Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.49 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) congratulates the State Government on delivering $23.6 million to help build a new stadium in Newcastle for the Hunter;
(2) notes the Premier personally delivered the cheque to the region today; and
(3) calls on the Federal Government to immediately honour its election promise by matching the State Government's contribution.
Today I had the honour, together with the Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development, to attend the handover ceremony at EnergyAustralia Stadium of a $23.6 million cheque to help build a new world-class sporting facility at Newcastle's EnergyAustralia Stadium. This State Government funding is part of a $44 million redevelopment proposal put to the New South Wales and Federal governments by the Newcastle International Sports Centre Trust in May. It was made very clear by the Premier that our Government's funding today of $23.6 million is not conditional on the Federal Government providing its share of the upgrade. It was put on the table. The Federal Government must now honour its promise and come up with a matching amount so that Newcastle and the Hunter region can have a world-class stadium which, as honourable members are clearly aware, the Hunter deserves and has awaited for a long time.
The new stadium will give our Knights football team and Newcastle United soccer team the opportunity to operate from a world-class facility. Also, all other sporting and cultural activities in the Hunter will have the opportunity to participate in their activity at the stadium. It will be a fully seated stadium and spectators will have the conditions they justly deserve. It is now up to Mr Bob Baldwin, Federal member for Paterson, and Senator John Tierney to fight for the remaining Commonwealth money. After the redevelopment, with State and Commonwealth funding, there is no doubt that this will be the best regional stadium in Australia. It will be a safe and comfortable venue for families who wish to watch our fantastic Knights football team and our Newcastle United soccer team continue their winning runs, as they have in the last two seasons.
Of the $23.6 million State funding, $22 million will be spent on building new stands with new change rooms, improved seating, new corporate boxes and new broadcast and media facilities, and $1.6 million will be spent on urgent repairs. The group that attended the handover of the cheque today clearly demonstrates the support right across the Hunter region for this facility. As I said, Minister Face and I were present, as was Newcastle Lord Mayor, Councillor John Tate, representing the mayors of the Hunter Valley. The support for the project from Hunter Regional Organisation of Councils [HROC] was there from the very beginning. Also present were the International Sports Centre Trust chairman Ted Atchison, secretary Leigh Maughan, and trust members; Knights chairman Michael Hill, general manager Ken Conway, head coach Michael Hagan, football manager Mark Sargent, club captain Bill Peden, other Knights players and, importantly, New South Wales and Knights captain—and hopefully captain of Australia—Andrew Johns.
Last year, on the night that the Knights won the Grand Final, Andrew Johns made a prophetic statement when he said that the spectators and supporters of Newcastle and the Hunter deserve a better stadium. That was a trigger for action at the community level to support the action that has been ongoing since 1999. Minister Face has advocated support within government, as have the members of the Hunter Task Force—the members for Port Stephens, Cessnock, Wallsend, Maitland, Swansea, Lake Macquarie and me, as the member for Newcastle. The significant issue in winning the funding for this stadium has been that all levels of government have worked together. Our Federal members, State members and local government representatives have worked together with the Knights, KB United and the International Sports Centre Trust, all focused on advocating for this stadium.
As the Premier said today, over the past three years the members have been bashing on his door calling for this stadium. It is great to see the State side of funding delivered today. It is now time for Senator Tierney and Mr Baldwin to hold up their side of the bargain and get the commitment from the Federal Government to provide matching funds of $22 million. I will refer to some significant statements made by both men. In the Newcastle Herald on 16 May an article stated:
On 16 May in the Newcastle Herald Senator John Tierney said:
Sen. John Tierney said he and Mr Baldwin would not fully pursue the EnergyAustralia upgrade until its owner, the State Government, first contributed to the significant funds to the project.
That is the idea of half-funding. Mr Baldwin said in the House of Representatives on 4 June:
We want to see the Carr Government does make its responsibilities on this issue. That's our position on it.
… it is the responsibility of, and is owned by, the State Government. They need to address the issue in the first place.
In the Newcastle Herald on 7 June Mr Baldwin said:
The State Government should first contribute its $22million share to the project before the Commonwealth chipped in.
I congratulate the Premier and the Government on the decision made. The International Sports Centre Trust, with the involvement of the Premier's Department, went through a searching process of rational discussion about the stadium and how it should be built and costed. The plan came to the Premier in the last week of May, and has gone through a process of financial and technical advice. It has been said that the stadium should have come out in the budget, but that was not even a possibility. It had to go through that process first. It has now gone through the process and it has got the tick. Today we heard that fantastic announcement. Today I did not meet one person in Newcastle who did not have a beaming smile on his or her face, with the thought of the great improvement in our sporting facilities in the region.
I am sure that Opposition members will support this project. It is a tremendous regional facility that will give great benefit to the whole of the Hunter region and to the North Coast. I ask the Opposition to join us in calling on the Federal Government to come to the party. As occurred on the Central Coast, the Federal and State governments will put in a significant amount of money and allow the region to run the facility in a way that continues to give families the opportunity to attend major sporting events at a reasonable cost but with much improved facilities. I pay tribute to Andrew Johns, who received the cheque from the Premier. I was pleased to see the Premier hand the cheque for $23.6 million to Andrew Johns, to be given to the International Sports Centre Trust. The Premier handed over the money so that the project can begin. We can move forward in a well-planned and positive program to bring the facility to the people of the Hunter Valley. We can give them what they deserve: a fair distribution of funding for the development of a magnificent sporting stadium. Let us see the Federal Government match that grant.
Mr STONER (Oxley) [4.59 p.m.]: Any investment in sporting facilities in New South Wales, especially in the Hunter district, must be welcomed. The Opposition welcomes this sort of commitment to sporting facilities in the Hunter. It is well and truly time that the Government was serious and gave priority to the Sport and Recreation portfolio, given that as a share of the State budget Sport and Recreation has dropped from 2.8 per cent in 1994-95 under the former Coalition Government to just 2.2 per cent in 2002-03. Therefore, this additional investment is welcomed. There is no doubt that EnergyAustralia Stadium is not up to the standard of many other venues in the State, particularly those in Sydney. Sadly, to some extent Newcastle and the Hunter have been taken for granted by Labor, and this has led to Newcastle being overlooked for events in the Rugby Union World Cup, to be held next year. I refer to an article in the Newcastle Herald dated 21 May, which stated:
It is a shame that the state of this stadium has resulted in a missed opportunity for the Hunter. Therefore, this commitment—although late—is welcomed by the Opposition. The community pushed hard for the funding. In May the Hunter Sports Park Trust put in submissions to both the State and Federal governments for $44 million to build a 25,000-seat facility. I put on the record that if the Coalition is elected to office next year it will retain the commitment of $23.6 million—
Rugby World Cup general manager Matt Carroll said Newcastle missed out because it was too far from Sydney International Airport and lacked appropriate seating and media facilities …
Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union general manager David Munro said it would have been a "fair call" to reject EnergyAustralia Stadium because of its facilities …
Newcastle and Hunter Business Chamber president Paul Murphy said the loss will cost the Hunter "hundreds of thousands" of tourist dollars.
Mr Gaudry: It is paid already.
Mr STONER: It is in the budget, it is paid and we support that. I refer to another article in the Newcastle Herald dated 15 June that refers to the State Government commissioning consultants to report on major venues in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle areas. In the article the Lord Mayor of Newcastle City Council, Councillor Tate, stated:
So there has been a strong push. Today the Premier announced funding of $23.6 million. Why was that announcement made today when less than two weeks ago we were told that consultants were engaged to examine sporting facilities in metropolitan areas and that the report would not be available until later this year? I suggest that it demonstrates political opportunism and is another case of the spinmeister Premier hopping in a helicopter with Andrew Johns, making the announcement the day after the State of Origin match when interest levels are high, and timing the presentation of the cheque for maximum media coverage. I suggest that the process has cut through proper analysis and justification to jump on the State of Origin bandwagon. Last night I saw the Premier at the State of Origin match. He rushed down to the tunnel immediately after the match and greeted the Queensland captain, Gorden Tallis. The cameras lights were flashing. I went into the Blues dressing room; I did not see the Premier consoling players after the draw. I spoke to those players, who played their hearts out. I spoke to Andrew Johns, who told me he was gutted. The Premier was nowhere to be seen. He left in a hurry after his media grab.
Cr Tate said he had been told by the State Government that a Cabinet sub-committee on major venues had asked private sector consultants to carry out an assessment of major metropolitan area sporting venues.
Although the report would not be finished until later in the year, he was hopeful the consultants would find economic and political merit in putting public funds towards a stadium upgrade.
I also ask where the money has come from because it was not in the State budget. It has not been allocated through proper analysis of need, but it appears to have been driven by political opportunism—a return to the bad old days of the whiteboard. Newcastle deserves a facility of similar standard to the many facilities this Sydney-centric Government has poured money into. It is about time that Labor provided world-class facilities outside Sydney. I raise these matters because the process has not been transparent and the timing has been driven by media exposure rather than a rational process. Paragraph (3) on the motion is a blatant attempt to mislead the House and the people of the Hunter, because the Federal Government has made no such promise. From correspondence I have received from Senator Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport, the Commonwealth Government has made no commitment to provide funding for the EnergyAustralia Stadium. To suggest that the Commonwealth Government has agreed to match the State's contribution is pure fiction. Although a submission has gone to the Federal Government, this venue is clearly 100 per cent the responsibility of the State Government. I should like to quote again from the Newcastle Herald of 15 June, in which the Lord Mayor of Newcastle City Council stated:
This stadium is the responsibility of the State, and it has a long overdue commitment to upgrade this facility to enable international and national matches to be played in the Hunter. Paragraph (3) of the motion is totally misleading. Therefore, I move the following amendment:
Canberra is logically going to wait to see what the State does, because it's State property, it's a State-built stadium, the trust is appointed by the State.
Mr MILLS (Wallsend) [5.07 p.m.]: This is a great day for the Hunter region. The New South Wales Labor Government is investing in infrastructure for the benefit of the community in Labor heartland. It puts to rest the old furphy that safe seats do not receive attention. The Newcastle Herald editorial writers will have to find another line to push. The Newcastle Herald editorial for October 2001 stated:
That the motion be amended by leaving out paragraph (3) with a view to inserting instead:
(3) Calls upon the State Government to fully fund the upgrade of this State-owned and run facility.
He addressed the crowd of blue and red supporters at Stadium Australia and those of us present were very moved by it. At the victory parade in Newcastle the then Federal Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, said a new stadium would be achieved only through the combined effort of the community and the New South Wales and Federal governments. Kim Beazley hit the nail on the head when he said it would take people working together to achieve this. The response by the honourable member for Oxley indicates that the Coalition in this State, just like its Federal counterparts around the Hunter region, do not understand the concept of the benefit that can be derived from people working together and helping each other at different levels of government.
If the Newcastle Knights rugby league grand final victory has done one thing, it has been to get this seemingly stalled issue of a better stadium for the city on the go again. Team captain Andrew Johns set the ball rolling after Sunday night's game when he said the Newcastle fans deserve a better stadium.
The meeting, which I attended, was held on 4 October last year, just after the grand final. It was convened by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, John Tate, and was attended by Councillor Peter Blackmore from Maitland Council; Councillor Steve Busteed from Port Stephens; Councillor John Clarence from Cessnock; Councillor John Kilpatrick from Lake Macquarie; the Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development; the honourable member for Newcastle; Allan Morris, former Federal member of Parliament; Liberal Senator John Tierney; the honourable member for Port Stephens; Jill Hall, Federal member for Shortland; Kelly Hoare, Federal member for Charlton; the honourable member for Lake Macquarie; the honourable member for Swansea; the honourable member for Maitland; Ian Bonnette and Michael Hill from the Newcastle Knights; Leigh Maughan and Ted Atchison from the International Sports Centre Trust, as it was then called; and Jock Graham from Newcastle United Soccer Club.
That group made a number of important decisions. The first—which demonstrated how we could work together—was an agreement to put aside all previous arguments about whether we should upgrade Marathon Stadium, as it then was, or build something better on a greenfields site. We agreed that since the heart of Newcastle was at Marathon Stadium we should support the upgrading of that venue. We put aside a lot of differences on that day to work together to achieve the sort of outcome that has been announced today. We agreed to combine our collective energies in a unified approach to all levels of government and the business community to achieve our goal.
At a meeting on Friday 14 June of the same group chaired by the Lord Mayor, which I also attended, trust chairman Ted Atchison reported that the Premier's Major Venues Task Force Committee, to which the matter had been handed—there is some information for the honourable member for Oxley—had received a submission on behalf of the New South Wales Government just before the Federal budget announcement. Ted Atchison told us that the submission had been received favourably by the committee. We were assured in our meeting a couple of weeks ago that there was an approach under way and that the application from the International Sports Centre Trust was being processed. We expected a positive outcome before too long. We were aware that the task force was expediting its examination of EnergyAustralia Stadium because the plan—it had taken a long time to formulate a good plan—was so well advanced.
Coalition politicians in the Hunter—Bob Baldwin, the Federal member for Paterson, and Senator Tierney—have been playing divisive wedge politics. Senator Tierney wrote a letter to the newspaper in January saying that the Carr Government should close the Hunter Street railway line and put the money it saved into the EnergyAustralia Stadium. The honourable member for Newcastle sensibly responded that Senator Tierney should assist by getting funding for the EnergyAustralia Stadium from the Federal Government. It was a different story when the proposal regarding NorthPower Stadium at Gosford was kick-started by the Federal Coalition just prior to the Federal election six years ago. It said that it would provide $12 million in Federal funds for the North Sydney-Manly merger provided the Carr Government matched that funding. We did. The question now is whether John Howard thinks Bob Baldwin's skin is worth saving.
Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes—Deputy Leader of the National Party) [5.12 p.m.]: Like the shadow Minister for Sport and the Leader of the Opposition I support the reconstruction, rebuilding and renovation of EnergyAustralia Stadium, previously known as Marathon Stadium, previously known as the International Sports Centre, previously known as Newcastle airport, previously known as a swamp. The site has had a chequered career, and it is still pretty damp underfoot when it rains. It is interesting to note that the stadium was an airstrip in the middle of Newcastle and now the Newcastle airstrip is in the middle of Maitland—but that is another story. The International Sports Centre was originally conceived with a view to attempting to bring the Commonwealth Games to Newcastle.
It was to be the centrepiece of Newcastle's bid for the Commonwealth Games but, regrettably, we did not win those games. Perhaps we could consider making another bid in the future. Unfortunately, politics have now come into play in relation to the sports centre. The shadow Minister for Sport referred to a letter from Senator Rod Kemp stating that the Federal Government has made no promise in relation to this matter. Yet everywhere we go we hear the same mantra from the State Government. Any time the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads fulfils his obligation in relation to a State road he challenges the Federal Government to match the funding when the road is obviously a State responsibility.
There are council, State and Federal responsibilities, and the sports centre is a State responsibility. Instead of playing politics, which is what the Labor Party appears to want to do, the State Government should get on and do it. The people of Newcastle deserve, and have been waiting for, a new stadium, yet all we hear is silly politics. I do not care whether the Premier hops in a helicopter, flies to Newcastle and drops $23 million or so on the table. He should put on the table whatever sum is needed because the stadium is a State Government responsibility. Forget the petty politics of issuing challenges. If the Government is fair dinkum about upgrading the facility, it should put the money on the table and get on with it. The people of Newcastle are sick to death of hearing debates about the responsibility of the Federal Government in relation to this matter. The sporting arrangements in this State are a State responsibility, as are the roads of this State—except for Federal highways, which are administered by the Federal Government.
The Premier professes to be keen on sport but takes little interest in it. He does not realise the benefits of sport to tourism, which is my shadow portfolio responsibility. Proper sporting facilities and good sports promotion in the regions are terribly important to the tourism industry. The Premier tries to pretend that he is a sporting person and a man of the people. Who can forget the speech that the Premier gave in this House when the Sydney Swans reached the AFL Grand Final? He concluded by saying that he hoped to see Plugger put one right over the black dot on Saturday. Who can forget his comment just a few weeks ago that he hoped we would beat Victoria in the State of Origin? Who was the bloke who read a book during the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympic Games? Who was the Premier who was booed in Newcastle when the Newcastle Knights won the Grand Final? Rather than swanning around, the Premier should meet his responsibilities, fund this project properly and let the people of Newcastle have the facility to which they are entitled.
The last real work on this facility was done by the Coalition when the Leader of the National Party as Minister for Sport provided the lights for Marathon Stadium. In fact, he tells me that he turned on those lights. That is the last work done on that facility. The Carr Government has done nothing in seven years because it wants to play petty politics about who will put the money on the table. It is either a State Government responsibility or it is not. If it is, the State Government should produce the money and build the stadium properly. It cannot half do it, which is what the Government is doing by saying that $46 million is needed and then putting $23 million on the table. The people of Newcastle, who are traditionally represented by the Labor Party, are being dudded by the Labor Party.
Mr PRICE (Maitland) [5.17 p.m.]: I support the motion before the House and reject the amendment: it is not practical and it is not real—in fact, it is a joke. I congratulate the Premier on his initiative in providing this badly needed funding to assist in improving EnergyAustralia Stadium. I liken it to the money that the State Government provided in 1998 to the Glendale Regional Athletics Centre. That was a State initiative on State land that was fully funded by the State without any Federal support. The Newcastle Entertainment Centre secured a series of loans from the Greiner Government, which are repayable at interest rates of 11 per cent and 12 per cent. That is the sort of gift we get from a conservative State Government.
The money for the stadium is real cash that is in the bank earning interest. We will make sure that the centre is the best outside metropolitan Sydney. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Federal Government has made no funding commitment. It has always said, "Show us your money and we'll do something." We have shown it the money so how about doing something? Senator Tierney and Bob Baldwin have been screaming their heads off about what the State Government should or should not do. We have now done it—with some style—well before an election. Let us see what the Federal Government can do to match it. I refer particularly to Bob Baldwin and his actions before the last Federal election.
In my electorate, and adjacent to the electorate of the honourable member for Wallsend, who is in the Chair, a grade-separated intersection, which was worth some $27 million, was required. That was on a promissory note. The reason that was given for there being no progress and the reason a petition was collected and presented by the Opposition in this Parliament was because the State would not build a link road. We have had the money for the link road for some time. We have done all the studies. We have taken account of Aboriginal artefacts and 1995 flood levels. We have communicated with everyone. We have an agreed plan and this year the road is fully funded. The link road will start in September. Where, Mr Baldwin, is your promise of an grade-separated interchange? He does not even get to Indian giver stage. We did not get the interchange; all we got was the promise. The last Federal budget omitted that project.
The stadium in Newcastle has been a tremendous effort. I offer praise to my colleagues the honourable member for Newcastle and the Minister for Gaming and Racing and to the Premier's Department for its efforts to ensure that this program has come forward at this time. As the honourable member for Wallsend knows from his own experience, the pressure has been on from the community—and not only from the Newcastle Knights football club and the International Sports Centre. For some years I was a director of the sports centre so I know the background. I know how difficult it has been to get funding. But the Premier has done it in style.
To return to Bob Baldwin, he is a big man with a big mouth. He is full of hot air, but let's see a little bit of action. The honourable member for Wallsend and I can benefit from his promises, but where are they? They are fictitious; they do not exist. The Federal Minister for Transport and Regional Services was not game to stand at the intersection during the Federal campaign when his loud-mouthed colleague was using that program as a step-up for his election, and of course we all know any government that is elected on racial issues will ultimately receive the fate it deserves. The centre will benefit my electorate significantly. There are Knights supporters all over the Hunter Valley and beyond.
The people of Maitland will be delighted to learn that the facilities at the ground will be upgraded to such an extent that they can truly appreciate their team at every home game. The soccer fraternity will also be delighted with the facilities. The International Sports Centre is a tremendous sport and recreation complex for the people of the Hunter Valley. We are fortunate to have this site and it is tremendous that the Government is continuing to support the people of the Hunter Valley, who in turn support the Government. Never again can it be said that they have been left out or cut short. I support the motion moved by the member for Newcastle.
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.22 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members representing the electorates of Wallsend, Myall Lakes and Maitland for their contributions. I particularly commend the honourable member for Wallsend and the honourable member for Maitland for their commitment to this project. They have clearly indicated the benefits that the project will bring to the Hunter Valley community. The project is the result of insistent and persistent calls by the community of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley for a first-class stadium. That was brought into focus by Andrew "Joey" Johns following the Grand Final last year when he said that the supporters of the greatest football team in rugby league deserve a better stadium. The process continued from there. A submission was put together by the International Sports Centre Trust and consultants.
That submission was then presented to the Federal Government. Further work was done on the submission by the International Sports Centre Trust and the Premier's Department. In May this year the submission was finally presented to both levels of Government and the State Government has said it will provide $23.6 million of the funding for this fantastic facility. Today I failed to mention that Paul Harragon, the favourite son of rugby league, Energy Australia Chief Executive Officer, Paul Broad, and other members of Energy Australia, the important naming rights sponsor for the stadium, were at the presentation. I want to quote something that was said today by the Federal member for Paterson, Mr Baldwin, today on 2NC Newcastle. Paul Bevan asked him. "Been on the phone to the Prime Minister overnight?" He replied:
Later he said:
Well actually I've late last week arranged to have a meeting this afternoon to discuss amongst other things Marathon, sorry to keep calling it Marathon Stadium, Energy Australia Stadium to see if there's something we can do out of that rejection of money by the Victoria State Government that was allocated to the MCG.
He is saying he has been working for Federal funding for the EnergyAustralia Stadium. Then he continued:
I've been on the boards now for three years with people like Ian Bennet and the Chief and worked the doors of Canberra.
There is a commitment by our Federal colleagues in the Hunter to fund the EnergyAustralia Stadium. I know that a formal request was made by the Lord Mayor's task force to the office of Senator Rod Kemp, the Federal sports Minister, on 16 May. That has been followed by a meeting with the Senator to deal with the submission that has been put forward at the Federal level. There is certainly a commitment, and there is certainly a strong belief that the Federal Government will put in its share to make the stadium the best arena for sport and cultural activity in regional Australia. That is what the Hunter deserves. It has a wonderful sporting tradition. The $23.6 million cheque presented by the Premier will go directly into the bank of the International Sports Centre Trust so that the project to bring this first-class stadium to fruition can be worked through step-by-step. The money is committed. The Government did not make commitment on the basis of the Federal Government providing matching funds. I congratulate the Premier and the New South Wales State Government. I thank my colleagues in Parliament for their support. I thank the Knights, the councils of the Hunter and the whole of the Newcastle community for their support. [Time expired.]
But I will go in with Senator Tierney and we will push hard to see what we can get for the region.
Motion agreed to.
Pursuant to resolution private members' statements taken forthwith.