*Opinion piece published in The Examiner and The Advocate on 8th December 2022.
If you had $375 million to fix the problems Tasmania is facing, would you really spend it on a stadium?
We’re in a housing crisis. We’re in a health crisis. People are dying waiting for a hospital bed. They’re not dying waiting for a footy team.
But the state government wants to spend nearly $400 million on a stadium.
To be fair, the Premier’s right: we want an AFL team. But we’re being asked to pay a price for it we simply can’t afford.
We have a gun to our head, held by the CEO of the AFL. He says no stadium means no team.
We’ve already got two stadiums. Both of them meet the grade for the AFL. We play footy games there now.
But the AFL wants more. And why wouldn’t they? They’re not the ones paying for it. Tasmanian taxpayers are.
A brand-spanking new stadium would be lovely. But it’s not free. The money’s got to come from somewhere. Schools, hospitals, roads, energy. That’s where it’s coming from.
And if we’ve got $375 million sitting around, let’s spend it on things that are in the need-to-have basket, instead of the nice-to-have one.
People are sleeping in their cars. They need homes. That’s a need-to-have. They can’t live in the stadium.
Pensioners freezing in their homes because they can’t afford their power bills need help. Some AFL-branded socks to keep their toes warm isn’t the kind of help they need.
A stadium would be a good thing to have. It’d support the economy by bringing money back in from tourism.
But how much money? No idea.
Because the government has no idea. They don’t have a business case prepared. No figures supporting the decision. Nothing to support the idea that this stadium has to be in Hobart and not Launceston either.
The lack of a major stadium in Tassie is a problem. But it can’t be on top of the list of things we need to spend $375 million on.
Politicians get hauled over the coals for backflipping on their announcements. But their job is to make the tough decisions in the best interests of their state.
And the best thing Rockliff can do is walk away from the stadium.