The mind-boggling stupidity of Michael McCormack

By October 21, 2020Australian Politics

As I have related elsewhere, there is a rancid smell of corruption around the federal government handing over $29 million to the billion dollar Leppington Pastoral Company in 2018 for land next to Western Sydney Airport at Badgery’s Creek, only for the Commonwealth to value the 12 hectares at just $3 million less than a year later. The Auditor-General released a damning report into the Paul Fletcher’s federal Department of Infrastructure’s purchase of the land in 2018, parts of which “fell short of ethical standards”. This $29 million was 22 times more per hectare than the NSW government shelled out for another 1.36-hectare slice of the Leppington dairy farming property at Bringelly to build a road. Leppington Pastoral Company is a donor to the Liberal party, contributing $58,800 in donations in 2018-20191,2. This land was purchased in anticipation that a second runway would be needed at the airport in about 20503.

The urban infrastructure minister at the time, Paul Fletcher, resorted to the Sergeant Schultz defence (‘I know nothing’)4, in stating that the details of the purchase were ‘concealed’ from him3. Following the Auditor-General’s report, the Department of Infrastructure committed itself to investigating what happened, and eventually decided to refer it to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for investigation, only to find that the Auditor-General had already done so. The current Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister would not say whether the Department’s report of its investigation would be made public, but said “The right measures will be put into place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again” and “the money that we spent was way too much”6.

Yet, Michael McCormack, speaking on the RWNJ radio station, 2GB, in late September said that the purchase would be seen as a bargain, saying “Eventually when there is a need [for] more runways and more infrastructure to be built at Western Sydney Airport, they’ll look back and say, probably, ‘What a bargain that was’.” While McCormack is prone to the odd brain fart, and could have disavowed this, saying he misspoke (as politicians often do), he did not. When asked by Labor MP Catherine King in Question Time on October 20: “Does the deputy prime minister still say paying $30 million for a piece of land valued at $3 million is a bargain when the federal police are investigating and his own department says there is no evidence the purchase is a good investment?”, he replied in part: “What I said was, in time, when – when we look back at this and we say, ‘Well, at least the land next to the Western Sydney airport is commonwealth-owned’. It will cost a lot more in the future had it not been bought now”7.

The thought processes, or lack of them, behind McCormack’s statement are impossible to comprehend. The commonwealth bought this land in 2018 for 10 times the price of its subsequent valuation. What the price of the land will be in future is immaterial. If you have any sense, you buy land for about the current market price, which in this case is probably somewhere less than the $3 million valuation. However, this does not take into account that the sellers of the land are big Liberal Party donors and taxpayers’ funds are regularly shovelled to such donors. The sellers will no doubt be expected to donate a proportion of their ‘windfall’ to the Coalition parties. This is the simple corruption that is standard operating procedure for the Morrison government and this is one instance the Coalition are desperately trying to cover up.

The fact that McCormack could stand up in parliament and utter the drivel he did, in an attempt to deflect attention from the corruption can lead one to conclude only that he is a profoundly stupid man, or thinks those who vote are. For this puerile rubbish, he is paid $416,212 per annum; $8,000 a week. He is an embarrassment to the parliament, and to the nation.

Sources

  1. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/billionaire-family-s-windfall-gain-tip-of-iceberg-for-land-sales-near-new-airport-20200922-p55xz4.html
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/sep/21/government-paid-10-times-too-much-for-land-at-western-sydney-airport-to-be-used-after-2050
  3. https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2020/10/06/leppington-triangle-airport-investigation/
  4. http://www.blotreport.com/2018/09/17/scott-morrison-as-sergeant-schultz/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/16/federal-police-will-investigate-30m-western-sydney-airport-land-purchase
  6. https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2020/10/06/leppington-triangle-airport-investigation/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2020/oct/20/coronavirus-australia-live-updates-parliament-resumes-as-nsw-health-urges-more-covid-testing-politics-live?page=with:block-5f8e643c8f0898b435917d15#liveblog-navigation

6 Comments

  • Arthur Baker says:

    This goes to your reply to one of my comments on the 19 October article “Horizontal distraction”: “that the greedy bastards with a modicum of intelligence tend to go into business, while it is the thick who seem to choose politics.”

    Oh yes indeed. The politician McCormack is indubitably three-short-planks material, while the dairy farmer and seriously rich western Sydney businessman Tony Perich OAM of Leppington Pastoral Company is anything but stupid. As this article mentions (http://benhills.com/articles/scams-scoundrels/the-invisible-airport/) this is not the first time Perich has taken the federal government to the cleaners over the sale of his land. Back in late 1999 Perich grabbed $21.5 million for a parcel of 38 hectares at (on the face of it) more than half a mill a hectare.

    On that occasion, Perich claims, only $1m was for the land, $2m for his legal costs, $4m to cover interest, and the remaining $14m for the relocation of his dairy and other facilities to another part of his land. Make of that what you will.

    Fast forward to 2018 and we have the $30 mill “Leppington triangle” payment at something like 10 times the actual value of the land. Hey, we’ve been through this movie before. But if there was no relocation involved this time around, it’s harder to justify the seemingly vast overpayment.

    Which goes to prove what I commented two days ago about the rules of making a quid on the side. Not so much the “(a) Nothing written down” bit, because in a land acquisition you’re going to have to write stuff down, inevitably. But the “(b) Don’t get greedy” rule is up there with flashing lights on and a klaxon going ARROOGA! ARROOGA! ARROOGA!” fit to burst.

    A well-understood requirement of the “Don’t get greedy” rule is that if you’re setting up a Nice Little Earner (NLE), the last thing you want is to be a statistical outlier. Because people (like cops, regulators, the general public) will let statistically insignificant NLEs sail past them, sometimes for years, often for ever. But a statistically outlying NLE demands attention. The public notices, then regulators do, then cops can’t ignore it.

    10x the going price? Double might have sailed through to the wicket-keeper unnoticed. Going price and a half might have been safer and get-away-with-able. But 10x? As I said, stupid, stupid, stupid.

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      It does make me wonder if the tossers that go into politics to enrich themselves, have already tried business and failed, or at least not made as much cash as they feel entitled. So, politics is for them.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    You and Arthur are so correct. I just made the mistake of reading the wikipedia entry for McCormack. I had only ever regarded him as a very dim National Party apparatchik but I undersold his stupidity. He seems to be the classic example of the sort of idiot that is now rampant in our governments, at all levels. The really dim. non perceptive, greedy smart arse. They are very stupid, but they think they are quite clever. They also think that the rest of us are stupid. On this last point, to a significant extent, readers of this blog and a few others excepted, they are probably right.

    • admin says:

      Mark,
      That is the very definition of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The thick overestimate their abilities. This lot have it in spades.

  • Warren says:

    Australian and indeed the world have allowed a new breed of human to take over. Tim Ferguson has labelled them The Untrustables.
    I reckon Greedy/Lying/Stupidity Conversion Therapy should be compulsory for all pollies and others in positions of influence. Three strikes and you are out.

    • admin says:

      Warren,

      Good name. I watched a Bill Maher blurb, which says, in a very different way, something that I have been saying for a while, that the constitutions of various countries were written under the misapprehension that politicians would be honourable. That is clearly shown to be a severe misapprehension in Australia by the monumental amount of corruption by members of the Coalition parties. As Maher said in the US context, the constitution needs to have everything written down, because if it is not written down then it is able to be subverted.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Bitnami