Australia Sydney news: NSW Government criticised for spending $78m on consulting firms to privatise WestConnex

23:41  04 february  2021
23:41  04 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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The Government has spent millions on consultants to sell off WestConnex. (Supplied: NSW Government) © Provided by ABC News The Government has spent millions on consultants to sell off WestConnex. (Supplied: NSW Government)

Here's what you need to know this morning.

NSW Government spends millions to sell WestConnex

The State Opposition has questioned why NSW Treasury is spending millions of dollars on private consulting firms to help sell its final stake in the WestConnex Motorway.

The NSW Government sold 51 per cent of the asset to a consortium led by Transurban in 2018, pouring about $9 billion into the state coffers — but spent $62 million on consultants at the time.

Treasury has spent a further $16 million in the past year on advisory firms as it prepares to sell the remaining 49 per cent, including contracts with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Allens, RBC Capital Markets and Citigroup.

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Shadow Finance spokesman Daniel Mookhey said it showed department staff were underused and demonstrated the dangers of privatisation of public assets.

He said it was "costing taxpayers a motza just to hire the advisors to sell public assets".

A Treasury spokeswoman said some of the work included environmental and safety assessments.

Sam Burgess stalking case

A decision is expected in a NSW court today, in a case involving former South Sydney NRL skipper Sam Burgess and his ex-father-in-law.

Mr Burgess is accused of assaulting and intimidating his former father-in-law Mitch Hooke during a disagreement about Mr Burgess's children in October 2019.

Mr Burgess pleaded not guilty to stalking or intimidating Mr Hooke.

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He retired in 2019 after a 270-game NRL and English Super League career.

Victorian travellers monitored

Passengers arriving at Sydney Airport from Melbourne are continuing to be screened after a locally acquired case in Victoria's hotel quarantine system.

An Australian Open hotel quarantine worker tested positive two days ago, with the Victorian Government quickly introducing further coronavirus restrictions.

Jeremy McAnulty from NSW Health said the situation was being watched closely, as the state recorded 18 consecutive days of no community transmission.

Passengers will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and asked if they have been to any of the affected Victorian venues, he said.

Gambling profits surge during pandemic

Almost a third of the NSW's poker machine losses took place in six Western Sydney areas, according to NSW Government data looking at the second half of last year.

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Gamblers in Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Blacktown, Penrith and Campbelltown gambled a combined $714 million playing poker machines in clubs in the six months to November 2020.

Sydney University Associate professor Sally Gainsbury said closure of venues could be why gaming profits were up 7 per cent across the state.

"When venues reopened there might have been a pent-up demand because people had been on a forced break from gambling," she said.

Rescue after boat sinks

Two fisherman were forced to tread water for more than an hour after their boat sank near Port Botany, in Sydney's south.

Emergency crews including two rescue helicopters, marine rescue, police and paramedics were called to Port Botany at about 5:30pm on Thursday after reports two men had capsized in a small boat.

It took rescuers more than an hour to find the men.

The fishermen, aged 53 and 30, tried to swim to shore but got tired and treaded water until rescue crews were able to reach them shortly before 7:00pm.

Both men were treated at the scene by paramedics but did not have to be taken to hospital.

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Aged-care worker arrested over alleged fraud

An aged-care worker has been charged after allegedly using elderly residents' credit cards to make more than $10,000 in transactions.

The 35-year-old man from Ryde is accused of committing more than 350 fraudulent transactions involving two aged-care residents in Marsfield, in Sydney's north, last year.

Police will allege the man took credit cards belonging to an 87-year-old woman and an 88-year-old man.

He has been charged with two counts of dishonestly obtain property by deception and will appear at Hornsby Local Court on February 17.

Inmates charged over corrections officer assault

Two inmates have been charged over a brutal assault on a corrections officer at a jail on the mid north coast last year.

Police allege the inmates — aged 20 and 23 — armed themselves with makeshift weapons and held two guards against their will at the Kempsey facility on December 19.

One guard escaped and police allege the inmates assaulted and stabbed the remaining officer over several hours.

The guard suffered serious injuries including a fractured eye socket, a punctured left lung and chemical burns.

The prisoners have been charged with seven offences, including cause wounding/grievous bodily harm to a person with intent to murder, cause grievous bodily harm to law enforcement officer reckless as to actual bodily harm and detain person in company with intent to obtain advantage.

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This is interesting!