Wide campaigning during late 2015 and early 2016 by many individuals and organisations, including the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, successfully gained over 12,000 signatures on a petition to keep the Powerhouse Museum at its Ultimo site while also supporting a specific cultural facility in Parramatta.
As a result, a Legislative Council Standing Committee was set up to conduct an Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in NSW. It proceeded to call for submissions, and set up dates for hearings.
In June 2017 it was announced that the reporting date had been extended to 25 August, 2017. Later this was extended until March 2018 – and later still, until June 2018 – and later, until late February 2019.
9 August, 2019
Inquiry Report debated in Parliament: August 7-8, 2019
On 8 May, 2019 Chair of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries had tabled the committee’s report in the Legislative Council; this was followed by a brief statement of disagreement by arts minister Don Harwin on 19 June.
Then in a sitting of the Council on 7 August, a number of short statements were made by Committee members, followed by some Questions on notice on 8 August. However, the debate remains adjourned, and it is anticipated that there may be more contributions at the next sitting on 20 August. It is unclear what outcomes there will be from the Report, and whether the government’s determination to barge ahead with their much-criticised plan will be irretrievable.
For extracts from each session as they relate to the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum, read here: Hansard transcript May 8 and 7-8 August 2019
On 7 August, committee chair Robert Borsak said: ‘One of the great mysteries of the last Parliament is understanding the rationale for moving the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to the flood-prone banks of the Parramatta River. We are no closer to solving this mystery after more than two years of painstaking inquiries. It has been an exercise in posturing by this Government, which has been testing how much it can get away with without going through the appropriate channels such as consulting with stakeholders or the general public and taking into account its own NSW Government Guide to Cost-Benefit Analysis, not to mention due process … I am bitterly disappointed, but not surprised, by the arrogance of this Government. I will canvass my views and the Government’s responses with Opposition members and crossbench members. I am confident this isnot the last that we will hear on this issue.’
Deputy Chair, David Shoebridge, said: ‘The case was so obviously tailored to produce a political response. It was not a fair and independent assessment of the actual business fundamentals of moving the Powerhouse, let alone the cultural, political and social fundamentals.’ Walt Secord, shadow Treasurer and shadow Minister for the Arts, added: ‘A blowout in arts infrastructure and cultural projects is taking place under this Minister’s management. The arts have lurched from crisis to crisis under this Minister and this Government. The disease and the problem of the Powerhouse Museum is creeping into other projects.’
For full records, go to the government site and download pdfs, or read them here: 8 May HANSARD-1820781676-78626 (2) , 7 August HANSARD-1820781676-79513 (4) , 8 August HANSARD-1820781676-79600
7 April, 2019
‘Vow to resume scrutiny of Powerhouse Museum move’
Linda Morris, in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes: ‘The political battle over the Powerhouse Museum’s move to Parramatta may not be over yet, with key opponents pledging fresh parliamentary scrutiny of the Berejiklian government’s plans. Labor and the Greens have rejected any suggestion the Coalition has a fresh mandate to shift the Powerhouse at a capital cost of $1.1 billion and use the proceeds from the institution’s redeveloped Ultimo site without oversight.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge, deputy chairman of the long-running Upper House inquiry which recommended the project be abandoned, is hoping to gather enough crossbench support with Labor to re-establish a select committee in the arts portfolio to monitor governance and management of the relocation. At its first meeting after the March 23 election in which the Berejiklian government secured a working majority, Labor caucus gave its backing to fresh scrutiny of the Powerhouse Museum move, including support for a new committee…The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s Robert Borsak is the inquiry chairman and is said to be looking at potential terms of reference.The two-and-a-half-year parliamentary inquiry had urged the Powerhouse Museum be given a cash injection and restored to its former glory, while Parramatta would receive funding for its own, separate ”world-class” institution…But the NSW Premier insisted there was no turning back: ”The Powerhouse in western Sydney is part of the future of western Sydney.”
”Regardless of whether the museum move happens, it is the job of parliament to scrutinise government policy,” Mr Shoebridge said. ”We have a very strong prospect of getting the numbers to continue the work of the original committee which has already exposed significant flaws in policy. … The government got re-elected but it would be foolish to say it has a mandate for relocation. There is a strong grassroots movement opposed to the Powerhouse’s relocation.”See :SMH 7 April or Read more
28 February, 2019
Museums and galleries in NSW Inquiry: Final report tabled
‘Powerhouse Museum Relocation should not proceed’
Three weeks before the NSW state election, Robert Borsak, Chair of the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in NSW, announced that the committee’s Final Report has been tabled for consideration in Parliament.
For media release: Read more
For Inquiry webpage, with submissions and transcripts: Read more
For Final Report: Read more
On 18 December, 2017, the committee tabled an Interim Report on their Inquiry.
For a full copy of the committee’s interim report, summary of recommendations and other inquiry documents see the committee’s web page: Read more
12 April, 2018: Motion passed in NSW Legislative Council to release business papers for proposed Museum move
Following criticism about the secrecy of planning and of the ‘business case’, Hansard documents a debate in Parliament, where Greens MP David Shoebridge moved: ‘That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within seven days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents in the possession, custody or control of the Premier, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Minister for the Arts, Create NSW, the Department of Planning and Environment or Infrastructure NSW: (a) the preliminary and final or current versions of the business case for the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta; and
(b) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House. For compilation of the record in Hansard see: Hansard April 12 2018
On 14 August, 2018, the Upper House Inquiry Committee continued its report to Legislative Council. Hansard documents continuing reports from Portfolio Committee No. 4, for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries in New South Wales, in a debate resumed from 22 May 2018, following release of Business Case papers (see below): Read more . A final report is expected in October, 2018 (later amended to February 2019).
26 September, 2018
Original 2014 Powerhouse Museum Renewal business case now available!
Following the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries on 12th September 2018, some extra papers were later supplied as answers to Questions on Notice. These include the ‘Final Business Case for the Renewal of the Powerhouse Museum’ and ‘Appendices’, dated 24 October, 2014, prepared by the Museum and presented to government at that time. See Other Documents here: Read more
Information about Submissions and Hearings:
For Terms of Reference, all 171 Submissions, and schedules and transcripts for eight hearings: Read more
See also this paper with direct links to submissions of specific relevance to the argument for not relocating the Powerhouse Museum, while also supporting development of a new cultural facility in Parramatta, within a strong policy for museums and galleries in NSW.
They were submitted by members of the informal lobby group, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, with related submissions from external colleagues and organisations. See: upper-house-inquiry-papers-from-phm-alliance-2
Public responses to the presentations at the Hearings can be found on this website at Powerhouse to Parramatta: a News Chronology on the Powerhouse Museum Alliance website: Read more , as well as continuing comments on the Open Letter tab on this website.
See also: the Save the Powerhouse community group: Read more
Hearings for Inquiry:
5, 6, 23 September, 4 October, 2016
Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: Hearings 1, 2 and 3:
Public hearings took place on 5th and 6th September, followed by a committee visit to a hearing in the Blue Mountains and Parramatta on 23rd September.
For schedules and transcripts:
5 September: Read more
6 September: Read more
23 September: Read more
19 October, 2016
Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: extra 4th Hearing called
On 19 October, the NSW Legislative Council’s Committee responsible for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries recalled Ms Dolla Merrillees, director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, and Professor Barney Glover, President of the Board of Trustees, to clarify and add to evidence considered inadequate when provided to the committee in an earlier hearing. Questions included the effectiveness of their working relationships with the Premier, Deputy-Premier and Deputy Secretary, Justice Services, Arts and Culture as, months after the controversial announcement, the business plan for the proposed relocation is being developed.
For schedule and transcript: Read more
14 November, 2016
Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: 5th Hearing
The fifth hearing for this Inquiry was held at NSW Parliament House on Monday, 14 November. Further information was sought from Samantha Torres from the Department of Justice Services, Arts and Culture, and former President of MAAS Board of Trustees, John Shine, as well as seven museum professionals associated with regional museum services, as well as issues to do with the proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. For schedule and transcript: Read more
16 February, 2017
Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: 6th Hearing
The 6th hearing of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Museums and Galleries was held on Friday 17 February in the Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, 9.30am to 12.30pm. Those interviewed included architects, consultants and senior Museum staff, who have worked on plans and the business study for the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum. For schedule and transcripts: Read more
6 June, 2017
Inquiry into Museums and Galleries: 7th Hearing
A seventh hearing has been announced for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, which started on 23 June 2016. This hearing will be held from 12.30 – 4.00pm, on Tuesday 6 June 2017 in the Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney.
The notice of hearing also includes an announcement that the reporting date has been extended to 25 August, 2017.
Speakers on the agenda are:
– The Hon Don Harwin MLC Minister for Arts, and Minister for Resources and for Energy and Utilities, Vice-President of the Executive Council
– Ms Carolyn McNally Secretary, Department of Planning and Environment
– Ms Alex O’Mara Acting Deputy Secretary, Arts and Culture Division, Department of Planning and Environment
– Mr Craig Limkin Acting Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office, Arts and Culture Division, Department of Planning and Environment
For schedule Read more
For transcript of hearing of 6 June: Read more
29 August, 2017
Eighth hearing of the Upper House Inquiry
The eighth hearing of the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries took place at Parliament House on Tuesday 29 August 2017, from 14.45 to 16:15.
For transcript: Read more
11 September, 2017
Postponed: Ninth Inquiry Hearing announced for Monday 11 September 2017
The Upper House Inquiry website listed a ninth hearing to take place between 9:00 and 17:00 on 11 September, where it was understood the committee would call Premier Gladys Berejiklian, former premier, Mike Baird, and the former arts minister Troy Grant as witnesses, among others. On 7 September it was announced that the hearing was being postponed.Check here later to find new date and agenda: Read more
19 February 2018
New dates: 9th hearing and Inquiry report further delayed; Former Premier to be issued with summons
In a media release: ‘Next steps for Museums and Galleries Inquiry’, Committee Chair Robert Borsak says: ‘The Upper House committee inquiry into museums and galleries has received responses from Mr Baird and Mr Warburton regarding the committee’s invitation to give evidence at the hearing scheduled for 23 February 2018. Both Mr Baird and Mr Warburton have again declined to attend the hearing. The committee will now issue Mr Baird and Mr Warburton with a summons to attend to give evidence on the Powerhouse Museum issue at a hearing to be held on 4 April 2018. … The hearing scheduled for 23 February 2018 has been postponed until 4 April 2018.
The committee has also extended the reporting date to 28 June 2018.’
For information about the inquiry and next hearing, go to the committee’s website: Read more For media release: Read more
16 March, 2018
Upper House Inquiry: dates changed again!!
It has just been brought to our attention that, in the on-line Inquiry schedule, the date of 4 April for the 9th hearing has been changed again! In its place are two hearings, one on Monday, 28 May (3 hours), and another on Friday, 1 June (2 hours). There is no information as yet about who will be interviewed, although we know that the former Premier was one of those to be summonsed to attend. For more details as they appear, check: Read more
28 May, 2018
9th Inquiry hearing: Contradictory statements
At the 9th Inquiry Hearing into Museums and Galleries, the committee interviewed Greg Dyer, former Chief Executive Officer, and Craig Becroft, former Chief Financial Officer, of Parramatta City Council. Both confirmed that they had not been involved in discussions about the Powerhouse move to Parramatta, and that apart from earlier speculation they first heard the announcement about the ‘decision’ was in early 2015 in the Daily Telegraph. They were followed by former Premier, Mike Baird, who claimed to have discussed widely with cultural groups – but could not name one group or person, other than David Borger, Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber. At the same time, he maintained his commitment to an ‘iconic, world-class’ museum for ‘children and families from Western Sydney’ without once acknowledging that Parramatta could have its own museum and art gallery (as in other city centres) and that the Powerhouse is a state museum, with NSW, interstate and international audiences.
For a record of the hearing: see 28 May Read more
For an insightful report: see Save the Powerhouse Facebook page.
See Linda Morris: in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 May.
1 June, 2018
10th Inquiry Hearing:
Bay Warburton, former chief of staff to Mike Baird, provided information about his role and understanding of the negotiations taking place at the time of the decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum.
For a record of the hearing: see 1 June: Read more
See Linda Morris: Sydney Morning Herald: Read more
See John McDonald: Mike ‘the banker’ Baird, brazened it out…: John McD 2 June 18
12 September, 2018:
11th Inquiry hearing:
‘Three convincing presentations; one clap-trap claim’
PMA reports that at the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry on 12th September, museum experts Kylie Winkworth, Andrew Grant and Dr Lindsay Sharp exposed major flaws in the business case documents finally supplied to Parliament, and argued that the Powerhouse Museum should remain as a long-standing state museum in Ultimo while Parramatta deserved its own museum. Reasons included insufficient consultation in both locations, risks to the collection, questionable governance arrangements, faulty financial assessments and comparative inequity with regional NSW. These applauded statements were followed by a presentation by Arts Minister Don Harwin, which was received by the audience as a public relations hype-speech, demonstrating his complete ignorance of all the issues involved and, moreover, what the Powerhouse Museum actually is.
Cross-examination by the Committee exposed, however, that while many decisions were being made there were no binding contracts in place that would inhibit a future government from changing the proposal. For transcripts of the hearing, Read more
26 September, 2018
Original 2014 Powerhouse Museum Renewal business case now available!
Following the 11th hearing for the Upper House Inquiry into Museums and Galleries on 12th September 2018, some extra papers were later supplied as answers to Questions on Notice. These include the ‘Final Business Case for the Renewal of the Powerhouse Museum’ and ‘Appendices’, dated 24 October, 2014, prepared by the Museum and presented to government at that time.
This business case had been researched to redress inadequate government funding over recent years, and aimed to renew and develop the Powerhouse Museum on site in Ultimo. While it had been expected that this would be agreed, the government suddenly announced that the museum would close on this site and move to Parramatta. Notable in the Business Case is that, while descriptions of the condition of the building have since been discussed as exaggerated, of the several options considered, none were to demolish the site and move the museum, and the recommended proposal argued strongly to keep both the Museum exhibition buildings and the adjacent Harwood building in the renewal proposal. See Other Papers here: Read more
Upper House Inquiry: announcement of a 12th hearing on November 16.
While the Committee for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries has extended its completion date for its report until February 29, shortly before the NSW state election, it has announced another hearing. No names have yet been published, but no doubt the committee will be following up unanswered questions from the 11th hearing in September. For schedules and transcripts of hearings: Read more
21 November, 2018
12th Inquiry hearing: transcript on line
On 16th November, the Committee for the Inquiry into Museums and Galleries interviewed two Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences representatives: Professor Barney Glover, President of Board of Trustees, and Andrew Elliott, Acting Director, Chief Financial Officer, and Director of Corporate Resources, at the Museum.
Key questions centred round issues of governance: their knowledge of and involvement in budgeting for Powerhouse Museum maintenance and events, and especially, the staff and Trustees’ involvement in the government’s decision to move the Museum to Parramatta, with a controversial ‘cultural presence’ remaining in Ultimo. It was clear to the many informed members in the audience that:
1) They were speaking to (familiar cliché-ridden) prepared notes and were reluctant to express personal points of view that may have been at odds with government decisions
2) As has been obvious over recent years, the Trustees have been very much sidelined by government from their legal and public responsibilities to the museum and its collection, and are merely ‘represented’ on the Create NSW committee, and ‘briefed’ on outcomes and progress, without apparent disputation of any proposals or decisions
3) Glover appeared to: have limited knowledge of the details of the ‘New Museum’ business plan, or any earlier plans; accept that Create NSW is managing the project (and Museum) for the Minister; be very personally focused on western Sydney audiences rather than those for a state (national and international) museum; and provide no evidence of considering viable alternatives in either location.
It is noted by Inquiry audiences, and this PMA website, that earlier reports indicate that the new CEO (director) will be similarly responsible directly to the Minister, and will provide an interface between Project committees and the Trustees. For the full transcript: Read more
Answers to questions on notice will appear in ‘Other Documents’ in due course.
11 February, 2019
‘Report on the 13th Inquiry hearing’
In its final hearing on 11 February 2019, the Committee of Inquiry interviewed Brad Baker, exhibition consultant, and former PHM exhibition development and design manager over 30 years; Lionel Glendenning, architect of record and life fellow, Powerhouse Museum; Jennifer Sanders, former deputy director, Powerhouse Museum and Nick Pappas, former President, MAAS Trust. The introductory papers and follow-up responses to questions by these museum specialists were outstanding, providing an informed and critical summary of responses to the proposal to move the Powerhouse Museum and the process associated with consultation (for both this state institution and what western Sydney may desire), research, costing, collection and exhibition priorities, role of Trustees and many others. Craig Limkin from the Dept. of Planning and Environment appeared unable to speak beyond the government clichés already provided in previous hearings. Read Transcript here. And In-camera Transcript here.
See also: 2019 submission from Jennifer Sanders, with 6 appendices; and Archive list of exhibitions by Christina Sumner, 1988-2018.