Stadium can wait - health care can't

*Speech delivered 28/11/22.

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If the Tasmanian state government gets its way, we're going to spend $370 million on a new Hobart stadium at Macquarie Point.

Anybody with a cheque book worth $375 million in free cash and facing the problems that Tasmania is facing wouldn't start with a stadium. The lack of a you-beaut stadium is a problem, yes, but it is not at the top of the list of priorities. 

So why are we doing this? It's because we have a gun to our heads and it's being held by the CEO of the AFL.

The AFL says we can't have a team without building the stadium, even though we already have two. Both of them meet the grade for the AFL and we play games there now. But you don't have to worry about those kinds of details when you're not the one paying for it. And the AFL are not the ones paying for it, Tasmanian taxpayers are. Why? 

Because the new stadium was never included in the AFL task force business case for a Tassie team. It wasn't supposed to be part of the deal. It snuck its way in and suddenly we're on the hook, just like a fish.

Don't get me wrong, it's not to say that a stadium wouldn't be a good thing to have—it would be great to have, I'm sure. Hobart is missing out on major conferences. At the moment, Hobart doesn't have a site for a conference like that. It means we go without the money that comes from interstate tourism. That money is worth something to the state coffers. 

How much? I have no idea, because the state government of Tasmania has no idea—no business case prepared and no figures supporting the decision. We just don't know, it's pie-in-the sky stuff. There will be some value from it, and that's a good thing. 

It's why it's not a bad idea in isolation, but we just can't look at this in isolation—I wish that we could. 

But if we're going to back this, what do we say to the people sleeping in their cars? 'Here are some free tickets, go on your way'? Do we just tell pensioners freezing in their homes in winter because they can't afford their power bills that we will send them some AFL branded socks? Fair dinkum!

It would be a fine thing to have a stadium in more economically secure times, and maybe we'd even be able to justify it right now. But it can't be on top of the list of things we need to spend $375 million on in Tasmania. 

We are in a housing crisis and we are in a health crisis. People are dying waiting for a hospital bed. They're not dying waiting for a bloody footy team! People are living in tents and our priority has to be putting a roof over their heads, not putting a roof over a stadium.

The argument from the Tasmanian Premier that this money won't come at the cost of health and housing, with all due respect, is absolute rubbish! It is up to him where they allocate the money that Tasmanian taxpayers pay. He should wake up to himself!

Is he saying it wouldn't be addressed faster if we spent more? Why? Is he out of ideas of what he could spend the money on to make things better soon? If he is, I would tell him to throw a rock out of his office window and whoever it hits will have a million ideas for him. But don't actually do that, because if it hurts them there will be nowhere in the health system to put them! If he isn't saying that, and he has ideas about how to make things better sooner, is he saying that they don't need the money? If so, why isn't he doing them already?

Of course, what he's saying is that he has ways to make it better faster, but that they need money right now and they don't have the money. They don't have $375 million sitting behind their couch.

So, where's the money coming from, Premier? From the roads? From the schools? From the hospitals? From Tasmanians to the AFL: the AFL is holding a gun to the heads of Tasmanians, and that is the truth of the matter, and you are absolutely despicable, when there are more crucial points that need to be dealt with. 

People's lives are at risk in Tasmania, and here we are talking about a stadium that, quite frankly, we cannot afford. We cannot afford it when people's health is at risk, when teachers need a pay rise and when we have ramping going on like there's no tomorrow.

This is absolutely disgusting, and you're rubbing into the face of Tasmania some new, you-beaut stadium that has some automatic roof on it! What planet are you on, Rockliff?

I can tell you. Here' a go for you. Try it, Rockliff: come on, Rocky, stick your chest out; let's see what you've got. I can tell you, instead we could have $375 million to spend on helping us lift our literacy rates, reduce our elective surgery times, and seal and resurface our roads. 

And they say, 'Give us a stadium or we'll shoot.' I say to you, Rocky: tell them to pull the God damned trigger and try their luck. 

Go on Rocky; stick your chest out.

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