Friday, December 08, 2017

Sirius building finally goes on the market -- in defeat for the Green/Left

Pru Goward has "driven past" the landmark Sirius building at the Rocks for 35 years but the NSW social housing minister only relatively recently got to take a look inside.

"My breath was taken away by the incredible views," she said.

Those sweeping views, taking in the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, are what the NSW government hopes will deliver revenue of $100 million, or possibly more, from a developer when Sirius - home to public housing tenants since 1980 - officially goes on sale on Thursday.

Ms Goward's controversial announcement three years ago that Sirius would be sold - with the proceeds used to build new social housing - has been met with fierce opposition from tenants, community members, architects, the Labor opposition and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Despite a Heritage Council recommendation calls to have the distinctive example of brutalist architecture placed on the heritage register have been rejected, most recently by environment minister Gabrielle Upton in October.

Ms Goward will announce that the new owner will have the option of retaining the existing structure and benefit from its current height.

But cabinet has decided any redevelopment must be smaller, limited to the height of the Sydney Harbour Bridge deck, following concerns about the loss of sight lines to the Opera House and the impact on the character of the local area.
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Asked if she would be disappointed to see Sirius razed, Ms Goward said: "I think it depends what it's replaced with.

"There's no doubt it's a part of a memory of Sydney from the last century that people probably do have some affection for," she said.

"But in the end what matters to me is that we are able to build a lot more social housing. This will certainly boost the number of properties that we can build."

In March 2014 Ms Goward announced the plans to sell Sirius and about 290 historic housing commission homes in Millers Point to fund construction of new social housing.

Ms Goward said the "legacy" of the Sirius sale would be "hundreds of brand new homes built for our most vulnerable".

"Improving their lives was always at the heart of this decision," she said. "I have met some of the tenants who have already moved into new homes across NSW and heard wonderful feedback."

The government says more than 700 new dwellings for social housing tenants have been built with money from the Millers Point sales and that 372 are under construction.

"For each Millers Point property sold we are building close to five new homes," Ms Goward said.

Planning minister Anthony Roberts said the Sirius site would be declared a state significant precinct, via an amendment to the policy put out for public feedback until February 16 next year.

"Any new building proposed for the site would need to meet design excellence standards for its architectural, urban and landscape plans so that we can ensure we are creating a great place that fits well with the surrounding area," he said.


Charities express alarm as long-time 'foe' Gary Johns is appointed as their regulator

Definitely one of Turnbull's better appointments

Charities and non-government organisations have expressed alarm at the Turnbull government's appointment of controversial former Labor MP Gary Johns as the head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

The selection of Dr Johns, according to representatives of the sector, is "bizarre" and forms part of a wider effort to clamp down on criticism of government policy and the public advocacy work of charities, which the incoming commissioner has previously targeted.

But Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar has rejected the concerns, saying Dr Johns will merely apply the law as an "independent regulator" and downplaying the contentious views he has expressed about activism and broader social issues.

Dr Johns, who was an MP in the 1980s and 1990s and a minister in the Keating government, has criticised how registered charities lobby for their causes and receive government funding. He has also said poor women who have children – singling out those who are Aboriginal – are "cash cows" and argued people who rely on welfare payment should be forced to use contraception.

A former senior fellow at conservative think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, Dr Johns has also been a critic of environmental groups who campaign against fossil fuels and charities who send money overseas and "give aid to Third World kleptomaniacs".

The appointment has shocked Community Council of Australia CEO David Crosbie, who said it was "bizarre" as Dr Johns was a campaigner against charities.

"It's a continuation, for us, of a theme that says the government wants to silence the voice of charities," Mr Crosbie said.

"Gary Johns has made numerous public statements that clearly indicate he is opposed to many charities and their work. Only a government committed to attacking the charities sector would put someone like Gary Johns in as head of the ACNC."

Mr Crosbie also said the writer and former MP was not qualified to lead 100 staff, administer complex laws and regulations, reduce red tape in the sector and build the community's trust and confidence in charities.

Responding to the concerns, Dr Johns said he would be "neither friend nor foe".

"My job is to apply the law and advocacy is a charitable purpose when taken in conjunction with other charitable purposes," Dr Johns said.

Mr Sukkar added: "I don't think we ever should require that we expunge views or comments that have been over a 30 or 40 year career. But as Dr Johns has pointed out, he is here to apply the law as it is contained in the [Charities Act] and the fact that he has a deep understanding of these issues in a more philosophical sense is a strength."

The government says his appointment is the result of a merit-based process that involved a selection panel drawn from the public service.

But Mark Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development, which represents NGOs in the aid sector, expressed concern that the government would now be looking to change the law in an upcoming review, empowering Dr Johns to launch a crackdown.

"We're concerned that the government's game plan is to have to the charity regulator tie up charitable critics of government policy between now and the next election," Mr Purcell said.

Earlier this week, the government also unveiled new donations laws that will ban foreign contributions to charities for social and environmental advocacy deemed to be political.

Mr Purcell said the appointment and foreign donations ban looked like efforts in "Putin's Russia and Modhi's India" to silence critics.

Labor charities and not-for-profits spokesman Andrew Leigh said the appointment was "like putting Ned Kelly in charge of bank security".

"Mr Johns has been a foe of charities and he has been one of the strongest critics of charities in Australia. He has attacked Indigenous charities, he has attacked mental health charities and he has attacked charities that attempt to engage in advocacy," Dr Leigh said.


China blasts Australia over Turnbull Government's foreign interference laws

China is right.  There is no evidence of Chinese interference.  The hysteria about it is just racist and is totally deplorable.  Antagonizing China is super dumb

China has reacted furiously to proposed foreign interference laws, accusing the Australian Government of making "irresponsible" comments which have hurt "political mutual trust".

The Turnbull Government on Tuesday unveiled the biggest overhaul of espionage and intelligence laws in decades amid growing concerns over international interference in Australia's democracy.

In a terse statement issued on Wednesday, the Chinese embassy in Canberra declared Beijing, "has no intention to interfere in Australia's internal affairs or exert influence on its political process through political donations".

"Some Australian politicians and government officials also made irresponsible remarks to the detriment of political mutual trust between China and Australia," an embassy spokesman said. "We categorically reject these allegations."

The embassy has also attacked what it described as "fabricated news stories" in recent media reporting of "so-called Chinese influence and infiltration in Australia".

"Those reports, which were made up out of thin air and filled with Cold War mentality and ideological bias, reflected a typical anti-China hysteria and paranoid," the spokesman said.

"The relevant reports not only made unjustifiable accusations against the Chinese Government, but also unscrupulously vilified the Chinese students as well as the Chinese community in Australia with racial prejudice, which in turn has tarnished Australia's reputation as a multicultural society."

Earlier, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing, Geng Shuang, gave a more mild response to the Turnbull Government's announcement.

"China always follows the principle of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs when it comes to developing friendly cooperation with other countries, and this principle holds true for developing bilateral ties with Australia," Mr Geng said.


Furious Labor could dump David Feeney in Batman

Labor strategists have held discussions about replacing MP David Feeney and standing a new candidate if the High Court orders a byelection in the seat of Batman.

Fairfax Media has been told that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is "absolutely furious" with Mr Feeney, who revealed on Tuesday that he was caught up in the citizenship fiasco sweeping Federal Parliament.

Clare Burns, the recently defeated Labor candidate in the state byelection for the seat of Northcote, which is within the seat of Batman, has been discussed as an alternative to Mr Feeney. 

Both Ms Burns and Mr Feeney have been contacted for comment on Wednesday.

Batman was one of the safest Labor seats in the country 10 years ago, but Mr Feeney barely scraped home in the 2016 election against Greens candidate Alex Bhathal.

Victorian Labor was fuming on Wednesday after news broke that Mr Feeny was likely to face the High Court over his eligibility to stand, after the right faction power broker filled in nomination forms in 2007, 2013 and 2016 stating that he had renounced his entitlement to British citizenship.

A Victorian Labor MP told Fairfax Media there was widespread anger in party ranks at Mr Feeney's predicament.

"When this started to blow up months ago he should have been looking for his documents," the MP said.

"It's up in the air at the moment, I'm not sure if he will be the candidate."

To add to the embattled MP's troubles, the Victorian Liberals are poised to vacate the field and leave Labor and the Greens to slug it out if a byelection is called.

The absence of a Liberal candidate, denying Mr Feeney the preferences that saved his seat in the last election, would seal his fate.

Labor operatives think Mr Feeney will be ruled ineligible by the High Court and have no confidence he could win a byelection against the Greens, who were given a massive confidence boost by the win in Northcote. 

His 2016 campaign veered off course after Fairfax Media revealed he had failed to declare ownership of a $2.3 million home in his electorate.

Mr Feeney is a sometime factional ally and good mate of his party leader Bill Shorten, the MP was best man at Mr Shorten's wedding, but the Opposition Leader stopped short of endorsing the former state Labor Party Secretary when asked in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr Shorten was asked three times if he would endorse Mr Feeney to stand again as the Labor candidate for Batman.

The Opposition Leader stopped short of offering that endorsement, stating he "won't start predicting what the High Court will do" and that at this point, a byelection had not been ordered.

Fairfax Media has learned that Victorian Liberal Party director Nick Demiris has told colleagues he will recommend the Coalition do not stand a candidate in the seat if a by-election is ordered.

In the 2016 election, Liberal candidate George Souris attracted a 19.9 per cent primary vote and about 17 per cent of that vote flowed to Mr Feeney, allowing him to sneak over the line and win 51 per cent to 49 per cent over Mr  Bhathal.

Ms Bhathal has a high profile locally and will be the Greens' candidate again if the by-election is ordered.

Labor spent an estimated $250,000 to hang on to Batman in 2016 and it is likely it will have to spend even more if a by-election is ordered.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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