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How good is dictatorship? The Byron Shire Echo Volume 34 #05 • July 10, 2019
Battle of the rail reports One piece of good news for the mayor of Party Town and his faithful flock of few is that a $230,000 ratepayer-funded Multi-Use Rail Corridor study has been made public. It was confidential for an unknown reason, but is now available as a PDF bundle at www.byron.nsw.gov.au/ Community/Place-planning/MURC. The 387-page report examines the engineering, economic, and social assessment undertaken ‘regarding the feasibility of reactivation of the Bryon Shire rail corridor from Bangalow to Yelgun for multi-use transport applications’. And? Surprise! The report says the ‘engineering condition assessment concluded that it has the capacity to support very light rail vehicles at moderate speeds.’ Given a train service by the Elements of Byron resort already runs from Belongil to Byron, it seems a reasonable statement. According to Greens mayor Simon Richardson, Council wouldn’t lead any project. He told the chamber at the June 27 Council meeting that any potential service along the 38.5km Shire-long track would be offered to the private sector. The railway was built in 1894 and has been sitting unloved and unused since NSW Labor axed the service in 2004. In recent times, rail-trail lobbyists appeared, supporting what the government seemingly wants. Pity that the reports that underpin the desire for a rail trail are highly dubious and partisan. Council’s new multi-use rail report attempts to offer a different perspective from the 2013 Arup rail study that was commissioned by the LiberalNational coalition state government under then-transport minister Gladys Berejiklian. That cost taxpayers $2m, and didn’t examine light rail as an option. Yet other neighbouring shires
are pushing for rail trails – late last month, Richmond Valley and Lismore City councils released a business case for a 45km Northern Rivers Rail Trail from Casino to Eltham, and with it a request for $33.3m in government funding to make the project a reality. Tweed Shire is doing the same. So Byron, with its high visitor numbers compared to all other shires, is looking at all options. During the June 27 Council meeting, the mayor enthused over the report and said it could be a ‘game changer’. Yet Labor’s Cr Paul Spooner said, ‘Just because it’s in a report doesn’t make it fact.’ Cr Spooner said the study contained some ‘arbitrary claims’, such as predicting 6,000 passenger trips in the first year of operation and that half of Byron market and festival patrons would use it. Cr Spooner also reminded the gallery that Council do not hold the rights for the corridor and there is no indication the government would give it over for a project of this scope. Indeed, the $230,000 report just includes ‘key stakeholder subgroups identified’ and only briefly mentions the ‘policy context’. Cr Cameron’s motion passed with Greens bloc support, and requests urgent meetings with railway manager John Holland and State Rail to discuss vegetation-clearing options. Additionally, staff will evaluate the report and a meeting is requested ‘with relevant state government representatives seeking possible collaboration and support for establishing a multi-use project within the rail corridor.’ Against this motion were Crs Coorey, Hackett, Spooner, and Hunter. Invigorating township connectivity efficiently should be the focus with this valuable public asset. Let’s hope the government works with Council for a good outcome and doesn’t waste our money on more reports. Hans Lovejoy, editor
ast week, Anthony Albanese passed his first test – at least the one the magisterial examiners of The Australian devised for him. He had retreated, gloated the paper – caved, rolled over to the majesty of the ScoMo mandate. By agreeing to pass the enormity of the coalition tax package, he had acknowledged the verdict of hardworking Australians, and it follows, as dogs return to their vomit, that any other bright ideas Scott Morrison can come up with must be obeyed with similar capitulation. After all, isn’t that the point of an election? We won, they lost – and that makes everything they ever did or said irrelevant. We might as well close down the opposition altogether, we can do better without it. Come to that, we don’t really need the parliament at all – the executive is quite capable of governing without it. Indeed, why bother with a ministry? When Morrison was asked before the election who would drive the agenda if he won, he replied simply: ‘I will.’ There have long been mutterings about how democracy was failing, the need for a strong leader – so why not leave it to the great helmsman, the miraculous marketeer? How good is dictatorship? Well, actually not very, so fortunately things are not quite as dire as that scenario might imply. But that is the logic behind Albanese’s capitulation. The rationale appears to be one of caution, if not outright cowardice – if Labor had opposed the package, it would be berated and attacked for holding back the lollies out of sheer spite and stubbornness. That was why the bill was called, risibly, Treasury Laws Amendment Bill (Tax Relief so Working Australians Keep More of their Money). But did anyone seriously believe that abject surrender would be greeted with applause? It took seconds for Morrison to return to the constant abuse and for The Australian to set up another test, this one (surprise surprise) over national security – the need to give more power and influence to Peter Dutton and his goon squad and repeal legislation bringing suffering asylum seekers treatment. As we all know, giving in to bully tactics may buy a few moments’ peace, but is ultimately utterly selfdefeating. Labor had a clear, consistent and defensible position: while
OƌɫƷژɲȏɓȵژȽƌɲژȏȄژȏɓȵژ %ȵƌǑɋژ¥ƷưƷȽɋȵǠƌȄژƩƩƷȽȽژ ƌȄưژuȏƨǠǹǠɋɲژ¥ǹƌȄژۯژ %ȵƌǑɋژǠǵƷژ¥ǹƌȄ äȏɓژǚƌɫƷژɋȏǹưژɓȽژɲȏɓȵژȲȵǠȏȵǠɋǠƷȽژ ǑȏȵژǑȏȏɋȲƌɋǚȽژƌȄưژƨǠǵƷژɬƌɲȽِژ ƌȽƷưژȏȄژɲȏɓȵژƩȏȄɋȵǠƨɓɋǠȏȄȽژɋȏژ ȏɓȵژȽɓȵɫƷɲژƌȄưژɬȏȵǵȽǚȏȲȽًژɬƷٔɫƷژ ȲȵƷȲƌȵƷưژưȵƌǑɋژȲǹƌȄȽِژÞƷٔȵƷژȄȏɬژ ȽƷƷǵǠȄǒژɲȏɓȵژǑƷƷưƨƌƩǵِژ
• uƌǵƷژƌژȽɓƨȂǠȽȽǠȏȄ: ȽɓƨȂǠȽȽǠȏȄȽ@byron.nsw.gov.au • ٢°ɓƨȂǠȽȽǠȏȄȽژƩǹȏȽƷژהאژeɓǹɲ٣
12 The Byron Shire Echo `ƖōƷǨǧǽǩǧǨǰ
stages one and two of the tax package were acceptable and even sensible, stage three was both regressive and fanciful – and also unnecessary, given that it was still two elections away from being implemented. Labor was willing, even eager, to support stage one and bring stage two forward as a matter of urgency. And there would be plenty of time to worry about stage three if and when the circumstances were appropriate.
According to an increasing number of realists – Frydenberg seems unable to diagnose the problem, ōĕƐȞëōşŕĕƐşǕŕĎ ëȞſĕŔĕĎƷ Mungo MacCallum The government, of course, rejected that proposition out of hand, ranting about its mandate – and it may have continued to call Albanese’s bluff. But it would have been a dangerous one – Morrison had promised immediate cuts to the lower end of income earners and the need for economic stimulus was, and is, glaringly apparent. And Morrison, as he constantly tells us, is the man in charge. If he could not get his policy through, his would be the failure. At the very least, it can be argued that Albanese blinked prematurely. And in doing so, he has greatly disappointed his followers, who were hoping that he fight for what he believed in. Political pragmatism is all very well, but throwing in the towel at the first challenge is not a good look. Albo may have passed the test The Australian set, but at the cost of failing the more important one before an already cynical and disillusioned public. In The Australian Graham Richardson, these days more of a Murdochian than a Labor warrior, asked that if the party would not agree to tax cuts, what would they agree to? To which the obvious response should be: if the party will not stand up for its principles, what will it stand up for? But for all the crowing from the
right, Morrison and his treasurer Josh Frydenberg now face a test of their own, and it will come much quicker than the rainbow gold of the stage three tax cuts. The whole point of the package, Morrison insisted, was to kick start the sluggish economy – in particular to create more jobs, to reduce the current figure of 5.2 per cent unemployment to something like the 4.5 per cent the Reserve Bank believes is necessary to get wages moving. And there is considerable doubt over whether the $1,000 handout from stage one will even touch the sides. The RBA’s Phillip Lowe is clearly sceptical – he has continually called for more and quicker infrastructure, a demand that has now been taken up by most of the state governments. But Frydenberg says there is no need for it – the current mix is sufficient, and with a bit more bureaucracy busting and union bashing we can muddle through. After all, he declares with all the conviction of a man assuring us that black is white and the sun rises in the west, we have a strong economy. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? His job is to be a professional Pollyanna. But quite apart from the selfevident fact that the economy is in the doldrums – drifting into recession, according to an increasing number of realists – Frydenberg seems unable to diagnose the problem, let alone to find a remedy. He is still extolling his putative surplus, which Ed Husic perceptively describes as a vanity project: if it eventuates, it is more likely to do harm than good. And Frydenberg is still claiming that the whole tax package is fully funded – why, just look at the projections in the budget. Even if that were true then (and it probably wasn’t) it certainly isn’t now: those projections have been consistently downgraded since then, and two interest rate cuts have made it clear that we are sinking steadily deeper into the mire. The tax package was supposed to be the great panacea, the universal solvent, the philosopher’s stone. If it doesn’t work, there is no plan B, and even ScoMo – even The Australian – will find it hard to lay the blame on Labor. So perhaps Albanese will have the last laugh after all. Except that if everything goes down the toilet, no-one will be laughing.
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