Adelaide Oval Redevelopment and Management Bill
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (12:19): This is a matter of passion and enthusiasm for me as well—
The Hon. P.F. Conlon: And stupidity for him.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: —and I would love to see a brand new sports stadium—
Mr WILLIAMS: Point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If saying somebody is a fool is unparliamentary, I think accusing somebody of stupidity must be unparliamentary also. The minister just referred to my speech as being one of stupidity.
Mr WILLIAMS: I am sure the minister won't claim that he didn't say it.
The Hon. P.F. CONLON: My reply is no because, despite the egregious insults from the other side, I am entirely honest and I did say it. I apologise. I was inflamed by the moment but I withdraw. He is entitled to make whatever speeches he wishes.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, minister. Sorry, member for Stuart.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: That is okay. Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I say, I feel passionate and enthusiastic about this issue as well on behalf of the people of Stuart. I think it would be absolutely fantastic; it would be absolutely tremendous to have a brand-new sports stadium.
I think it would be even better to have two sports stadiums in the City of Adelaide. It would be tremendous. I have a stronger sporting background than anybody else currently in parliament. I value these potential facilities. I understand how useful they would be for the development of sport: for cricket, for football, for grassroots sport.
The reality is, though, we just cannot afford it. It is no different to any other things that we would like to have in our lives personally—our family budgets, our business budgets, our social lives. It does not matter how good it is. If you cannot afford it, you cannot afford it and that is the bottom line with this project. The reason we cannot afford it is that we are spending too much money on a brand-new Royal Adelaide Hospital off site. That is the reason we cannot afford it.
The government has no mandate to upgrade Adelaide Oval—no mandate whatsoever. It is not in the last budget—presumably we will learn a bit about it this week—and it certainly was not an election promise—
The Hon. P.F. Conlon: Yes, it was.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: —to spend $535 million. It was an election promise to spend $450 million. So, there is no mandate to do what the government says it wants to do either.
The people of Stuart, overwhelmingly, do not support this development—not because they do not want it, but because they cannot afford it and they would like to see the money spent in other ways throughout rural, remote and outback South Australia. However, the reality is that the government will proceed with this project. Whether the people of Stuart or any other people want this to happen, the government will proceed with this project.
The fact is, as the shadow treasurer has very, very well outlined, the Liberal Party's position is to provide some accountability, to provide some control measures and, most importantly, to put amendments forward that put sensible, rational control of the project in line with what the government has already said that it would do.
Capping the taxpayers' contribution to this project at $535 million is extremely important. It is very important because the government said, leading up to the election, that it would only spend $450 million on this project and not a cent more. Now, it says, '$535 million and not a cent more.' We cannot just trust that promise, so we want to put that promise into the legislation. I think it is very fair to hold the government to its latest and current promise and say that we want that in the legislation. I think that, if the government is not prepared to accept that being in the legislation, it opens up a whole can of worms about exactly why not.
Giving the Auditor-General regular oversight of the project is extremely important. Giving the normal planning authorities oversight of the project is very, very important. Allowing council to retain control over some of its assets, which it has managed for the last 100 years or more, is a very, very important control.
Putting some rent into the project, rather than just handing over all this money and upgrading the Adelaide Oval, is very, very important, and particularly important to me as our proposal is that the rent would go towards grassroots sport throughout the state. I think that is very, very important as well. Protecting some trees and quite a few other measures of accountability that the shadow treasurer, the member for Adelaide and the rest of the Liberal Party have developed together to control this project, to control the government and to hold it accountable are very, very important.
The economic case that I have seen put together for this project, I think, is fairly thin. I think it is fairly thin because the people who put the economic case together based that case on assumptions given to them which I do not think are very robust. I understand it was done by them in a hurry and I understand that it does not make the whole case wrong, but I think the reality is not nearly as favourable as that case would have it.
I think the attendance assumptions can be called into question. I think that, considering the economic benefit to the City of Adelaide by comparing the current extremely low attendances at football at AAMI Stadium and working from the lowest case that we now have and assuming that the very best case that we can imagine will eventuate, is not appropriate. I also think that, as the economic case itself points out, it is very important to restate that the overall economic case applied to this project does not consider the fact that the economic benefit currently enjoyed by the western suburbs and greater metropolitan Adelaide by what happens at the moment at AAMI Stadium is not taken away from the build-up that is claimed to come from the Adelaide Oval.
One of the very easy and simple snapshots that can be taken out of this economic case that supports the upgrade of the Adelaide Oval, and which I think most people can understand, one of the wash-ups is that this upgrade will create 405 new jobs. Now, 405 new jobs would be good. I would prefer that they were in regional South Australia, but 405 new jobs in metropolitan Adelaide is very good for our state as well. But if you want to spend $535 million to create 405 jobs, they are pretty expensive jobs, well in excess of $1 million per job. I call into question how usefully that money is being spent and whether claiming that 405 new jobs at a price of $535 million of taxpayers' money is really money well spent.
The issues with regard to football and cricket are fairly well known. Cricket is asset rich, cash poor, and certainly debt burdened. Football is in all sorts of strife, financially and performance-wise, at the moment, and we all hope that both of those will improve. Whether you are a Crows supporter or a Port Power supporter, or just a football supporter in general, you would certainly like the teams' performance to improve, but the reality is that as well as playing badly they are in a dreadful financial situation, and football (the SANFL) has made it very clear that it will not survive, in its opinion, without this stadium upgrade. It sees this as the way forward and its salvation.
I think that, in reality, if you looked into their hearts, they would not honestly say that the Adelaide Oval upgrade will save them. I think they probably would say that the Adelaide Oval upgrade might save them, and it will certainly buy them some more time. I do not think that anybody who knows anything about business or sport, or football specifically, could really put their hand on their heart and say that this upgrade will save football.
We do not reach the current capacity levels at AAMI Stadium (38,000 people) and I doubt very much that we will reach the new capacity level of about 50,000 people at the soon to be upgraded (it seems) Adelaide Oval, except for the very high profile games, which at the moment, unfortunately, neither Port nor the Crows are playing in anything like high profile games.
I heard the president of the Geelong Football Club speaking on the ABC morning sports program last Saturday morning, and he had a very interesting insight, certainly something that I had not heard. He was being asked about the Geelong stadium. He was being asked, 'But surely you would like to have a bigger stadium at Geelong? Surely you would consider a much bigger stadium at Geelong, or surely you would like to shift to Melbourne CBD for all of your matches?'
He said, 'Look, there are two, maybe three, AFL teams that we always do want to play against at the MCG because we want that capacity, and of course that is good, but really for the rest of our games we are happy to play at Geelong. We love playing at Geelong. We like our home ground advantage.' He was pressed to say, 'But surely you want more seats?' His answer was, 'We would actually really like to increase our capacity at Geelong'—for quite a few years now one of the most successful and powerful football teams in the AFL—'football stadium to about 40,000 people. That would be great.'
The commentator said, 'Forty thousand, surely that's not enough?' He said, 'Let me tell you something: when seats at our home stadium are a bit hard to get, people want to be members of our club. If we had surplus capacity, it would hurt our membership, because they just know that if they want to come to one, two or three games a year, they can roll along whenever they like, buy a ticket on that Saturday, Sunday or Friday (whatever it is) and get in. When seats are a bit hard to get, they pay up; they become members; they give us their money so that they can secure a seat at our smaller stadium whenever they like.' It certainly was not lost on me that perhaps that sort of business acumen might be helpful for Port and the Crows just at the moment when they are in a diabolical situation.
Another thing that occurs to me is that, with regard to the football situation—because, as we all know from seeing the media in the past week or so, Port is in a dreadful situation, the Crows are not in a tremendous situation, and the AFL has come in to give Port a bit of a lifeline—one of the big issues that the SANFL wants to avoid is having to surrender either one of its licences to the AFL. Understandably, the SANFL's responsibility—and a big part of its work—is to try to retain those licences. It is the South Australian National Football League. It wants to retain those licences—and I respect that—and it is very fearful that, if it cannot do it, then the AFL will just take those licences away and it will have no choice but to surrender them.
I think the AFL is getting an absolutely outstanding deal from this stadium upgrade. The AFL is going to get a tremendous deal, because if it took those licences now, either one or both—who knows—it would get the football teams in all sorts of difficulty. If it can just dribble some funds into Port Power to help them through until it can then get the Port Power licence, plus a brand-new stadium, plus access to its brand-new stadium, then I think the AFL is being very smart about this and has really hoodwinked quite a few people in this situation. I see the AFL as throwing a lifeline to the SANFL so that the SANFL will not sink and drown straightaway, but I would not mind betting that it will, shortly after this stadium is completed, acquire those licences.
I can understand why the SANFL wants to fight and I can understand why it wants to do whatever it can do to keep its head above water, but I am not optimistic that it will see them through in the long run. In the long run it will come from success on the field. You do not need a big stadium to get success on the field: what you need are good players, good coaches and some money. I understand that you need to have a successful club, whether it comes through the example of the Geelong Football Club that I mentioned before, which deliberately keeps its stadium just a little bit smaller and making tickets a little bit harder to find.
One of the big issues facing football (and many other sports at the moment) is the cost of tickets. Every day and every week we hear about the price of electricity, water, groceries—the price of all sorts of things going up—and taxes going crazy. Everything is going up for the average householder. Whether it is a family with kids, one or two people, two flatmates wanting to go to the footy or grandparents wanting to take grand kids, it does not matter, the cost of living is going up every single day, and going to the football is not cheap. That is hurting attendances enormously, maybe just as much as performance.
I am sure if the teams were performing very well perhaps the public might find some more money to get there. However, the cost of tickets is a big issue, and I guarantee you that they will not be any cheaper at the new Adelaide Oval. They will not be any cheaper at all at the new Adelaide Oval. I think it will be harder for a family to attend the football—whether they are for Port or the Crows—at the new Adelaide Oval cost-wise than it currently is at AAMI Stadium.
Another interesting thing that the SANFL has said quite publicly is that it costs it about $2 million per year to run AAMI Stadium. That is just the cost of operation of AAMI Stadium. So guess what? It would be possible for the government to give the SANFL $100 million over the next 50 years and take care of that issue—take care of that very genuine, very big cost issue that the SANFL faces—and save $435 million of taxpayers' money. That would help out football—help it in the way that it asks and in the way that it identifies it as a very important issue—and yet save $435 million of taxpayers' money for all sorts of other issues.
Another issue I would like to just point out: I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the government has not asked for some share of the proceeds of the divestment, the sale or the redevelopment of the current AAMI Stadium after the teams move down here. I understand there will be SANFL use, and I understand there are ideas, at this stage—nothing concrete—for all sorts of ways that the SANFL might make some money out of AAMI Stadium after the two AFL teams have transitioned into the heart of Adelaide. Well, we are going to give $535 million of taxpayers' money to this cash-strapped organisation to help it survive. Why are we not asking it to contribute back some of the money that it will make, back towards the taxpayer?
Madam Deputy Speaker, as you know, I fight every day that I come down here to Adelaide, to parliament, for regional South Australia—$535 million would go an enormously long way. As I said, the people of Stuart overwhelmingly do not support this proposal, not because they do not want Adelaide or South Australia to have an upgraded stadium, and not because they have any sort of sour grapes or do not see how nice it might be, but because they see the shortfall in spending throughout regional South Australia.
Imagine $535 million, or a significant share of it, being spent on regional sport, regional health, regional disability services (which are extremely underfunded), regional police, education, roads—the list goes on, growing rather than shrinking. The PIRSA offices—how about just not having to sell the South-East forests? How about just not having to sell the forward rotations of wood in the South-East forests? What would that mean to the people of the South-East if this did not go ahead?
For the towns in the electorate that I represent in Stuart—whether they be the large regional city of Port Augusta, or the larger towns of Kapunda, Jamestown, Peterborough, Burra and Eudunda, all the way through to the very small communities like Farrell Flat, Mount Mary, Lyndhurst or Blinman—a small, small share of this money would go a long, long way in any of those services in regional South Australia.
I do acknowledge that the government is going to put $5 million towards a sports upgrade in Port Augusta, but I would like to highlight that that was not going to be forthcoming if it had not been to match a Liberal Party election promise heading to the last election, because we do take regional development, whatever the program happens to be—whether it is health, whether it is sport, whether it is disabilities—very seriously.
I would like to just conclude by once again saying I do believe that an upgraded Adelaide Oval or, more ideally, two sport stadiums in the heart of Adelaide, would be lovely—they really would be good, and I do not pretend that they would not—but the reality is that we just cannot afford them. We know that the government is going to progress down this path whether or not we can afford it. It is heading down this path and it has made this decision, so the Liberal Party's position is that we want to put accountability constraints into the legislation.
We want to ensure that we do not have the '$450 million and not a cent more' which then goes to '$535 million, not a cent more,' and next year we find out it is '$600 million, not a cent more.' We want to hold the government accountable to its current existing promises, the commitments that it has made today. We want the Auditor-General to have oversight, we want the normal planning approvals to be in place, and we want the government to do what it has said it will do. We want the government to be held accountable. We cannot stop it from progressing with this plan, but we want to put some genuine scrutiny, some genuine oversight and some genuine accountability on behalf of the people of South Australia into this legislation.