western sydney airport taxpayers farm
(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

PAYING THE FIELD

A damning report by the Australian National Audit Office has found that the federal government bought land from dairy farm operator Leppington Pastoral Company at 10 times its market value while developing Western Sydney Airport.

As The New Daily explains, the government purchased the 12-hectare block of land known as “the Leppington Triangle” for $29.8 million in 2018, but financial statements from the Department of Infrastructure 11 months later valued the plot at just over $3 million. The report finds that the department’s due diligence “fell short of ethical standards” and that its advice “on value for money was inadequate and unreliable”, while department secretary Simon Atkinson announced that an independent review and management reviews of staff have been launched.

Claiming “this deal stinks”, Labor’s shadow infrastructure minister Catherine King notes that an entity also named Leppington Pastoral Company donated nearly $59,000 to the Liberals in 2018 and 2019; a spokesperson for Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge alleges that there “is no question of ministerial involvement” and the matter “goes to the administrative actions of the department, more than two years ago”.

RENEWABLES LEFT BY THE ROADSIDE

The Conversation reports that Angus Taylor’s “technology investment roadmap” will require key agencies — ARENA, CEFC and the Clean Energy Regulator — to prioritise investments in five “low emissions” technologies, none of which, you may notice, are forms of renewable energy: clean hydrogen; energy storage; green steel and aluminium; soil carbon projects; and finally, a “new” technology Australia wasted roughly $1.3 billion on between 2003-2017, carbon capture and storage.

The Morrison government intends to spend $18 billion through to 2030 under annual roadmaps, has created four “stretch goals” for all technologies save hydrogen, and will receive regular advice from a new body consisting of chief scientist Alan Finkel, the chairs of all energy regulators and operators, Macquarie Group’s Shemara Wikramanayake, former Business Council president Grant King, and senior bureaucrats.

Taylor will use his National Press Club speech today to argue that the energy efficiency and storage technologies will help “avoid” 250 million tonnes of emissions a year by 2040; for context, Australia hit a record 537.5 million tonnes in 2018 even using our dodgy “negative” land use trick, a figure that fell just 0.9% last year.

DIRTY MONEY SCANDAL TOTALLY STINKS

As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism continues to release the “FinCEN Files“, a mass leak of secret bank reports into anti-money-laundering practices, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that close to US$167 million ($230m) in potential dirty money transactions have flown through Macquarie Group and Commonwealth Bank.

The anti-monitoring reports, which come from Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, and Standard Chartered as part of their US reporting requirements, reveal that Macquarie accounted for at least US$123 million in flagged transactions and CBA hit US$44 million. ANZ Bank, when including its Hong Kong branch, also made up US$4.7 million.

For more on the 16-month-long investigation by 400 global journalists, check out this week’s Background Briefing.

WHAT NEXT FOR VICTORIA ?

Finally, after Victoria recorded two consecutive days of new COVID-19 cases in the 10s, public health experts speaking to The Age have urged Dan Andrews not to bow to public pressure and to maintain the state’s roadmap out of lockdown until key caseload targets — i.e. fortnightly averages of 5 and 0 new cases — are met.

As Andrews holds off from making promises based on the two day rate but prepares for an update this Sunday, the Mornington Peninsula Leader notes that region is COVID-19 free but still subject to stage four restrictions along with metropolitan Melbourne.

Elsewhere, the latest Newspoll ($) puts state-wide support for his handling of the crisis at 62%, while national support for the state’s restrictions also sit at 61%

PS: On the other side of the world, ABC reports that Prime Minster Boris Johnson is expected to announce new restrictions after the UK’s top government scientists warned the country could hit nearly 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October if the current infection rate does not drop.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do.

Twitter

The social media giant cops to the fact that, if you post a picture of a black face and a white face, chances are their image cropping algorithm will display the latter even when they’re from dogs and cartoons.

CRIKEY RECAP

Revealed: the Liberal, Murdoch networks making millions delivering ‘Uber for aged care’

“An Inq investigation has found that an organisation appointed by the federal government to provide a surge workforce for aged care facilities is backed by a powerful business network which includes Liberal Party donors, members and campaign helpers.

“Online workforce platform Mable Technologies was awarded a $5.8 million contract without open tender in April to provide emergency staff for COVID-affected aged care homes.

“Within four days of being appointed, however, the company was unable to provide staff for Sydney’s Newmarch aged care facility, leaving Newmarch — which had lost 87% of its staff — to beg the federal health department to find ‘other avenues … to source suitable and skilled staff’.”


The closed-door contracts flourishing in these COVID times

“Mable is not the first company to benefit from a limited tender contract since COVID began.

“Aspen Medical was one of the first to clip the ticket on the government’s pandemic response. The firm, which employs former Liberal health minister Michael Wooldridge as one of its key lobbyists, was sent in to deal with the Ruby Princess debacle, and has also been awarded millions to help clean up the aftermath of the catastrophic aged care outbreaks, including Newmarch House in western Sydney and St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Melbourne.”


Arts companies are fighting to the death for crisis funds

“Six months into the pandemic and only now are various groups starting to find out if they’re eligible to apply for any of the scarce federal government crisis funding or even scarcer state funds.

“The messy and vague process is pitting large organisations against small, and solvent against bankrupt, in what is being dubbed the ‘arts hunger games’.

“Ironically, an industry traditionally defensive of free speech has now hunkered down with most arts bodies refusing to speak about the whole process lest they jeopardise any chance of support.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Queensland police employee suspended after Aboriginal woman dies in custody

Malka Leifer, alleged paedophile, should be extradited to Australia, Israeli court rules

Australia to get 25 million trees to help recover from last summer’s bushfires

Mission to save 270 whales stranded off Tasmania’s remote west coast

Superannuation increase faces growing opposition from Government MPs and economists

Housing demand to collapse as population growth falters

Queensland election: Clive Palmer effects a $1m boost to war chest ($)

Rio Tinto expected to destroy 124 more Aboriginal sites, inquiry told

Huawei reveals $100m local cost of ‘cold war’ ($)

ACT Labor to roll out free early learning for three-year-olds, as Canberra Liberals plan new mental health facilities

China to lose access to Swedish-owned satellites in Australia due to ‘complex’ relationship

THE COMMENTARIAT

‘White Australia’ policy lives on in immigration detention Behrouz Boochani (The New York Times): “Growing up in a Kurdish family in the Ilam Province of Iran, I never expected my life to be affected by Australia’s history of white supremacy and settler colonialism. I had little awareness of Australia, a faraway country founded as a penal colony, and built on the massacres of its Indigenous people and on European migration. It was to be decades before I would hear about the White Australia policy, an official state immigration policy, in effect between 1901 and 1973, barring nonwhite people from immigrating to the country and intent on making Australia a white nation.”

Coronavirus: Global data show our vulnerability to a third wave ($) — Greg Sheridan (The Australian): “It’s the last thing anyone will want to hear. But based on contemporary international experience, Victoria could face a devastating third wave of COVID-19, as infection rates soar in Europe, the US passes the grim milestone of 200,000 dead from the virus, Israel enters a severe second lockdown with citizens restricted to within 500m of their homes and one in five Brits operating under some form of restrictions as Boris Johnson sees a second wave of infections and publicly considers a second, short lockdown.”

Australian universities cower as disaster loomsJenna Price (The Sydney Morning Herald): “This tragedy is not a product of any real ideological war. It is not developed enough for that. It is anti-university partisanship, a judgment made by those in the Coalition who think that university employees would never vote for the Coalition so why bother to protect them. What better time to punish them than straight after the damage wrought by COVID-19? By all means, put the boot in when the victim is down, when it can’t even defend itself.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The parliamentary COVID-19 inquiry will take evidence from Women’s Legal Services, Family Day Care Australia, Women in Super, Australian Human Rights Commission, and Office for Women in DPMC.

Australia

  • Journalist Marian Wilkinson will discuss her latest book The Carbon Club and Australia’s history of climate inaction with Crikey’s editor-in-chief Peter Fray and me, Chris Woods, today at 1pm AEST. This event is for our Inside Access members — you can upgrade here or become a member here.