On Monday night the ABC’s Media Watch
gave Sydney PR queen Sue Cato a going-over for attempting to positively
spin the Cross Sydney Tunnel. That included one of her operatives
making two calls to the ABC praising the tunnel, without revealing his
identity.

But did Media Watch miss a bigger story – that
Sue Cato is an “item” with one of the most powerful public servants in
NSW who for years was Bob Carr’s trusted adviser in the Cabinet office.

The independent website Sydney indymedia
has been mentioning this relationship recently and I understand that
Cato and Wilkins had been a couple for the best part of a couple of
years.

Here’s a potted CV for Wilkins: “Roger Wilkins holds the
dual positions of Director-General of The Cabinet Office, and
Director-General of the New South Wales Ministry for the Arts. He was
appointed as Director General of The Cabinet Office in 1992.”

The
Cabinet Office is a separate department whose major function is to
provide the Premier with independent policy advice on all significant
issues across the whole range of government. The department manages and
co-ordinates the Cabinet process and Commonwealth-State relations.”

And a recent 7.30 Report story carried thse quotes from Ms Cato about truth and the art of spinning.

“The best spin in these situations is actually truth and
it’s the only spin … One of the really important things that you
learn in this game is that your end game, you go and you work out the
exact – the most horrid outcome you could imagine and plan for it.”

Meanwhile Baulderstone Hornibrook, the tunnel’s builder,
has a bloke called Paul Levins as the head of corporate relations. He
was chief of staff to Craig Knowles when he was the NSW Minister for
Infrastructure, in charge of dealing with things like … the Cross
City Tunnel.

With this sort of PR and administrative firepower available, how
did the NSW Government and the Tunnel builders and operators get it so
wrong?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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