First
the NSW Government dumps 30,000 pages on the Cross City Tunnel as the Melbourne
Cup is being run on Tuesday afternoon, then Thursday it reveals a High Court Challenge to the new
Industrial laws proposed by the Federal Government.

Using
distractions to cover inconvenient news is rapidly becoming an art form for the
Iemma Government and its cynical ALP
masters.

Today’s
announcement of the IR challenge came as tonnes of concrete continued to be poured into the hole in the Lane Cove
Tunnel that has caused traffic chaos by blocking all or part of one of
Sydney’s busiest
roads, Epping
Road.

Queensland had already revealed a challenge, with the unions, on
Wednesday, so the NSW Government’s court challenge, which was trotted
out in Sydney at 10.30 am, appears to be nothing more than
grandstanding and the need to divert attention from the Lane Cove
tunnel problem, and put further distance from the Cross City Tunnel.

Premier
Iemma’s platitudes came as the local Liberal Party State member for Lane Cove and former John
Howard adviser, Anthony Roberts said that the project is over budget and that at
least three engineers have been “made redundant or forced to
quit.”

A
spokesman for the tunnel builders, Thiess John Holland
(both subsidiaries of Leighton) denied the overrun, but couldn’t say anything
about the engineers.

Roberts
again called for a ‘full, independent inquiry” into the road collapse on ABC
local radio this morning and the reasons for it, now attributed to weak,
wet ground in the tunnel that was breached on Tuesday night.

More
than a thousand cubic metres of concrete have been
pumped into the hole. Leighton CEO, Wal King wasn’t
in Sydney (there
was a certain horse race in the south on Tuesday) so it was left to spin
doctors, John Connolly and senior managers to handle the problem, the third
major problem for the group in the past 18 months.

The two
previous were cost overruns and design problems at the Spencer St Station in
Melbourne and asbestos and higher than expected
costs in the now completed Hilton Hotel rebuild in Sydney. All the
comment yesterday included the news that the tunnel was going well and was ‘
four months ahead of schedule.”

That’s
a typical situation for project like this because the companies get a bigger
bonus if they bring the project in ahead of time: it can be a significant profit
boost and the bonus is set out in confidential agreements.

Leighton has been building the huge M7 Orbital road in
Sydney’s west and parts of that are months ahead of schedule, for which the
company will earn a bonus.

But the
very troubled Cross City Tunnel was also well ahead of schedule and was due to
be opened in June on the long weekend, on the day of the ALP State Conference
with Bob Carr making a major speech as people walked under his feet through the
tunnel.

But
severe technical problems with the electronics mean that was delayed for three
months, eliminating much of the bonus. In view
of the enormous political problems for the Iemma
Government since, I wonder if there’s been any bonus paid.