NSW Deputy Premier and Environment Minister Carmel Tebbutt and Planning Minister Kristina Keneally are heading for a showdown over a $150 million development in Tebbutt’s inner-city electorate of Marrickville.

Tebbutt is from the ALP’s Catholic left and Keneally from the Catholic right.

Tebbutt is married to federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese and Keneally’s husband Ben is a senior NSW bureaucrat in charge of offloading the state-owned ferries to the private sector.

Keneally has “called in” a massive development proposed along Old Canterbury Road in Lewisham which is within the borders of Tebbutt’s electorate. She has made herself the final consent authority on the five-tower development which will include two 14-level towers, one 12-level tower, plus 524 residential units and a 9,000 square metre retail space for a supermarket, liquor store and 15 specialty shops.

The developer is a $1, one-share company called Demian Developments Pty Ltd which, according to Greens MP Sylvia Hale, has donated $20,000 to the NSW Labor Party since 2002. Certainly, the company is well-connected, as Ms Hale explained in the NSW Upper House.

“Accessing the Labor old mates’ network, Demian has engaged the former Minister for many things, Carl Scully, to argue its case to his former colleagues,” she told MPs.

Scully, a former Police Minister and Transport Minister, retired from parliament before the March 2007 state election after his ambition to be premier was dashed by his former factional associates, Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid.

This is not the first time that the Parramatta and Silverwater-based Demian group has been in the sights of the Greens. In March 2007 Ms Hale called on former Planning Minister Frank Sartor to block Bankstown Council’s rezoning application to allow the development company to build a five-storey commercial premises, gated community and marina on the site of the Riverlands Golf Course.

Two years later, the project remains log jammed and going nowhere, due to council objections.

According to ASIC records, the original sole director of the company was 46-year-old Charbel Demian, born in the Lebanese town of Koubayat.

Marrickville Council, with five Green councillors, four Labor and three independents, is deeply divided over the multi-million-dollar project. A Greens motion calling on Keneally to reject the development application was deadlocked six-all but the Labor mayor’s casting vote saw the motion lost.

Locals fear that the development will cause gridlock in the adjacent streets and lead to the ruin of many local family businesses.

With the Greens hopeful of winning Marrickville at the state election in March 2011, Tebbutt is under pressure to declare where she stands on the Demian project.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey