Talking about wasting money, what does this tell you about Badgerys Creek…..

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The Blue Mountains council is being attacked from the inside on a couple of points at the moment, not least about the $130,000 that has been used to fund the ‘anti airport’ campaign. This is particularly sad as the attack is coming from people who voted in support of the very decisions they are now disputing (which include but are not limited to the airport spend). There defence is that ‘this is just politics’ but in defence of my disgust for this type of behaviour I’d say that this is the very reason the two major parties are losing ground and becoming irrelevant – a situation that would not necessarily be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that the gap in our political landscape is largely being replaced by parties with much more extreme agendas (maybe that’s what they want…).

There is another sub-plot to the councils financial management story going on too, along the same lines of financial management/ priorities but not as ‘pro Badgerys’ as the others but I’ll save that for another day.

Anyway, on the subject of wasting money we have exhibit A, the share price for Sydney Airport Pty:

sydney-airport-stock-price

This charts the movement of Sydney Airport Stock price over the last two years. Oct 2015 – Badgerys Creek EIS announced, share price dances around in an upwards direction. September – share price drops from 7.5 to 6.5 – over 13% fall as the final EIS is announced (maybe they saw how unimpressive it was, just like we did). Jan 2017 – share price is 5.89 which is just below what it was before the initial EIS was unravelled in October 2015.

This update was brought to you by a graph of what actually happened rather than the spin the Telegraph like to shove down our throats.

The data is available here for anyone who likes to analyse it for themselves 🙂 https://au.finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=SYD.AX

The fact that this airport proposal looks to be financially dubious and that the information provided by the government has failed to drive up the share price of Sydney Airport at this point gives me some degree of hope that they are seeing what we see.

It is all so easy to write off protesters and those in opposition to a big project like this as being anti-progress,  short-sighted, change-phobic,  romantic, out-of-touch or otherwise but I beg to differ. Sure I’m against the airport for a range of environmental and lifestyle reasons some of which may seem frivolous but at the end of the day I’m also against this airport because financially it doesn’t look to be stacking up.

Australia is not Europe or Asia and has never been on an international trade route.  Our geographical isolation is the reason for our rich cultural heritage, the diversity in our plants and animals and our exotic appeal. Neither do we have the geographical infrastructure to become like the Americas (which are only 7 hours from that other mega-business centre of Europe), we are a large dry country full of desert.

I believe that the whole of Australia will have a much brighter and more prosperous future once it stops trying to become something it is not and embraces everything it is. Badgerys Creek is, in my view yet another attempt for us (Sydney) to compete with Asia when in reality it might just as well leave us broke, hot and living in high-rise boxes that line a road to nowhere.

So, I implore my Blue Mountains councillors to stop, think and look at what is going on here.  We can do better, we might even be able to lead the way in this but to do that will take bravery and bravery starts with acknowledging the truth.

 

The politicians right to change their mind.

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Democracy defined on Wikipedia:

noun
A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
A state governed under a system of democracy.
Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.
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It is not a crime for a politician to  change their mind, in fact, in an every-changing world it would be odd not to at times. New facts come to light, the political landscape shifts,  events outside of your control change the trajectory of the future.  A strong and flexible mind is a wonderful thing.  However, when you are an elected member of a democratic system your ‘mind’ is not completely your own.  What I mean here is that your public mind, what you stand for what got you elected is something bigger than you,  that is your mandate.
mandate
an official order or commission to do something.
the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.
If, as a politician  you want to change your mandate you should be able to put aside your own ego and follow due process in order to avoid undermining the democratic system and losing political capital.
Well that’s the theory anyway.
It does seem to have become the norm to expect politicians to say anything to get the job then do anything to keep (or progress) their power.  Not all politicians do this of course, one doesn’t stop becoming a free-willed (to whatever extent that exists), morally grounded individual just because they got elected but some do behave in a way that leaves you questioning their motives and when they do certain sections of the media seem to love it, possibly even encourage it.
This race to the bottom has, in my opinion made it so easy for people like Trump to get in while saying things that are, at times outrageous, by contradicting himself and even telling it how it clearly isn’t – bare-faced lying.  We have a situation where the boy cried wolf so many times that some are now outraged when these political types actually do what they said they would do!  Seriously, on the Trump issue, in his defence, he is at least getting on with the stuff he promised and didn’t contradict  which I reluctantly applaud him for while at the same time cringing at what this says about us as a society.  And no, I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary and neither do I fawn over Obama but that’s not a discussion for today and this isn’t a discussion about Trump.
I attended the Blue Mountains council meeting last night where councillors were asked to publicly state their support for the councils position (opposition) on the proposed Badgerys Creek Airport.  Two didn’t vote in support of maintaining the councils opposition and that’s fine – council is exactly the place for good, robust debate and discussion to take place and there is no crime in holding a counter view.  However, this whole situation came about because of an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 21st December.  Here it is if you are interested.
I can only speculate at why the two councillors involved opted for this course of action (running straight to the media on 21st December rather than respecting the official channels) and that won’t be helpful as speculation is not fact. I was disappointed see the way these councillors turned on their mandate and their fellow councillors and did this.  While disappointed I wasn’t entirely surprised, I kind of sort of felt this brewing for a month or two now but am not really in a position to do much more than write on here which is fine.  My disappointment stemmed from the depth of the bile and posturing displayed in how this played out both in the newspaper and on the radio.  I am not ashamed to say that I expected more from these two people.
So some background/ context. 
 Both of these Councillors are on the public record as having voted for the councils current position with regards to Badgerys Creek on previous occasions and are also on record as opposing the Airport when questioned before the election (which was only a short time ago). One of the councillors had been present and voted for the spending that has been questioned and has been on council long enough to be aware of its financial position.  In a time when many councils have faced mergers after failing the Liberal State Governments Fit for Future audit the Blue Mountains got through – a fact that wasn’t mentioned in the click-bait headline.
The bottom line here for me is that two councillors are playing games with our democratic process,  disregarding their mandate and dragging the councils name into disrepute.
And that’s not all.
Not only did one of those two councillors see fit to take their gripes to the media (he’s not the first, I lived in the UK long enough to see this all the time but like we always say to the kids – two wrongs don’t make a right), that same councillor also felt entitled enough to spend the whole 1 1/2 hours of the meeting time when this was being discussed on his Facebook messenger to two colleagues in the audience who just happened to be standing next to me. I won’t out them on here but I just hope they understand what they are contributing to and I really do hope that one day they care (again I’m talking about the democratic process and not specifically the airport)). Further,  there were even giggles at one point when one audience member (another) suggested that the behaviour of these two councillors was ‘just politics’ insinuating that we should somehow just accept that as par for the course.  Well I’m not prepared to do that.
So lying and wasting everyone’s time and bringing a council whose mayor got re-elected with a dramatically increased majority vote into disrepute is funny?
That saying one thing before the election then doing another when elected and without first taking your changed mandate to the people is just what politicians do?
There was nothing funny about last night.
And there is nothing funny about the trajectory the world is on.
If people keep behaving like this Badgerys Creek airport will be the least of our troubles.
Politicians do have a right to change their minds but that right comes with responsibilities and in this case it is to respect the democratic process.
So can we all do that please?

We should all just accept that there will be an airport at Badgerys Creek.

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As 2016 came to an end the Australian Government ticked the last in a series of boxes that are required to make the building of Badgerys Creek airport legally possible.  With that final tick came the end of a long and drawn out process of on-again-off-again process and debate.  The only thing missing now, as we hit our 2017 stride is the cash.

Who will pay?

no-airport

But that small, insignificant job of raising the several billion needed to make this thing fly so to speak is outside of our (layman’s) control.  What we can control is how we feel about the whole thing and what we do next.

Predictably, what ‘we’ feel at this moment is becoming increasingly interesting.

This is cranking up to be a shit fight.

So for the last year the major voices we’ve heard on this issue have been as follows:

  • Australian Liberal Government.  Love it, can’t get enough of it, do it and do it 24/7 over Blaxlands house.
  • Australian Labor Government (the opposition).  HQ loves it, can’t get enough of it but then they remember they are labor and labor is the people’s party and decide that they are all for it as long as it’s not all over Blaxlands house.
  • Australian Labor Party, Western Sydney Division AKA those lucky buggers who will be living with it 24/7 and especially those who just got elected to the job or received an increase in support.  OK so not all hate it but the cheerleading is more ‘groan’ than ‘yippee’.  Why can’t we have a curfew?  Why not high speed rail? What do you mean we have to cop the pollution?  Why not throw in a massive F**K me incinerator too!  Show me the detail?  Excuse me for being more than a little suspicious over the fact that a bunch of Mosman and Beach living city slickers know what’s best for us.  Do you even know where Badgerys Creek is people?
  • Australian Liberal Party Representatives Blue Mountains pre-election – Not really liking the idea that the current EIS promotes thank you very much. Mucho concerning and not 100% convinced on the ‘what’s in it for us’ package on offer. Post election – OK so two have now decided that we should just embrace the awesomeness that is the BC airport much to the bemusement of the rest of council (allegedly).
  • Local residents group RAWSA.  A heady mix between NO AIRPORT,  NO 24/7 Airport,  NOT THIS AIRPORT and NO IDEA WHY WE CAN’T HAVE HIGH SPEED RAIL INSTEAD?
  • Interested local residents against the airport.  Read, think about it, act then get on with life.
  • Interested local residents for the airport.  Get with the program people, this is an amazing opportunity and I want it written in as many places as possible.

It’s fair to say that the majority of residents local to me here in the Blue Mountains have taken a somewhat less active interest in the whole debacle over the last 14 months and I can’t really blame them – there is only so much any one of us can do. But now, as I said things have changed.

The anti has been upped.

And some of the people who were quiet before, including elected councillors have decided to speak up and what they are saying is that this airport is going to be GREAT.

I wonder if this is a bit like the Trump victory where lots of people want to say ‘I’m voting for HIM’ but felt somehow unable to do so.  On the other hand I wonder if, like the Trump victory the supporters are still in a minority when it comes to the popular vote but that again like Trump they might win anyway (as the Government is on their side after all….).  Whatever way this plays out the ‘for it’ camp are starting to sing out and I for one feel that is a good thing.  We have to air it and share it is my motto (well, one of them).

So what are they saying?

Well one thing that is coming across loud and clear is the notion that we should just accept this airport as a done deal and make the best of it.

While this risks making me come over all over-reactive and hysterical I do find that attitude most perplexing given this is an entirely man-made project that can ONLY go ahead with popular support and money (potentially OUR money) and that we live in a democratic country where (supposedly) our voices and opinions all count.   I mean sure I can understand that ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude when some other country just invaded you and will kill you if you try to resist but this isn’t a siege, it’s a minor domestic economic situation.

Also in my head I liken that attitude to the mindset of someone who has been groomed for something against their wishes. Be it a hostage or a victim of domestic violence or abuse the air of surrender just leaves me cold.  As my blog says the only choice we have is how to respond so why not respond with your whole heart be that for or against?

From where I’m sitting I would say this, Goliath doesn’t need the extra support thank you.  He seems to be bigger, better resourced and has the power of the law (he makes them), the media (he controls them) and the people (both major parties officially support this) on his side.  To turn now just because apparently ‘it’s happening anyway and we might miss out if we keep sulking’  would be the ultimate sheeple thing to do unless of course we had ‘seen the same light’ that the other true supporters have.

But let’s pretend we did do that, we did just go with it.

What would the Blue Mountains Council do next?

Well I for one would want answers to the following questions based on the following assumptions upon which our support is now resting:

The Future is Rosy Scenario.

The Badgerys Creek airport will drive more tourists to the district, increase house prices, make the place more desirable to live in, give local businesses more customers and generally make the area more prosperous.

BUT:

  • How are the thousands of tourists who fly into Badgerys Creek planning to get up to the Blue Mountains being as though there is no direct train link planned between the airport and Penrith and that the current line servicing the mountains is practically fully utilised?
  • If there is no train link between the new airport and the mountains how are the roads going to cope with what would have to be a dramatic increase in traffic to produce enough income to deliver these benefits and off-set the costs (peace, potential change to UNESCO status etc)?
  • As the area becomes more desirable and the population of Western Sydney grows how will the Blue Mountains balance the increased pressure to provide for a growing population with bush fire risk and the desire to maintain the Unique ambience of mountain living (why people come here)?
  • How can we best promote the Blue Mountains as a destination for longer term stays and environmental appreciation and protection rather than as a one-day drive through that takes from the mountains more than it gives back?  Do we really want to encourage thousands of day trippers over weekenders and honeymooners?
  • Why do people come here anyway?  If it has anything to do with wilderness, nature, peace, clean air, space, quaint village life and independent retailers and cafes how are we going to protect that?

That’s enough for starters.

So we have a pretty much believable and credible scenario of an opportunity for growth and prosperity if only we just get on board. But most people can see that while building an airport might create some opportunities, fully realising and integrating those into our Blue Mountains community requires further investment and work.

This is where the psychology gets interesting.

I wonder if the people urging us to support this are worried that we might miss out if we don’t get on board?  If we’ll be punished, given the cold shoulder for not playing ball.

Interesting thought.

In addition there are murmurings that we are at risk of missing out on our chair at the negotiating table by being like this.

That may be true I guess but if we are just going along with it because we are scared of missing out and can only go if we agree to swallow our opposition and sit on our hands  I’m not sure its at all worth it.

What would happen if we just continue to oppose this (if that’s what we collectively believe)?

I really do think that there is a FEAR brewing that we really will be punished by being starved of funds, infrastructure and attention if we pursue with this obstinance of airport opposition but it makes no sense for the government to even do that and in any case, it won’t be just the government invested in this.

Why cut off your nose to spite your face?

There is just too much money, time and political energy at stake here to risk that type of behaviour – if the airport is going to be built, and the rhetoric about jobs and growth and tourism is true the Blue Mountains just HAS to receive attention regardless of whether we voted yes or no for the airport thing.  The pressure from the Australian Tourism Board, the airport operators and the international market would be much more powerful than that of a few hundred angry or enthusiastic residents shouting yes or no into cyberspace.

Just imagine the global embarrassment that is an airport 70km from the iconic and heavily publicised Three Sisters that is IMPOSSIBLE to get to in under two hours due to the slowness of the train, the congestion on the roads and the cost of the Uber driver.  It only takes 2 hours from Sydney by train now AND it only costs $5.81 each way.  You can even drive it in 90 minutes which is only 30 minutes more than the current BC-K Town estimates.  Better for tourists?  I’m not so sure…..

In some ways I see this airport as a Trogan horse that bashes the door down to allow for mass immigration, population growth, high-density living and the commodification of nature.  Think this is too far-fetched?  Then look at the predicted usage figures that justify Badgers Crack and also look at all the housing development that’s going in around the base of the mountains already!  Anyone would think we’re looking to re-house the whole of Syria out here and then invite each family to have 10 children each!

But I digress.

The questions that I’ve got in my head are just as relevant for me to have answers to (as a no airport supporter) as I believe they are for people who are all for it.  It makes no sense financially to spend billions on a project that won’t actually deliver on what it claims to promise and if the new airport isn’t promising greater wealth opportunities for the Blue Mountains and beyond and more convenient travel then why do it?  Overseas visitors don’t give a shit if this thing has been on again and off again for 50 or more years, they only care if it makes sense and makes their holiday or business trip easier and comfortable.

Anyway….

I do accept that in any situation where there are conflicting points of view that one side will lose out and that there does come a time when one does have to make a decision to either get on with it or leave but that time and that decision is not for now. This thing isn’t built and open yet.

For now I think it is pertinent for all sides to acknowledge that there are big, important questions yet to be answered and a shit fight of name calling, shutting down, bullying and shaming is not helpful.

The worst that can happen at the moment is that neither side likes, trusts or respects each others point of view.  I do feel that is starting to happen and one place that can’t happen is with our leaders on council (thankfully it hasn’t yet).

This airport has the power and support to go ahead whether the Blue Mountains support it or not.

This airport deal also has the potential to be shelved whether the Blue Mountains supports it or not.

At the end of the day it is, and always has been outside of our jurisdiction and budgetary control.

What matters is that the Blue Mountains City Council create space for each and every person interested in getting involved to do so.  That all residents and councillors are listened to and that their views are acknowledged, addressed and represented moving forward.

If we don’t manage to do that we have wasted our time and achieved nothing.

And as for the amount of money spent then I say this. What is spent is spent and has been spent with council approval.  Going forward it is important we re-evaluate our position and what we are prepared to spend to back that up.  I believe that is exactly what the council proposes to do at the next meeting which is to be held on 31st January. I will be there.


My final thought for today on this is as follows,  I believe it is time that our collective argument against this airport moves beyond just NO.

I also believe that it is time that our collective support moves deeper than just ‘yes’.

It’s time to talk and more importantly, it is time for everyone to listen, really listen.