Saturday 31st of July 2021

creative accounting...




















The NSW government’s upcoming budget deficit would be $2.7 billion worse than forecast – or almost 50 per cent bigger than expected – without a controversial rail entity propping it up, with a further $1.3 billion benefit the following year.

A confidential Treasury document from February also warns that any attempt to abolish the Transport Asset Holding Entity (TAHE) would create a massive $14.6 billion hole in the budget over the next 10 years.

“Dissolution puts pressure on funding and is high risk to deliver,” the document states.

The Treasury document reveals the entity would deliver a benefit of up to $10 billion to the budget in the four years to 2023-24, which includes a $2.7 billion boost in the 2021-22 financial year, and a $1.3 billion benefit the year after. In November, the government forecast a deficit for 2021-22 of $5.8 billion.


The document shows these projections come on top of state budgets gaining a combined $8.5 billion boost in the first five years of the rail entity.

The estimated benefits don’t include the cost to the budget of TAHE charging access fees at a commercial rate for use of its rail assets.

Amid calls for a series of inquiries, the government tried to downplay the significance of a report commissioned by Transport for NSW last year which cast serious doubts on TAHE.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government “stands by its strong economic record of delivering for the people of NSW”.

“The financial treatment of TAHE was clearly set out in the 2015-16 NSW budget,” he said.

But Labor MP and leadership aspirant Michael Daley, who has called for an upper house inquiry into TAHE, said the budget that would be handed down in three weeks “is a lie, just like the last five before now”.


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a former cock up...

In service for four decades, the now geriatric trains need replacing. The 512 new carriages, which will cost $2.3 billion to build, will have mobile phone charging points, accessible toilets and more space for bike racks and luggage. But they are also 3.1m wide, around 20cm broader than the V-sets.

TfNSW sets out a “kinematic envelope”, the minimum clearance around trains, which takes into account how much carriages can sway and tilt. This envelope demands a 200mm distance between the carriage and any tunnel walls or line side equipment.

But the new trains’ extra bulk will infringe these minimum distances and could see the roof and base of the trains come into contact with the tunnel walls.

In a Review of Environmental Factors report, TfNSW said widening all of the tunnels and realigning the track was prohibitively expensive but doing nothing was also not an option.

Instead, they recommended a “sub-medium electric standard” which will essentially see the current regulations watered down so the wider trains can operate.

“This option would allow the New Intercity Fleet to operate on both lines and pass each other, and therefore ensure better longer term operational outcomes, while also minimising heritage impacts through reduced tunnel lining modifications,” the report states.

In addition, the tunnels would also be “notched” in places. This involves gouging a chunk out of the existing tunnel where the clearance is narrowest to allow the new trains the pass through.

This gouge could be almost 13cm deep, much of which will take place on curves where trains are more prone to swaying.

Around a third of the total length of the tunnels will have to be modified in a process that could take two years and will involve parts of the line to be closed for periods.

Labor has said the admission that 10 tunnels will have to be modified because the new trains are too wide is an embarrassment for Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

He has had a torrid few months with a new timetable causing chaos, bruising encounters with unions and the Ferry McFerryface debacle over the botched naming of a new boat.


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And let's not mention the new Sydney (ugly) ferries that are too high for people to stay on the top deck while going under bridges...





According to Perrottet, everything is above board "as other states have done it"....




Questions raised about sacking of NSW transport boss and state budget cover-up


A former New South Wales auditor-general has accused the state government of using an ‘accounting gimmick’ to artificially inflate its budgets by tens of billions of dollars over six years.

An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald has revealed the state government had sought to cover up the inflation, and has raised questions about the sacking of a senior public servant.

The state government had used the Transport Asset Holding Entity (TAHE) — a shell corporation that was established in 2015 and officially became a statutory state owned corporation last year — as part of its plan.


The entity was formerly known as RailCorp, a state government agency that ran the metropolitan rail network. The agency was scrapped in 2013, when current Premier Gladys Berejiklian was transport minister.

According to the Herald, NSW Treasury had used the TAHE to hide a budget deficit in 2018, in what former NSW auditor-general Tony Harris has described as an ‘accounting gimmick’ and a ‘financial mirage’. He has estimated that the plan has boosted the state’s operating result by more than $30 billion over the last six years.

The state government had placed the costs of the rail network onto the TAHE. But last year, a KPMG transport review commissioned by Transport for NSW had predicted that the TAHE would end up costing the budget $5.3 billion over 10 years.

Documents have shown that the Treasury urged KPMG to remove the damning findings from the report.


 Transport secretary sacked amid fight over report


The investigation has also raised questions over the dismissal of former Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples.

Staples was terminated without reason or notice last November. It has been revealed that, in the days leading up to his dismissal, Treasury and KPMG had both contacted Staples regarding the review. Treasury had claimed the report contained errors, while KPMG had defended the report.

In light of the revelations, former counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Geoffrey Watson has called for the ICAC to investigate Staples’ dismissal and the budget cover-up.

Labor MP Michael Daley has accused Premier Berejiklian, treasurer Dominic Perrottet, and transport minister Andrew Constance of all being in on the cover-up.

“This may be the most dishonest budgetary fraud ever concocted by a NSW state government and it goes all the way to the top,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The NSW budget has been based on a massive lie for years.”


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corporate welfare...


The NSW government secretly offered $50 million in taxpayer funds to Qantas to head off a bidding war with rival states to keep the airline’s global headquarters in Sydney.

Under heavy financial pressure from the effects of the global pandemic, Qantas announced last September it was reconsidering the location of its headquarters in a move heavily criticised by federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham as a “blatant appeal for corporate welfare”.


Nevertheless, a week after a confidential package was outlined in a letter from Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, the company announced in April that agreements were being finalised to keep the national carrier’s headquarters in NSW.

The agreements were to be commercial-in-confidence.


However, the Herald can reveal the contents of the Treasurer’s proposal after his letter was included in a trove of documents tabled to State Parliament.

It gives the first indication of the lengths the NSW government had been willing to go to, to entice Qantas to remain in Mascot, in Sydney’s inner-south, after the company announced a review of its property footprint.

The lure of the company’s 3500-strong workforce sparked a bidding war with Queensland and Victoria.

Mr Perrottet’s offer came with strings attached, including that the airline must create an additional 2000 jobs and run its new ultra long-haul flights exclusively out of Sydney for five years.

The offer remains the subject of ongoing negotiations even though the three-way tussle ended in early May with Qantas’s statement to the ASX.


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a non-grant...


A NSW public servant was worried a contract between the state government and a farming company initiated by Deputy Premier John Barilaro was unethical and questioned if it could be “bribery”.

The bureaucrat’s anxiety over the deal is recorded in a file note taken in January and tabled in the NSW upper house last week.

The note reveals the bureaucrat raised questions with a colleague about what the agreement was for.


They were told Mr Barilaro had visited Monaro Farming Systems (MFS) and promised the company money for “extension services”, but that this information could not be put in the contract.

The $50,000 was set to come from the Department of Primary Industries.

MFS would issue an invoice and putting a contract in place would give the invoice legitimacy, the note records.

“I am concerned about the nature of this agreement,” the bureaucrat wrote.

“I am concerned about the ethics of this – is it favouritism? Is it bribery? This does not sit well with me. Would I be complicit?”

The public servant thought that the payment was really a grant and asked their colleague whether that was being disguised.

“(The colleague) said it was preferential that it was a contractual agreement not grant because if it came out, every grower group would want a grant,” the notes read.

A Department of Primary Industries email the week before, also presented to the parliament, suggests Mr Barilaro was instrumental in the contract establishment.


“We need to get in touch with the CEO of Monaro Farming Systems to send them a contract … we have been directed by the deputy premier to provide them with $50K to provide ‘outreach services and support industry adoption’,” the email says.

“I have nothing that I can send in terms of a schedule of work – you will just need to keep it high level and vague.”

Monaro Farming Systems is an agricultural co-operative in Mr Barilaro’s electorate of Monaro.

It researches how to improve farming and grazing systems in the area.

It was established by Richard Taylor, brother of the federal energy minister Angus Taylor.

Richard Taylor was the company’s chair until 2019.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barilaro said in a statement that he was not the agriculture minister and had no jurisdiction over the Department of Primary Industries.

“As local member it is standard practice for the deputy premier to advocate for projects within the Monaro electorate.

“A personal file note written by an unidentified bureaucrat does not reflect government process.”

Mr Barilaro said in parliamentary question time on Thursday that he would keep advocating for the people of Monaro.

“Don’t always believe what you read,” he said.

In a statement to AAP, MFS Chair John Murdoch said he had lobbied for federal and state government support for years and was frustrated by the “innuendo” in media reporting of the contract.

“I’m not sure what the link that is being proposed is,” he said.

“(I) have no connection to the National party.”

Mr Murdoch says MFS contacted Mr Barilaro’s office numerous times, as he was the local member, to raise funding issues and the ramifications to the farming community and environment should MFS run out of money.

“I made the same attempts with federal (Labor) members Mike Kelly and Kristy McBain,” he said.

Mr Murdoch says the funds haven’t been received yet, but would be spent on research and development projects, administration and extension services.

Opposition rural affairs spokesman Mick Veitch said on Thursday that Mr Barilaro still had questions to answer.

“Is this a grant? Or is it a bribe? And just how did the money come about?” Mr Veitch said.

“The people of NSW want an open and transparent process when it comes to allocating funds.”

Mr Veitch said the documents showed Mr Barilaro was “happily spending money” from other ministerial departments.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has been contacted for comment.



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