Bulletin 25: 27 April 2018

It has been two months since the last bulletin because ‘an announcement’ and the release of the Powerhouse Business Plans have been ‘imminent’. But the latest news cannot be ignored.

The most infuriating thing is that if the government entered into dialogue with the enormous reservoir of skills that constitute the opposition to the present government proposal on shifting the Powerhouse Museum, we could have a far better outcome for Parramatta plus the retention of the Powerhouse Museum in its unique heritage buildings at less cost than the “move” thought bubble.

But the government’s intransigence is unbelievable. The original thought bubble was criticised by the entire Sydney arts establishment. A huge popular movement forced a Parliamentary Inquiry where evidence against the move came from every organisation from the National Trust to the Harden-Murrumburrah Historical Society, and by 123 individuals including people with far more expertise than the hapless SES employees that have been forced by their employment agreements to prepare the government’s case for their thought bubble idea. The proposal was clearly demonstrated to be a financial disaster and a wanton destruction of heritage. It also does not have the support of the Parramatta people, who would prefer something different. The proposal has never been properly discussed by elected local government. In particular, the site purchased by the government was actively opposed by the previous elected council, carried through by an unelected administrator, and has not been mentioned to the newly elected council. Sham consultation meetings were eventually held last July, and not one of the substantive questions raised at the meetings has been answered: the government’s own publicity website https://new.maas.museum/ has had no information for nearly nine months.

Twelve days ago, there was a revolt by a clear-thinking government member that resulted in the government being required to release the business plans. These were paid for by taxpayer funds, supposed to have been completed by January 2017, and entirely kept secret in every detail by the very dubious claim of being ‘cabinet in confidence’.

Last night the government refused to release any information. The secretary of the Premier and Cabinet, Tim Reardon, asserted to the Parliament that no documents covered by the resolution were held by the Office of the Premier, the Office of the Minister for Arts, Department of Planning and Environment, including Create NSW, and Infrastructure NSW.

Leaving out the swear words there can be no possible comment. It is hard to find a democratic means of communication that will be heard.

Yet the Telegraph continues to get information. They have access to a SECRET 2014 report indicating that the present building requires $500 million in repairs (April 18, 2015). It completely contradicts a publicly available Price Waterhouse Cooper report of June 2014, to say nothing of direct observation by the people who are using the building. Why is it SECRET if it is so supportive of the government’s case?

The report says that the museum has ‘substandard education facilities’ but the latest addition, in co-operation with UTS, is a magnificent facility for 600 students to co-operate electronically in a learning environment of staggering quality and efficiency.

It is asserted that the present facilities have been such that ‘international loans and “blockbuster” exhibitions’ have had to be declined, but no details are given, and museum experts of world-wide reputations deny that this could be the case.

Elsewhere, the Telegraph says that a letter has been sent opposing any thought of abandoning the move. It has 30 signatories including Price Waterhouse Cooper, Deloittes and Parramatta Council. The Parramatta council website at https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/businesspapers des not record any discussion by the elected council and the other firms have not published any reports that back the letter’s stand. The letter has not been released for public scrutiny. Why not? It is ‘driven by the Sydney Business Chamber’, a Parramatta group which is only interested in getting a facility in the area to boost the local economy, and we can show them that there are far better alternatives than moving the Powerhouse.

An article of April 25, 2018 scores an ‘own goal’ by pointing out that the majority of the visitors to Ultimo come from outside the local area. As Australia’s only museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the present location is most suitable to visitors from all over New South Wales, and indeed from the rest of Australia and the world.

The list goes on and on. The Tele has at various times announced such things as the planned development of the Ultimo building as a theatre: it gets this information but we are told nothing. Why? (Rhetorical question!)

Two attachments:
A repeat of the unanswered questions we have asked

The front page article in today’s Telegraph, with an alternative.

Thanks for reading this, and for your continuing dialogue and support.

Tom Lockley 
(tomlockley@gmail.com , 0403 615 134, PO Box 301 Pyrmont 2009
tomlockley@gmail.com is the best method of communication)

SAVE THE POWERHOUSE
Australia’s major museum of arts and sciences in Sydney’s most evocative heritage building. For more information
https://powerhousemuseumalliance.com/  See also: https://www.facebook.com/savepowerhousemuseum/  https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse/ http://lockoweb.com/phm/

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