Given growing distrust over the nexus between decision making and political donations, the meteoric downfall of Frank Sartor, and public disdain for nearly every major development booked by the New South Wales Government in the last three years, newly-minted Planning Minister Kristina Keneally might have been hoping for a saintly fanfare. Instead the pilgrims are getting restless.
Little is known of Labor’s rising star, Kristina Keneally. She met her husband at World Youth Day in 1991. This year, she ran World Youth Day. Perhaps you recall the bubbly American proclaiming your joy in surrendering your rights for the Pope. Media commentators have identified her as belonging to “the Terrigals”, the power-hungry, right-wing sub-faction of NSW Labor that brought you Michael Costa, Joe Tripodi, Mark Arbib and Morris Iemma, for whom her husband was, until recently, Deputy Chief-of-Staff.
Keneally now inherits the PR-challenged Planning and Redfern-Waterloo ministries from fallen cement czar, Frank Sartor.
She described her new role as “one where you need to evaluate a variety of views and certainly it's one that requires both integrity and honesty”.
“It's something that the previous minister Frank Sartor had and I hope that the community sees that in me as well,” she said.
Under Sartor, section 3A of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act became a source of near absolute power. Lord Mayor Clover Moore looks forward to working on her 2030 Vision for Sydney with Keneally, but wants corrective action taken in state parliament.
“The controversial legislative changes introduced by her predecessor need to be repealed so that multi-million dollar developments can't be approved behind closed doors without public accountability or contestability,” said Moore.
She maintains the panel of public review appointed hastily by Sartor fails, by its very nature, to restore public faith in sensitive planning decisions - especially now that “appeal rights have been virtually abolished”.
When claims of corruption first surfaced in the media earlier this year, discussion turned to technical and legal definitions before ex-Premier Morris Iemma chilled journalists with the spectre of legal action.
Moore maintains questions remain that Planning Minister Keneally needs to address as a matter of priority.
“This is a sensitive role in a high risk area of government, and in addition to disclosing donations, the government needs to reverse the disturbing and unnecessary concentration of planning power vested in the Minister with inadequate transparency.”
Barely a week into her role, Keneally did announce new disclosure laws.
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