|Issue No 79||24 November 2000|
What do you do to a Tool who sends his state to the brink with string of dodgy business deals? Reward him with the Federal Ministry of Finance of course!
John Fahey is a serial financial bungler. If you wanted to help him set up a small business, you'd give him a big business and come back six months later. To put it bluntly, Fahey struggles with numbers; since school when he could never get the hang of those pesky long divisions.
It's Fahey's problems with numbers that seen the Howard government's IT outsourcing policy fall into a massive heap in recent weeks. After forking out several hundred million crisp Australian notes into the project to shift IT expertise out of the public sector, the only people to walk away happy have been the Stateside spivs, who advised him on the deal. The master plan was to save taxpayers a projected $1 billion over eight years. As the Auditor-General has reported, after four years savings are less than $70 million - less than the consultants' annual IOU. Fahey has instituted a lame duck review to report behind closed doors to Max the Axe by Christmas; Labor is pushing for a more public review of the Finance Ministers work.
The financial botch-up should come as no surprise to those who remember Fahey from his days as the high-leaping Premier who won the Games bid and mismanaged the State for the period between Nick Greniers self-immolation and Bob Carr's rise to power.
Ministers in the new Carr Government are still finding new evidence of Fahey's inability to handle public finances. The most recent revelation surrounds the Airport Rail Link, where the Fahey Government rushed through a contract effectively indemnifying the private operators of the railway if it emerged that the rail line was not making huge profits by Christmas. Given the operators are charging the equivalent of an average weekly wage for a trip on the airport train, this has now eventuated, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.
News of the Airport Link debacle follows hot on the heels of new increases in the private toll roads, allowed under the contracts that the Fahey Government cooked up with the private sector during those salad days of NSW Inc. Under the M4 and M5 deals, the road operators had the discretion to increase the toll as their balance sheet dictates, seemingly, in perpetuity.
But probably Fahey's greatest legacy to the people of NSW was his vandalism of the state's workers compensation scheme. In the early 90s the WorkCover scheme was rocking along, big surplus on the back of some tough reforms from the Unsworth government. Then IR minister Fahey got his hands into it - increase benefits, cutting premiums as he tried to court favour on both sides of the industrial divide. And as a special offering to his lawyer mates, Fahey took the step of reinstating common law claims. All these steps were carried out against the advice of the WorkCover Board. Combined, this created a wave that hit the Carr Government three years later in the form of a giant projected deficit and continues to hang over the scheme.
Once he'd lost his job in NSW and walked into a federal seat, it was only natural that Howard would put him in a portfolio that would match his experience. Hence, Finance. So anyone looking for a Christmas present for the innumerate Southern Highlander could do worse than opting for a set of cuisenaire rods. That, or an abacus.
Interview: Back on Track
After blowing the whistle on rail privatization, NSW Transport Minister Carl Scully is rebuilding bridges with the trade union movement.
Unions: The Problem with Organising
It may be the new mantra, but Brisbane Institute director Peter Botsman argues that organising may be the wrong to go for a movement attempting to attract a new breed of workers.
International: Burma: Workers Act on ILO Ruling
Energy workers' trade unions across the Asia-Pacific have urged Western oil and gas companies to "cease investment in Burma while the use of forced labour continues".
Economics: Rethinking Incomes Policy
While many have thrown incomes policy out with the Acoord bathwater, Graham White argues it still has a role to play.
History: What Goes Around Comes Around
Labor Council's Mark Lennon argues that while trade unions - and labour history - might be unfashionable, there's life left in both of them.
Education: Peas in a Pod
Both sides of politics must take blame for funding levels in our public schools, argues NSW Teachers Federation president Sue Simpson.
Satire: Hurley Rebukes Actors' Guild: I'm No Actor!
Liz Hurley has responded angrily to claims by actors that she crossed a picket line by filming an Estee Lauder ad.
Review: It's Only a Job
In a stunning new book, author Phil Thornton and photographer Paul Jones have combined to portray working life in all its diversity through the eyes of ordinary people like process worker Sharonak Shannon
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005