Published: 22 May 2023

It's often said a week is a long time in politics. Last week certainly proved the point.

With the state facing so many problems needing urgent attention the government chose the bread and circuses option to divert attention from our more serious woes with a pig-headed decision to proceed with little consultation to build a stadium at Macquarie Point.

A stadium which few regard as deserving priority. A stadium that is yet to be designed or costed properly.

A stadium where the benefits in even the most optimistic business case fail to cover the fairy tale costs, and where the associated cost benefit analysis deliberately understated costs by failing to include the opportunity costs of the best sited block in Tasmania.

The cost of land in any cost benefit study should be based on its best possible use.

Only then can the benefits from different uses be compared. That is the point of a cost benefit study.

We have yet to be told how the government's fragile budgetary position will be affected. All funds needed by the state will need to be borrowed. What benefits will flow back into state coffers? Or will all the asserted benefits flow to others?

There's little point blaming Albo for what's happened by agreeing to offer federal funds.

A careful reading of the federal budget paper reveals the federal grants for both the MacPoint and UTAS stadia came with the label 'place based co-investments', which means they are funds intended to support state services such as housing and infrastructure.

Which in turn means that under Commonwealth Grants Commission (CGC) rules the grants will be included when determining Tasmania's GST share. In other words what we receive as a grant will be clawed back with less GST in subsequent years.

That's how the $340 million Royal Hobart Hospital rebuild grant worked. Tasmania paid the lot.

CGC's rules for dealing with grants for sporting facilities are also well established.

Where the whole nation benefits say, for an international sporting event, then the grants mightn't be included when determining a state's GST share. That's not the case for a stadium in Hobart.

Not to be given details of the state's deal with the AFL is the ultimate paternalistic insult. Commercial in confidence has been cited.

We all know that's an excuse for secrecy.

Any AFL interests they may suffer from disclosure pale into insignificance alongside the interests of the people of Tasmania.

The AFL has mistaken its role as custodian of the game for the desire to make as much money as possible. The game at the state's grassroots has withered but the AFL has made lots of money.

There are a clear majority of Tasmanians who support our own AFL team - after all we are part of the nation and it is a national competition. We have a strong footy history.

Most Tasmanians understood, after years of lobbying for our own team, that a team will also come at a cost. While not all agreed, most believed this cost should be supported.

Tasmania is already funding the costs of playing AFL games in Tasmania. The AFL knew we were suckers for the game and as soon as the former premier threw in an offer of a roofed stadium, the AFL made it a condition of a new licence. When, why and how this occurred when both the AFL Taskforce and Carter Reports didn't mention it as a precondition is yet another secret.

Even after last week's tumult with the government losing its majority, the AFL CEO continued his paternalism by saying the stadium will still be built, implying Tasmanians don't know what's best for them.

Macquarie Point can and should be developed to be an inclusive, lively site that encourages people to visit and transit through every day of the year. It should promote multi-mode transport options to reduce traffic congestion into and around the city.

The jobs and other economic drivers related to the proposed stadium can be realised through many other more interactive facilities that do not disrespect the veteran or Aboriginal communities.

We may well need a new roofed multi-purpose entertainment venue in the future. But for now, we need to stand up to the AFL and rightly claim our team and not be forced to compromise the financial sustainability of the state to do so. No other team has had such onerous demands made of them.

The Advocate, Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Go Back