Sunday, May 18, 2008

War of the worlds on Bondi Beach, by Kerry-Anne Walsh - The Sun-Herald - 18th May 2008

Anthony Albanese is a proud Housing Commission westie, Malcolm Turnbull a passionate lifelong resident of the blue-blood eastern suburbs.

In a furious budget fallout, the Labor and Liberal heavyweights are locked in an angry stoush laden with class warfare overtones. At stake is the historic North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, which looks after tens of millions of international visitors a year.

Mr Albanese, the Regional Development Minister, yanked more than $2 million for projects in Bondi when he cancelled the regional partnerships program in the budget. The lion's share of the funding was for an urgently needed $1.7 million redevelopment of the surf life saving club.

This prompted a seething Mr Turnbull, the shadow treasurer whose electorate of Wentworth embraces Bondi, to declare to The Sun-Herald yesterday: "Mr Albanese has declared war on Bondi Beach.

"This is an incredible act of bastardry. It is all about the politics of envy - that's their [the Government's] strategy. But this has never been known as a silvertail suburb. It belongs to the whole of Sydney, the whole of Australia."

He said Mr Albanese had singled out Bondi for a vicious attack, even though Environment Minister Peter Garrett had recently heritage-listed 65hectares of the beach precinct.

Mr Albanese fumed back yesterday: "Bondi should find itself a local member who can deliver on grants.

"Malcolm could find the time [in government] to organise $10 million for crazy cloud-seeding propositions but couldn't find the time to properly deliver the grant that he promised."

Mr Turnbull retaliated that the club had been engaging architects, raising extra money and getting planning approval since the grant was approved last June. "The club has relied on the integrity of the Government to deliver, and that integrity has been shattered by the cynical Mr Albanese," he said. "It is all about punishing Bondi because it is in my seat of Wentworth."

Mr Turnbull said there was no way the club, the largest of its type in the country, could now go ahead with the redevelopment, which would have upgraded training and patrolling facilities.

The redevelopment was desperately needed to meet the demands of the popular tourist site. Nearly 80 million visitors a year flock to Bondi and the club had not been upgraded in decades.

The State Government and Labor-dominated Waverley Council had backed the project with $500,000 each. Individuals contributed another $300,000, including Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy, who shelled out $100,000.

Mr Albanese cancelled the regional partnerships program because of a string of questionable regional grants made by the Howard government. "It is unfortunate that projects have been sacrificed by the Coalition's rorting of the scheme, which made its future untenable," he said.

Media Man Australia Profiles

Malcolm Turnbull

Bondi Beach