Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.41 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 on 27 June 2002;
(3) expresses its disappointment that the Commonwealth Government did not honour its election promise in last week's Federal budget to match the State Government's contribution; and
(4) calls on the Federal Government to immediately provide its fair share to the Newcastle stadium.
In June last year the State Government handed over a cheque for $23.6 million to none other than Andrew Johns, a man who needs no introduction in this House or to rugby league players. That money was allocated to help build a new world-class sporting facility at EnergyAustralia Stadium in Newcastle. The Premier delivered the cheque himself and I remember standing on the halfway line at the ground to hear that great announcement. Later that day I had the honour of speaking in this place, when I said:
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
That was a great day for the Hunter. We made a promise and we delivered the cash into the hands of the Newcastle International Sports Centre Trust, giving it the opportunity to go ahead with its ambitious plans to develop a $44 million world-class stadium and to give the people of Newcastle a facility that they have called for and which they deserve. Members of the Hunter Task Force have long advocated the development of this facility. A positive and proactive plan was put before the Premier and his department, who appraised it and considered the value of the stadium as a sporting venue and its likely contribution to the cultural and social development of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. They gave the plan a tick and awarded it $23.6 million in funding.
The movement received added impetus when Andrew Johns, our great Newcastle Knights and Australian rugby league captain, said at the end of the 2001 rugby league competition—which was of course won by the Newcastle Knights—that Newcastle fans deserved a world-class stadium. The Newcastle Knights have made an enormous contribution not only to the economy of the Hunter Valley but also to its social fabric. There is strong community support for the team. I pause at this point to pay tribute to the late Allan McMahon, who laid the foundations of the Knights rugby league team. I pass my condolences, and I am sure those of every rugby league fan, to his wife, Glenice, and to their children, Alana, Kayla and Gregory, upon Allan's tragic death. In the words of the Newcastle Knights founding members, Allan "dug the well" and established the great Newcastle Knights tradition.
That is the basis upon which we call for the development of the stadium. The State Government has made its funding commitment. The Federal member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin, told the House of Representatives and the Newcastle Herald that the Federal Government was also committed to the project and would chip in the other $22 million when the State Government had provided its share of the necessary funds. Has that occurred? It certainly had not happened last year when the State Government put our $23.6 million on the table. It had still not happened when the University of Newcastle put together a very strong economic and social case in favour of the development.
Professor Holmes of the University of Newcastle Centre for Business Innovation Research and Development made it clear in his study that the cost of building the stadium could be recouped in as little as 1.4 years, or in a maximum of 2.75 years. Between 1988 and 1998 the Newcastle Knights generated spending of some $52.4 million and stimulated some $104.8 million in regional spending. It is apparent that this investment would produce strong economic and social benefits. There is a clear case for calling on the Federal Government to inject funds into the project under its regional development policy and provide a base from which to increase not only the sporting but also the tourism, social and cultural benefits for the Hunter region.
The Prime Minister commented at about the same time last year that stadium development is not normally the role of Federal Government. However, the Federal Government allocated $12 million for the NorthPower Stadium in 1988 and put $2 million towards the Maitland basketball centre in the same year. It has spent about $4.5 million on Manuka Oval in Canberra and has promised to allocate about $90 million for the redevelopment of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Federal Government included workplace agreement stipulations that enabled it to withdraw. The Federal Government cannot use the argument that it is not involved in improving sporting facilities or should not be involved in assisting in regional development.
The Newcastle and the Hunter regions deserve this sporting facility and it is time for the Federal Government to come to the party. We waited patiently for the budget but nothing came out of it. In October last year a delegation led by Ted Aitchison, the chairman, John Tate, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Andrew Johns, our rugby league football captain, and Michael Hill, the Knights chairman, had a meeting with the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Arthur Sinodinos—the Prime Minister was not available¯and at that time the Federal Government appeared to be interested in coming to the party. This is a regional issue and is beyond politics. There was no good news in this budget for the sports centre. The Federal Government must look at regional development issues and come forward and assist the Hunter, perhaps in the next budget. What is happening at the moment is not acceptable.
I congratulate Robbie O'Davis on his two-hundredth game last weekend. One could not see a more committed, determined and talented player. His play is tremendous when one remembers his try in the 1997 grand final and his try last Saturday night after having recovered from a terrible injury to his nose and jaw. The 16,000 people at the game last Saturday night had to sit in terrible weather. The people of the Hunter Valley should have a 25,000-seat stadium provided by the State and Federal governments. That would be a wonderful asset for the community and would enable families to watch their top grade rugby league and soccer games and cultural and social events in comfort and at a reasonable price. I say to the Prime Minister and the Federal Government that it is time to come forward with the $22 million for the stadium. The communities represented by members of the Coalition know the value to their region of sport and cultural events in such a facility. I ask them to join us in supporting this motion.
Mr ARMSTRONG (Lachlan) [3.51 p.m.]: I move:
That the motion be amended by the addition of paragraph (5) as follows:
(5) calls on the State Government to provide $50 million in urgently needed sports facility funding in inland New South Wales.
I have no doubt that every sensible Australian and all New South Welshmen appreciate the full value of sport. However, to have good sport one must have good facilities. This morning, a leading daily newspaper carried a report extolling the virtues of sporting equipment—simple things such as scooters, tennis racquets and soccer balls—for the physical development of children. In the past couple of days during question time we have heard about the trend towards greater urbanisation and more people living in high-rise buildings. The writer of the article also implied that we need to exercise both mind and body. Sport in any form satisfies that need. Sporting facilities are places where people can both have fun and competition and also improve their physical and mental health.
The motion of the honourable member for Newcastle is an attempt to make political points about the Newcastle stadium. The Coalition supported the Newcastle stadium and said prior to the election that if elected it would fully fund the stadium. If the Coalition had gained office I am sure considerably more funds would have been provided to give Newcastle a better and grander stadium. The honourable member for Newcastle talked about the weather. If the Coalition had been elected, the stadium would have heated seats. Sports facilities in general are underfunded by the State Government. Let us clear the deck from this day forward. The New South Wales Government has the responsibility of funding and providing sports facilities in this State. If another government, be it local or Federal, wants to make a contribution, that would be voluntary. The Government of the day has the right and responsibility of providing and managing its own sporting facilities, and that obligation cannot be ignored.
In recent times sporting facilities and many other events in this State have come under attack because of the requirements of public liability insurance. Despite the two tranches of legislation that were passed in this House last year, the problem is still escalating. Sporting occasions, for example, the Stockinbingal Village Fair annual bicycle road race, are continually contracting because the Government has not addressed the problem of public liability insurance positively. I assure the Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Newcastle, that for the 90 or so members who participated this year and for the many others who have participated over the past 30-odd years the Stockinbingal Village Fair is anything but a village concept. Rather, the fair is a very important part of the social, cultural and physical energy and attractions of that area. The example of the Stockinbingal Village Fair is symptomatic of what is happening in suburbs, small towns and villages across the State. This year the Stockinbingal community did not have the necessary insurance but at the last moment funding was obtained. However, it is unlikely that the fair will be held next year unless a generous sponsor is found.
Horse riding is a very important sport. According to the Roads and Traffic Authority, every weekend up to 10,000 horses are being transported in trucks and trailers on this State's roads to gymkhanas, agricultural shows or trail riding. I could list for the next half hour the number of horse riding facilities that have had to close down because of public liability insurance difficulties. I will cut right to the chase and talk about who is providing the funds. The proportion of the State budget allocated to the sport and recreation portfolio has declined considerably under Labor, from 2.8 per cent in 1994-95 to 2.5 per cent in 2001-02 and, excluding a major grant for a drag-racing strip, just 2.2 per cent in 2002-03. Labor has not focused on sport and recreation issues.
Sporting facility development is a low priority under Labor. The 2001-02 facility development budget was $6 million in New South Wales, compared to 16.4 million in Victoria and $25.2 million in Queensland. This State, the largest in the nation, allocates only about 40 per cent of Victoria's facility development expenditure and about 23 per cent of Queensland's expenditure. Per capita, 77¢ is allocated for that purpose in New South Wales, $3.44 in Victoria and $7.07 in Queensland. Regional and rural New South Wales have been especially neglected and disadvantaged. Excluding Olympic facilities, the local government area of the Sydney region has received 38.5 per cent of grants and 42.2 per cent of funds in 2001-02, whereas only 22.5 per cent of grants and 25.4 per cent of funds have been allocated to country local government areas.
Over the past five years only two Sydney councils have not received a grant, compared to 47 country shires and councils that have missed out. Excepting the Olympics and the Paralympics, New South Wales has lost major sporting events to other States. The $1.5 million budget for a small major events unit in the Premier's Department pales to insignificance compared with funding in other States. Victoria spends $45 million seeking events. Labor's major grants are driven by political considerations rather than merit and need. Massive grants of $21.96 million for a drag racing strip at Eastern Creek and $23.6 million for an upgrading of EnergyAustralia Stadium at Newcastle have been driven by political opportunism rather than by an assessment of relevant needs across the State.
If the Government wants to be taken seriously on sport and recreation, it has to be fair. It cannot provide for sports and sporting facilities and a superior quality of life for two-thirds of the people of the State and neglect the other third. Today I fully expect all honourable members, because I know the concerns of all members of this Chamber, to vote for fairness and equality by supporting my amendment: that is, they should vote that another $50 million should be urgently pumped into country New South Wales to assist with the provision of sporting facilities. I speak of such things as the Captains Walk in Cootamundra. A bust of every Australian Cricket Test captain has been made and erected in the Captains Walk. Cootamundra is the town where Don Bradman was born. The cottage in which he was born is in the town. That is just one worthy funding initiative that comes readily to mind. There is growing concern about country grandstands. Only last week I raised in the House the Cootamundra racecourse. Racing is known colloquially as the sport of kings. But that magnificent historic and architectural masterpiece, the Cootamundra grandstand, is now closed down owing to occupational health and safety issues.
The Cowra showground grandstand has been closed in the last few weeks, again because of occupational health and safety concerns. The West Wyalong showground grandstand has been closed down for some years. Yass showground facilities have also been under duress for some time. Virtually every showground in New South Wales that has sporting facilities—whether they be for horseracing, harness racing or greyhound racing—has problems. I welcome this opportunity to raise in the House that this Government has neglected sports funding. This State's contributions to sports are well behind those of Victoria and Queensland. The New South Wales Government does not appreciate the health benefits of sports. In fact, sports reduce health costs. A healthy sporting community means reduced health costs, reduced hospital waiting lists and assistance for the overall budget. Sports also help with mental conditions. As I look across to the Government benches I see many honourable members, including members of Country Labor, who would benefit from participation in sporting activities in the bush that would get the gut off them. They could then get out and do a bit more work. They might then win a seat in their own right. It is important that we give them the opportunity to provide $50 million for the bush. I expect full and unanimous support for my amendment. I thank honourable members opposite in anticipation of their support for my amendment and for the bush.
Mr MORRIS (Charlestown) [4.03 p.m.]: Those were interesting words from the honourable member for Lachlan, but they do not change the fact that the Federal Government remains neglectful in its failure to participate in the process of upgrading EnergyAustralia Stadium. I look forward to the people of Newcastle being given a place where they can watch the football without having to sit on the ground and be exposed to rain. Although I have been a member of Parliament for only a short time, I have been quickly reminded just how passionate Hunter families are about EnergyAustralia Stadium. The correspondence has been flowing in. And why would it not? If there is one city in Australia that could be guaranteed to take advantage of a new stadium, it is Newcastle. A new state-of-the-art EnergyAustralia Stadium would be packed to the rafters for every game, every year. The Federal member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin, and Senator John Tierney have failed the people of the Hunter. I quote some of their earlier comments on the redevelopment proposal. Firstly, Mr Baldwin said:
… the State Government should first contribute its $22 million share to the project before the Commonwealth chips in.
That was reported in the Newcastle Herald of 7 June 2002. Mr Baldwin said further:
… it is the responsibility of, and is owned by, the State Government. They need to address the issue in the first place.
That was recorded in Hansard on 4 June 2002. In the Newcastle Herald of 16 May 2002 Senator John Tierney was reported as saying he and Mr Baldwin would not fully pursue the EnergyAustralia upgrade until its owner, the State Government, firstly contributed significant funds to the project. That has been done. I quote these words of Senator Tierney, reported in the Newcastle Herald on 16 May:
We want to see the Carr Government first meet its responsibilities on this issue. That's our position on it.
These two so-called Hunter advocates should hang their heads in shame. They should hang their heads in shame for suggesting that it is up to the football teams and State members from the region to lobby for Federal Government funding—their role. But that is typical of those Liberal members, who have continually failed to represent the people of the Hunter. They are John Howard puppets first and foremost. For them, representing the Hunter region runs a distant second, or maybe even a third. It is time they took a stand. It is time they started working for the people of the Hunter who elected them.
New South Wales Government funding is not conditional on the Federal Government providing its share for the upgrade. We want Newcastle to have a first-class stadium for its world-class football teams. After the redevelopment, the EnergyAustralia Stadium will be the best regional sports stadium in Australia—one of the best venues. It will be able to cater for international events of the highest quality—but only if the Federal Government comes to the party. On a final note, I would like to refer to the back page of today's Daily Telegraph, which shows Andrew Johns and his team, who will play the Brisbane Broncos this weekend, at the recently completed Suncorp Stadium. It would be great if we could turn this around in the next few years so that the Newcastle Knights could play against a team like Brisbane in a stadium that they and their fans could be proud of.
Mr STONER (Oxley—Leader of the National Party) [4.06 p.m.]: This motion is the continuation of a political stunt by the Carr Labor Government. The $22 million promise was made in the lead-up to last year's election, when the Premier flew up to Newcastle with Andrew Johns after last year's State of Origin game. This was somewhat ironic, given the Premier's obvious disinterest in and lack of knowledge of the game of rugby league. In fact, during the lead-up to last year's State of Origin series the Premier showed his ignorance of the great game of rugby league. I quote the Daily Telegraph of 21 May 2002:
There must be a poll in the air—Bob Carr can't stop attending sports functions. A few days ago the Premier showed up at NSW Blues' training fearlessly predicting they would trounce Victoria in tomorrow night's State of Origin rugby league game.
Victoria? Now, with another State of Origin series imminent, the Labor Party is seeking to try to make further political mileage out of rugby league. This motion is misleading in that it omits the fact that when the Premier announced the funding for the Newcastle stadium he knew full well that the Federal Government has no program that provides funding for sport capital projects. So the call for a commensurate grant of $22 million from the Federal Government was misleading and politically motivated. Labor has led the good people of the Hunter up the garden path on this one. I do not begrudge a contribution to the development of the EnergyAustralia Stadium. In fact, the Sydney Labor Government should provide the full amount required, instead of offering only half of what is required. It is only fitting that other parts of the State get a fair go after Labor spent hundreds of millions of dollars on sporting facilities in Sydney for the Olympics. If Labor wants to spend $22 million—it should be $44 million—in the Hunter, that is great, but what about the North Coast? What about the Central West?
Mr Martin: What about Mount Panorama? What happened to the money there?
Mr STONER: We promised $10 million for Mount Panorama but the State Government would not put the money on the table until we made the promise. What about Tamworth, Armidale, Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Griffith? It is great that the Knights get a helping hand, but what about St George-Illawarra, the Penrith Panthers or the Wests Tigers? For that matter, what about the Casino RSM Cougars, the Comboyne Tigers or the Long Flat Dragons?
Mr Gaudry: What about Kendall?
Mr STONER: Kendall has a good football team, too. This is a sorry case of Labor pork-barrelling and, even worse, political gamesmanship. Again the Labor Party is seeking to debate Federal issues in State Parliament because the Labor Opposition in Canberra is so weak; its leadership is in all sorts of crises. The knives are out and they are being sharpened. Poor old Simon Crean cannot provide an effective Opposition in Canberra, so honourable members opposite keep trying to bash the Federal Government by using valuable parliamentary debating time to move urgent motion after urgent motion related to Federal issues. This is a stunt by the Labor Government. It new full well that the Federal Government had no sports capital program.
The Federal Government provides a huge amount of money for sport generally in Australia, but it is for sporting administration and facilities such as the Australian Institute of Sport. The Federal Government does not provide capital funding for facility development in the States. That is a State responsibility. As the Government acknowledges, Newcastle stadium is a State responsibility. A trust reports to the State Government on the management of the facility. Clearly, it is a State responsibility. I call on the State Government to find not half of what is required but to produce $44 million to give the people of the Hunter a fair go.
Mr MILLS (Wallsend) [4.11 p.m.]: I am aware that the Premier has encouraged Andrew Johns and his team-mates to keep up their campaign to gain Federal funding for the massive upgrade of EnergyAustralia Stadium. I wholeheartedly endorse his comments. As we have heard, the $23.6 million in State Government funding is part of a redevelopment proposal valued at a total of $44 million. In May last year the Newcastle International Sports Centre Trust put the official proposal to the New South Wales and Federal governments. The trust and the local people in the Hunter had done the hard yards. The Carr Labor Government in New South Wales acknowledged that just one month later.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government did not think the plans had the same merit—or, as it turned out, any merit—that we believed they had. Not even a high-level meeting between the Lord Mayor, Councillor John Tate, Andrew Johns and the International Sports Centre Trust with the Prime Minister in October last year seemed to have any impact. The Leader of the National Party means well, but it is a pity he does know his history a little bit better. He said that the Federal Government has no sports capital project. If that is so, why did the Federal Government, when it wanted to save Jim Lloyd's seat on the Central Coast coming into the 1998 election, offer to put $12 million into building a stadium for the new combined Northern Eagles team to be based in Gosford, provided the State Government would put in a half share?
The Carr Labor Government was in office, and we agreed to the Federal Government's proposition. We kept our promise to provide half the funding for the stadium in Gosford. It was politically motivated and a political stunt by the Federal Government to help out a member of the Coalition on the Central Coast. The Leader of the National Party should understand that. To help Bob Baldwin win Paterson in the Hunter, the Federal Government made an equivocal promise and the people understood that funding of Newcastle stadium would be most favourably considered when the Federal Coalition was re-elected. But, no, it has reneged. Families in the Hunter deserve facilities just as good as those in the big cities. The Knights have done our region proud, but no-one would know that by looking at the stadium where the Knights play.
Giving a city like Newcastle world-class facilities such as the proposed stadium means that people in that city can say that they are proud to live in Newcastle. The stadium is not only a community facility, it is also an investment. We must realise that when we provide the community with facilities of which they can be proud, the benefits will reach beyond those who are simply enjoying a football game. The stadium will create jobs and boost the economy of one of our most important regional cities. The full redevelopment of the ground will bring it up to FIFA world standards, which will help to attract international soccer fixtures. It will, therefore, play a key role in any future Australian bid for the World Cup as well as provide the alternative major international rugby league and rugby union venue outside of Sydney. We can be sure that John Howard would be more than happy to take the credit for the redevelopment then.
If ever a project brought together the whole community, this is it. The way the Federal Government is working the politics on this matter is puzzling. In 2001 Federal Labor made a clear commitment that, if elected, it would provide half the funding for the stadium. I recall a press conference at the stadium with Joel Fitzgibbon, Jill Hall, Kelly Hoare, Bob Horne and then candidate for Newcastle, now the member, Sharon Grierson. As I stated earlier, the Federal Coalition Government's response was favourable, but now it has run away from the project in spite of what it did in Gosford, where we kept our promise. The Federal Government has been equivocal about the grade-separated interchange at Weakleys Drive and Maitland Road at Beresfield, which has now been allocated funding after missing out in the first year. The project has been allocated $1 million for next year and another $1 million the year after that, but the rest is off in the never-never.
Mr Stoner: That's a State responsibility.
Mr MILLS: Again the Leader of the National Party is wrong. He does not know his history and the relationship between the State and the Commonwealth. The other project is the Bucketts Way, for which the Federal Coalition Government has been copping a lot of flak. The State Labor Government has delivered and the families of the Hunter know it. We will not stop until those in Canberra get the message. The last thing Hunter families need now is another broken promise from the Howard Government.
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.16 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Wallsend and the honourable member for Charlestown for their contributions. They focused on the fundamental aspect of the debate, that the Howard Government is yet to deliver on the promise made prior to the election to match State Government funding. We call on our partners across the Chamber to join with us in saying that this is an important regional social, sporting and economic facility for the honourable member for Upper Hunter, the honourable member for Myall Lakes, the honourable member for Lismore and honourable members representing electorates on the Central Coast. It is an important facility not only for rugby league or soccer but also for cultural and social activities.
The honourable member for Lachlan is a canny operator. He tried to divert us from our fundamental position to a general discussion that includes horseracing, public liability, funding for country fairs and a range of activities that have nothing whatsoever to do with this debate. The fundamental focus is establishing a classical world-class stadium for the people of our region. They deserve it. They have been given $23.6 million by the State Government, which will deliver the eastern grandstand with world-class facilities for spectators. It will deliver improved seating and pay the cost of shifting the corporate boxes on the northern-southern end of the field to provide better facilities.
The funding will also assist in the development of media facilities. An amount of $1.6 million will be spent on upgrading the western grandstand to address occupational health and safety issues. That is an excellent choice of expenditure but it is still only half of the funding needed to produce a world-class stadium. I point out to the Leader of the National Party that one reaches the bottom of the barrel when one embarks upon personal attacks and makes jokes about whether someone is a football supporter. That is not the issue. The issue is that all honourable members should agree that this is an important facility that should be supported. I note also that the Leader of the Opposition pledged prior to recent State election great support from the Opposition for funding of the stadium.
Mr Mills: Support for State funding.
Mr GAUDRY: Yes, State funding. We expect financial support from the Federal Government and we expect the Opposition to say to the Federal Government, "Bring on the funding!" The State Opposition made requests for Federal funding for the Central Coast stadium and the Manuka stadium. It should make a similar request of the Federal Government on behalf of Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and areas to the north, whose constituents would certainly utilise the facility. The State Government is certainly playing its part and has contributed financially to the provision of these facilities. It has contributed $23.6 million to the EnergyAustralia stadium, $8 million for the WIN stadium, and $10 million for upgrading of the Mount Panorama circuit. The honourable member for Bathurst introduced that topic during the debate, and why should he not? The Federal Government made a halfhearted promise and then walked away. Federal funding is needed for the EnergyAustralia stadium and the Mount Panorama circuit to become fully operational.
Mr Armstrong: Point of order: The honourable member has referred to funding. New South Wales receives 77¢ per head of population whereas Queensland receives $7.07 per capita, and that negates his argument about fairness. It is important to ensure when honourable members take points of order that fairness and equity are applied. Therefore, I ask you to uphold my point of order.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Saliba): Order! There is no point of order.
Mr GAUDRY: It is fundamentally important to remember that before the most recent Federal election, Senator Tierney and the member for Paterson, Mr Baldwin, said that the Federal Government would come to the party. It has not done so, and this debate presents an opportunity for members of this House to ensure that it happens. [Time expired.]
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr R. W. Turner
|Mr Bartlett||Mr Brogden|
|Mr Iemma||Mr O'Farrell|
|Mr Whan||Mr Tink|
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.