Ap­point­ments don’t stack up

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Letters -

The idea be­hind the Bere­jik­lian govern­ment’s In­de­pen­dent Hear­ing and As­sess­ment Pan­els, or IHAPs, in­tro­duced last year was a sound one.

Ma­jor projects of be­tween $5 mil­lion and $30 mil­lion would go not to lo­cal coun­cils but to in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tees made up of ex­perts and a mem­ber of the com­mu­nity. In do­ing so, it was hoped, a new mea­sure of trans­parency and le­git­i­macy would be in­tro­duced to a process that is of­ten seen as opaque and open to the pos­si­bil­ity of cor­rup­tion.

Yes, the IHAPs are pow­er­ful. But that is OK, so long as they are seen to be above re­proach.

Yet Syd­ney Lord Mayor Clover Moore would ap­pear to be go­ing against the spirit of the new process.

As The Daily Tele­graph re­ports today, two of the City of Syd­ney coun­cil’s ap­pointees to the city’s IHAP have close links to the mayor.

One of them was the chief ac­tivist in the cam­paign to save the har­bour­side Sir­ius so­cial hous­ing devel­op­ment, whose ac­tivist or­gan­i­sa­tion Save Our Sir­ius re­ceived free le­gal and com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vice from the coun­cil and who was also an in­di­rect ben­e­fi­ciary of grants given by coun­cil to as­sist ten­ants fight­ing evic­tion in Miller’s Point.

The other is a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal donor to Moore’s elec­tion cam­paign whose con­tri­bu­tions and con­nec­tions to her ad­min­is­tra­tion were not de­clared.

It is no won­der that many ob­servers, in­clud­ing Lib­eral coun­cil­lor Chris­tine Forster (who voted against the two ap­point­ments), are cry­ing foul about these ap­point­ments which come with a $1500 stipend for ev­ery fort­nightly panel meet­ing at­tended.

While no one dis­putes that both men are qual­i­fied or that their ap­point­ment lacks merit — one is a re­spected ar­chi­tect and the other took out an Or­der of Aus­tralia for ser­vices to town plan­ning — it beg­gars be­lief that these are the only two in­di­vid­u­als who could be found to serve on this pres­ti­gious panel. Given the long­stand­ing (and of­ten not un­founded) sus­pi­cion in the com­mu­nity about the devel­op­ment process, for the City of Syd­ney to set up an IHAP with mem­bers so closely linked to the mayor would seem to go against the spirit, if not nec­es­sar­ily the let­ter, of the re­form.

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