I couldn’t help but notice that when the Prime Minister announced the commencement of the first stage of the preliminary geotechnical survey work for the expansion of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, draped in the background was a blue and gold “SMEC” banner.
For those who don’t know, SMEC (The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation) was the GOC formed by the Gorton government in an attempt to retain and consolidate the engineering expertise assembled from the destruction of post war Europe and developed during the design and construction years of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
For many in this country, particularly those of us fortunate enough to actually participate, it embodied the hope for this countries future and demonstrated our determination to achieve that goal.
In 1993 the Keating Government “privatized” SMEC by allowing the then management to buy it. Many employees at the time saw it as a “give away” rather than a “sale”. Those of us who worked for SMEC both before and after the Keating “Privatization” saw the high level engineering capacity go into a steep decline and virtually all of the records relating to the detailed design and construction of hydro plant large scale water storage were either lost or discarded. What remained was embodied in the skills of the ageing employees. Bids for work on the international stage were often made using the work history of many of the semi retired engineers to shore up the “expertise” on offer under contract on SMEC being the successful bidder, but generally the major work actually won by SMEC were reduced to road and highway design and construction rather than the high end large scale hydro electric developments.
SMEC’s final decline saw it sold to Singaporean interests in August 2016. The press conference with the now Singaporean owned “SMEC” banner in the background says it all really. It very sad.