There we were, all set with a podcast on David Chandler’s resignation in the can, when we heard that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet had invited Fair Trading Minister Eleni Petinos to leave at her own chosen speed (one for the Dylan fans, there).
Now, we could have fudged it with a new intro but Big Dave’s not-very-imminent departure was already old news and the vapour trail from Ms Petinos’ expensive fragrance was still lingering from her exit, so it was back in the bunker for a re-take.
And, full disclosure, there was another reason: we said in the original recording that there was no way that the Premier would sack her, having just supported her while he was in India.
Ooops! What does this tell us? Maybe things were a lot worse in Fair Trading than he or we thought.
The one thing notably absent in most other commentary about her departure is any suggestion that it had anything to do with her throwing Building Commissioner Chandler under the bus, over a dubious claim that he had misled parliament.
But we think that was definitely an element in the decision to send her back to Miranda. Loyalty has its own built-in form of instant karma.
Other topics include chats about the two stories from the Tribunal that appear on this page -one about a dispute over fire safety and another about a battle to get a second dog into a unit that had permission for one.
And a quick correction, contrary to what I say on the podcast, the Castle apartment block has six whole-floor apartments, not eight or 10, and the home of pooches Peach and Zodiac is a semi in a strata scheme, not a townhouse.
That’s what I get for talking about stories before I’ve written them.
If you enjoyed listening to this podcast (or reading the transcript), please share it with your friends using the social media buttons on this page.
TRANSCRIPT IN FULL
Sometimes I think, someone in government waits until they know we’ve recorded our podcast, and then they make big announcements.
Yes, so we did a big track about David Chandler and now on Sunday night, Dominic Perrottet’s office issued his statement about David Chandler.
Well, actually, it was a statement about Elini Petinos. We’ll be talking about Eleni Petinos and Dominic Perrottet’s response to complaints about her behaviour. I’m Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.
And I’m Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain.
And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.
Okay, last night, as you said, the Premier of New South Wales issued a statement about Eleni Petinos, the Minister for Small Business and Fair Trading. I’m just going to read what he said, and we can talk about her response, and then, we’ll look at what led up to this whole thing. So, this is what Premier Perrottet said last night…
‘Today I spoke with the Minister for Small Business and Fair Trading, Eleni Petinos, after some further matters concerning her were brought to my attention. In light of these matters, Ms Petino’s service as a minister will cease with immediate effect and I will write to the Governor in this regard tomorrow. Minister for Customer Services and Digital Government, Victor Dominello will assume Ms Petino’s portfolio responsibilities.’ So basically, he sacked her, with immediate effect, Which is incredible really, because usually, Premiers would say ‘I spoke to a Minister and they have resigned.’
It’s really quite unusual, for them to be sacked so abruptly like that. Which kind of suggests that the rumours about her being a fairly acerbic person, who’s not prepared to give an inch on much, may be true.
Perhaps, but they are allegations at this stage; we don’t really know. But I guess there’ll be (yet another) inquiry.
I’ll get you to read what her response was.
‘Tonight, the Premier informed me I would no longer be a Minister in his government. I’m proud of my work while I served the people of New South Wales as Minister for Business and Minister for Fair Trading. I fought hard for small businesses, who are the lifeblood of New South Wales, and I will continue to advocate for them, regardless of my role.’
No mention there, of Fair Trading!
‘The intense pressures and stresses of such important portfolios, are significant for both staff and their Minister. I thank my staff for their efforts in supporting me to deliver for the people of New South Wales. I would never intentionally offend anyone, or make them feel uncomfortable, and if I did, I am truly sorry. I pursued politics to make a positive difference and will continue to do so proudly, as the member for Miranda.’
Well, as you interrupted yourself in mid-speech there, no mention of Fair Trading, except to say that she was the Fair Trading Minister. And this is one of the things that bothered people about her appointment in the first place… To take a fairly junior parliamentary secretary (which is a role in politics), and give her two portfolios and her first Ministry…
And two really big portfolios.
Yes, and we’ve always said that Fair Trading was a training-wheels Ministry (which a lot of people in strata really resent); but to give a junior Minister, two portfolios, one of which was Fair Trading, was just kind of insulting, really.
And it was interesting, because I’ve found Eleni’s office many times, for comments on Fair Trading matters (strata matters, really), and they’ve always just referred me back to the department. So a department spokesperson says ‘oh, they can’t comment,’ or, whatever. She would never comment on Fair Trading matters and it just feels to me that her focus was completely on small business.
Yes and this was at a time of huge upheaval in the apartment. business. You’ve got David Chandler, basically trying to clean things up, with dodgy certifiers, and dodgy developers, and you’ve got a Minister that you couldn’t even get a comment out of, about anything to do with apartments. In fact, one of the very, very few comments that she did make, was when a member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party said that he believed David Chandler might have misled parliament, in answering a question, and she immediately ordered an inquiry, an internal inquiry into it (which I hasten to add, completely cleared him). Let’s put this in a kind of timeline… You’ve got David Chandler, who is working his backside off, to clean up the apartment development industry. You’ve got a Minister there, who is totally focused on small business, and seems to be giving him no support, whatsoever, and then, this spurious allegation about misleading Parliament comes up, and she immediately jumps in and says ‘okay, we want an inquiry.’ Fast-forward to Monday last week; David Chandler (having just announced he had extended his contract by a year, to September next year), announces that he will in fact, be leaving in November this year. Then came the allegations in the newspapers, that she had been accused of bullying her staff, that she had a huge turnover of staff in her office; even in her constituency office, which she denied. And then Premier Perrottet (who was in Japan and India at the time), basically said, look, he supported her; this was an anonymous allegation that had been made. It turned out it wasn’t anonymous at all… The person who made the allegation, had done it on an official paper, with her name and her department, and then promptly been sacked. So, Dominic Perrottet comes back to Australia, and then on Sunday night, we get the news that Eleni Petinos has gone.
And now the big question on all strata people’s lips is, is David Chandler going to rescind his resignation? Is Dominic Perrottet going to ask him?
My feeling (and this is based on nothing), is he’s got until November to work out his contract, which he will now be allowed to do, now that the Minister (with whom I hear he had very cool relations)… He can get on with his job; he can continue doing that. He is not being undermined or white-anted by anyone, I would think. People would have to be very careful now, about taking him on. And it may well be, that when we get around to September or October, he’ll say ‘oh look, the Premier has asked me to stay on, and I’ll do that.’ I think that’s the most likely thing to happen.
Because it will be much more quiet and much more dignified, rather than…
Yes. Look, I’ve done a U-turn, another U-turn… I’m just spinning around here. He could very quietly just announce (or not even announce; just sign the contract and say ‘I’m gonna stay on).’ And we have Victor Dominello back as (temporary, one would assume), Fair Trading Minister.
And he was a good Fair Trading Minister.
He was great.
Yes. He actually made a lot of progress in the space, probably more progress than anybody else who’s held the position for many years, really. I’m quite pleased to see him back.
Anthony Roberts kind of grandfathered the change of strata law, back in 2015, but it was Victor Dominello who drove it through Parliament. It is basically very much seen as his laws, that were changed. He was really good when he was in office; you know, he would listen. I remember, we (especially you), approached him about the whole thing with sunset clauses and he immediately announced that there would be changes in the law and then got the law passed through. That law has now been passed in Victoria. They saw what New South Wales was doing with sunset clauses and said ‘yeah, we’ll have that as well, thanks.’ So that was Victor Dominello, listening, realising there was a problem and doing something about it. Which is very different from somebody who is totally distracted with her other portfolio and who wouldn’t even answer phone calls.
Yes, that’s right.
What will they do? Will they bring in another trainee Minister? Will they give them both portfolios?
It’s an absolute disgrace, isn’t it? Fair Trading is a huge ministry. You know, it’s a huge department. Out of every department there is, this one touches more people’s lives than any other, directly. We want an experienced person in there. Someone who’s interested and someone who’s not using it just as a stepping stone to another knot in their career. I think at one point, you said how many different ministers there’d been in this ministry, over a pretty, comparatively short period of time.
Some of them just for a matter of months, although I think Eleni Petinos takes the record for being the only minister, in the history of the New South Wales Government, who’s been sacked from two portfolios, in their first year of offiice.
That’s not a very proud record to hold, is it really?
But there are other, let’s say, stains on her CV, that people tend to bring up, now and again!
So I guess it’s ‘watch this space,’ really?
And it is a space. I mean, Victor Dominello, capable man though he is; he’s got this whole Data Hub thing happening and that’s going to be a big focus for him. Whoever comes into Fair Trading, is going to very soon find that all the laws that have been sitting fairly dormant for the past few months (couple of years, in fact), relating to short-term letting… Well, short-term letting hasn’t been an issue, because we haven’t had any tourists for two years. They’re going to be coming back; people are suddenly going to realise ‘hang on, did we not pass a bylaw, saying that we can’t have short-term lets in our apartment blocks?’ And, finding out how that actually plays out. Basically, you’ve also got the changes in the building industry, that David Chandler has been pushing through, and that’s not finished yet. So whoever takes over Fair Trading; apart from all the other stuff… You know, the broken toys and dodgy domestic equipment, kettles and washing machines and mechanics and real estate, and all the rest of it. Maybe, they’ll get John Minze, the Invisible Man of the real estate industry. He’s our Property Services Commissioner. Of course, he’s a public servant you see; he’s not a politician.
He’s a completely different space, really.
But maybe, they’ll make him a Fair Trading… No, they’ve got a Fair Trading Commissioner; there’s another Invisible Woman. Do you know who the Fair Trading commissioner is?
I have no idea.
No. I know who she is; I’ve seen her picture. I mean, basically she was appointed and then kind of disappeared. I’m sure she’s working very hard.
I’ve tried to get comment from her too, about various issues and had no success, either.
They just don’t want people to talk to them. So who would it be? I mean, how about Mark Curie; he seems to be a being rising star?
Do we want a rising star? Do we want somebody who’s ambitious, and is just going to stop there for a short time, and then move on?
It’s very interesting that what has happened at the last reshuffle (and they kept it very quiet)… You’ve got Anthony Roberts, who’s in charge of Planning and Homes, or Housing, or whatever. Very quietly, they shifted the infrastructure of the Fair Trading website, over to Planning, so that it now lives in the Planning thing, even though you still go through Fair Trading. Eventually, when you click on the thing, asking for information, suddenly, you’re in the Planning department. I wonder if they are going to say ‘look, let’s just tidy this up. Fair Trading or strata; strata is now part of Housing (which would make sense) and all the other bits of Fair Trading, we can give that to a junior minister to play with, in their sandbox, until they prove themselves to be capable of something a bit more challenging.’ That would make sense. Apart from anything else, Anthony Roberts is an experienced and capable politician. I mean, he’s a bit right wing for my tastes, but he’s okay; we get on all right. This is their opportunity to do something they should have done years ago; take strata out of Fair Trading. Now, the nay-bobs of Fair Trading will fight this tooth-and-nail, because it’s such a big element in their department, but that’s the whole point… It’s too big an element, for them to deal with. So, that’s my prediction.
Okay, well we’ll see what happens by next week, when we record another podcast.
Maybe we should start recording on a Monday morning, or a Sunday afternoon, so that they can’t sneak any more of these decisions through. Alright Sue, thanks. When we come back, we are going to resume our original podcast, and talk about a couple of curious decisions that have been made in NCAT; one relating to fire safety in a castle and the other one is relating to pets. Pets are back; hooray! We like pets; pets always get a good run. By the way, last week, when we were running our stories about David Chandler, our readership of the Flat Chat website absolutely shot up, to more than 1000 a day.
Wow, that’s incredible!
Yes, I think so!
David for King!
Always helps the ratings. And on that note, we’ll take a short break.
Here at Flat Chat, we’re always telling people that one of the benefits of apartment living is that you can just lock up and leave, when you want to take a holiday. Well, if you’re looking for some inspiration on where to go, to make the most of your freedom, take a look at mildrover.com, our website for seasoned travellers. It has news, reviews, and special travel deals, in which you can literally save thousands of dollars. That’s mildrover.com, the website that takes you somewhere fantastic, even if you don’t leave home.
So, all of these cases have come up, Jimmy; what’s happened?
A couple of tribunal cases. One of them is a building in Mosman. It’s a unique building; it’s eight or ten storeys high and every storey is an apartment.
Okay, so this is on the North Shore of Sydney?
Yes, and it’s called ‘The Castle.’ Those headlines are writing themselves! At some point, some of the people on the higher floors had removed the bit of wall beneath their windows, to extend their windows down, because it’s got fabulous views, right down the harbour. Those walls (which are 900 centimetres high; nearly a metre high), are basically part of the fire safety aspect. They stop fire coming from an apartment below, up into the one above; that’s one of their functions. They removed them, so they had basically, ceiling to floor windows.
No, they passed a bylaw to do this. It’s not on every apartment; the lower apartments don’t need it. They’ve got sort of horizontal views out. But in the higher apartments, the view was slightly obstructed. So they did this, and they installed drop-down fire curtains, to replace the walls. There’s a name for those things, which escapes me at the moment (but I didn’t know what it actually meant, so I had to look it up, so there’s no point saying it, anyway). [FYI It’s spandrel]
It’s a little wall under a window, that stops fire spreading up, from the floor below. One of the owners in another apartment was told after a fire inspection, he was going to have to put three smoke alarms in his apartment. He didn’t want to do it, for whatever reason… He came up with some various reasons for why that was less effective than these walls that had been removed. He basically said ‘if you will force me to put smoke alarms in my apartment, I’m going to force you to reinstate those walls,’ because they were put in (he said,) illegally. Technically, they should have had a special resolution for the changing of common property. Actually, they had bylaws passed, which require a special resolution. It’s all gets very technical and lawyerey, but there were things like, they were saying, smoke alarms are less effective, because there’s a 15% chance that they will fail.
But then that’s a good idea to have three then, isn’t it?
Somebody did the maths and they said the chances of all three smoke alarms failing, is like, 1/300. So, you know, it’s not 3 x 15%; it’s 15% of 15%, of 15%. So, you know, you can imagine the technical arguments have gone on and basically, the tribunal said ‘look, don’t be silly; off you go. Get your smoke alarms fitted, and we’re not going to make these people reinstate.’
Sure. That would be a small price to pay for having a much better view, wouldn’t it?
Absolutely. The other one is another pet story. This one is about a couple who have a French Bulldog in their home, with permission. The owners corporation, they’ve done the application and everything.
Where is was this apartment building?
Somewhere in Sydney.
And they had applied to have a second French Bulldog. Now, I think the building has the basic pet bylaw, which is you have to ask for permission, but it cannot unreasonably be refused. So they got permission for one dog and they asked for permission for a second dog, called Peach.
What’s the first dog called?
I don’t know. It will be in the story, on the website. I just don’t have the papers in front of me. They basically said ‘we want a second dog,’ and the owners corporation; the strata committee came back and said ‘no, we know we gave you permission for the first dog, but we’re not giving you permission for a second dog, because that will set a precedent and we don’t think you should have two dogs. Oh, that seems mean. Dogs can really keep each other company.
Absolutely. They become much less whiny and barkey (often), if there are two of them.
Sure, because if somebody’s having to go to work, after working from home for a long time and stuff, sometimes dogs can get really lonely and they need to have a little companion.
So at the tribunal, there was evidence from the owners corporation, from the strata committee, that there had been complaints about the dog running around the fence line (they must have a backyard, so it’s probably a townhouse), and intimidating a neighbour, while she was hanging out her washing.
But the dog can’t get over the fence, or under the fence, and French Bulldogs are quite little, aren’t they?
They are. They’re like pugs, with pointy ears.
Yes. Ugly dogs really, to be honest.
Not to the people who love them.
No, of course not.
It’s like telling somebody their baby’s ugly. All babies are ugly, but you never tell their parents, for some reason. The tribunal member said ‘this isn’t evidence, that this dog has behaved badly.’ It’s a complaint by the neighbour; that’s a very different thing. You know, if it was three neighbours saying, this dog is running around intimidating people and barking and whatnot, that would be different. But this is one neighbour, who just doesn’t want two dogs. She doesn’t want one dog beside her; she definitely doesn’t want two. And so they rejected the complaint and they have told the owners corporation to give permission to Peach, to move in. So, everything’s ‘Peachy.’
Did you tell this story just so you could say that line, Jimmy?
No, and I thought seriously about saying it, just before I said it, but I think it works.
I think that’s a good decision, really, because my niece has got fish and some buildings say oh, you can only have one, or you can only have two pets. Well, she must have 20 fish in her tank.
Really? Your niece; is that my niece?
Your niece too, I guess. I think it’s a bit nonsensical…
Is this the one with seven cats?
Yes, that’s right.
I think fish are the least of her problems!
Well, she can get the two together and then wouldn’t have to buy any cat food for a while. But yes, I think two animals… We have two cats and I think if we just had one cat, the one cat would be quite lonely, in lots of ways.
Yes, I think so.
And they like playing together and running around and fighting…
And stealing each other’s food. Just like children, really.
Yes, that’s right.
We got through quite a lot very quickly there. Thanks, Sue, for chatting to us again today.
You’re welcome, Jimmy.
Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website, flatchat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free, on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favourite pod-catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a ‘W,’ click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week, without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.