-bacteria that
live in toxic waste, or even, some think, in outer space.
Baird is a very low-profile backbencher in Federal Parliament these
days. In February this year he claimed he'd secured an agreement from
the Fairfax and Murdoch press to turn a blind eye to "duchessing"
of IOC members during the Olympic bid process. The news chiefs indignantly
denied the whole thing. These were not things one says about the media
big boys and Bruce has not been heard from since. Some say he is dead
and that his ghost haunts the political thickets of Canberra and Macquarie
thought of Bruce when I read Andrew West's article on the debt-laden
M2 motorway in the Sun-Herald, last Sunday morning.
NSW Roads and Transport Minister, Bruce championed the controversial
project, and it was he who signed the project deed on behalf of the
Fahey Government in October 1994. It was also signed by his right-hand
man in the big M2 push, RTA Chief Executive Maxwell Moore-Wilton ('Max
the Axe'), who now heads up John Howard's Department of Prime Minister
motorway was supposed to be a win-win-win situation: a win for the motorists,
a win for the investors, and also a win for the taxpayer, because the
Hills Motorway Group (Headed up by John Howard's brother Stanley) was
going to pay a handy little earner to the taxpayer -- rent for the motorway
site during its 45 year tenure.
now know otherwise. According to key documents obtained by the veteran
Legislative Council independent Richard Jones, the State will probably
never get any rent from the motorway, and it seemed that the Macquarie
Bank (which set up the M2 deal), knew this all along. The contract for
the M2 set the threshold at which Hills Motorway would begin paying
rent to the RTA at an after-tax return to investors of 12.25 per cent
a year. But in August 1994, Macquarie had done financial modelling --
which was attached to the project deed -- showing the tollway would
never reap more that 11.78 per cent return to investors per year.
was not what we were told, I seem to recall, and it wasn't what Parliament
was told either. In October 1994, Max Moore-Wilton told a parliamentary
under the M2 proposal by Hills Motorway Consortium, the Consortium
takes all financial risks including patronage risk and usage risk
in respect of that tollway over the life of the tollway. There is
no continuing or operating subsidy or risk sharing by the Government
with the consortium".
Jones described the lost revenue as "the result of a covert agreement
between the consortium and the former Coalition Government to provide
a hidden subsidy which was not agreed to by Parliament". He also
called it "fraud against the State in respect of the leasehold
and incentive rents supposed to be paid to the RTA".
was all vveerryy interesting indeed.
was time to open the Bruce George Baird file again. On some jobs I carry
the 9 mm Browning as insurance, but that would not be right for this
job. I am not a superstitious marsupial, but you can never be sure.
I took my big wooden cross from the cupboard and laid it on the desk.