Consorts, the consortium and consorting
Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has ‘forced’ the questionable East West Link cabal to accept a token $339 million instead of the demanded $2 billion.
This morning, on national Youth Homelessness Matters Day, when these squandered monies should have been spent on worthier causes, Andrews and Treasurer Tim Pallas called a press conference and issued a press release announcing they had reached a “good faith” agreement they asserted “put Victorians first”.
It would, indeed, be a first if any recent state government put Victorians first.
On paper, this agreement with the consortium, EWL Project Co, might appear a pre-budget triumph and a cheap exit strategy for both Victorians and the six month old Labor Government; however the signatures of the two parties might as well have been signed in indelible ink, insofar as ethics, due process and other monies are concerned.
Better if East West Link contract signed by thumbnail dipped in tar
A thumbnail dipped in tar would have been more credible.
We have been informed that under the Heads of Agreement signed this morning, Victoria will purchase the companies herded under the EWL project umbrella for a peppercorn price — one dollar.
Yet only hours ago, this same consortium was happily conniving to improperly divest the state of billions, after signing in indecent haste a contract with the previous Government that clearly appalled the majority of Victorians.
Non. Rien, rien. Parlez-vous le big bucks?
As recently as yesterday, in a silly and staged pre-emptive strike more worthy of the realm of the Elizabethans, the ambassadors for Spain and France, two of the countries that comprise the consortium’s confection, no doubt showing a courtly leg or two, freshened their pomanders and threw tantrums in Canberra; the diplomats complaining to the Abbott Government about the cancellation of the $10.7 billion contract to build the link.
Parlez-vous le big bucks?
It was a futile attempt at face-saving.
Dopey and false assertions were made that Australia’s reputation was being ruined by the cancellation of the nefarious project.
Ambassadors to Spain and France throw tanty, Abbott too
Today, Prime Minister Abbott echoed the nonsense, releasing a press statement that said in part:
“Victorians should feel let down by Daniel Andrews who promised before the election that no compensation would be paid.
The tearing up of this contract damages Victoria’s reputation as a place to do business – as has been proven by revelations this week that the French and Spanish Governments have made direct representations of concern to Victoria.”
In fact, the reputation of Australia entire has been sullied a thousand times before this and by successive governments because of the inhumane treatment meted out to our indigenous brothers and sisters, asylum seekers, our elderly, our disabled, our homeless, our veterans, caged hens, live exports, revelations at ICAC and elsewhere of systemic corruption, child sex abuse and pornography, family violence and political impropriety. Just for starters.
Spanish and French want cake. We can cope with damper
The Spaniards and French in particular might want to eat cake, but we can cope with damper.
We’ve been told that consortium assets will be transferred to the State. But what are these assets?
A coffee machine perhaps? Yellow hard hats for photo opportunities for Liberal pollies? A polygraph machine? Mint copies of How to build an East West Link for Dummies and How to make millions without doing a thing?
This is how the Government explained the $339 million payout:
“$339 million of net costs had already been drawn down and paid to the consortium for the bid process, and design and pre-construction. These costs have already been incurred and cannot be retrieved. They will be retained by the consortium subject to a certification process between it and the State.
A further $81 million of fees were incurred to establish the Project Co credit facility of $3 billion. The State intends to negotiate with the banks to take over that facility to contribute to funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project and will receive value for those fees.
All rates, fees, swaps and obligations related to the credit facility will now be worked through between the financiers and the State.”
The shonky and suspicious circumstances surrounding the signing East West Link contract by the beleaguered Napthine Government have been shrouded in secrecy and subterfuge.
Anti-Link hero Tony Murphy still in the ring
On November 28, the eve of the State election last year, under the headline The Denis Napthine Death Knell, Independent Australia made it clear that we thought the election was a referendum on the East West Link scandal and wrote:
“The stench over the East West Link is gagging.
Just hours after EWL opponent Anthony Murphy was denied an injunction on 29 September in the High Court, the Napthine Government signed the contracts for the $8 billion (and still counting) toll road, scheduled to be built by the East West Connect consortium, one of three shortlisted.”
Nothing has transpired to change our view.
Last week, Tony Murphy made it clear to me that he and his supporters were considering further legal action, regardless of the Government’s actions. He’s still in the ring.
The East West Connect Consortium consists of Capella Capital, Lend Lease, Acciona andBouygues. Members have experience in significant projects both in Australian and overseas, including Legacy Way (Brisbane), Pajares Tunnel (Spain), Peninsula Link (Melbourne) and Port of Miami Tunnel (Miami).
Their collective conduct in signing the contract only weeks before the state election was reprehensible, as was that of the co-signatory, the Napthine government.
Redacted contract just the start
The redacted contract released on Wednesday, as promised by the Premier, is not the end of the matter. Nor is it the only document that needs to be put before Victorians.
We need at least a Parliamentary Inquiry into this whole squalid affair to ascertain whether any malfeasance and/or any improper or criminal activity took place.
And we ought not to be afraid to demand it.
I am informed that the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) does not have the jurisdiction needed to interrogate politicians. Pathetic.
We need a Royal Commission, and metadata of pollies and consortium
Better still, there should be a Royal Commission, and all the metadata of all parties subpoenaed and made public, including politicians and including the flurry of contact of various parties with the ambassadors of Spain and France — and their counterparts of the other countries involved in the consortium.
We are entitled to know of all the consorts, everything there is to know about the consortium, and the consorting, including how and why the winning tender came about — and why it was chosen over the other tenders; any favours done by politicians for mates? And none of this commercial in confidence nonsense.
Given that any transgressions throughout the process entire were committed in our name and by our own government and individual politicians, this information belongs to us; the people.
For too long we have allowed ourselves to become the compliant servants of our politicians. It ought to be the other way round.
An investigation could result in the consortium returning the $339 million — and millions of other dollars could be recovered for the State.
We are servants of politicians – It should be the other way around
The State should be allowed to claim compensation for the mischievous and disingenuous intent inherent in the contract and for the millions of dollars of injury caused to ordinary people.
Both/all parties knowingly signed the contract, aware that the infrastructure would most likely be skittled, inserting sly money-gathering conditions that made it a win-win situation for the consortium regardless of the final outcome.
We need to find the missing link in the stinking mess that is the East West Link.
*This article was first published on IndependentAustralia.net
IMAGE: Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)