Wasn’t that an unfortunate juxtaposition, to have Foreign Correspondent plugging tonight’s Bob Carr interview with Gore Vidal from Hollywood immediately after Four Corners have just given his legacy another belting with last night’s program on tollroads deals that have gone wrong.

Carr
is fast going the way of Bob Hawke in soiling his reputation by
behaving badly in the first year out of office. Hawke never recovered
from taking $10,000 to announce his retirement from Parliament on A Current Affair, taking more Packer cash as a reporter for 60 Minutes,
drunkenly declaring Alexander Downer would be the next Prime Minister
and trying to do grubby TAB deals in Vanuatu. Dumping Hazel and that
bath robe appearance with Blanche didn’t help either.

In Carr’s
case, people are angry with the indecent haste in which he landed that
$500,000-a-year consultancy with Macquarie Bank – the biggest
beneficiary of private-public partnerships that have screwed NSW
taxpayers and motorists whilst hiding the true state of the budget.

On
top of that, Carr joked around at the Cross City Tunnel inquiry about
being a journalist by profession and is now taking some coin off Aunty
to interview Gore Vidal, whose ego is on a par with Bob’s.

The
Cross City Tunnel debacle has been a huge blow to Carr and the public
private partnership industry, despite the ridiculous spin being put out
by the likes of Nick Greiner and Mark Birrell last night.

Greiner
was the father of these deals with the original contract he and Bruce
Baird did in the early 1990s with Macquarie Bank’s Hills Motorway Group
to build the M2.

The PM’s older brother Stan Howard was Hills
chairman and as former NSW Auditor-General Tony Harris pointed out,
this was a deal in which “the investors in the M2 got 100% of their
money back in the first year and 100% of their money back in the second
year and a car still hadn’t driven on the road”.

Transurban
ended up buying the $1 Hills units for more than $11 in a $2 billion
takeover that showed how stupid the Greiner Government was, yet there
was Greiner defending the Cross City Tunnel last night as chairman of
German construction company Bilfinger Berger.

And what about this rubbish on Four Corners from Kennett’s former Major Projects minister Mark Birrell:

Early ’90s, Victoria, it was a disaster. There was literally no debt
option – you had to get debt down. You can’t imagine Melbourne without
CityLink because CityLink has solved so many of its urban issues. But
CityLink could not be afforded by government – it had to be brought
down on the basis of private investment. There was no more debt option,
there was no more tax option, so you used the third option.

Err, the contract was let in 1996 Mark, at which point the Victorian
budget was already comfortably in surplus and the government was
predicting it would fetch $20 billion from energy privatisation.

What Victorians finished up with was a $1.15 billion construction
contract that has delivered about 800% for the equity holders while almost
$200 million in toll revenues pours into Transurban’s coffers for more
than 30 years. It’s been a disastrous deal and Macquarie Bank played
the Kennett Government for fools before then hiring Kennett’s Treasurer
Alan Stockdale and making him a millionaire.

The emergence of private tollroads in Australia has been a complete
debacle because incompetent governments continuously get taken to the
cleaners, as Four Corners correctly pointed out last night.

Peter Fray

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