How a
well-connected property developer
got millions without paying anything.
Oh, the
sweetness of the irony, the delectability of the situation. There’s the New
South Wales Government of Labor Premier Bob Carr, being taken to the cleaners
for an extra $60 million by property developer, Lang Walker, a man who NSW
ALP considered a ‘friend’ and willing financial donor.

But the
most worrying part of the whole story of Ballast Point, in Sydney’s inner harbourside
suburb of Balmain is that the ALP and the Carr-led bunch of politicians won’t
have to fork out, the taxpayers of NSW. And the $60 million awarded by the NSW
Land and Environment Court to Mr Walker’s company last Friday will make a bit
of a dent in a state budget that’s already in the red for the first time since
Carr came to power in 1995.

It’s on top
of compensation of nearly $14 million paid to the owner of the site, oil
company Ballast Point.

Perhaps
some of Mr Walker’s money will eventually be recycled back through the ALP,
State and Federally, and the Liberal Party, such is the closeness between the
politicians of the Premier State and the property development industry.

Here’s the
story in Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald of the sorry saga and the amazing
court decision: Harbourside
land deal to cost state $60m more

The
rationale for the decision by the court is a bit breathtaking: awarded the
money on the basis of basically what was a “lost opportunity” which
would very likely never happened.

You can
imagine the chagrin in the Government, especially in the office of State
Treasurer, Michael Eagan, who is never too happy to pay anyone money, let alone
pay a large amount of money to a property developer, virtually free of any cost
or quid pro quo.

But the
Labor Party knows Lang Walker very well.This is what NSW Greens MLC, Lea
Rhiannon told the NSW Upper House last November

“The
research is quite remarkable. Over the past four years the New South Wales
branch of the Australian Labor Party has received donations from at least 80
companies involved in the property industry. For instance, the Walker
Corporation gave $165,000; McRoss, also associated with Lang Walker, gave
another $122,000; Meriton donated $294,500; Multiplex donated $258,350; the
Mirvac Group donated $98,000; Leightons gave $147,550; the Lend Lease Group
gave $241,850; and Paynter Dixon Construction Pty Ltd gave $298,450. Eric
Roozendaal must be flat out banking the cheques. It is little wonder that he
needs to relax with a night at the Colosseum, where I understand he is going
tonight. Of course, these are only donations to the New South Wales branch of
the ALP. Hundreds of thousands of dollars also flow to the national office of
the ALP and to their branches.”

And this
what the Sydney Morning Herald reported in February last year about political
donations Federally. “Lang Walker’s McRoss Developments favoured
Labor with $178,000 over $120,000 for the Liberals”

So the
irony is delightful, a case of the biter bit, sort of, except that it is the
NSW taxpayers that will have been bitten in the end if this judgement is upheld
in any appeal.

But seeing
how the government acted because of pressure from all those well-heeled folk in
Balmain and next-door Birchgrove, it might be a good idea to force the
Leichhardt Council to strike a special rate to contribute towards the cost of
rewarding Mr Walker and his company for the “lost opportunity”.

After all
they will derive the greater benefit from preserving Ballast Point unsullied.
It will enhance their property values, not those of someone out at Penrith, at
Newcastle or in Gunnedah.

But no,
somehow I don’t think that will be done. The people of Balmain and other parts
of the inner city are very skilled in making the rest of the city and NSW pay
for the enhancement of their million dollar lifestyles and property values.

And, if
Lang Walker gets his hands on this money, it will provide him with some nice
seed capital in his adventures in Tasmania, where he is using Graham
Richardson, the Swiss bank ‘mate of Rene Rivkin and Trevor Kennedy, to try and
lobby the State Government into allowing him to exploit the Ralphs Bay
Conservation area, east of Hobart.

More ALP
links, Richo gladhanding Lang Walker into a meeting with Paul Lennon, who took
over as premier after the late Jim ‘Crispy’ Bacon retired from the job earlier
this year.

Peter Fray

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