You are here

AFL Deal and Proposed Stadium

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Tags: Stadium, Macquarie Point

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, trust is in very short order in this parliament when it comes to believing anything that you say, Treasurer, on this matter. That is because we have been burnt a number of times.

We very much support the motion of Dr Broad and Labor to actually understand Treasury's opinion on this stadium project. We have been through a process where it is clear the public interest is for all of the information that the Government used to make the decision should be in the public domain. We now know from the record of Mr Kim Evans, through the Public Accounts Committee, that the decision to go ahead with the stadium prior to an announcement to the public was taken. What we wanted to know - and what we still want to know is - was there ever any information and briefing advice provided from Treasury to the Government on this matter. What the House has been able to determine to this point on the information that the Government has provided, kicking and screaming at every opportunity resisting providing information even when ordered to by the House, it appears that there was not any information and advice provided at all. I still found that hard to believe where we have landed at the end of that winter recess.

What we had was a succession of motions ordering the Government to make available to Tasmanians all of the information that had been provided to Cabinet in the deliberations that they made about the stadium and around the decision for a stadium. On 24 May, the House ordered the Premier to table all the signed agreements and documents relating to the AFL agreement to the House by 1 June, as well as all departmental and departmental commissioned assessments, advice and reports relating to Macquarie Point stadium by the same date, Thursday 1 June.

That was an order of the House. It was not something that the Premier got to decide whether he did or not. It was a matter of this House ordering the Government to undertake an action. That was meant to happen on 1 June 2023, and it was not until 20 June that the Premier tabled some documents. Some of the documents - all the documents - that he provided at that point were on the public record, and were already in the public domain. What was missing - and we know it was missing, from a right to information request from the Labor Party, providing information that had been given to them - was more information that had been provided, than was on the list the Premier had given parliament.

We knew that was the case. We did not know how much of that information that the Government withheld was from the Treasury, or not, but we certainly knew the Government had not done what the House had ordered them to do, and had not provided a full list. It was then the Premier used a blanket claim of cabinet-in-confidence to try to justify not revealing any deliberations that came to Cabinet, and on not providing the House with information that went to Cabinet.

The Government is misusing the Westminster tradition of cabinet-in-confidence to apply to anything that might come into the Cabinet's room, or any part of the conversation about a deliberation on a matter. That is not the practice of cabinet-in-confidence. What we are finding is the extent to which this Liberal Government is abusing the tradition of cabinet-in-confidence and purposely using it to make sure Tasmanians do not know what is happening.

On 21 June, the Premier was subsequently ordered by the House to table a list of all documents that did go to Cabinet, including a general description of the topic of each document, the type of document, the length of the document, the agency or department the document originated from, and the date.

What we received from the Premier on 22 June, the day before parliament rose, was a short list - not the complete list. It was clear at that point, from that list, that the Department of Treasury and Finance could not have provided advice to the Cabinet prior to the known date when a decision had been made internally - by at least the Premier, or a subsection of the Cabinet, if not the whole Cabinet - to go ahead with the stadium.

Here we are now. We have had another tranche of documents provided. They have had a deep-dive over the holidays and had a look, and three additional documents have been given to us - ostensibly, the complete list of documents from Treasury and Finance. They all relate to Budget committee decisions that were taken on 6 April this year. They have nothing to do with advice that was provided prior to a decision being made about the stadium.

Unfortunately, what we are forced to conclude is that the Government made this decision in the absence of Treasury advice. I find that shocking. I find it incredible, in a housing crisis, when we know there is a lack of commitment from the Government to put money into hospital infrastructure and to fast-track things like the Launceston General Hospital expansion. We know there is some secret dealing happening in relation to the Marinus commitments, that we are concerned might be going ahead prior to an investment decision for support from the federal government for that project.

We know the Government is now, by their own evidence, making decisions on individual large pieces of infrastructure without advice from Treasury. In the fiscal sustainability report of two years ago, there are huge fingers of concern pointed at the Liberal Government's mismanagement of the state of our finances - very huge concerns.

We are putting on the record that we are really concerned that this Government is driving us to a state of extreme debt. Potentially, within a five-year period, according to some commentators, the state could be looking at bankruptcy. I do not use that term lightly. I am putting it on the record today because we need to understand and investigate what has been happening.

We have to understand what Treasury really thinks about the level of debt the Liberal Government has been walking us into over the last eight years, and what they have planned ahead, because what they are doing now is signing deals for an AFL licence that is contingent on them spending likely $1.5 billion - and they did not get advice from Treasury about what would happen to the state debt.

They are signing pre-commitments for the Marinus Link cables, but they have not had an agreement from the Commonwealth Government that the project would be funded as a regulated asset.

They are going ahead spending taxpayers' money, driving us into enormous levels of debt - and they are doing it all in secret. We absolutely support this motion, because we have to understand where we are. We have to know the money is there to build the houses we need. Where is the money to build the houses?

Where is the commitment in the Budget? It is not there. They only talk about 10 000 houses, but they do not talk about $5 billion or $3 billion or the number that is needed to build 10 000 houses. It is not in the forward Estimates. It is not there.

Instead, what they are doing is pretending, without advice from Treasury, that we can build a stadium by October 2028, which has a time line of two to four years; that is the average time if it went through the Tasmanian Planning Commission as a project of state significance, an integrated assessment project. Then it has to get built - and if it does not, we will start having to pay millions of dollars to the AFL, just for the pleasure of them getting the stadium that they want, in their time frame.

It is all wrong. We desperately need to understand what our experienced public servant bureaucrats from Treasury think about this issue. Of course we understand why minister Ferguson, the Treasurer, would not want his department giving us information. It is not about us politicising this. It is about us looking at it and recognising what the risks are.

People have a right to know. They are sick to their back teeth about these huge issues of fiscal responsibilities being hidden from them, and being treated like they are children who do not know, do not care and do not understand. People really understand there is limited money in the bucket. It is not a magic pudding. We need to use it responsibly and they want to know what the Government is signing us up for.