Former New South Wales premier Mike Baird could be compelled to give evidence over plans to move the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta in Sydney’s west.
The proposal to relocate the museum from Ultimo in Sydney’s CBD has been a major focus of a New South Wales Upper House inquiry which today released its interim report.
The proposal was announced under Mike Baird’s leadership in 2015 as part of the development of an arts and cultural precinct in Western Sydney.
Deputy chair David Shoebridge said the committee previously asked Mr Baird to front the inquiry and would extend another invitation.
“Now that he’s a private citizen, if he doesn’t come and present voluntarily the committee now has the power to compel him,” he said.
“So we find out exactly what was in the mind of the former premier when this thought bubble, potentially costing taxpayers up to $1.5 billion was created by him and his government.”
The committee has recommended the State Government release a business case for the relocation before it makes a final decision on the plans.
It was scathing in its report over the government’s handling of the process, noting it was “appalled that the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum was publicly announced before a preliminary business case had even been prepared for cabinet”.
“The credibility of the relocation decision has been undermined by a lack of genuine community and sector consultation undertaken in relation to the proposed move, and by the secrecy surrounding the funding, relocation costs and business case itself.”
Secrecy still surrounds project
Arts Minister Don Harwin did not say when the report would be released but said the Government had received it.
“At first blush I’m really impressed with what’s been studied by the consultants and their proposall, but with all of these business cases they need to go through a checking process that’s undertaken by Infrastructure NSW and Treasury before the final decision is made to allocate the money,” he said.
“Every project that the New South Wales Government approves has a business case and no final decision is taken until that business case is assessed by the committees of Cabinet before the final decision is taken.”
He also said the cost of the new museum would be “nowhere near” the reported $1.5 billion price tag.
But the Opposition’s arts spokesperson Penny Sharpe said the project was “mired in scandal”.
“There is a cloak of secrecy surrounding the decision to move the Powerhouse Museum and the Berejiklian Government is refusing to explain the rationale behind the decision.
“The Government’s refusal to release the business case just continues the cloak of secrecy over this bungled project.”