Monday, May 30, 2016

Open letter to NSW children: Anzac Parade our French multi-national Penn Station moment

Dear children of Sydney and all over NSW,

We have failed you. Your grown ups have been playing at mud pies in a pernicious adult sort of a way and the game has got very murky.

A sludge of global companies pretending to be 'fair dinkum' aussie ones has invaded our public institutions by stealth all the while facilitated by our public officials and politicians. I am afraid we have not been able to prevent the desecration of your homes and your futures - this terrible state of affairs has happened on our watch and has been perpetrated by our democratically elected representatives whom we have voted for. Right now the premier Mike Baird and his road minister Duncan Gay and others are overseeing the triumph of violence and stupidity in New South Wales. They literally are dripping with guilt

Yes, we voted for these destroyers some of whom are parents and grandparents to some of you.

I am so sorry.

There were a few of us who tried to broadcast warnings as to what was looming but we were pilloried as "Cassandras" and as with the mythological Cassandra  we were not to be believed or heeded.

Unfortunately that very Australian 'she'll be right, mate' approach to life acted as a barrier to us actually seeing what was happening in our parliaments and their back rooms, committee rooms, or whatever you like to call them. Most people did not imagine for a minute the extent of the destruction that was to come - and come it has.

The felling of the beautiful trees on Anzac Parade and Alison Road is basically Sydney's Penn Station moment.

(Image: Penn Station,
Bear with me for a quick little recap of another immense urban atrocity that happened in New York over 50 years ago because there are similarities. You will see over your lives that history has a nasty tendency to repeat itself particularly when good men and women take their eye off the ball for a moment ... sigh.

Anyway, Pennsylvannia Station was one of New York's most magnificent stations of the twentieth century until the 1960s. It was a grand entrance into New York for anybody and everybody.

Penn Station had been built in 1910 and then inexplicably in 1963 it was demolished according to the wishes and desires of Big Developa and Big Pollie to make way for ... wait for it ... a  monstrous sports stadium and entertainment centre which some of you may well have heard of ... Madison Square Gardens ... sounds familiar to what is on the cards for Sydney.


Just as with our Anzac Parade and Alison Road, there were plenty of protests held, and plenty of passionate people making the case for the station to remain, and of course there were plenty of police and sadly plenty of vested interests political and otherwise licking their lips and getting ready to line their pockets with $$$.

(Image: Penn Station,
Unfortunately the protesting New Yorkers, admirably led by Jane Jacobs, (and if you ever have a minute do read her fabulous book "The Death & Life of Great American Cities"), were not successful saving Penn Station.

(Image: Penn Station,
One of the most beautiful railway stations in the world was destroyed for pure greed.

However the battle for Penn Station and its preposterous destruction did prepare New Yorkers for other planned onslaughts in their city one of which was the outrageous proposed destruction of Grand Central Terminal in 1975.

(Image: Grand Central Terminal,
This time it was Jackie Kennedy Onassis who took the baton with her band of protestors and fought for the station's survival. Having seen what had happened the decade before, New York was ready to be galvanised into action and this time the protestors were successful and today, as some of you probably know, Grand Central Terminal is an iconic New York landmark visited by millions of people every year. Some of you have probably even been there - just think, it nearly went the same way as Penn Station.

(Image: Grand Central Terminal,
But back to our tragedy with our beautiful trees, many of them so lovingly planted in memory of the Anzacs in 1917.

On a side note, I have just started transcribing Anzac First World War diaries in a voluntary capacity for the NSW State Library and I have to tell you that I have not got very far. Reading the diaries makes for the saddest reading I have ever done.

I feel each sentence is reaching out to me across the last 100 years from the damp fetid terrifying trenches of the Somme in France to make sure that I bear witness to the fact that war is not for the ordinary man or the ordinary woman or the ordinary child but for the ever present greedy Big Corpa and politician-puppets that we have always had with us.

The sentences envelop me in a pall of sadness, and this is all the more acute right now when I look at what our hypocritical politicians are doing to these young men's memorial on Anzac Parade. And then that pall of sadness turns to anger when I think that those dead Anzacs did not give their lives so some rich 'fucker' like Mike Baird could destroy Sydney. (Whoops, but not sorry, children, grrr).

These trees play such an important part in our city; environmentally, socially, 'memorially' ... and we need them. Countless generations of Australians and visitors have marvelled at our magnificent tree-lined boulevards. No longer - they have gone ... sigh.

I am so sad, I am so sorry.

Ok, children, why don't we now have a look together at this Team Sydney Destruction ... oh I probably should use their preferred nomenclature, ok, Altrac Light Rail consortium.

This group has agreed:
 "... to build a 12 km light rail route in Sydney, Australia, worth AUS$ 2.1 billion (US$ 1.5 billion) in order to help reduce congestion. It will comprise of a 12 km track, 19 stops, a bridge over the Eastern Distributor toll road, a tunnel under Moore Park, Control Centre facilities, housing for the light rail vehicles, a maintenance depot, and substations with other service buildings along the route."
... jeez that's a lot of infrastructure to plonk in Sydney.

Anyway, I hear you ask, 'who are Altrac Light Rail Consortiom?' ...

... and that is a good question indeed.

Answer: a melting pot of greedy corporates which have seen an immense opportunity for making a billion or two, and following best Big Corpa practice like the good corporates that they are, have employed the use of friendly independent sounding business names to confuse what are essentially corporate subsidiaries so as to project a nice familiar trustworthy local feel not normally associated with the faceless parent mult-national companies that actually run stuff in our homeland.

So here we go, let's have a peep at them, and see what we know so far:

Altrac Light Rail Consortium (previously Connecting Sydney), consists of:
1. Acciona
  ... a dodgy Spanish company which has seen two of the firm’s senior executives being investigated by a Spanish magistrate and anti-corruption prosecutors over allegations of misappropriation of public funds, falsifying documents and money laundering.
(Screen capture: Daily Mail UK)

2. Alstom
... a dodgy French company which has been "at the centre of corruption charges in the UK ...
 ... and the US and was fined $800 million last December after an FBI investigation into bribery."
... and then because they were in such a pickle with their piggy bank, Alstom had to sell the energy and grid part of their company and allow themselves to be acquired by General Electric, a US company, which meant Alstom's role in their brand spanking new partnership with DCNS, yet another dodgy french company (which has just landed the $50 billion Australian contract to build us 12 submarines by 2030) was taken over by GE.

3. Capella Capital

... in a relationship with Lendlease (isn't everybody?) and was the sponsor, infrastructure developer and financial advisor to Altrac.

4. Transdev Sydney, oh boy, here we go ...

(Image: Transdev, the parent)
... formerly Veolia Transport, which was formerly Connex, (dumped and fined $11.2 million by the Victorian Government for poor rail services) which was formerly CGEA Transport when the public transport divisions of Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE) and its subsidiary Compagnie Générale d'Entreprises Automobiles (CGEA) were merged (hmmm ... did the French inspire Duncan Gay to merge Roads & Traffic Authority and NSW Maritime to create the Roads & Maritime Services?), but I digress back to the the merged French company which was the international transport services division of the French-based multinational company Veolia Environnement until the 2011 merger between Veolia Transport and Transdev, formerly a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts, which gave rise to Veolia Transdev (which lost the Yarra Trams government contract and was fined $1.84 million) and which then in July 2011, amid disappointing financial results caused Veolia Environnment to divest its participation in Veolia Transdev exiting transport all together leaving Transdev on its own, a French-base international private public transport operator with operations in 19 countries and in which Caisse des Dépôts has shares) ... got that, kids?!
Oh là là , what a tangled web we weave.

This is the world of globalisation and Trans-PacificPartnerships and secrecy and cloak and dagger government and powerful people's machinations and pretence too because Big Corpa knows that we are becoming less and less trusting of them each day, hence their pathetic trick of pretending they are home-grown enterprises.

C'est nul! (french for 'it sucks!')
(Screen capture:Paris Champs Elysees, car-free thoroughfare, BBC News)
Now can you imagine if the boot was on the other foot how outraged the Parisiennes would be if an Australian transport company started setting up metal barriers on the Champs Elysees and then brought in the chainsaws and the woodchippers and removed their trees along their beautiful street?

I am sure you can- it would not be pretty - the French would not be happy.
Yet here in Australia reports detailing 'misappropriation of public funds, falsifying documents and money laundering' by these companies now entrusted with remodelling of our city have not shocked our elected government.

I am letting you know, children, that it is a serious state of affairs when the act of bribing government officials and politicians to land lucrative development and construction contracts becomes the order of the day (plat du jour) and does not raise a mention from our premier or his cabinet.

Why should we settle for these corrupt multi-nationals building our future irrevocably changing our city for the worse? From what we have seen so far, their track record appears poor and untrustworthy.

Why are our politicians happy with them?

Why have operations not been halted immediately?

The perception of conflicts of interests is at an all time extreme, and you have to wonder whether our very own politicians are not actually agents for these multi-nationals themselves. It truly does appear as though the 'mafiosi' or something similar has ensconced themselves very snugly into our Parliaments and Cabinets, and have morphed into our politicians.

But sadly, children, I am afraid there's more, because the french reach doesn't stop with Altrac ... sigh.

A hop skip and a jump from Anzac Parade and Alison Road we have the Inner West and the catastrophe that is being rolled out there - WestCONnex.

(Slideshow & song put together in 2015 by yours truly with apologies to Roberta Flak)
Yet again the venality of polticians and developers is on show. Yet again politicians and developers have conspired to gut a great city simply because the dollars $$$ smell oh so sweet.

There is nothing good about WestCONnex ... absoloutely nothing.

(Screen capture: Junkee on WestCONnex)
People's homes and close knit communities are being destroyed, more police are being deployed to act as henchmen for dubious politicians and Big Corpa, and like all the other multi-nationals which come here for a sweet sweet lucrative contract, the WestCONnex debacle too has turned out to be dodgy.

(Screen capture: Sydney Morning Herald)
Furthermore it also turns out (of course it does) the multi-nationals for the different projects are connected ... who knew ... I mean I was a little suspicious when I saw the word 'Connex' in Transdev's profile ... could there be a connection with WestCONnex, n'est-ce-pas?

And sure enough we don't have to look very far to find one.

It turns out that our Gladys, Treasurer of New South Wales, and our Duncan, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, also aka Sydney Motorway Corporation (a private corporation created purely to avoid freedom of information demands with these two NSW cabinet ministers the only shareholders), have awarded the contract for the operation and maintenance of the WestCONnex motorway to Fulton Hogan Egis O&M Pty (FHEO&M).

And guess what?

It turns out that the 'Egis' part of this group is a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts, which guess what ... has shares in Transdev which guess what was formerly 'Connex' ... oh boy, so with all the different parents and children of Big Corpa it turns out Sydney Light Rail and WestCONnex are siblings or cousins, or maybe both.

I am afraid, children, that Mike Baird and his government do not care about you and me, nor do they care that they do not have a proper city plan. They have made that quite clear. I think we can all assume their departments to be full of experts who at some stage over the recent savage surgery of our beautiful city would have advised the government that the plan for Sydney is a disastrous 'white elephant.'

Our politicians know just as well as you and I know that the current light rail and WestCONnex plans will be ludicrously costly and will turn out to be utterly usesless. Yet notwithstanding this knowledge they continue with their crazy modus operandi because powerful people with money have asked them to do so.

Communities and community spirit are not commodities to privatise willy nilly or sweep away like rubble under the private-public-partnership carpet.

Sydney's political and business elites are transforming the city's landscape in a way that would have been unimaginable five years ago. The posturing of Mike Baird and his refusal to address the calamaties that have been created through his neo-con mindset expose the conceit of a man who actually believes the spin that he is a cool celebrity premier. As he flagrantly destroys large tracts of land in the Inner West along with the beautiful trees on Anzac Parade and Alison Road, we are losing invaluable public space as well as the vital fabric of inner city communities.

We are now in a strange situation in Sydney where defending democracy, human rights, the environment and our communities has become radical - exactly when did that become radical?

Mike Baird is our democratically elected representative, and as such he should be obeying us. He is not, so we should simply throw him out.

Once again I am so sorry for what has happened on my watch, but I promise you, children, that I will fight and keep fighting for your futures even if that means a spot of civil disobedience alongside old and new found friends.

Yours in tears and motivation,
Sue Abbott

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Open letter to Mike Baird: Our beautiful trees, why?

Dear Premier,
If you're reading this on your laptop, push & play Connor O'Brien's beautiful song - maybe you might weep a little. As for the rest of us, we're sobbing and we cannot stop.

We are at a loss to understand why you are ravaging Sydney.

Why this onslaught?

Why this war against the environment, animals, your voters, our children?

No-one can understand why you have embarked upon such vandalism and it had led many of us to think that you actually do not care if you are re-elected or not in three years time, which in turn has led many of us to think that perhaps you are in fact part of the 'Big Corpa' push which has infiltrated our parliaments and public institutions at all levels ... and with such catastrophic consequences.

Why else would you carry on the way you are carrying on?

Tell me, Premier, how do you explain the Anzac Parade tree issue to your children? How do they weigh up your argument for the destruction of heritage listed trees coupled with desires of stadium merchants and private infrastructure companies and a 4-legged casino versus the desires of Sydneysiders and the city?

Personally I feel as though you have been beating me with a savage weapon - your assault on the trees affects me bodily and psychologically. I want to run away but there's nowhere to run, there's no safe place, everywhere is polluted by you and developers.

I live in the Hunter Valley, and my beautiful valley has been destroyed by successive NSW governments and their cavalier approvals of mining applications. Notwithstanding the extensive environmental massacre to date, my town Scone is on the brink of extermination with a further slew of mining projects waiting for approval from you.

And so you carry on in Sydney too with your motorway building, your refusal to invest significantly in effective public transport and your continued infatuation with fossil fuels and the private car. You did not see the environmental benefits those trees brought to the city of Sydney, did you?

Did you not realise that the magnificent trees on Anzac Parade operated as essential carbon sinks and as essential environmental coolers - do you have any inkling of the havoc that you have wreaked upon Sydney now that those beautiful effective and efficient climate controllers have been decimated?

You have created an inversion cloud of despair that has enveloped so many of us far and wide, young and old, urban and rural. The various groups of us who have assembled for tree meetings, tree vigils and tree protection blockades have been diverse and from many political persuasions, but now having borne witness to your execrable tree destruction, many who once did vote for you, have vocalised that they will never be voting liberal or national again ...

But you do not care do you, because maybe your 'after-political' life is all sorted. Why else would you carry on as you are, flying in the face of the expert advice which has consistently cautioned you against the state-sanctioned razing of our grand boulevards.

Your obsession with infrastructure and empire building has left you completely incapable of valuing what we actually have.

Your obsession with infrastructure and empire building has enabled you to oversee the wanton obliteration of Sydney.

In terms of us and our short time on this planet, the trees you slaughtered were 'ancients' and were here long before us, and without your annihilation of them, would definitely have outlasted us.

What gives you the right to destroy such beautiful living beings which tragically and inevitably has translated into the deaths of the beautiful living creatures that used to call those trees home?

Distressed protestors have borne witness to the fact that many animals went into the wood chippers on Monday night. This is abhorrent; you have blood on your hands, Premier, and the planet will not forget.

Australia's violence towards women and 'cultures-other-than-anglo-saxon' goes hand in hand with its violence to the environment.

The white male christian philosophy continues to lay claim to a perceived entitlement over everything living and breathing and otherwise.

You and your government are part of that 'paternalistic emperor' mentality ... but you are not representative of Sydney nor of New South Wales, and none of you can be trusted with your leadership roles.

There are rumblings afoot and we will not be contained. We cannot continue to watch you liquidate our city any longer - the time for civil disobedience is upon us.

We have responsibilities in our participation of democracy, and those responsibilities do not stop at the ballot box.

To protect our future and our children's future and their children's future it is looking like a spot of civil disobedience is the order of the day.

You have lost control, and this is not a good look for any of us ... you included, Premier.

Oh and this smug chap, does he not realise that his electorate of Wentworth is the battleground that is causing us all so much grief? Does he truly believe that if he looks away this whole business will just vanish, and everything will be fine? Oh chortle chortle, I think not.

A call to arms has gone out, and families, individuals, the wider Sydney community and even the wider New South Wales community are answering the call. I urge you, Premier, to cease and desist this reprehensible execution of our magnificent trees, of our diggers' trees. After all, lest we forget, many of the trees were there in place to commemorate the felling of our young men and women during the first world war, yet it has become all too apparent that the trees, like the young soldiers one hundred years ago, were politically and commercially expedient ... cannon fodder.

Shame on you, Mike Baird, ... there is no Planet B.

Kind regards,
Sue Abbott

(with thanks to everyone whose internet images I sourced and used ... including my own which were up there too!)