GREG RAY: All smoke and mirrors

FORMER Maitland Liberal Peter Blackmore (an independent since 1999) surprised many Newcastle Herald readers this week with a display of verbal flexibility over the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.

That fund, the board of which is chaired by Mr Blackmore, was supposed to provide $350million in extra funding to the Hunter, on top of regular budget allocations, for a variety of useful infrastructure programs.

Instead, the cash has been leaking away in dribs and drabs, as Sydney-based bureaucrats seemingly try to claw back the money – using it to pay for things that should have been done anyway – from normal budget cash.

On January 17 in the Herald Mr Blackmore agreed that this was “disappointing”.

‘‘I am disappointed. I would have thought some of these projects [such as road projects at Nelson Bay and Maitland] would have been funded by the Roads and Maritime Services,’’ Mr Blackmore said.

But this week Mr Blackmore appeared to execute a backflip that would have many gymnasts green with envy, declaring in a Herald article that all was well with the fund which “certainly has delivered, and will continue to deliver, what was promised”.

Here are some online comments from readers of Mr Blackmore’s article, and of my own subsequent column about the fund.

Jake: Is this what we call damage control? Sorry but what a bunch of crud. The state is supposed to supply us with these funds anyway. These are nothing unusual. This fund is only a pittance of the money they take from the Hunter. They even take our water payments and hand them over to Sydney. 

People are angry that you discriminate so blatantly against regional populations while Sydney sits like a grotesque Jabba the Hut, sucking down our hard work. Honestly this is just insulting.

Tavi: A few days after the Sydney Liberal puppeteers pulled Mr Blackmore in line, he provided an article for this paper praising the fund. Why do politicians continue to think the public are fools?

Catdoglioncow: Note to self: Don’t vote for them. Are you serious? $25billion over four years for Sydney infrastructure and $120million to rip out infrastructure in Newcastle? Where are the political leaders in this country?

Sierradelta: The Hunter accounts for 9per cent of the state’s population, 33per cent of exports, providing 20per cent of a $400billion economy.In return we receive just 5per cent of the state’s infrastructure budget. These figures are from a speech by Mr Bob Baldwin in the House of Representatives. The people of the Hunter are tired of being lied to by both parties while they see the fat from their region being sunk into the city of Sydney. In turn, we are told what great benefactors our elected representatives are as they fling the pennies from the table. 

Ken Scott: Typical of the way Newcastle and the Hunter have been deprived of any decent share of even our own contribution to the state’s coffers. Some 45 years ago the proposed ‘‘new state’’ movement was undermined and defeated by Sydney. I think the time is overdue for this entire region to be free of the shackles forced on us by our so-called state government, and became part of a new state

The Visionless Quarter: Smoke and mirrors is all they came to Parliament with, Greg. The same smoke and mirrors that they carried in opposition for well over 12 years. You would have thought they would have used their time more constructively to fashion their philosophic historical Liberal leanings for when they did gain power.

So we the people now have to suffer for the lack of substance and preparedness, but at least they still carry the smoke and mirrors which they use to great advantage to disguise and obscure while dazzling and enthralling us with their lack of leadership and vision.

James: Really we should be marching in the streets. They only get away with disrespecting us because we let them.

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