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Premier – Macquarie Point Stadium

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 5 June 2023

Tags: Macquarie Point, AFL, Stadium, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, I am finding it quite hard to believe that your agencies, particularly Treasury and the Department of State Growth, did not provide minutes and briefing notes to the minister, therefore advice to the minister that fell outside the Cabinet process. Do you and your agencies fully understand the principles of a Westminster parliament where if the parliament says to the executive you will table these documents, it is on the Executive to meet the demand of the parliament.

My question to you is: are you saying that all departmental advice from Treasury and Finance, State Growth and Veterans' Affairs potentially is captured by Cabinet-in-confidence, or does it not exist?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Clearly through the budget process we've discussed the matters and investments we're making around AFL and indeed the stadium as well. It is very much in its infancy. We've only just secured funding from the federal government.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is it GST exempt?

Mr ROCKLIFF - We've just secured funding from the federal government for $240 million for the stadium at Macquarie Point precinct, Ms O'Connor, and without that funding, which essentially came in late April, now the work starts.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is not my question, with respect.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - With respect to you, we have tabled all the advice to the best of my knowledge from departments, as instructed by parliament. I am very well aware of the Westminster system, Ms O'Connor, and we have been very open and transparent about this project. We have detailed the AFL agreement. It is out there for people to see.

As to the investments we're making, I was very upfront with you a number of times in terms of the annual investment we are making, the investment into the high-performance centre and our commitment around the $375 million to the stadium itself to make this work. I've got nothing to hide. This is a very open and transparent process and I can't think of another project that's been so heavily scrutinised that has only really just been secured funding so it can go ahead.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Premier, but you didn't go to the question. This is a folder of the materials you tabled on Thursday and there is no advice in there from departments, and many of them are on the public record -

Mr ROCKLIFF - Which highlights our transparency.

CHAIR - Premier, please let Ms O'Connor ask her question.

Ms O'CONNOR - A number of them are reasonably heavily redacted. All of the advice that would have come to ministers in the form of minutes and briefings would have gone to you, they would have gone to the Treasurer, the Minister for State Growth and the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, at a bare minimum. There would be multiple departmental minutes and pieces of advice and they can't all be captured by Cabinet-in-confidence, yet not one piece of departmental advice was tabled on Thursday. How do you explain that?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I have explained it, Ms O'Connor. I have tabled, to the best of my knowledge, all the advice I have been provided with and if there is more, I am happy to table that as well. As I say, it is to the best of my knowledge.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay.

Mr ROCKLIFF - We have been dealing with stakeholders, Ms O'Connor, and you mentioned the veterans -

Ms O'CONNOR - They're not happy with you.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - There is a lot of work to do with stakeholders, including veterans, and I received some correspondence just the other day from veterans who do support the stadium or are at least open-minded to the stadium, and I think it is a huge opportunity. I have met with the veterans on site at the Cenotaph and looking at the various visual aspects and the like. I am happy to continue doing that and that will form an important part of the planning process, because a project of state significance works with the economic, environmental and social aspect of that planning process. No doubt the social aspect is very important to the local community members as well, but I see that as an opportunity.

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, did you fully brief all of your ministerial colleagues on the licence deal and the proposed funding of the stadium before you signed that agreement?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I'm not going to go into any discussions we've had with Cabinet.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am not asking you to talk about Cabinet. I am asking you if all your colleagues knew?

CHAIR - Please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - We have discussed this a lot in Cabinet. My colleagues have been kept informed along the way. They are very supportive of the deal that we have signed.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you sure about that?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Yes, I am. I am very sure all my colleagues are very supportive of the AFL agreement. It is a huge opportunity.

Ms O'CONNOR - The stadium.

Mr ROCKLIFF - The stadium? Oh, absolutely, very confident, because it is part of the deal. We can't have an AFL team without a stadium -

Ms O'CONNOR - We have two good stadiums.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Well I can go through a lot of reasons why -

Ms O'CONNOR - I read the paperwork, it's alright.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Did it convince you at all?

Ms O'CONNOR - Nope.

Ms O'CONNOR - Chair, I can tell you that at the very least a decision had been made in February last year because the former chief of staff to the former premier was commissioning consultancy works on the stadium in February 2022, some time before you persuaded us to join the bid.

Premier, I want to take you to the cost-benefit analysis final full report of November last year, which was tabled in the House on Thursday. On page 8, there is a redaction about life cycle capital costs and that is the ongoing annual capital costs of maintaining the stadium. There is only one redaction on this page and it is about the assumptions of the overall construction costs on government each year from 2029. Could you confirm that says '100 per cent'?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Look, I will of course attempt to answer as many questions as I can regarding this project and the Macquarie Point precinct. It is a matter for State Growth, however, and this is Department of Premier and Cabinet Estimates-

Ms O'CONNOR - This is your signature infrastructure project.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I am sure the Minister for State Development, through the State Growth Estimates, would be more than happy to take a number of questions relating to this, but I have been very generous with my time in speaking about a range of matters -

Ms O'CONNOR - That's not the way it works.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Well, it is the way it works, because we are scrutinising the Department of Premier and Cabinet budget, Ms O'Connor, and I am happy to take questions on a whole range of matters. Look at all these briefs I've got on really important stuff. I'm more than happy to take questions on the responsibilities I have for the Department of Premier and Cabinet, but I am sure our minister would be more than happy to answer.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, but we ask these questions of you because you signed the deal with the AFL, so you can't fob it off to your Minister for State Growth.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Oh, come on.

Ms O'CONNOR - Also in this report is a large black box where it says 'cost-benefit analysis'. This is the report that finds that over 20 years there will be $306 million in losses and your return on investment is 50 cents on the dollar in public funding. Do you know what that box covers up?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Well, it says cost-benefit analysis, Ms O'Connor. I am sure we can work through this when it comes to State Growth Estimates -

Ms O'CONNOR - You tabled these papers.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - In the interests of transparency I did. I have highlighted the agreement. There is a lot of work to be done now on this, Ms O'Connor. We've only just secured federal funding with the $240 million and the work really starts now. It's important to recognise that fact and I look forward to progressing that work and the economic, social and environmental planning aspects will be worked through as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - I just think, in the interest of transparency, to have a whole page on the cost-benefit analysis blanked out and you are unprepared to say what might be under that is not very transparent, but moving right along because you are not going to, can you confirm that the $240 million in Commonwealth funding for urban renewal, which you said earlier that the money had arrived, has there been a successful pitch to exempt that money from future GST distributions?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Can I just go back to your last question? Securing the AFL licence and project funding marks the beginning for what is a highly complex, multi-year project, similar to the Bridgewater bridge. After review and acceptance of a detailed business case, the development of the design section of the preferred contract and completion of the planning and approval process will all need to occur in parallel.

The next key steps are for the Macquarie Point Development Corporation to prepare a high-level precinct plan for Macquarie Point, identifying the key considerations and target outcomes from the development of the precinct, inclusive of a stadium. With the precinct plan prepared and the stadium's planning and design team assembled, work can then commence on developing both a detailed precinct master plan and a stadium master plan, the latter to be based on a detailed functional brief which sets out the services the stadium needs to be able to deliver to different users. This will be developed into a preferred development option, which will be described in a reference design that satisfies the functional brief.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's not relevant to my question.

Mr ROCKLIFF - It is.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not.

Mr ROCKLIFF - The reference design will provide the details necessary for progressing and planning approvals processes and subsequent procuring the main contract to develop the new stadium. This will enable commencement of an early works construction package at the end of 2025, a commencement of the main works in 2026. A comprehensive stakeholder consultation and communication plan will be developed and implemented at the beginning of these processes, to ensure that timely information is communicated, consultations undertaken and feedback received and considered throughout the development and delivery of the stadium.

As the Treasurer's letter says, further to our recent discussions - and a number of discussions have taken place. To answer your question on the 240 - no, we haven't received feedback from the Treasurer's letter as yet. About the GST exemption matter. We are still working through that.

Ms O'CONNOR - You referred earlier to the Bridgewater bridge but that's principally Commonwealth-funded. The implications for the state Budget, compared to the stadium; it's really an apples and oranges comparison. You won't tell us what was in the redacted section of the cost-benefit analysis; but can you perhaps tell us how concerned Treasury was about the projected cost of the stadium; how the funds would be procured; and the medium to long-term implications for the state Budget? That's not divulging Cabinet-in-confidence; that's your advice from Treasury.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Treasury has stated the Budget risks in the Budget papers, as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - But, you proceeded anyway.

Mr ROCKLIFF - They have a responsibility to highlight a number of risks and every budget, of course, has a risk. I've worked with budgets all my life on the farm, and some of the risks are drought and flood and all sorts of things which are budget risks. Falling commodity prices is an example.

Ms O'CONNOR - This is public money; it's not your farm's budget.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I'm just highlighting the comparison around risks. In every budget - irrespective of whether that's a business budget or a state budget - has an element of risk attached to it. The Bridgewater bridge is 20 per cent funded by the state Government so there are significant state Government funds into that; recognising, of course, the $375 million that we are putting into the stadium, Ms O'Connor -

Ms O'CONNOR - And the rest of it, over time.

Mr ROCKLIFF - but, with this record health spend in this Budget, we will invest an average $8.3 million a day; that's $375 million we will spend and invest into health every 45 days. But, with the infrastructure into the stadium, we invest that once - so, that is a comparison. This is not tomorrow; that investment is over the course of the next five or six years. Our infrastructure investment, if my memory serves me correctly, with the Budget over the forward Estimates, was $5.6 billion; it's now just under $5 billion, so we're spending less on infrastructure, including the stadium.

Ms O'CONNOR - There are now two motions sitting on the table, one from the Greens and one from your former Liberal colleague, Mr Tucker, which give parliament the capacity to vote on members having a second and final vote on the stadium as a Project of State Significance. What is your response to those motions? Given your commitment to Mr Tucker to enable the second vote to happen, unless someone from the Cross Bench brings it on, would you be proactive about this in getting a legislative amendment up?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I have been proactive. Our Government is looking at that draft amendment now. I understand the motions put forward and the reasons why. I have already given that commitment. I can’t speculate on how motions will proceed or not through the House. I have committed to the parliament, the public and Mr Tucker an amendment to the act to allow the two votes to proceed.

Ms O'CONNOR - That would be, as you said to Ms White earlier, in the spring session. That would come in August?


Ms O'CONNOR - I want to go to some of the finances for the stadium. This is something that a lot people are talking about. Part of the public concern about this is the loading up of debt onto the Tasmanian people. We have a stadium that you say will cost $715 million but, on the evidence of other stadia that have been built, it will cost significantly more than that.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Except that this is a 23 000 boutique stadium, Ms O'Connor. I stand to be corrected but I think Optus Stadium is 60 000 seats.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, I'll take that on board. But Macquarie Point is, as you know, a very tight site and it has significant remediation issues for any build. So, we have a stadium that may or may not cost $1 billion, we have a forward projection of $900 million or so out of GST receipts, we have cuts through the efficiency dividend to agencies and we have spiralling net debt. Do you think it's a fiscally responsible position to take, given the alarms I am certain were set off by Treasury, to sign a blank cheque for a stadium when the state's finances are in such a difficult place, and for the foreseeable future?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I reject the assertion that it was a blank cheque. It clearly wasn't.

Ms O'CONNOR - It was, because you promised to pay 100 per cent of cost overruns, so it is a blank cheque.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - You are ignoring the fact of the cheque that the AFL is providing, of some $360 million to Tasmanians.

Ms White - They would provide that to any club.

CHAIR - Order, Ms White.

Dr Broad - Over how many years?

CHAIR - Order, Dr Broad.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Over 10 years.

Ms O'CONNOR - But the question still stands.

Mr ROCKLIFF - That's right, and it's interesting. It's about injecting some $120 million investment as a result of the AFL team and everything else that goes with it. Ms White, I have to agree with your former colleague, Mr O'Byrne, when he made a very good speech to parliament. Most of it. I didn't agree with the stuff he said about the Rockliff Liberal Government but I agreed with what he said about the opportunities the AFL team will bring to Tasmania.

In the context, though, that our expenditure for infrastructure and the forward Estimates has lessened by some $600 million, I believe it is affordable, it is sustainable, it will generate economic activity and jobs, and transform a precinct that would have to be invested in anyway.

Ms O'CONNOR - Our colleague in the upper House, Ruth Forrest, is possibly, across the parliament, the most knowledgeable about the intricacies of budget management. In an opinion piece she had published in the Mercury a couple of weeks ago, she states:

I cannot recall such wanton recklessness in any of my 18 years of analysing government budgets.

So clearly the alarm was raised by Treasury, the numbers speak for themselves, you have got seasoned budget analysts like Ms Forrest saying this is recklessness. What is your response to Ms Forrest?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I don't agree with Ms Forrest. I recognise that people might like to place that investment elsewhere but I don't see it as recklessness when you're investing in enabling infrastructure in an area that is ripe for investment, an area that, while over the course of the last 10 years there has been some work done -

Ms O'Connor - Of your Government, dithering.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, let the Premier answer, please.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Ms O'Connor, a lot of work has been done, in actual fact, around the planning and the remediation. It is not fair to say that nothing has happened. But with a bit more remediation to go, it is now ripe for investment and I believe this is a good investment, as they have been in other states of Australia. Why can't we have an opportunity not only to secure our own AFL team but also to be able to take part in what is an $8 billion stadia economy.

I have some information: when I said I think we were expecting the amendment to the act to be in the next session, that could be late June.

Ms O'CONNOR - In the last sitting week, potentially. I thought you might want to knock it off early.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Possibly. We're getting some advice now but I don't want be criticised for not being factual.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just for absolute clarity on that point, are you saying that the amendment to the State Policies and Projects Act will contain the order that the stadium be declared a PoSS (Project of State Significance) as well as the mechanism for the second vote?

Mr ROCKLIFF - The stadium will declare a PoSS, yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm just trying to get some clarity for the whole table and then we can move on from this question. You have now said that it is possible that parliament will see the amendment, correct me if I a wrong, in this session, so the last sitting week before the break. Is it your understanding that what that amendment will be will be both the declaration of the stadium as a PoSS and the provision for the second vote?

Mr ROCKLIFF - It's just the amendment, at this stage, to allow the order.

Ms O'CONNOR - The second vote. So, the order will come in in August?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Later this year.

Ms O'CONNOR - Later this year, thank you.

Ms WHITE - Premier, I wanted to ask about -

Mr Rockliff - DPAC?

Ms WHITE - Maybe later.

Ms O'Connor - We have some DPAC questions, don't worry about that.

CHAIR - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, among the documents that you tabled on Thursday is a fascinating document that asks, 'Will it fit?'

Mr ROCKLIFF - The fact sheet.

Ms O'CONNOR - The fact sheet, which asks, 'Will it fit?' We have scaled out the measurements and think the stadium itself will just fit. Can you confirm that there is a question mark over whether there is space for a concourse and access for emergency vehicles in the design so far? Our understanding is that it doesn't quite fit when you put a proper concourse in there. Do you know anything about this?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I didn't anticipate your level of expertise in these matters in terms of doing your own work on that.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it's just measuring up the numbers that were given and putting it in the diagram.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - This will all be worked through in the precinct plan. Remember, with all due respect, that the design brief is still to be done and we will ensure that the matters you raise will meet all those requirements. Having secured the funding just over a month ago, we are now at that very beginning stage, as I highlighted this morning in an answer to Ms White, where the precinct plan, the design of the stadium and all those matters can now take place with consultation, which is exciting. Our own Tasmanian design of an iconic boutique stadium, relevant to Tasmania, attracting investment - it's a very exciting proposal.

I recognise the challenges in being able to bring everyone on board with this but I have to say there are a lot of people who support the stadium and the AFL team. They recognise the fact that you can't have an AFL team without the stadium and they are very excited about the opportunities it will bring. Your questions are very legitimate, as are the questions from the RSL, as are the questions around a reconciliation park and other matters, which will be worked through in the design stage of not only the stadium but also the precinct.