The powerful developers’ lobbying group, the NSW Urban Taskforce, has just morphed into the Urban Taskforce Australia and opened offices in Civic in the heart of commercial Canberra to mark the arrival of the Rudd Labor Government.

Established in 1999, the taskforce has strong connections with the right-wing ALP machine in NSW.

Its launch was attended by then Premier Bob Carr and his deputy Andrew Refshauge who was Minister for Urban Affairs, Planning and Housing and therefore had a direct interest in the work of the taskforce. The first patron was another former Labor Premier, Neville Wran QC.

The brains behind the taskforce is David Tanevski, managing director of KWC Capital Partners who, in an earlier life, served in the trenches of ALP factional warfare in south-west Sydney. The organisation shares office spare on the same floor as Tanevski’s financial business in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Membership of the taskforce is by invitation only and the number of participating companies is capped at 85. The executive committee comprises a who’s who of the high-powered development industry: chairman Bob Rose (Rose Property Group), Geoff Cox (Crighton Properties), Bob Ell (Leda Holdings), Allen Linz (Rebel Property Group), Colin Rockliff (Goodman International), Richard Scheinberg (McDonald Industries), Shaun Hannah (Hannah Property Group) and ALP workhorse David Tierney (Multiplex).

The taskforce’s CEO is Aaron Gadiel, another trusted graduate of the ALP’s right-wing faction. A former Young Labor operative, Gadiel served the factional powerbroker and Carr Government minister Eddie Obeid as his chief of staff. His sister-in-law is Tanya Gadiel, MP for Parramatta in State Parliament who previously worked as an adviser to Michael Costa, now the NSW Treasurer.

When he delivered his maiden speech in 1996, Fairfield MP Joe Tripodi singled out Gadiel for particular thanks and also friends from the local Italian community including Pat Sergi.

Gadiel’s predecessor as taskforce CEO was Terry Barnes whose chequered career included a stint as general manager at Labor-controlled Fairfield City and Parramatta Councils before becoming director-general of the NSW Housing Department when Housing Minister was Carl Scully.

The taskforce’s mission is to represent its clients at the highest levels of state – and now federal – government. Its website promises members that it will deliver “regular meetings between the Urban Taskforce and state and federal government ministers and senior bureaucrats”.

In particular, two new ministers from Sydney – Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for Housing – can expect a knock on the door from taskforce reps any day now.

The timing is excruciating: just as America’s political culture is attempting to rid itself of the baleful influence of lobbyists, the Rudd Government is opening golden opportunities for a new fraternity who previously have been hanging around the governments of Bob Carr and Morris Iemma (NSW), Steve Bracks and John Brumby (Victoria), Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh (Queensland), Mike Rann (SA), Alan Carpenter (WA) and Paul Lennon (Tasmania).

The message is out: the m-a-a-a-tes are back in Canberra. Is head prefect Rudd ready for this onslaught and what will he do about it?

Peter Fray

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