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Macquarie Point Stadium Proposal - Tabling of Documents

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Tags: Stadium, AFL, Macquarie Point

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we have some significant issues with the amendment. Of course we support the original motion tabled and debated by the Leader of the Opposition. I suspect that this is two things: one, another sign of the Rockliff minority Government's adjustment problems - they are a bit maladjusted at the moment because they are struggling with the new reality; and the second is a desire to hide Treasury and Finance advice in relation to this project.

On point (3) of the Government's amendment, the first obvious thing that sticks out is all 'minor' redactions and as Ms White said, there are some really major redactions in this document, including schedule 5, the licence agreement and the definitions and interpretation, where nearly two full pages are blacked out. There are minor redactions there that include, for example, contact details of someone in the Department of State Growth, contact details of someone in the AFL. How minor redactions might illuminate anything is beyond us. However, I will say - and I said this on radio the other day - the Greens will not be part of in-camera briefings about the licence agreement, the stadium agreement and the agreement for the high-performance centre. We do not regard ourselves as separate and above the people who put us here and we will not be captured by being privy to allegedly commercial-in-confidence information that we therefore cannot talk about or refer to and may have to conceal from the people who put us here. We do not support the Government's amendments.

I note that they brought the time frame forward from 30 June to 1 June, and I did wonder about if 30 June was right because we are not sitting.

Ms White - It might have been a typo, I think; it is meant to say 30 May.

Ms O'CONNOR - We did not hear from Mr Street the argument for why it needed to be amended in this way. We did not hear from Mr Street why the clause in Labor's motion that seeks to obtain the advice from Treasury and Finance has been removed. The departmental and departmental-commissioned assessments and reports relating to the Macquarie Point stadium I think will already be largely publicly available, embarrassing as they should be for the Government and Kim Evans' Department of State Growth, because this business case is one of the most laughably weak I have ever seen, and I have seen a few. Imagine comparing a stadium at Macquarie Point to MONA, which it does.

I might just pause there for a moment and say it is the ultimate hubris for this now minority Liberal Government to claim credit for the changes that have happened in Tasmania over not just the last nine years - they have been happening for the last 20 or 30 years. One of the most catalytic developments that changed the way Tasmanians feel about themselves and the way the mainland and the rest of the world views us is David Walsh's MONA, and that had nothing at all to do with the Liberals. It had pretty much nothing to do with anyone in politics because David Walsh did his own thing. I am agnostic about he obtained his money - he gambled principally on horses - but in doing that he gave us a great gift that has changed the fabric of our society. It has created events that make huge contributions to our economy in Dark Mofo and MONA FOMA, and that has come from a single individual who has invested his own money into terraforming thousands of tonnes of rock at the former Moorilla Estate vineyard at Berriedale and creating something of which we can and should all be proud.

To compare a stadium that so far looks like a bedpan on Macquarie Point to MONA is hubris and that is what is in this business case. It says it would be a critical infrastructure project that provides an imaginative solution for Tasmania, similar to the impact that MONA had in providing Australians and people from across the world with a reason to come here, stay here, spend here and taste everything that is good about Tasmania and Australia.

First of all, a new stadium is not critical infrastructure. What is critical infrastructure is social and affordable housing and investing in the infrastructure we have, improving it, upgrading it and ruggedising it, in order for it to able to withstand some the climatic and weather extreme shocks that are coming. Hopefully no-one in this place has forgotten the recent floods which took out bridges and roads in Tasmania and cut off communities because our infrastructure is simply not up to the job. If you want to talk about critical infrastructure, it is our existing infrastructure which really needs some work and attention.

This business case just pulls numbers out of the ether. It says that it will strengthen Tasmania's economy, delivering a $2.2 billion in economic activity over 25 years. Then the carrot is dangled, the trickle-down is dangled, where we are told that this will provide more opportunity to invest in schools, hospital, roads, social housing and future critical infrastructure project. Yes, maybe, Mr Speaker, but we also know from this business case as well that that stadium will lose taxpayers in the order of $306 million over 20 years.

This laughably optimistic business case, which I am sure would be captured by clause (2) in the amendment, also makes the callous claim that a 3 per cent to 4 per cent increase in house prices is a social benefit. Mr Speaker, it most certainly is not. If we have a class system in Australia it is the class system created by property ownership. There are people who own property, there are people who do not, and some never will. To state in a government document as part of your pitch for why it might be a good idea to have a brand-new stadium that house prices will go up, in a town that has the most savage rental market and the lowest vacancy rates in the country. It just goes to show how out of touch this Government and some of those people in State Growth really are. It is a pathetic business case.

We will not be supporting the amendment. It is unfortunate that the Government felt it had to move this. Obviously I do not know how the new Independents will vote on this amendment and the original motion, but unless the Government has coordinated and got an agreement from the new Independents that they were not going to support the Opposition's motion, this is a risky strategy again. I understand that after this morning's vote on a procedural motion that did not go the Government's way, there were some very angry and bewildered senior ministers in the building -

Mr Winter - Is that right? Can you go any further with this?

Ms O'CONNOR - No, probably not. It is probably not wise. You know that it is hard to cope with loss of control -

Mr Winter - Transparency, Leader of the Greens, come on, be transparent.

Ms O'CONNOR - Transparency is nice but you know we are dealing with the Government that has a form of political incontinence at the moment. They do not have control of this place and it is causing some difficulties.

That was a slightly longwinded way of saying unless the new Independents - hello, Mr Tucker - have agreed not to support Labor's motion, and to support the Government's motion, I do not think it would be a wise move for the Government to seek to amend it. If the new Independents, who have stated and restated their commitment to transparency in Government, accept the Government's amendment, then that would mean that the House does not see the Treasury's costings and advice, and that would not be transparent.

There was already, I thought, an understanding that there had been an offer made by the Premier that those commercial in confidence alleged sections might be made available in camera, so that to me would be sort of implicit potentially in accepting Labor's motion, but this House should see the advice from Treasury and Finance. State servants in a publicly funded agency, who oversee the purse strings, who have a deep understanding of the level of net debt, GST shortfalls, I am not sure what keeps Tony Ferrall awake at night, but as the secretary of Treasury -

Mr Ellis - A Labor-Greens government, I suspect.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, I bet you are wrong, Mr Ellis, because Tony Ferrall worked with us when we were in government and he was an excellent deputy secretary for Treasury and Finance, an apolitical bureaucrat who will work with any team of people who are elected in a democracy. I think you have smeared Mr Ferrall in saying that, and suggested in some way that he is a politicised bureaucrat. We have been very fortunate, I think all of us, and all of Tasmania, to have Mr Tony Ferrall as the secretary of Treasury and Finance. He has always been highly professional, straight up and down, and he will work until he leaves later this year. Good luck to him. He would work with any group of people who had been elected to a democratic parliament.

Before I was rudely interjected on, I think that one of the things that might keep a secretary to Treasury awake at night is an understanding of spiralling, out of control finances into the red and that is where we are. I cannot see it is going to get much better anytime soon, which is part of the reason that the majority of Tasmanians who have been polled do not support the stadium. They recognise it is a lost opportunity to invest in housing, but also, that it would saddle generations of Tasmanians with a massive debt.

Interestingly, I do not normally pay too much attention to polling, but I have played a fair bit of attention to today's ERMS poll. Rarely do you see such evidence of cause and effect in a set of polling numbers. We have had aligned with the push for a stadium, a billion dollar-plus stadium, which is what it will be, we have seen support for the Liberal minority Government fall sharply. We have seen support for Labor, Greens and Independents increase. These are all part of the political landscape who have been strong in opposition to the stadium and we have seen for the first time I can recall ERMS polling the current Leader of the Opposition out-pipping the Premier as preferred Premier.

There is an old cliché that the only poll that matters is on election day. However, that ERMS poll is a pretty good reflection of how people broadly are feeling about what they have been offered by the Premier and his diminished team.

If they are not just stopping to have a bit of a think about the wisdom of the path they have set themselves and the rest of us on, then they are foolish. There should be a capacity to get some business hardheads in and renegotiate that deal with the AFL. Perhaps we would have to wait until Mr McLachlan leaves as CEO, which I believe is happening about mid-year. I do not know, but, that stadium so far has cost the Premier the stability of majority of numbers in this place. What a price for him to pay: a massively self-inflicted political wound.

We are not going to support the Government's amendment because it is designed to create a less transparent document production process. Is it not terrific that we have got the capacity now for a motion to be put forth to order the production of documents where we might actually get to see those documents. The Greens for example have tabled a motion for the House to see all documents related to Marinus Link as well, and, we think the Government should not have a problem with that. We have been subject to minister Barnett's spin and lofty claims for some years now. To see those documents would be beneficial to transparency and to the understanding that the members of this place have about the consequences of the Marinus costs, and also, more broadly to have a more honest conversation with the Tasmanian community about Marinus Link.

We have moved that the House order the Government to table the funding agreement for Marinus Link between the Tasmanian, Victorian and Australian Governments announced in October 2022, including the total dollar figure for Tasmania's share of equity in the project and the concessional interest rate agreed for the loan between the Commonwealth and Tasmania. For any other agreements in relation to Marinus Link where a Tasmanian government or a Tasmanian government business enterprise is a signatory. For the most recent projected costings for each Battery of the Nation, Marinus Link and North West Transmission Extension and for the timetable for invest decisions and contracts on the tenders for the cables and converter stations associated with Marinus Link.

We understand that TasNetworks is putting out tenders associated with a project which is not yet funded or approved or has been through any kind of assessment process.

We understand that there are conversations happening with farmers along the transmission route. There are respectful conversations happening but there is an implicit threat there - a belief on the part of some people working on the Marinus Project or working in TasNetworks that

Mr WINTER - Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, standing order 151, relevance. This only has a short amount of time. I am interested in other members. We are on the amendment and the Leader of the Greens is speaking about Marinus.

Ms O'CONNOR - We are talking about transparency. All you need to do is say to me is you would like to have a go and would like to hear from Mr Tucker.

Mr Winter - I would, yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. That is all you needed to do.

Mr Winter - I was using the standing orders.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is fine. I am very reasonable in real life. These are issues that the House should be able to flesh out. We are not going to support the amendment. We will support Labor's original motion and hope the House does too because Tasmanians deserve transparency over this stadium.