The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (15:58): I rise to speak to the second reading of the bill. Obviously, this has been and, I am sure, will continue to be not only a controversial piece of legislation but a controversial project and issue for many years hence. Whilst the legislation is more than likely to pass in some form or other during this current sitting, it will, nevertheless, as I said, not end the debate on this and many other related issues.
At the outset, I want to put on the record my linkages and biases in relation to this debate. The varying perspectives that speakers in another place came from were interesting, and knowing some of their background, I think it is important to know my background in terms of my contribution to the debate.
Let me say I am a passionate and unabashed supporter of the West Adelaide Football Club in the South Australian National Football League. I am a minority in South Australia in that I actually support a Victorian-based AFL team, St Kilda, as a result of my father’s love and passion for the St Kilda Football Club. If forced to choose between South Australian-based AFL clubs, my preference by a long way is for the Adelaide Crows over Port Power.
Having been a passionate West Adelaide supporter, I am almost required to despise, detest or hate anything to do with Port Adelaide, whether that be the Magpies in the South Australian National Football League or Port Power in the Australian Football League. I am a great sports lover, all sorts of sports. I love football and cricket but, if given a choice, my preference would lie with football ahead of cricket, although over the years I have spent many hours watching cricket either live or on television, an indication of my ongoing love for cricket as a sport as well.
Finally, I guess I am, and have been, more comfortable mixing with the people I know well from football than cricket, not just because only very recently a former parliamentary colleague of mine, John Olsen, has been associated with South Australian football. For decades before that I more comfortably mixed with the David Shipways of this world, the Dion McCaffries and the Max Basheers than perhaps I did with the Ian McLachlans and the John Bannons of the South Australian Cricket Association. With that, I guess I lay on the record from where I come.
In the later part of my contribution I want to look at the impact of this project and deal with—because it is not just a project: it is a debate about—football and cricket. I guess the dominant headlines have been about football and the future of football, not just at the elite level—which, of course, is of interest to those who support the elite competition, the AFL—but also for those of us who are passionate about the South Australian National Football League, country and suburban football and the impact this particular deal. This project, this bill, will have ramifications for up to 80 years on the future of football.
I support, and the Liberal Party supports, football in the city. I will not go through all the gory detail of it, but for some period of time the Liberal Party has championed the cause of football in the city. In the early days that was not supported by the current government and its key ministers, or by the South Australian National Football League and key figures within football in South Australia. However, that was a view adopted by various Liberal leaders and the Liberal Party for a period of time.
Our preferred option is well known. We believe that a world-class stadium, with a roof, in the City West area or the railyards area, is the best solution. I might interpose here, because it has become a common distortion by government ministers over the last 12 months, that the Liberal Party proposition did not include 13,000 car parks, as the Premier loves to tweet on occasion.
An honourable member interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: In that particular case it is just not correct. The 13,000 car park estimate was in relation to the whole Riverbank development, including the possible move of the Casino, new hotels and other developments that had been flagged over a long period of time for the Riverbank precinct under the Liberal Party plan. The particular proposal we had costed had car parking for about 5,000 cars, not 13,000 as the Premier continues to distort.
The brutal reality is that we did not win the election. We accept that; the people of South Australia decided to re-elect this government, albeit with a minority vote—but that is another debate. So, what we are confronted with is a debate about the expenditure of probably about $600 million of taxpayers’ money, $535 million in this specific area of the project but with related developments—such as the bridge and car parking, etc.—it is likely to be closer to $600 million.
If you spend $600 million on any facility, even if it is not plan A and it is plan B, there is no doubt that the facilities for the customers who will attend will have to be much improved on the facilities that exist at the moment. It would have to be the most incompetent government ever to have a situation where, having spent almost $600 million of taxpayers’ money, we would not see a project with significantly improved facilities for the customers who attend that venue.
There is no doubt that, with football in the city, there will be important flow-on benefits to the local economy of the central business district of Adelaide. That is one of the reasons why the Liberal Party, as I said, championed the cause of football in the city, albeit at the rail yards site. In respect of the issues we have raised and will continue to raise, at least from my viewpoint, I acknowledge that, if and when this project is completed (with $600 million of taxpayers’ money spent on it), it is going to provide significantly improved facilities and benefits for football and cricket watchers at Adelaide Oval. There will be a buzz about football in the city.
There is nothing inconsistent, as some ministers have sought to argue, with the position that we have adopted that our preference was another site. It is not inconsistent to argue that even though this is plan B and in our view it is not the best option, it is still going to be a significant improvement for visitors to the Adelaide Oval precinct after the development is concluded.
Our view was that we could still have the buzz with a covered stadium in the city and protect what we believe is a beautiful cricket ground at the moment—not a stadium, a beautiful cricket ground, an iconic venue—and we could have had the best of both worlds. As I said, we lost the election and that is not capable of being implemented, so we now move to this particular plan which we are considering.
Obviously we will be monitoring the project—and I will refer later in my contribution today to the detail of how it should be monitored—but there is a very useful warning sign in that the sort of build that we have already seen at Adelaide Oval is not sufficient for the people who go to view football and cricket.
The Hon. T.J. Stephens: You get wet under the grandstand.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Yes, as my colleague the Hon. Mr Stephens rightly interjects. The Western Stand (which was meant to cost $85 million and which blew out to somewhere between $115 million and $130 million) does not have any toilets in the members’ bar area. I hasten to say that I am not a member of the South Australian Cricket Association so I do not speak from firsthand experience.
The Hon. T.J. Stephens: You are not likely to be after this speech.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I am not likely to be. Anyone who wants to go to the toilet, having attended the members’ bar, either has to go up a floor or down a floor to go to a toilet facility. During the peak hours of the test cricket, when there were queues of people waiting to get into the members’ bar, anyone caught short in having to go to the toilets had to go out and then had to queue up to get back in again if they did not get back within five minutes. It is extraordinary, having spent approximately $115 million on the Western Stand, not to have any of those sorts of facilities available.
At the recent international soccer game, because it is not a covered stadium, people who were sitting in the back row, so not at the front of the stand, were getting saturated by rain floating into the stand area. They have paid $85 for tickets, they are in a $115 million stand and there is rain coming in saturating them while they are watching an international soccer game. That is a significant problem in terms of the design of the facilities at the Adelaide Oval. Hopefully, we will not see more of that.
What we see, supposedly as part of this $535 million budget, is a retrofit (whatever that means) of the Western Stand to try to fix the problem of people sitting in that stand getting wet. So, part of the $535 million has to go towards fixing the problems of the South Australian Cricket Association’s design of the Western Stand. They are also going to have to put in toilets in the members’ bar area—one would have thought an obvious inclusion within a $115 million development. They are also having to include media access facilities in that area.
One of the problems we have with this particular project now, which will be realised when the whole project is completed, is that the main stand is on the eastern side of the oval. So, the majority of people will be on the eastern side, unlike the current Adelaide Oval and AAMI Stadium where the majority block and the members’ stand areas are on the western side, for obvious reasons relating to the setting sun for summer games.
Good luck for cricket in particular, and also some of the early football games, as the sun sets in the late afternoon and early evening with the majority of people being in this eastern stand. That is why there are requirements from the AFL that media facilities, and others, will have to be provided in the Western Stand area and not in the eastern stand area. So, what we are having to do here already is spend taxpayers’ money on correcting some of the mistakes of the SACA designed facility, and I will refer to some more details of that later on in my contribution.
In tracking the history of this, this project is now being sold as part of the Riverbank precinct. We have the Premier and various ministers patting themselves vigorously on the back as being the first government ever to recognise the investment, tourism and economic development potential of this particular area of Adelaide. We have the former treasurer saying that he would be almost happy to sail off into the sunset having achieved this magnificent project, and the Riverbank precinct, etc., with minister Conlon making similar claims.
I will read onto the record the budget speech on behalf of the former Liberal government on 25 May 2000. In that budget speech, the government stated as follows:
The Riverbank precinct project is potentially the most exciting development project seen in South Australia for many years. There must be few cities with a riverfront that turn their backs to that riverfront, as Adelaide does, rather than embracing it and encouraging maximum usage and enjoyment of the precinct. Adelaide’s planning over the years for this area has used trees, embankments, walls, roads and urban design to discourage movement through the precinct and enjoyment of the precinct.
The Master Plan envisages walkways, pathways and landscaping to encouragement movement north/south and east/west through the precinct. It will also provide for new cafes, restaurants and commercial spaces to encourage more South Australians and visitors to use the precinct at all times but particularly during lunch times, evenings and on weekends.
This project is designated as our State’s Centenary of Federation project and further funding is provided in this year’s budget. Whilst the government has already committed $85 million to the extensions to the Adelaide Convention Centre and $19 million to upgrade the Adelaide Festival Centre, a further allocation of $13 million has been provided to undertake the initial stage of the precinct works. Over the coming months, the government will consider whether it will be possible over the next two years to undertake further stages of development of the master plan. This project is an icon development for South Australia and warrants the support of all members and the community.
That was the budget speech in May 2000. That referred to previous decisions taken by the then cabinet and government. I refer to a press release from the then premier John Olsen on 16 March 1999 titled, Riverbank Masterplan Released, which states:
The Olsen government has unveiled a bold plan which will completely transform the heart of the city. Premier John Olsen says the Riverbank project will bring together in a cohesive way what has in the past been ad hoc development in the area.
‘Central to Riverbank is opening up the River Torrens to all South Australians, between King William Rd and Morphett St. Currently it is difficult to access the area with surrounding buildings looking inwards, rather than towards the River Torrens. This 10-year plan will bring together all the best elements of the Adelaide lifestyle, including the parks, the cultural attractions and the restaurants’, Premier Olsen says.
‘The Riverbank project will do for Adelaide what the Southbank project did for Melbourne. This can be and should be our federation project’, Premier Olsen says.
‘Under the plan, public plazas, terraces, paths and roads will interconnect across the site and entrances to buildings such as the Festival Centre will be changed with stairs and terraces descending from the plazas to the park. A public park will surround the Festival Centre, the Adelaide Railway Station will again host interstate trains, a pedestrian bridge will be built across the river and alfresco cafes and restaurants would look over the river.
The extension of the Convention Centre is a major part of the project and construction is expected to commence later this year and completed by June 2001. The Riverbank will be a place to relax and will put Adelaide with the other great cities where the river is the centre of city life.
State cabinet yesterday considered the plan and it will now be released for public consultation and it is hoped the plan will be the subject of a memorandum of understanding between the state government and the Adelaide City Council.’
The only other quote I want to put on the record from that particular time—and there were many—relates to a question in the house on 10 June 1999 by the member for Fisher (the Hon. Mr Such), who asked the Premier to give a progress report on the Riverbank Precinct Masterplan and outline the benefits for the development of the City of Adelaide. The member, Mr Conlon (now minister Conlon), interjected, ‘Forget the Riverbank: clean up the river!’ This is the same minister Conlon who is now championing the cause of the Riverbank. However, at that time, he said on the record, ‘Forget the Riverbank: clean up the river!’
I put those statements on the record for two reasons. One is to indicate that this government—and we congratulate the government on what it is doing, and this is the next extension of the Convention Centre—is now proceeding with that bridge across the Torrens that the Premier talked about 11 years ago. It has added a new element to the upgrade of the Adelaide Oval, whereas the Liberal Party’s position at the last election, as I said, was the new oval at the City West precinct.
The second reason I raise it is that one of the first things premier Rann, treasurer Foley and minister Conlon did when they were elected in 2002 was ditch the Riverbank Precinct plan. The ultimate irony of it all is that hardworking officers at the time—like Mr Manuel Delgado, who was working for the former government on this particular plan—had all the plans and proposals. Some of the stages of the development had already been accomplished, as the budget speech has indicated. A re-elected government would be moving ahead with the other stages of that plan.
The new government came in and said, ‘Throw the plans away. That’s the end of it. We’re not doing this particular project. We’re all about schools and hospitals.’ At the same time, the $25 million that was in the forward estimates for the Adelaide Oval at that stage, again, was thrown out the door. The treasurer of the government at the time said, ‘We’re not wasting $25 million on a stand at the Adelaide Oval; we’re spending this sort of money on schools and hospitals.’
The irony of it all, of course, is that Rod Hook and officers such as Manuel Delgado are now being acknowledged by minister Conlon in the House of Assembly as doing all the hard yards and the hard work for this government (as they should) in relation to the Riverbank precinct. How some of these public servants must chuckle in the quietness of their own home, I am sure, at the irony of the fact that, because it was a Liberal initiative, it was thrown out the door for a number of years, only to be dusted off and then acclaimed as the initiative of the new government almost 10 years later, at a significantly increased cost, I might say, in relation to the overall project.
In relation to the debate, one of the aspects is the pedestrian bridge to which former premier Olsen referred and which is now the subject of debate. One of the controversial aspects of the bridge is that, when this project was first announced as a $450 million project, the pedestrian bridge was going to be part of the $450 million. Of course, because of the significant blowouts in the cost of this project, the government has carved out the cost of the bridge, which, on some estimates, has been up to $30 million to $40 million.
I think the current minister is on the record as saying that was for a six-lane freeway and he was not really going to approve that amount of money. We still do not know what he has approved now, but it was up to $30 million to $40 million, according to Mr Hook in earlier evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee. What we now have is that that cost is to be part of the Convention Centre costs, the almost $400 million for the next upgrade of the Convention Centre. So, the $30 million or $40 million (or whatever it is) is to be buried in the cost of the Convention Centre.
I want to place on the record now that there is a real barney going on within the government and the public administration about the alignment of this pedestrian bridge. The intention has always been that the pedestrian bridge would come across the Torrens from the Adelaide Oval to the Festival Centre precinct area, so that people coming out of Adelaide Oval would come across just at a level a little bit below the other two bridges, Morphett Street Bridge and King William Road Bridge, but at the same level from the plaza at the football oval to the Festival Centre.
Because the government has used the device or deceit of saying that this is part of the Convention Centre budget, the Convention Centre people are now saying, not surprisingly, ‘Hey, if this is the Convention Centre budget, that bridge should come from Adelaide Oval to the Convention Centre, a completely different alignment because it is part of the Convention Centre budget.’ At the same time, there is a dispute that it should be at the river level, not at the plaza level.
Firstly, a huge stoush is going on, and I understand it is being supported by the Premier’s department in relation to the Convention Centre budget. The dispute, of course, is being fuelled because I understand the Festival Centre people (Mr Barry Fitzpatrick and others) are furious with those who are now seeking to subvert what they believe was the agreement in relation to this bridge and to change the alignment to the Convention Centre. The Festival people are furious at this proposal to change the alignment of the bridge across the River Torrens.
There is a huge argument going on within government, the bureaucracy and the advisers, etc., in relation to both the height of the bridge and obviously the alignment of the bridge. Of course, the sporting people—the football and cricket people—are saying that they have a view on this as well because, if you change the alignment, it means that you are not going straight to the railway station and to those other areas that were talked about earlier in terms of public transport up to the buses, etc. If you are heading down to the Convention Centre, you are further away from the bus stops and trams, etc.
The other thing is that I am advised that there will be up to 40 steps down and up on both sides. As thousands of people leave football and cricket at Adelaide Oval, in occupational health and safety terms, you are going to have literally thousands of people having to descend 37 steps and then climb 37 steps (or 35 to 40 steps, I am told) as a result of this proposal that is now being considered. That seems to me to be madness, and I can understand from the point of view of the Convention Centre people why they would argue, ‘It’s part of our budget; therefore it should go to the Convention Centre.’
They want the people flowing into the Convention Centre and, if there are going to be cafes and restaurants there, they want people going into the Convention Centre cafes and restaurants rather than the ones at the Festival Centre and in that particular part of the precinct. So, when you practice the deceit and the device of hiding the money in other budgets, these are the sorts of problems that you construct for yourselves, and this is a debate and a dispute that is going on at the moment.
The other one, of course, in relation to the precinct which has attracted a lot of controversy in recent times—and credit to Michael Owen from The Australian who broke the story first—has been the proposition for a new commercial development at the back and side of Parliament House. I know that the current minister has described that story as a fiction to various sections of the media, but let me put on the record that that statement from the minister is untrue.
There are key people in this precinct, including the Casino and others, who have signed confidentiality agreements with major private sector interests in relation to the exploration of a building in this particular precinct at the back of Parliament House and to the side of Parliament House. Minister Conlon knows that. Minister Conlon knows of those discussions. I am not saying at this stage that the minister has agreed or approved anything, but for him to say that he does not know anything about it or that this is a complete fiction is untrue.
The proposals do talk about government in essence underpinning aspects of the commercial development. For example, as the Catholics were able to successfully negotiate with the SA Water building government tenancies, long-term tenancies for a private sector development underpin the success of those private sector investments. There are those negotiations that are going on at the moment.
Because the government cannot afford to do what it said it would do with $450 million, that is, all the car parking, they have to somehow attract private sector investment into car parking. They have to provide alternative funding for the bridge, which was the Convention Centre bridge. The car parking will have to be provided somehow by private sector interests, so there will be deals that will be done by this government, should it continue, in relation to some of these issues.
As I said, I put on the record that there are people in this precinct who have signed confidentiality agreements which prevent them discussing anything in relation to these particular negotiations for a building in this precinct, and there are discussions for an upgrade of the Festival Centre car park. All of us who know the problems of the car park with the concrete cancer know that the merest drop of rain means significant puddling and water in the Festival Centre car park. The government knows that it has to spend money at some stage on that car park.
The Casino wants extra car parking. The government now needs extra car parking for the Adelaide Oval development because it could not get the $50 to $60 million private-sector underwriter to put an underground car park within the Adelaide Oval precinct itself north of the Torrens. So it now needs the car parking south of the Torrens, and it is looking, and will look, at doing deals in relation to that. That will involve Parliament House, for example, potentially underwriting commercial accommodation in an office block just behind us. It potentially involves, under one of the models, getting rid of the Hajek sculptures and other design facilities immediately behind Parliament House.
I think as we debate this bill that all these issues need to be part of the transparency and accountability of the government. It is not just this issue of the specific costs that we look at in relation to this project in that core precinct area. It will be all the other related costs, all the other related deals. The other deal that is being negotiated is a deal with the Casino. The government wants the Casino to be involved in significant underwriting of precinct projects in relation to getting this precinct developed.
The Casino wants tax breaks. The Casino wants to negotiate favourable tax rates—and good luck to the Casino. It is in a position at the moment where the government wants something from it, and the Casino says, ‘Have we got a deal for you.’ The Casino wants tax breaks. It wants regulatory changes in relation to wealthy gamblers from overseas and interstate being able to smoke in certain parts of the Casino. It wants to be able to change some of the regulations in relation to the operations of the Casino, the gambling in the Casino and the Casino precinct.
Whilst the Casino people rightly will not speak to me, I know some of the discussions that are going on with government officers from Treasury and elsewhere with the Casino people. They have been going on for many months. The Casino is arguing its position in relation to getting tax breaks and getting deals, and the carrot that the Casino holds is a potential, ‘Hey, we are looking at a $250 million development of this area’, part of which relates to their need for car parking, which of course potentially assists, under some models, the problems this government has with car parking for the Festival and related events that are going to occur in this particular part of the Riverbank precinct.
What I am saying to members is: do not be deluded that all we are talking about here is $535 million on this particular project. All these other deals are being discussed and talked about, and ultimately some version of them will be done by this government as part of trying to get the project up and going. In saying that, I do not indicate—we have not discussed this as a party—that we necessarily oppose any or indeed all of these. We do not know the detail of some of these schemes. All we are saying is, in the interests of transparency and accountability, all these issues ought to be part of this debate in this chamber at this time, because once the legislation goes through, this government, on its record, will not tell anybody anything until after the deal has been done.
This project—and we talk now about the Adelaide Oval project specifically—is a project that was done on deceit and lies. We know now from the evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee that the former treasurer and the current Premier knew before the state election that this project—the Adelaide Oval project—could not be achieved for $450 million. On 6 March, during the election campaign in 2010, the former treasurer let it slip that the ballpark estimate of the Adelaide Oval development was $500 million rather than $450 million.
I issued a statement on that Saturday morning and did interviews indicating that Mr Foley had let the cat out of the bag and it had blown out from $450 million to $500 million. Mr Foley, of course, trenchantly denied that. He said that it was just a slip of the tongue, all his advice was—on 6 March 2010—that the project would be done for the $450 million and there had been no blowout. Two days later, on 8 March, I issued a statement—this is during the election campaign—that there had been a $100 million blowout on the Adelaide Oval costings. I said, as follows:
It can be revealed today that the cost of Premier Rann’s proposed Adelaide Oval redevelopment had blown out by…$100 million. Information provided to the Liberal Opposition—by sources with an intimate knowledge of the detailed workings of the new Stadium Management Authority and its two working parties—have revealed confidential information which Mr Rann and Mr Foley are desperate to keep secret until after the State Election.
‘ Whilst final estimates are yet to be submitted, the latest estimates are that the total cost has blown out by $90 million—from $450 million to about $540 million,’ Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said…
‘ In addition to this figure, the cost of the current [development] of the western grandstand has blown out by [about] $15-$20 million.’
That release then went on to provide the detail of that particular blowout. This was obviously a critical issue during the election campaign and the treasurer then came out with all guns blazing, attacking both me personally and the Liberal Party for making figures up, swearing that he had received no advice at all from anybody that there had been a blowout in the cost of the Stadium Management Authority. That was, and still is, an outright lie, and we found that out afterwards.
In denying that, treasurer Foley went so far as to authorise a statement which said that he swore ‘on his grandmother’s soul’. This is it. He swore ‘on his grandmother’s soul’ that he had not received any advice in relation to a blowout on the project costs. Here is a former treasurer who swears ‘on his grandmother’s soul’ that he had not been advised, prior to the election, of any blowout on the Adelaide Oval project.
Now, what were the facts? The facts, as revealed through the Budget and Finance Committee investigation, were that former treasurer Foley was advised by Mr Leigh Whicker, the Executive Officer of the Stadium Management Authority, of a blowout in the costs, prior to the election. I will not go through all the detail of that, but various other Treasury officers told the Budget and Finance Committee that they had been aware of the blowout and had provided advice up to the former treasurer’s office. Again, I will not go through all the details of the evidence that those officers gave.
So, the advice was that Mr Leigh Whicker had told him. Mr Leigh Whicker had told Treasury officers. The Treasury officers had told the treasurer’s office that there had been a blowout and yet here we have, in the critical stages of the election campaign, the former treasurer swearing ‘on his grandmother’s soul’ that he had not received any advice about a blowout in the costs of the Adelaide Oval project. They are the sorts of lies and that is the sort of deceit that was being delivered to the people of South Australia about this project, leading up to the state election.
We knew there had been a blowout, which was subsequently confirmed. We knew there had been a blowout. We raised the issues with the media about the former treasurer and the spin doctors; the former treasurer swore ‘on his grandmother’s soul’ that he had received no advice from anyone that there had been any blowout in the costs of the Adelaide Oval project.
Now, the lies and the deceit did not stop there. They continued, both in relation to the ministers and the government, but there was also deceit going on within the sporting codes. What the Budget and Finance Committee subsequently established was that the South Australian Cricket Association and Mr Ian McLachlan had been, for a long period of time, conducting secret negotiations with Mr Andrew Demetriou, from the Australian Football League (the AFL), in relation to the prospect of AFL being played at the Adelaide Oval. This was completely unknown to the South Australian National Football League.
We have the extraordinary position with the chief executive officer and representative of the Australian Football League, the elite body in relation to football, dudding its own constituent body, the South Australian National Football League, by going behind its back, keeping it secret from the SANFL and conducting negotiations with a rival code, the South Australian Cricket Association, and Mr Ian McLachlan. When that became public knowledge there was fury within football here in South Australia, and not surprisingly. As I said, this project has been based on deceit and lies right from the word go in relation to costing and to secret negotiations that have been going on for a considerable period of time.
I now want to turn to some of the issues that will impact significantly on the future of football in South Australia. As I said at the outset, we now know that football in South Australia has significantly changed its position. It is certainly my view that, if a Liberal government had been elected in 2010, local football would have strongly endorsed and assisted the implementation of a stand-alone stadium in Stadium West. The reality is that football has to deal with this particular government; it has done so, and continues to do so, and has changed its position in relation to the Adelaide Oval project in particular.
I do not propose to go over the history of it changing its position on that; that is a decision for it, and I respect its right to do that. What I do want to explore is the other key aspect of this deal; that is, the impact on football. What is driving this are the problems the Port Power football club has suffered, both as a football club and by the dragging down, through their financial problems, of local football through the South Australian National Football League as well. Port Power has certainly supported the move to Adelaide Oval. It has always held the view that AAMI Stadium (and Football Park before that) was more a Crows venue than it was a Power venue, and for some reason it has, in most recent years, believed that more people would go to Adelaide Oval to watch Port Power games than would go to AAMI Stadium, which is much closer to its own heartland and its own football community, even though it is deep within Port territory.
Its problems, both financial and sporting-wise over recent years, are well known now. A lot of those problems we are now being asked to resolve. From what Michelangelo Rucci said in the paper this morning, it is a potential $3.5 million uplift for the Port Power football club once the stadium deal (as they call it) is done, which they believe will be in 2014. That is what has driven this particular issue—and, to be fair, in recent times the Adelaide Crows, not being as successful as it has been for most of its history, has also suffered some financial problems.
A lot of the problems Port Power is suffering have been self-inflicted. Last year, at a time when Port Power was putting out its hands to the football league, its own supporters and the AFL, it paid over $90,000 in bonuses to its chief executive officer Mr Haysman, as well as other executives and staff of Port Power. At a time when they were going broke and begging for money, I am told they were paying their chief executive bonuses of some $30,000 to $40,000, of which we, the football community and in the end the taxpayers of South Australia, were going to have to come up with some device to end up paying for their financial difficulties.
I am also told that their contracts for their staff this year would have paid bonuses of a quarter of a million dollars to the chief executive and other staff of Port Power at a time when there was a bailout package being put together by the South Australian National Football League and the Australian Football League.
Thankfully, I am told that those bonuses of a quarter of a million dollars will not be paid to their staff. When you have a chief executive officer of Port Power who I understand is on a package of somewhere around $300,000 to $400,000 in terms of the total package, to be paying bonuses of that magnitude at a time when, clearly, it has not been performing as a financial body, let alone as a football body, is completely unacceptable, from my viewpoint.
I am told also that the Port Power club, its board and its chairman, Mr Duncanson—who has to accept his share of the responsibility—were going to send Mr Haysman on a course to Harvard which was deferred last year. He was meant to go last year and that was deferred. There was a proposal that around about this time Mr Haysman was to go to Harvard at the cost of Port Power for further study, again, at a time when they had their hands out to their supporters, to the South Australian National Football League and to the Australian Football League, for money. Thankfully, I am told that is not going ahead as well.
This is the same football club—the chairman, the board and the CEO all have to accept responsibility—who negotiated an extension of the contract with the former coach, Mark Williams, which meant that if they terminated the contract the full entitlement of the contract had to be paid out even if he got a job in another AFL club. So, if he went from Port Power immediately to another club in the AFL, while being paid, his contract within Port Power in its entirety had to be paid out.
I am not sure what the board, the AFL and others did in the end in relation to that and whether there was some negotiated settlement or not. This is the quality of the financial management of Port Power which is creating some of the problems that we are being asked to resolve by the stadium deal and other deals that we are talking about here. This is the only way of saving football: we have to move them from AAMI Stadium to Adelaide Oval.
I accept that there will be some uplift, but the organisation itself has to accept the problems that it has created for itself. I understand that some of the claims of increased membership of Port Power are illusory. Instead of there being 3,500 members, when you look at the incorporation of the Magpie numbers and various other devices the actual increase is less than 100. There is a claim that they have improved the situation by $2½ million. I understand when the auditors go in and have a look, that number is nowhere near $2½ million dollars once the audit of that particular claim is done.
I understand that the leadership at Port Power told the football league, and this has been shared with all of the league directors so it is a very large group now that is aware of this sort of information, that the claimed shortfall for this year grew by more than $1 million in the space of just over one month, which caused the recent crisis discussions that were going on. The bottom line is that if we are going to help solve some of the problems of football, and in particular of Port Power, then there have to be—
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: No, I am not. I am a St Kilda supporter. If some of these problems are to be resolved then there have to be changes in the administration. That means the chief executive officer, sadly, who is a nice bloke, but in the end the buck stops at his desk and the chairman’s desk and there have to be changes in relation to those particular positions.
You cannot have a situation where we in this parliament are being asked to resolve some of these financial difficulties for a sporting club without the buck stopping on the desks of those who have been responsible for some of these decisions and, as I said, that is the chief executive officer and the chairman and the majority of members of the then board who considered some of these particular issues.
The Hon. Mr Wortley says that I hate Port Power. Well, that is true: I do not like Port, but I am not a Crows supporter, I am a St Kilda supporter. I am a member of St Kilda. Sadly, I suspect, I am also a member of the Crows and Power because I am an ultimate member (or whatever it is called) of football at AAMI stadium and I am told that I am counted, for some incredible reason, in Port Power’s membership numbers, and if there is anything I can do to prevent that, now that I am aware of it, I will be doing so at the earliest opportunity. I think I am also included in the Crows members numbers for similar reasons.
The Crows have been a more successful club but they have also got themselves into problems in recent times. I have to say that, whilst I do not know him well, I am an admirer of the business acumen and experience of Bob Chapman, who is the chair of the Adelaide Crows, but the simple reality is that he has moved to Sydney. I make no criticism of his business expertise at all, but being in Sydney at a time when we have these critical debates going on, Mr Chapman and the Adelaide Crows need to address this particular issue themselves in terms of transition to leadership.
Whilst it is an honorary job and position (virtually), chairman of the Adelaide Crows, and people make a huge commitment, as Mr Chapman has done over the years—indeed, so have the Port Power people, let me acknowledge the huge commitment that they have made over the years as well—the reality is that you cannot be, in my view, and I do not make the decisions for the Crows, an absentee chairman. That is a decision for the Crows to resolve, but they are now coming to the league and to others with shortfalls of $1 million, as opposed to the $3 million or so for Port Power, so it is not quite the size of the problem and not quite for the length of the period, but that is an issue that needs to be resolved as well.
So, the taxpayers of South Australia are being asked to put their dollars in in relation to assisting football and cricket. I have already indicated some of the problems with cricket’s administration in terms of the Western Stand development, and do not get me started on some of the other things. The South Australian Cricket Association gets an $85 million debt paid off, full stop. That is not a bad deal. It went out and incurred the debt of $85 million, so if it is going to be supported then it has to make decisions in a professional way in relation to the money that goes into it. I am sure that there will be some in this debate who will adopt the position that we should not be putting this money into the Adelaide Oval. There are many other priorities that I am sure other members are going to argue for.
We have come to a position of supporting the development of the project. As I said, whilst my views in relation to the football aspects have nothing to do with the Liberal Party—they are my own personal views—as a passionate football supporter, as someone who is now supporting this legislation with significant amendments, these sporting codes have a responsibility to ensure that, when we are putting this sort of money in, the sort of waste that we are talking about—in terms of massive bonuses for clubs which are struggling for every last dollar at the moment, going off to Harvard courses, signing contracts for coaches which pay out full tote odds even if they get another job—and that sort of administration is, in my view, unacceptable and should not be supported, even though we do not formally vote on that aspect of it in the bill before us at the moment.
There are some huge assumptions that this particular deal will go ahead. I understand that, in ballpark terms, football is banking on an uplift, as they call it, of about $9 million, possibly up to $10 million a year from this deal. I understand that the cricket association is banking on an uplift of about $8 million. I have not seen the detailed business case—we have seen the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies analysis that has been done, but that is not a business case—which was released by the football league, but there are huge assumptions made about the success of the Adelaide Oval development. Certainly, I believe that in the first honeymoon period at least there will be very significant crowds at Adelaide Oval. It will be a novelty, and I am sure that huge crowds will attend the early games, as one would expect.
However, time will tell the success of the football clubs and other related issues once things settle and stabilise. The South Australian Centre for Economic Studies states that it has assumed an average attendance of about 31,000 for Port Power games at Adelaide Oval. Members will recall that the Port Power games at AAMI Stadium in recent times have had attendances in the low 20,000s—22,000 perhaps, on average. I am not sure what the exact number is, but there is a very significant assumed increase in attendances at Port Power games.
I note that there was a story from Michelangelo Rucci, as I understand it, based on him having been given through Port Power, I assume, access to some confidential information, and it was on the back page of The Advertiser. There were some huge assumptions—even bigger—in terms of average attendances and new memberships for Port Power, which underpinned some of these particular assumptions.
We are not in a position to second-guess those assumptions. All I can say is that, once it all settles down, I hope that they are right. I hope that the uplift they are talking about of $9 million to $10 million is right because, if it is not right, there will obviously be significant problems not only for the project but also for the football clubs and the football league as well.
As I understand it, there was a big story in The Advertiser today about this proposed relief package from the AFL, and it is about $3 million or $4 million a year for the next three years. I think the total package is about $13 million to $14 million. What Michelangelo Rucci has not written is that about $10 million of that, as I understand it, is actually just a loan from the AFL to the SANFL. So, in this supposed bailout package of $13 million to $14 million, the AFL is actually going to put in about $3 million to $4 million. It is putting all the money in up-front, but it is saying to the SANFL, ‘You’ve got to pay us back.’ The SANFL has told us that the football league has a debt already of something of the order of $27 million or $28 million.
My understanding is that this $13 million or $14 million bailout package—Andrew Demetriou, the white knight, blowing in on his horse, supposedly solving all of the problems of the world—the overwhelming majority of that is just going to be a loan to the local football league, which the local football league (SANFL) will have to repay. If that is correct (and I am happy to be proven wrong if the government and its advisers want to do so in response), the football league (SANFL), instead of having a debt of $27 million, will have a total debt of somewhere between $35 million and $40 million that it will have to repay.
Of course, part of the deal is that the AFL wants to free up the licences for the Crows and Power from the South Australian National Football League. I think it is true to say that, at the moment, the AFL is playing a patient, waiting game; it has the financial resources to do it. What it is going to do is squeeze local football and then, at the appropriate time, it will be in a position to make the offer to say, ‘We’re happy now to take those licences over and give the independence to the Crows and the Power in relation to the running of their clubs.’
I am not going to enter into that debate, other than from the viewpoint of the SANFL. I think the interests of the South Australian National Football League cannot and should not be lost in this whole debate. Whilst it is important that the elite league, the AFL, thrives and prospers and that its teams do well, it should not be on the back of screwing the South Australian National Football League and clubs such as West Adelaide and others, which have been the lifeblood of the South Australian National Football League for its entire history.
Whilst the supporters of the South Australian National Football League are relatively small in number, they remain passionate in terms of their support. I think it is critical that, as we debate this bill, we do look at the impact on the South Australian National Football League and what is likely to occur. Michelangelo Rucci says in his story today that everything is hunky-dory—the $570,000 annual dividend to each of the clubs in the South Australian National Football League, in his view, will now be guaranteed by this supposed AFL package. Remember, as I said, the AFL package is virtually a South Australian National Football League package.
I am advised that the current deal for the South Australian National Football League is protected for next year—it is the last year of the current three-year deal—but that from 2013 onwards, instead of three-year deals, the clubs are being told that there will be only year-by-year deals and that there can be no guarantee that the money will stay at the same level from the South Australian National Football League to support local football.
It is common knowledge that Andrew Demetriou has the view, first, that SANFL ought to be AFL SA. But, putting that to the side, the common view is that the South Australian Football League needs to be circumscribed. He does not believe that the salary cap, which is about $350,000 or $370,000, ought to be at that level. He believes that it ought to be reduced to much closer to the Western Australian Football League level.
He wants to see significant changes in the way the South Australian National Football League is operated, because he believes that too much money is going into clubs, such as West Adelaide, Glenelg and the other SANFL clubs. He wants the money to go into the AFL and to the AFL clubs. That is the direction he is heading, and that is fair enough; he is employed by the AFL. He gets nearly $2 million a year, or whatever it is; he is on significant bonuses. That is the direction he wishes to head in.
The deal that we are looking at here today has impacts, as I have said and I say again and I will continue to say, on the AFL but also on the South Australian National Football League and on junior development in country leagues and district leagues in metropolitan Adelaide, because the less money the South Australian National Football League clubs have the less money will be spent in some of those areas.
Trust me, Andrew Demetriou will not be spending his money in country football in South Australia. He will not be spending his money in the local clubs associated with the SANFL clubs here in South Australia. He will support his elite competition, the under-18 league. He will support the various Indigenous programs and other speciality programs, but he is not going to be putting the dollars in that the SANFL clubs do and the SANFL does for country football and to junior development in country leagues and the suburban leagues of metropolitan Adelaide.
That is not what drives him. That is not of interest to him, and you only have to look at the comments from Mark Ricciuto in recent times in relation to that particular issue as he talked about the plight of his club in the Waikerie-Ramco area and the Riverland Football League to know that there is somebody in Mark Ricciuto who actually understands what is going on in country football at the moment and some of the problems and the need for assistance.
Are we likely to get assistance from Andrew Demetriou and his like in Melbourne with the Australian Football League or are we more likely to get it from the South Australian National Football League, steeped in the tradition of decades of support of local football in South Australia? I know where I would put my money. I know which particular group I believe is more likely to support those particular clubs and those particular leagues. I have no doubt that, from 2013, clubs like my own West Adelaide and others will eventually be told by the South Australian National Football League, ‘We can’t maintain the funding at the level that we’ve got.’
Now, I do not know that and I am honest enough to say that. I do not know that but, in my view, having looked at what is occurring, I do not believe there is any other course of action that is likely to ensue. I cannot say in this debate that I have the evidence to show it and, in the end, sadly it will either be proved to be right or wrong when we get to 2013 and 2014 when we see the distributions to the clubs. I do know that the administrators in the various SANFL clubs are already fearful that that is what is going to occur. Again, they do not know, but I do know that they are fearful that they are likely to see this sort of reduction as a result of all that is occurring at the moment.
They are the major issues that I wanted to address during the second reading debate. There are many other specific issues. The member for Davenport has outlined the broad areas of amendment that the Liberal Party proposes to introduce and I will summarise those broadly. They relate obviously to greater accountability measures in relation to the role of the Auditor-General. There are obviously some provisions which have been discussed with the Adelaide City Council, the member for Adelaide and others in relation to control of the Parkland areas, and we will be doing that. There is the issue in relation to the Public Works Committee which I understand the government is in agreement with. There are one or two other broad areas that the Liberal Party has already flagged in another place.
What I want to indicate to the members is that the Liberal Party has further considered its amendments since the debate in the House of Assembly, and whilst we are continuing with the amendments that have been flagged there, there are further amendments that we plan to introduce during this debate in the Legislative Council. For example, in relation to the Auditor-General, we believe strongly that there needs to be an ongoing role for the Auditor-General. I will not go over the explanations for the need for auditing of the project costs within the $535 million. That is evident.
The need for auditing of things like the sinking fund and its adequacy, I think, is evident from the member for Davenport’s argument, but I do want to argue that there is a need for an ongoing role for the Auditor-General forever and a day. We are talking about an 80-year project and the reality is that if this project, through the Stadium Management Authority, gets into financial difficulties in 20 years’ time, if the South Australian Cricket Association does not have the money to meet its liabilities and if the South Australian National Football League does not have money to meet its liabilities, where will the people owed the money come to?
Inevitably, it will be to the taxpayers of South Australia. This is a body, the Stadium Management Authority, which has been set up under state legislation; in essence its legislation will govern its operations. There is, therefore, an ongoing risk in terms of the liability of the deals that are done by the Stadium Management Authority in relation to this particular project. There is a significant investment, as I said, of $535 million-plus in the project.
It is certainly our view that the Auditor-General needs to have an ongoing role, on a yearly basis, even after this project build has been completed, reporting annually to the parliament on the operations of the Stadium Management Authority. Under current arrangements that is not possible, and that is why in our view there need to be amendments further to the ones that were discussed in the assembly that do, nevertheless, come within the broad ambit of increased accountability and an appropriate role for the Auditor-General to report on, in essence, the efficiency and effectiveness, and the financial management of the Stadium Management Authority.
If this Stadium Management Authority in 20 years’ time is starting to get itself into financial difficulties through decisions that it has taken of a financial nature, then the parliament and the people of South Australia need to be warned by somebody—and that is the Auditor-General—that there are some problems that need to be resolved in the interests of taxpayers before they get out of hand. So that is one of the further amendments that we are going to look at. In one or two other minor areas we are looking at amendment. They nevertheless come within the broad ambit of what the member for Davenport has outlined.
I think one of the issues that need to be resolved is the issue of who is actually in control of this precinct during the build period, because after the project is concluded it is going to be managed by the Stadium Management Authority. I think some of us had the view that the Stadium Management Authority would actually help manage this project in the period leading up to it. It has been there managing everything for the moment, and it is going to be managing it once the project is concluded, but it would appear to be the view of the government that during the next two or three years it is not going to be the Stadium Management Authority: it is going to be the South Australian Cricket Association.
To me, that makes no sense at all. To me, this is a deal being done by the government with football and cricket and it ought to be managed, as it has been for the last 12 or 18 months, whatever it is, by football and cricket through the SMA, and that should continue in terms of managing the project. I am interested in the logic of the government if it has a different view to that, and that is certainly one of the issues that we need to have a look at.
The other issue I have flagged is one the member for Davenport is looking at in some of the amendments. We have taken further submissions from the sporting bodies in relation to the rent issue. I know the government has indicated its opposition to the taxpayers of South Australia getting back a small repayment on the investment that it is putting in. You will see from the amendments that the member for Davenport flagged that it was to increase to $1 million a year after three years.
The potential amendments we are going to move will still be moving to $1 million, but over a longer transition period of five years; so jumping from $200,000 to $400,000 to $600,000 to $800,000 and then to $1 million in the fifth year. So, there is a slight change in relation to that amendment, and that is something which the sporting associations—certainly football, and I suspect cricket also would have the same view—would be happy to see as well. I suspect their view is they prefer not to see the rental issue but, again, I think they will probably acknowledge that it is pretty hard to argue why, if the state and its taxpayers are putting in $500 or $600 million, a small return to the taxpayers should not be envisaged.
The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: My colleague the Hon. Mr Stephens is tempting me about the SACA vote, but no, I am not going to talk about that. I have enough other things to talk about. We will leave that to other members to approach. In relation to that amendment, what I wanted to flag relates to the slight change in the transition period and that will be in the amendments that are currently being drafted.
In relation to the amendments, the member for Davenport is still discussing the Liberal Party amendments with parliamentary counsel. What I want to make clear now to the government and the non-government members in this chamber is the Liberal Party’s position in relation to debate on this legislation. The minister in charge of the bill has made it clear in the House of Assembly that the deadline for the government is the end of this session; that is, the end of the July session. That is the government’s position, from the minister in charge.
The minister in this chamber has indicated, by way of notice to all of us, that she wants the bill through this house by Thursday. I am indicating that, from the Liberal Party’s viewpoint, we will not be supporting the completion of all stages of this debate by Thursday. I want to explain why that does not make sense and why that is, nevertheless, still consistent with the minister in charge of the bill—that is, minister Conlon—and his statements in the House of Assembly.
The reality is that I am not going to be in a position to table our 15 or so pages of amendments until tomorrow, at the very earliest, and possibly not until Thursday. I, as the Liberal Party spokesperson in this chamber, still have not seen the final drafting of the amendments. The member for Davenport is handling the drafting with parliamentary counsel. He has consulted with me, as he is very good at consulting, all the way through. I have seen a draft of the amendments from late last week. I have provided further suggestions for change, some of which are now being actioned in discussions with parliamentary counsel.
For the benefit of non-government members in this chamber, the first you will see of the final copy of the amendments is likely to be tomorrow or possibly Thursday, this week. We do not believe that it is sensible, firstly, for non-government members to look at all of the detail of those amendments in less than 24 hours and be required to sit on Thursday night to jam this bill through the Legislative Council. We will not support that sort of rushing of critical legislation.
The reason we will not is that we have a full two sitting weeks in July which will allow proper consideration of the legislation. We will be ready to commence the committee stage of the debate in the next sitting week, which, I think, is in two weeks’ time. If we can conclude it in those two days, terrific, but, if not, we will certainly have concluded it early in the final week.
Now, as I understand it, there has been healthy discussion between the minister and the member for Davenport. So, most, if not all, of the issues and amendments have been informally discussed with the minister. He has already indicated in the House of Assembly his willingness to agree to what I am sure he would say are sensible amendments—he will need to see the final drafting of some of these amendments—in a number of these areas. He has flagged that he is not very keen on supporting the rental amendments and I think there is one other area, in terms of the planning issue, that he has flagged he might have a problem with as well.
As I understand it, there is the potential for significant agreement with a number of our amendments from the government side but, as I indicated early in the second reading, there are some non-government members who will not support the bill at all and who deserve the right to be lobbied in relation to the amendments that we are moving and to speak against those, if they so wish, as well. I do not believe we should be pushed into the passage of this bill by Thursday this week; certainly, if there is a push from the government we will oppose it and will seek support for an adjournment to the next sitting week from other non-government members in this chamber.
There are one or two other issues that were raised in the House of Assembly debate which we did not flag as amendments but which we are now looking at. One of them, a minor issue, was that the member for Davenport raised a question with the minister about the grassed area to the north of the Adelaide Oval where the Moreton Bay fig trees are and whether the protection in the bill would be sufficient to protect that as a grassed area. When you look at the bill it is not; it could eventually be protected as an open area and terraced. That is an issue that the member for Davenport is looking at as well; that is, do we amend the bill to say, in essence, that it should be protected as a grassed or lawned area, or whatever is the appropriate wording?
To be fair to the minister, I think he indicated a willingness to at least consider an amendment along those lines if it were to be moved. I do not think he committed himself, but he was prepared to consider an amendment. There were one or two issues such as that, that were raised in the committee stage of the House of Assembly debate and, as a result of that, we are looking at some amendments as well. I am convinced that they are not substantive issues, certainly not issues that either side would want to die in a ditch over, and I do not believe they are ones that would jeopardise the potential passage of the legislation through this house.
The other issue—again from the debate—that was not specifically referred to was the issue of the deadlock provision. At this stage I do not think we are planning to amend it, but I have raised the issue with the member for Davenport and also with some of the sporting bodies involved. The issue of the deadlock provision is a critical one. As I see it there is nothing in the legislation which says, when the four SANFL directors and four SACA directors come to an implacable halt in the road, how that is resolved.
I am told by the South Australian National Football League, by John Olsen, that it is not in the legislation but is actually in what is known as the operators’ or partners’ agreement or whatever it is. I seek a copy of that particular agreement, because I think the dispute-breaking mechanism would go to the president of the Law Society, or something like that, and the president of the Law Society would, in essence, break the deadlock. Whether he or she does that, or whether they appoint someone to do it, I am not sure.
I raise the issue but I have not personally formed a final view, and I am not flagging an amendment at this stage, but I believe it is an issue that this council should consider: whether the partners’ agreement (if that is what it is called) is sufficient, when football and cricket inevitably come to blows on a particular issue—for instance, about who will get the money. One example is that I understand there has to be a decision made regarding who will have catering rights to the oval.
I am told that the SANFL has its own in-house catering firm, and I am told SACA also has its own in-house catering firm. I do not know, but I assume that both of them would want to support their own. I would hope it would go out to tender, but what happens if the SANFL directors support them keeping it and the SACA directors support them keeping it? How do you resolve a four:four split?
The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: The Hon. Tammy Franks suggests a flip of a coin. As I understand it, the legislation does not resolve it, but I am told that the partners’, or the operators’, agreement supports it. So, I put a request to the minister that officers provide to myself, and to other members who may be interested, a copy of this supposed operators’ or partners’ agreement so that we can understand how a critical issue such as this is to be resolved and, indeed, whether that is sufficient.
If you have a project of $500 million or $600 million with all the decisions that are going to be taken and you have a body which is set up and designed to potentially, on significant issues, split into a 4-4 vote with no tie-break mechanism at all (other than whatever is in this supposed operators’ agreement), then I think we need to be satisfied that that is the best way for these sorts of issues to be resolved.
Rather than waiting until the next sitting week to finally get a copy of that agreement and the government’s response to some of these issues, it would expedite matters if the government’s response and information could be provided to all non-government members prior to that sitting week so that members could read it and then enter the debate on the Tuesday of that sitting week fully informed of what the government’s position is on a number of these amendments or particular questions which are going to be raised.
I raise those three or four to flag that there are literally dozens of others that I am not going to address in the second reading because I have already taken too much time, but I will address them when we get to the various clauses at the committee stage of the debate. With that, I indicate the Liberal Party’s support for the second reading.