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.