Outrage over Powerhouse Museum move secrecy

September 1, 2017
Inside the Powerhouse Museum.

Community outrage over the NSW Coalition government's decision to shift the iconic Powerhouse Museum from its central city location in Ultimo to a flood-prone site on the Parramatta River is growing, fuelled by the excessive secrecy surrounding the cost of the move.

At a NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the plan, museum experts claimed the transfer could cost at least $1.5 billion, and risked destroying irreplaceable artefacts crucial to the collection.

Despite having promised to release a preliminary business plan for the move in March, the state government has now declared the documents to be "cabinet in confidence". The government had earlier claimed the move would cost the same as the expected amount to be raised by the sale of the current building — about $250 million.

Lindsay Sharpe, founding director of the Powerhouse Museum and a world-renowned expert on museum construction, said the decision to move the museum had been made in haste and without full consultation by a government that was ideologically driven to encourage private inner-city development.

He said the cost of building a new museum, with all the necessary infrastructure, plus the cost of shifting the existing collection, would mean "you are not going to get much change out of $1.5 billion".

This is yet another example of the government's insatiable drive to sell off public assets in the interests of private developers. The sale of the historic Powerhouse Museum building will no doubt further enrich corporate developers, who are best mates with the Liberal Party.

The obvious alternative, as many in Sydney's western suburbs agree, is to build a new Museum of Western Sydney at Parramatta, focused particularly on the history and culture of the region and boosted by the huge stock of artefacts in storage at the existing Powerhouse Museum, because of lack of display space.

Just like all the other examples of neoliberal privatisation being imposed by the NSW Coalition government, the sale and destruction of the Powerhouse Museum is another proof that this corrupt and rotten regime must be brought down as soon as possible.

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