Stadium a white elephant that's got to go

A concept picture of the proposed Hobart stadium at Macquarie Point

*Speech delivered on 10 May 2023

Stand with me and Jacqui - tell the Premier to walk away from the stadium.

Did you catch the white elephant in last night's budget? 

It's big, it's white, it's costing nearly a billion dollars and it's supposed to live in Hobart, and the federal government wants to fund it. At a time when money is supposed to be really tight, somehow Labor found $240 million to fund a stadium that is going to lose $2 for every dollar it makes. If the federal government wants to burn money, it can do that. The federal government doesn't run a single hospital or a single school. It's an ATM that doles out money, except for once a year when it makes you give some of it back. 

The federal government funds things. It's what it's there to do. It's not their job to fix Tasmania's healthcare system or build shelter for people sleeping rough. That's the job of the Tasmanian Liberal government. They're the ones choosing to put up money we don't have, to fund a project we don't want.

You couldn't make this stuff up; except apparently you can. The Tasmanian government has taken its playbook straight from an episode of Utopia. I'm sure you've seen it. Some of the conversations in the show are almost word-for-word arguments put forward for the stadium, right down to the idea it has to be a stadium with a roof. They were written as jokes, but here they are being presented as real-life reasons for the Tasmanian Liberal government spending close to a billion dollars on a stadium. I know politics can get a bit ridiculous sometimes, but this takes the cake. 

We're building this stadium because the AFL said we had to. They issued the threat—no stadium; no team—despite the fact we already have two perfectly good stadiums where we play AFL games. Every single thing about this project says that Tasmania has been sold a lemon. And they know it. They've taken us for mugs. The AFL are sitting there, grins on their faces, patting themselves on the back, and they're not even hiding it. 

Here's what Nathan Buckley said in a radio interview: 'I think the AFL have done remarkably well at playing the game of "We're not sold on this" until everyone else is invested absolutely in it. So, that's another tick, what they've been able to get, selfishly for the game of football.' I mean, that speaks for itself, doesn't it—Tasmania, so desperate to prove themselves in the rah-rah of sport that they've made taxpayers across the country chip in for a project that no-one even wants.

Tasmanians are angry—really angry. I just spent three days at Agfest talking to thousands of Tasmanians. The conversations were all different. We talked about health, housing, and how much groceries cost lately. But every single conversation mentioned the stadium.

People hate it. They're furious, because this doesn't feel like it's for them anymore. It feels like it's about the AFL and the premier and that we're all just spectators—maybe in the stadium. If the Tasmanian government has found $375 million down the back of the couch, when do we get a say on how to spend it? When do we get to say no? It's not the premier's money; it's our money. It's not his to spend.

There's all this 'We can walk and chew gum at the same time,' so let's put this into perspective. We're talking about a stadium that's costing nearly $1 billion. Tasmania's entire health budget is $2.5 billion. What would our healthcare system look like if we put an extra $1 billion there instead? The premier is all in, but he doesn't need to be. We don't have to spend a dollar on this. 

It's not too late for the premier to walk away from this. The spend doesn't start straightaway. The Tasmanian Liberal government can still decide to invest money where it's truly needed. Some people would call it flip-flopping, but I think it takes courage to say: 'Do you know what? I've heard what the people of Tasmania want. I've listened to what they're saying, and I've changed my mind.'

I said in my first speech that the public needs to stop marking politicians down for changing their mind, and I don't think Tasmanians would see this as a betrayal or as walking away from a promise. They would see this as a decision from a strong leader—one who listens. The opposition to this stadium is everywhere. Tasmanians want him to walk away. 

The only thing stopping the Tasmanian Liberals is the pride of the premier. So I'm asking Jeremy Rockliff: will you do the right thing and walk away from this dud deal?

 Sign the petition here. It's not too late for the Premier to do the right thing.