The Lowy family and the football stadiums

Frank Lowy family shifts from shopping centres to catering at football stadiums … ALP rodent Peter Beattie takes gold at Commonwealth Games … Oh no, not another cricket fraud …Porton Down’s Motorola salesman backs Theresa May’s Putin story … Anzac stories avoided by the media …

The zillionaire Frank Lowy family, owners of the Westfield shopping centre empire, have altered their business model and are now positioned to take over Sydney’s top football venues.

Without any publicity, the Lowys have become partners with the NSW Coalition government of Premier Gladys Berejiklian in the money-making machine known as stadium catering.

Frank Lowy with sons Peter, left and Steven, right

It marks a significant change from the family’s 50-year concentration on vast shopping palaces where billions of dollars were generated by leasing space to famous “names” from the world of fashion, jewellery and cosmetics.

Let’s start with the recent rise and rise of the hitherto unknown John Warn.

He is a senior executive at Scentre Group, the Australian company now in charge of Westfield’s Australian operations. Warn is also chairman of Cricket NSW and chaired the Coalition’s Independent Visitor Economy Taskforce which reviewed the government’s Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan. Unsurprisingly, Warn’s taskforce endorsed the so-called “action plan” with some very minor quibbles. He was paid handsomely for his aptitude.

Earlier this month Warn received yet another guernsey from his friends in the Berejiklian Cabinet when they made him chairman of the board of Destinations NSW. His job is to “help keep NSW the Number One destination in Australia for domestic and international tourists”.

As Warn arrives at Destination NSW, the independent-minded Wendy Machin is leaving along with former News Corp CEO John Hartigan. In the shake-up, the Cabinet has appointed two reliable trusties, Sally Loane, a former Coca-Cola Amatil executive, and George Souris, former NSW Nationals leader and Gaming and Racing Minister.

Other FOF (Friends of Frank) on the Destinations NSW board are former solicitor David Baffsky, the boss of global hotel chain Accor, lawyer Rod McGeeoch, an SCG trustee, and former ABC managing director Russell Balding who later became chairman of private taxi monopoly Cabcharge Australia Ltd and chairman of Racing NSW, the thoroughbred horse racing monopoly.

The Lowy octopus

To be absolutely clear, a top executive of Scentre, the Lowy family’s newly named Australian subsidiary, and the chairman of Destination NSW and Cricket NSW is John Warn.

John Warn

Scentre has the contract to provide catering to ANZ Stadium at Homebush and Allianz Stadium at Moore Park, Paddington. Amid huge controversy, the Berejiklian government has just committed $800 million to “renovate” the ANZ (Olympic) Stadium and $700 million to “rebuild” at Allianz Stadium at Moore Park in Paddington.

While the government’s estimated total cost is now $1.5 billion no one seriously believes the ultimate cost will be less than $2 billion. Meanwhile, a brand new third stadium, the Western Sydney Stadium, is under construction in Parramatta.

While ANZ and Allianz are shut undergoing construction, compensation is expected to be paid to the contracted caterers, Scentre. Will taxpayers foot the bill and how much will it be?

The football cronies are ecstatic. The Lowy family, which currently controls Football Federation Australia, with Frank’s son Steven Lowy the current chairman (a position he inherited from his father without an election), is looking forward to the Coalition government providing soccer with three taxpayer-funded stadiums – one at Homebush, another at Parramatta and yet another at Moore Park.

Another Lowy trusted lieutenant, David Gonski, is in the wings at the Art Gallery of NSW where he is president of the board of trustees, a group of fellow multi-millionaires with no known expertise in art, painting, curatorship or art education and training.

Another AGNSW trustee is Catherine Brenner, chair of AMP Limited, the financial services house exposed for improper behaviour at the banking royal commission. AMP’s CEO Craig Brenner has already resigned and Brenner is expected to depart at the next AGM (if not before). She is also a member of the Coca-Cola Amatil board and Tony Berg’s Boral Ltd.

Peter Beattie’s Commonwealth Gold

Peter Beattie, former Queensland premier and bigtime Labor rodent, went for gold at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast … and won!

Peter Beattie

Beattie chaired the Games organisation, GOLDOC, which stuffed up the closing ceremony and sponsored large-scale profiteering by the real estate industry and price-gouging by private businesses.

For his workload, he received $2.6 million up until June 2017 and his pay last year was $543,000. Now he appears up for a “bonus” payment.

What for? I hear you ask.

Beattie already receives a fat salary for co-hosting an abysmal chat show on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News with former Liberal premier Campbell Newman, widely regarded as in the Peter Dutton class as one of the most objectionable Queensland politicians since Russ Hinze.

He receives another whack of dough as chairman of the newly-formed Australian Rugby League Commission, a body of fat cats, has-beens and loyal hand-raisers.

Beattie perfectly fits the ARLC leadership profile. No wonder the parasites are gathering around rugby league sniffing for some action.

HOWZAT! Not cricket too

Melissa Quinn, aged 35, has pleaded guilty to fraud offences after raising tens of thousands of dollars from cricket fans in Casino on the NSW North Coast.

A Cricket NSW development officer, she raised about $45,000 by conning people into believing she needed the money to treat her cancer.

She staged the first con in 2014 and then repeated the fraud in 2016. Prominent Cricket Australia Test players, including former captain Michael “Pup” Clarke, took part in fund-raising efforts.

She began a “Go Fund Me” page on the internet which was supported by local media and encouraged donations of thousands of dollars.

Reportedly with only two years to live, she travelled to the US in 2014 for highly specialised proton therapy. On her return she gave media interviews that her overseas treatment had been a “success”.

But suspicions were raised two years later when she contracted cancer a second time and began money-raising activity.

After a leg operation to remove a cancerous leg tumour, Cricket NSW requested a doctor’s certificate. However, Ms Quinn created a fake email and forged a doctor’s document.

He told Cricket NSW officials he had not written the certificate and the email address was not his.

When confronted by her employers, she denied everything but resigned. She was charged after a very lengthy police investigation and pleaded guilty when she reached court.

She will be sentenced in June.

Meanwhile, she has inflicted widespread damage on the sporting community that has generously supported those suffering health hardships in the past.

The tradition deserves to continue and it will be protected if well-wishers obtain swift, sensible and accurate medical reports (more than one).

Mrs May’s business plan: flog chemical weapons

For most sensible people around the world the jury is still out on who used a toxic nerve agent to poison former Soviet double agent Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Until Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government makes public the name of the agent, where it was manufactured and how it was delivered to Salisbury and by whom, we are all in the dark.

Everyone has a theory and most people have a suspicion, but no one has any ironclad proof.

Porton Down – seven miles from Salisbury

In that twilight zone it is quite remarkable that the Tories, most of the mainstream media and their hangers-on have rushed to accept the verdict of Gary Aitkenhead, CEO of Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, Britain’s top secret chemical and biological warfare facility just down the road from Salisbury. Aitkenhead’s chief suspect? President Vladimir Putin.

Aitkenhead has no qualifications whatsoever in the field of war-related chemistry. His expertise is IT, marketing, share price boosterism and NOT war chemistry. He made fame and fortune as a Motorola salesman selling Chinese-made phone products on behalf of the US giant. He prepared the separation of Motorola into two divisions; one half was sold to Google but that has since been onsold to a Chinese company. He later boasted of his Motorola career writing in typical gobbledygook: “Promoted to lead an out-sourcing organisation with a headcount of 200, I drove growth of Global Managed Services by 12% in the first two years and subsequently cultivated billions of dollars in revenue opportunities, including our first-ever acquisitions in this space.”

UK summer sale of chemical weapons

When Porton Down was corporatised (i.e. commercialised) Aitkenhead was recruited from the private sector by the Tory government. He assured his new paymasters: “As a global technology leader, I have broad expertise in business development and R&D, with an outstanding track record of revenue growth and transformation.” Just what the Tories wanted!

In the past two decades, the administrations of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Mrs May have pensioned off scores of serious researchers and experts who were responsible for Porton Down’s worldwide reputation. However, the main focus of today’s Porton Down is flogging their “products” to states around the world which are building chemical warfare arsenals.

Gary Aitkenhead

Would you trust the word of the CEO of this business project? Aitkenhead is so ignorant of the chemical warfare facility he is managing that he believes that a toxic nerve agent was smeared on the doorknob of Skripal’s home and that the Russian spy and his daughter used the doorhandle, absorbed the agent and fell dangerously ill four hours later on a nearby park bench. Assassination by poisoned doorknob: you wouldn’t read about it … except in the British mainstream press.

Whatever happened to the UK’s reputation for investigative journalism? A couple of decades ago reporters from The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Daily Sketch, Daily Mail, Sunday Times, The Observer, Sunday Telegraph and BBC would be all over this story. Where are they these days?

List of banned clichés (to be continued)

Step up to the plate

Shoot the messenger

Level playing field

Leafy suburb on the North Shore

That’s a very good question

At a grass roots level

Search for inner-peace

Here’s the thing

ANZAC: How can we forget?

“New security measures will be in place for Anzac Day in Sydney’s CBD to ensure community safety as NSW commemorates the centenary of ANZAC, Minister for Counter Terrorism and Minister for Veterans Affairs David Elliott announced today.

“Crowd control measures, bag checks and new vehicle blockers will be deployed across the city, he said. The public protection action forms part of the government’s obligations under the Crowded Places Strategy, he added.”

  • Press release from David Elliott, Liberal MP for Baulkham Hills, a former CEO of the Australian Hotels Association, NSW branch

“Minister for Racing Paul Toole is encouraging licensed venues to prepare for increased Anzac Day patronage and ensure events, including two-up games, are well run on this annual day of remembrance. “Anzac Day is one of three days a year this game can be played in NSW outside of Broken Hill [?] and while venues don’t need a permit, they are encouraged to fully understand and observe the traditional rules of two-up. Minister for Veterans Affairs David Elliott said the words ‘Anzac Day’ or images associated with them should not be used in a way that the community would find offensive or that trivialises commemorations.”

  • Press release from Minister for Racing Paul Toole, National Party MP for Bathurst, 24 April 2018

“An Anzac charity that failed to donate to veterans’ groups was allowed by government officials to spend more than $1 million in public funds on expensive TV ads, consultants and promotional campaigns ahead of the 2015 Anzac Centenary.

“The revelations about the Camp Gallipoli Foundations are contained in hundreds of pages of government-held documents obtain by The Sunday Age under Freedom of Information laws. The Department of Veterans Affairs continued to support the well-connected charity even though its officials found Camp Gallipoli had broken federal protections governing the use of the word ‘Anzac’, misrepresented itself to sponsors and donors, and attempted to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in ineligible expenses. More than 40,000 people reportedly attended its events, paying up to $120 each for tickets. The concept attracted support from celebrities including Ray Martin, Shane Warne and Maggie Beer, as well as senior figures in Australia’s political and defence establishments, such as Liberal MP Christopher Pyne, Air Marshal Sir Angus Houston and Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson. Among bills rejected under Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines were bills for endorsement from celebrity ambassadors such as Cathy Freeman and Shannon Noll who were paid up to $5500 to publicly support the foundation. Invoices show one Camp Gallipoli video starring television legend Ray Martin cost at least $31,000 to produce. The foundation also spent more than $52,000 on custom-made torches and fuel to stage Olympic-style fame ceremonies and thousands of dollars on consulting fees were charged by businesses or people related to the charity.”

  • Failed charity’s $1 million plurge on publicity campaign approved by government by Chris Vedelago and Cameron Huston, Sunday Age, 21 April 2018

Historical quote

After the first Allied victory at El Alamein in 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took reporters and a BBC film crew to Cairo for a publicity triumph. As he greeted Australian war veterans on the streets of the Egyptian capital with a jaunty wave, an Aussie gunner shouted back: “When are you going to send us home, you fat old bastard.”

A great re-union

To the Northern Rivers town of Mullumbimby this week for a special Politics in the Pub organised by the Ngara Institute with two terrific speakers, Stuart Rees of Sydney University and Henry Reynolds of the University of Tasmania.

Henry Reynolds, Alex Mitchell, Stuart Rees

Rees, who founded the Sydney Peace Foundation, received appreciative applause every time he referred to Palestine and its people’s fight for self-determination and Reynolds wove together a dramatic thesis linking Aboriginal resistance to colonial theft, immense federal funding for the Anzac legend and Australia’s involvement in overseas wars where it has no business.

Reynolds recalled meeting my parents, Lucy and Jim Mitchell, in the 1960s and 1970s in Townsville when he arrived at James Cook University thirsting to tell the history of the first Australians in place of the “Anglo” version.

So, to all concerned, organisers, speakers and audiences, thanks for a great night.


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