The Rum Corps Redux








Looking at the procession of NSW politicians recently caught by ICAC with their fingers in the till, it is hard to tell if this is a bizarre new reality television series called “Good politicians gone bad” or even “Politicians gone wild” or just a continuation of The Rum Corps type corruption which has plagued NSW since the earliest days of the colony. At this rate, ICAC is going to bring the paper bag industry to its knees within days.

For those who are playing catch up, the following laws are particularly relevant to donations by property developers (there is other legislation governing political donations but these are the main ones relating to property developers):

  1. Local Government and Planning Legislation Amendment (Political Donations) Act 2008, which commenced on 1 October 2008 requires the public disclosure of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on development proposals. This law is designed to improve the transparency of the planning system; and
  2. Election Funding and Disclosures Amendment (Property Developers Prohibition) Act 2009, which commenced on 14 December 2009 made it an offence for a property developer to make a political donation as well as unlawful for a person to accept a political donation from a property developer.

Now stay with me people, this does get interesting.

So notwithstanding the above, and as a simple Google search will confirm, political donations to property developers have not stopped.

Call me crazy, but why would a property developer risk breaking the law and appearing in front of ICAC as well as incurring the various penalties, to give money to a politician for simply altruistic reasons. There must be something in it for them.

As Ted Mack (the only person ever to have been elected and re-elected as an independent to local, state, and federal government in Australia) said recently, the Labor and Liberal parties are “like two mafia families seeking control of the public purse for distribution to themselves, supporters, and the special interests who fund them”.

But should we be surprised? After all, I think this exchange from Yes Minister explained it all 30 years ago:

Hacker:             Are you saying that winking at corruption is government policy?

Sir Humphrey:   No, no, Minister! It could never be government policy. That is unthinkable! Only government practice.

Hacker:             You’re a cynic, Humphrey!

Sir Humphrey:   A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth

White House Kitty

For strata managers who care, the Minister who looks after their patch of dirt is the Minister for Fair Trading, Matthew Mason-Cox. His press release on the Home Building Act amendments dated 13 June 2014 is the subject of this blog entry and will include within it various quotes from Yes Minister. See how many quotes you can spot in the blog. The answer is at the bottom, but no peeking!!

The press release in question stated that “Consumers will benefit from a new definition of major defect to include serious fire safety and waterproofing defects for the first time”. Whilst this is strictly true, the press release is interesting for what it doesn’t say rather than what it actually says.

That is, it should have also pointed out that in order to come within the new definition for structural defects (i.e. a “major defect”), the defect must “cause or be likely to cause the inability to inhabit or use the building or part of the building for its intended purpose or the destruction or the threat of collapse of the building or any part of the building”. I ask any strata managers reading this requirement to consider whether any of the defects in buildings they manage would fall within this definition. I would suggest very few, if any.

Luckily, press statements are not delivered under oath. Indeed, the general approach these days seems to be something like “It is our job to tell the public the truth and nothing but the truth. But it would be profoundly inappropriate and grossly irresponsible to tell them the whole truth”.

One suspects that when it comes to NSW politicians, their approach to disciplining bad builders and developers is akin to thrashing them with a wet lettuce leaf and admonishing them with some politically correct statement such as “builders and developers are kindness-impaired. (This is not to imply that all, or even some, builders and developers are that way, nor to deny any builder or developer their right to express whatever disposition comes naturally to them. Far from it, their dispositions are without doubt due to many factors of their upbringing and socialization).” I could go on but in the interests of brevity will not.

Suffice to say, the proposed amendments have very little to do with consumer protection.

The answer is 2, by the way.