2019 year in review by ALEC SMART
City Hub begins the year reporting on the proposed demolition and replacement of the Sydney Football Stadium, known commercially as the Allianz Stadium, at Moore Park. Ironically, in the last week of 2019, City Hub is again reporting on it following the announcement the NSW Govt will go an estimated $99 million over the $730 million budget to complete the stage 2 rebuild project.
In the interim, LendLease, which won the secretive stage 1 contract to demolish the stadium (despite accounting firm KPMG advising that the cost benefit ratio for the whole project was not positive), is suddenly struck off the stage 2 rebuild after the NSW Govt declares they will .. wait for it .. go over budget.
Another story we focus on in January that rears its ugly head again in December is the Powerhouse Museum relocation to Parramatta. While the Ultimo site will be handed over to developers to build four apartment towers up to 68 storeys high, at the Parramatta end a significantly smaller venue on a flood-prone site will take custody of tens of thousands of historic items. Many of these, like a 24 tonne, 165-year-old locomotive made of brittle metal, are vulnerable to breakage during transit.
In other news, the Lockout Laws are crippling night traders and venues; Sydney’s south east light rail link construction limps along as businesses along its route are forced to close due to its impact; and 185,000 buildings across NSW are inspected for flammable cladding (after the horrific Grenfell apartment tower fire in London that resulted in 72 deaths) with 438 requiring ‘further assessment’, including the ABC’S Ultimo building, which requires a $33 million renovation.
City Hub tackles the issue of air quality around the WestConnex construction sites, where high levels of particulates and dust swirl around schools and playgrounds. Anyone living near these construction zones, for example around Sydney Park in St Peters, will be familiar with the near-constant film of dust that settles on cars and windows.
Racism was also on the rise with the annual Chinese New Year celebrations marred by several incidents of discrimination.
State elections are coming in March and there is talk the Berejiklian Liberal Govt might be replaced as candidates start canvassing for votes.
Small respite with the much-despised LockOut Laws despite a big rally calling for change: City of Sydney will lift the curfew for one night in March to celebrate Mardis Gras.
Mardis Gras is upon us as the city fills with festive cheer and the streets close for the annual parade.
With just weeks until the NSW State Election the wrecking ball is temporarily paused over the Sydney Football Stadium as an injunction is served to halt demolition. Opponents vow to save the stadium if they get elected, but their hopes are dashed; the stadium is wrecked hours before the voting begins, ensuring it must be replaced regardless of which party comes to power.
Frustrated by the disruptive and slow light rail construction works, with businesses along the route closing as a result, Angela Vithoulkas launches the Small Business Party. One of their main programs is to seek compensation for those traders badly affected.
City Hub reveals the NSW Police ‘Dob in a Dealer’ campaign, launched in January to target drug dealers, is relatively ineffective. A new strategy begins with high-profile drug-sniffing dogs at railway stations and music festivals, however as public inquiries launched later in the year reveal, you have nothing to fear except the removal of your underwear, especially if you’re a child…
The NSW election takes place and although there are healthy results among some Greens and Independents, some guy in a suit that headed the NSW Labor Party, whose name no one can remember, fails to get the top job and the woman with the unpronounceable surname is returned to power.
Premier Berejiklian continues the destruction, er, construction schemes she began when she was NSW Transport Minister. The Sydney Gateway, another tollroad motorway in development, announces it will push cyclists off the bike path beside Sydney Airport so cars can rule right up to the riverbank.
WestConnex is in the spotlight again as a contractor on the tunnel construction is found to have toxic mould growing in his ear. Simultaneously, hundreds of residents discuss a class action for compensation as cracks appear in buildings neighbouring WestConnex’s construction and digging sites.
Campaigners for retaining Yarra Bay in Botany Bay as a bay, and not a mega cruise ship terminal, step up a gear. But the NSW Govt won’t reveal its business case for dredging decades of toxic sludge and driving away a seal colony to allow the docking of ships so high they’ll strike the undercarriages of incoming passenger jets.
City Hub meets Australian Labor Party Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek, in advance of the Australian General Election on 18 May. She’s charming and intelligent, with many progressive policies, but when it comes to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian journalist incarcerated in London for revealing US war crimes to the world, her basic response is ‘throw him to the wolves’.
Waverley Council submit plans for the restoration and upgrade of Bondi Pavilion, which was nearly lost to history when a previous administration was poised to privatise and rebuild the historic community arts centre for commercial interests.
Purchasers of over 100 new apartments in Erskineville are prevented from moving in after the buildings failed safety standards due to contaminated soil. Months later they’ll still be homeless and in limbo.
Measles is on the rise, particularly in popular tourist destinations throughout south-east Asia and the Melanesian and Polynesian islands. This is largely due to fear of vaccinations, spread by disinformation campaigns, but the result means unvaccinated people contract the disease in Australia, and among those affected overseas a substantial proportion die.
City Hub attends a meet-the-candidates function in Paddington for the community to question their political leaders. Dave Sharma, Liberal Party candidate, refuses to attend and meet his electorate. Curiously, this tactic succeeds as he wins back the seat he lost when he was parachuted in to replace outgoing PM Malcolm Turnbull.
Simultaneously, the Liberal-National Party coalition returns to power under pious Bible-thumping Prime Minister Scott ‘ScoMo’ Morrison, whose mentor is a Pentecostal preacher that hid the crimes of his child molesting father.
Water restrictions set in as the long-running drought affects Sydney’s primary source of drinking water, Warragamba Dam.
Private transport operator, Sydney Metro, which co-opted some of the north-western railway stations for its own service, opens along its northern link, with driverless trains.
Notorious ‘Backpacker Killer’ Ivan Milat is transferred from Goulburn Jail to Randwick’s Prince of Wales Hospital, and then on to Long Bay Jail in Malabar, where it is announced the brutal serial murderer is dying from throat and stomach cancer.
City Hub reaches out to an ailing fellow media publication, Star Observer, Sydney’s longest-running gay and lesbian magazine, which moves in and thrives under the Alt-Media publishing roof.
Rallies begin to pressure the NSW Govt to decriminalise abortion, in line with all other states and territories in Australia.
International pressure increases for Australian authorities to intercede in the long-running incarceration of Australian journalist Julian Assange. Assange, who published evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, was arrested after he was turfed-out from his 7-year asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and marched off to Belmarsh Prison to await extradition to the USA.
Residents of Mascot Towers were urgently evacuated from the 10-storey apartment blocks after cracks are discovered throughout the building. The company that constructed a neighbouring complex are initially blamed, until they demonstrate that the cracks were documented when they did their own surveys of the area 3 years earlier, before they started work. Then it is revealed that Mascot Towers owners were aware of most of the cracks since 2011 and had struck a financial deal with the builders to waive responsibility.
Cracks also appear in apartments in Zetland, necessitating evacuation.
Sculptures by the Sea announce their intention to walk away from 22 years of exhibiting along the Eastern Suburbs seafront, blaming Waverley Council’s decision to build a path for wheelchair users. City Hub questions this excuse and cites multiple financial incentives to pursue more lucrative display sites elsewhere as a more likely motive for leaving.
WestConnex is again upbraided for air quality, this time concerning extractor funnels dispersing exhaust fumes into densely-populated areas.
Talented sports star Israel Folau is sacked by Rugby NSW for posting homophobic slurs and comments on social media, which prompts Prime Minister ScoMo to propose drafting a Religious Freedom Bill, to permit bigots to say what they like under the protection of religious belief.
Lendlease are kicked off the Sydney Football Stadium rebuild contract for their alleged likelihood to go over the NSW Govt’s budget, although the Govt has since awarded the contract to Chinese multinational John Holland, who actually will go over budget – to an estimated $99 million blowout.
Star Casino’s attempt to build a high-rise hotel above their Pyrmont premises is rejected by the NSW Dept Planning and the Independent Planning Commission.
Campaigners to retain the T3 Bankstown rail line claim the NSW Govt failed to consult the public on its Metro Southwest private rail construction project. They also claim around 19,000 passengers will be forced to catch three separate trains on their daily commute to the city, because the ‘Bankstown line upgrade’ only replaces 3 of the existing 9 stations along the Bankstown line with the new Metro service.
Provocative sandwich board sign wearer Danny Lim, who was arrested in 2018 for a sign that called ex-PM Tony Abbot a ‘cvn’t’, is signed-up by City Hub to appear on the cover of our annual Best of Sydney edition, c-words notwithstanding.
NSW Police strip-searches increase, much to the public’s chagrin, and City Hub reveals a disproportionate amount of indigenous youth are being targeted.
Shock-jock 2GB DJ Alan Jones oversteps his usual offensive limit when he criticises New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern, whom he insists should be choked with a sock by our own PM ScoMo. Jones objects to Ardern criticising Australia’s poor environmental record. An advertiser boycott leads to calls for his sacking, but 2GB weathers the storm and the advertisers inevitably trickle back, like the previous times he overstepped the mark of decency.
Provocative sandwich board sign wearer Danny Lim appears in court for a sign that used a corruption of the C-word, but he is let off by a judge who describes him as ‘provocative and cheeky’.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hears about dodgy dealings involving both major political parties and Chinese businessmen carrying cash in Aldi shopping bags, affecting decisions on the Crown Casino under construction at Barangaroo.
80,000 people, predominantly school kids, march from The Domain to Hyde Park in Sydney as part of a Global Climate Strike to support immediate action on climate change, inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Afterwards on Facebook, a reactionary group calling itself Australian Youth Coal Coalition (AYCC), run a photo of piles of rubbish, captioned: “Look at the mess today’s climate protestors left behind in beautiful Hyde Park. So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad.” However, the photo did not come from the Sydney rally, nor from Australia, although it did come from a Hyde Park … in London. After AYCC are ridiculed, they replace it with a picture of a clean park, captioned: “After the mess left behind by the climate protestors, a group of young coal supporters volunteered to do a big clean up. This is the result. Well done to them..” Curiously, there are no pictures of the ‘volunteers’ and again AYCC get it hopelessly wrong – it is the same London Hyde Park, 17,000 km away.
Tree conservation amendments in the inner-west has tree lovers fuming that a ‘massacre’ is imminent.
Aboriginal deaths in custody raised its ugly head again, especially in light of the fact that although Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders make up 5% of the national population, 70% of youths in custody are from indigenous backgrounds.
Another shock-jock DJ, KIIS FM’s Kyle Sandilands, makes divisive comments, this time offending the very people who would normally rush to his defence: conservative Christians. Sandilands raises eyebrows when he declares Jesus’ mother Mary was not a virgin prior to the immaculate conception, and instead “someone chock-a-blocked her behind the camel shed!”
The NSW Govt votes to decriminalise abortion, the last Australian state to revise the law, and also makes it illegal to protest within 150 metres of an abortion clinic, preventing fundamentalist Christians from harassing women utilising the service.
WestConnex begin construction on their Rozelle Interchange, felling trees at Buruwan Park, redirecting pathways and generally infuriating residents surrounding the construction site.
Poisoned dog bait is found scattered in Enmore park, following a pattern of poisoned meat left across other Sydney parks in the Eastern Suburbs, which resulted in the death of one pet.
More dangerous buildings in Sydney: this time 4-year-old apartments in Rosebery, where balconies children play on are deemed ‘unsafe’.
Shock-Jock Alan Jones shows he’s not really sorry for suggesting the NZ PM be choked with a sock by attacking Coles, one of the principle and principled sponsors who boycotted his program.
Newspaper front pages across Australia are blacked-out in a rare show of media solidarity on 21 Oct. This is organised in advance and in secret to criticise Govt censorship and police raids on the homes of journalists investigating human rights abuses.
Julian Assange’s health is revealed to be seriously declining but the Aust Govt still refuses to intercede.
Serial killer Ivan Milat dies in Long Bay Jail but he takes his nasty secrets to the grave, and leaves his last remaining assets to one of his brothers, who may have assisted him during his long killing spree.
George Pell, is granted another appeal against his six year sentence for child sexual abuse. Pell still carries the title Cardinal, because the Catholic Church won’t remove his official titles until all appeals against his child molestation convictions are exhausted, which may continue for centuries after the 78-year-old has expired and been canonised as a saint.
A popular Aboriginal football program on Aussie Rules – which is highly likely to have been inspired by the similar indigenous game, Marn Grook, when it is invented in 1858 – is axed on TV.
Reverend Ray Richmond, who helped homeless people at Kings Cross’ Wayside Capel and opened Sydney’s first safe drug-injecting room during the 1990s drug epidemic, passes away.
The Deputy Coroner overseeing an inquiry into drug deaths at music festivals criticises NSW Police tactic of strip-searching and sniffing with drug dogs. The inquiry finds that hundreds of children have been stripped by police under the probably illegal pretext of looking for illegal drugs, and that young women aged 25 and under account for almost half of all strip-searches.
Meriton’s plans to turn Little Bay in Sydney’s south into a Gold Coast-style metropolis are resisted by locals, who suspect it is linked to the Yarra Bay mega cruise ship terminal the NSW Govt is pursuing nearby.
Star Casino’s appeal for their high-rise tower in Pyrmont is rejected by the Independent Planning Commission. Perhaps they don’t have access to those Chinese millionaires carrying Aldi bags full of cash associated with Crown Casino.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is ambush-filmed by Channel 7 leaving Melbourne Assessment Prison where he claims he is ‘just visiting a friend’. That friend happens to be a convicted child molester. That friend happens to be his mentor, Cardinal George Pell.
New cameras to record mobile phone usage while driving are rolled out across NSW.
The CBD & South East light rail link opens and experiences technical problems with trams grinding to a halt on its opening weekend.
Apocalyptic Bushfires raging across NSW, incinerating wildlife and homes, bring dense smog to Sydney CBD and ash washes up along harbour beaches. Prime Minister ScoMo takes off on holiday to Bali, refusing to believe the fires are climate change linked. Senior fire officers reveal they tried several times to discuss the coming fire season and accelerated levels of danger with ScoMo throughout the year but were rebuffed.
There are calls to cancel Sydney’s traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks and donate the millions that they usually cost to rural fire services, who have experienced cutbacks due to the NSW Govt’s budgetary restrictions.
ScoMo releases the revised draft of his Religious Freedom Bill, which the LGBTQI community insists still discriminates against them.
The winning design for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta is announced, which critics compare to a milk crate or stilts – the latter ironic because the building will be constructed on a known flood plain.