Carr does Murdoch a Showground deal


By Roberto Jorquera SYDNEY — The decision by the NSW government to sell off the Sydney Showgrounds to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Studios has sparked a community outrage. About 250 people gathered outside state Parliament House on November 14 to protest the deal. Though many people agree that the Australian film industry needs greater attention and money if it can successfully compete against overseas film studios, the way in which the deal was done and the concessions given to Murdoch have angered the local community. So many allegations have been thrown at the deal that the Independent Commission Against Corruption has intervened. ICAC has demanded the government hand over all documents on the deal. Independent MP for Bligh, Clover Moore, has called for a formal inquiry into the matter. Moore alleges that the government bypassed processes and procedures that would ensure accountability, public protection and benefit. She has also argued that there is a conflict of interest between Ken Cowley's position as chairman of the Australian arm of Murdoch's News Corporation and his membership of the Royal Agricultural Society executive committee which is currently leasing the land. The Carr-Murdoch deal offers Fox Studios a concessionary cap on payroll tax at $6.073 million over seven years; a cap on land tax at $1.25 million over seven years; a $460,000 stamp duty exemption on the lease; a $32 million subsidy for refurbishment of water, electricity and gas services on the site and the removal of asbestos from heritage buildings on the site, such as the Commemorative and Government pavilions. In return the government will receive $2 million a year in rent from Fox Studios or 5% of gross traded public revenue, whichever is the greater. The rent will be reviewed every four years but Fox Studios will not have to pay until 1999. The rally heard from a variety of community and political figures. Jack Mundey, a veteran conservationist and recently appointed chair of the NSW Historic Houses Trust, called for more open urban land in the inner city. Mundey said the deregulated market gave media magnates like Murdoch increasing bargaining power.

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