Crazed do-gooders who ‘run’ NSW

by PAUL COLLITS – IT SEEMS that every time it rains in Lismore now, there emerge a clutch of do-good politicians and bureaucrats to shout “flood!” 

Even if the Bureau of Meteorology is simply saying “heavy showers” if you are googling the BOM in this part of the world. (Despite the BOM’s now routine corporate predictions of cataclysm, in the spirit of the age). 

The talking heads breathlessly announcing the latest “emergency” are the very same people who did nothing to help during the real emergency.

The predicted level of the Wilsons River is around seven metres. That is half what was reached in the real flood in February 2022, when no one was properly warned about what was coming or the devastation it would occasion.

All the warnings were bellowed from the safe heights of the government’s new command centre up the hill in Goonellabah, by a politician, Steph Cooke, and a bureaucrat, Carlene York


Cooke is the NSW Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience, and Minister for Flood Recovery. York is the head of the State Emergency Service.

This all seems to be a new version of the [trigger warning, sexist term to follow] boy who cried wolf. Here we have the boy crying wolf after the wolf has devoured the poultry.

Locals probably don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this latter-day conversion to providing advice about flood risks to the region, from the same people who got it diabolically wrong last time, before, during and since.

And whose employees (following orders from above) actually tried to stop local volunteers from going about the business of trying to save lives and property.

Realistic estimates of the lives saved by the “tinny navy” of helpers are in the hundreds. Then there are the anecdotal local stories of SES people ignoring the offers of help from outside Lismore.

All this at a time when thousands in Lismore are still homeless, uncertainty remains about the future pathways back for residents – for example, in relation to land swap opportunities for residents – dozens of business premises remain boarded up, and the streets of the town’s CBD are only now having core infrastructure repaired.

Businesses, mostly small ones owned by locals, which were all but decimated during the farcical public policy during COVID fiasco are facing the choice of ludicrous flood insurance premiums or near certain destruction in the next major flood.

Fortunately, there now appear to be some law suits pending. For not all the Lismore flooding came from the river. Some of it was the result of clogged and unattended canals and channels that overflowed and damaged many properties. The floodwater came from the hills as well as the river.

The response from government was classic butt-covering. Lots of colour and movement, with precious little progress. And of late, total silence on the city’s future. “Radio silence” is one term that has been used to describe the NSW Government’s current position.

Let’s have an inquiry. (Conducted by two NSW Government insiders). Preferably several inquiries.

Visits by politicians to announce things. More bureaucratic solutions, just as hard to fathom as the previous ones.

A focus on intra-governmental machinery of State that no-one understands. Macquarie St-centric. Announcables. Sympathy.

Oh, and the inevitable search for patsies. These would appear to be strange priorities at a time when the town’s suffering goes on and on.


Cr Elly Bird of Lismore City Council suggests there is something far worse than the particular structures and personnel of individual agencies in play: “The model of external agencies coming into a community and telling that community what needs to happen is fundamentally flawed.

“Even before the existence of Resilience NSW, the best approach in an emergency is a community lead recovery. But over many events, it doesn’t seem like the government understands or is able to enable effective community lead response.

“A dollar spent in the community is much more effective than a dollar poured into government. We need to resource communities because communities will respond first and always step up to support themselves and each other to recover.”

Indeed. A petition calling on the government to clarify the city’s future as a matter of urgency has reached 8000 signatures.

Former Lismore City Councillor Eddie Lloyd launched the petition, saying the uncertainty was compounding people’s trauma and anxiety.

“It’s been seven months now and we’re still in limbo in terms of our future, waiting for bureaucrats to tell us what’s going on and who will be eligible for a buyback and land swap,” she said.

You might be wondering, what the hell do you have to do to lose your job in the NSW Government?

Heads have not exactly been rolling, post flood. The talking heads breathlessly announcing the latest “emergency” are the same people who let us down last time. (Let us down is a euphemism.)

Well – in the same week as the much-trumpeted Lismore non-flood of September 2022, we have witnessed the sacking of one Amy Brown, the former head of Investment NSW and known to many for her multiple appearances before a Parliamentary Committee investigating the seedy appointment of John Barilaro to an overseas government post.

Now we know exactly who Barilaro’s patsy is to be. It was not something that came as much of a surprise, on reflection.

In the clipped words of the head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Michael Coutts-Trotter, aka Mr Tanya Plibersek: “It’s a privilege to hold a role as a senior leader in the NSW public service. With this, rightly, comes a high degree of accountability.”

Whether Amy saw the irony in these words coming from a former convicted drug dealer – long forgotten now, of course, and he did his time, blah, blah, blah – is another matter. Public servants can be forgiven for some things, it seems, but definitely not others.

What exactly was Amy’s crime? It is said to have something to do with falling prey to “indirect pressure” from politicians.

To come up with a politically favourable outcome in relation to whatever is worrying them at any given time, and so not get them into strife with the voters or with social media vox populi.

Well, it was this same political class who, a generation back, effectively got rid of career public servants who were above politics, who cherished their neutrality and who provided “fearless” advice to their political masters, whoever they were and whatever they proposed.

Now, with short-term contracts for public servants and (ludicrously) huge salaries (thanks to Nick Greiner and his old side-kick and former Cabinet Office chief Gary Sturgess), what, really, do politicians expect other than public servants who try to anticipate what their ministers and governments want to happen?

Like delivering jobs for the boys and letting Pork Barilaro slink off to the Big Apple to swan around selling NSW. Whatever Coutts-Trotter might say.

You cannot have your cake and eat it. If you make the waters murky, it suddenly becomes hard to see what is going on under the surface.

Other participants in the cringeworthy saga, like Stuart Ayres (aka Mr Marise Payne) are exonerated.


Yes, he got the political chop. But that wasn’t because of any proven breach of ministerial codes of ethics, or even of the now quaint and old-fashioned notion of “ministerial responsibility” once at the core of the Westminster system of government.

No, he went because he made a smelly government stink just a little bit more. His political departure eased pressure right when pressure needed to be eased.

Amy doesn’t go way empty handed, of course: “Departmental secretary and former Investment NSW boss Amy Brown left the public service with a payout of at least $450,000 over her role in the job debacle which embroiled the government in scandal for three months.”

Trying to figure out how ministerial and bureaucratic responsibility actually works in the Rum Corps State is a bit of a challenge these days.


In the Lismore flood – the real one, about which there was no adequate warning and actual deaths and manifold suffering, which still continues to this day – literally no heads have rolled.

Not Steph Cook’s  Not Carlene York’s. Not Shane Fitzsimmons’ (so far, despite every indication that he and his agency, Resilience NSW, will be the flood patsies).

Not the Premier’s. (We couldn’t have five premiers in eleven years, I suppose.)

I guess when no one is in charge, it is harder to find heads to place on the chopping block.

Here the government should have followed the Cyclone Tracy model from Darwin in 1974, and appointed someone like Major General Alan Stretton to the job of making things happen and, if need be, banging heads together to get the job done.

Whether one could find an Alan Stretton these days, and give him all the free rein needed, is another matter, in the age of massive, cloying, overweening bureaucracy and rules.

No, they all continue to collect their fortnightly pay cheques. But not Amy Brown.

What grates above all is the ease and the sleaze of it all. And its inevitability in the Deals State of NSW.PC

Paul Collits

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Amy Brown. (courtesy The Daily Telegraph)

2 thoughts on “Crazed do-gooders who ‘run’ NSW

  1. Precisely, lttle or no accountability in the upper echelons of Public service, to the very top! Time to clean the whole place out and put those who would face sacking and penalties according to our Laws! Not judges they are clearly a part of this Serious Malady!

  2. I blame the Whitlam Labor Government and free university education, and then the dumbing down via State public education (basics ignored and political leftist propaganda unofficially permitted).

    Now too many under 40 are handicapped.

    Ask a builder how difficult it is to recruit apprentices or young qualified tradies with common sense and who are practical.

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