Transcript of media conference with Andrew Wilkie, independent MHR for Clark, Cenotaph, Hobart, 24 June 2022.
Andrew Wilkie, the independent Member for the Federal Division of Clark.
Almost exactly 10 years ago, I stood at Macquarie Point with the then Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, when he announced $ 50 million, mostly for the remediation of the Macquarie Point site. And I remember saying then to the assembled crowd, I said to the Tasmanian Government, ‘don’t stuff it up’. And everyone had a little bit of a laugh at that. They thought that was a funny thing to say, well, here we are 10 years later, and they have completely and utterly stuffed it up.
So badly so, that we had Anthony Albanese back here this week as the Prime Minister. And in the Prime Minister’s own words, ‘the situation is appalling’. And I think that’s an understatement, quite frankly, 10 years later, and what have you got to show for it. We’ve got a road they’re going to have to rip up because there’s something wrong with it. There’s a herb garden. There’s a big clear plastic shed of some kind, I don’t know what that does. The only thing that’s been achieved here is that a whole lot of bureaucrats have been paid a whole lot of money. And a whole lot of extra money has been spent on building a headquarters for the Development Corporation, which they then moved to another part of the site where they spent a whole lot of money building another headquarters for the Development Corporation.
Now, there’s been no shortage of ideas for here. We’ve had Eden domes. We’ve had a science and Antarctic precinct, we’ve had a Reconciliation Park. And now this latest crazy idea of putting a footy stadium here. There’s no shortage of ideas, but I’ll tell you what’s lacking. The one thing that is lacking more than anything else is political leadership to get the job done. That $ 50 million of federal money, that’s public money, politicians hold that in trust to be spent wisely. It’s not play money for politicians. You know, we’ve had three premiers since that funding was announced and nothing has been achieved. And now we’ve got people suggesting we abandon the 10 years of work that has been done, and we start afresh.
I mean, what are we going to have next? A ferris wheel? A spaceport? You know, what’s the next crazy idea going to be for Macquarie Point? How about the Premier grips up his government, grips up the Development Corporation and gets the job done? And if there is any tension between TasRail and TasPorts and TasWater, and the Development Corporation and Hobart City Council, and who knows who else? Well, the Premier needs to get all those people into a room and say, ‘We are not leaving this room until all of our disagreements are sorted out’. Then putting in place the sort of senior bureaucrats that will understand the outcome is the mission. The process is not the mission, the outcome is the mission. How about we deliver this for the people of Hobart? And how about we honor the $ 50 million has so far been stumped up by taxpayers.
Journalist – Imogen Elliott
The Premier says there has been some work done on the site. It’s just a lot going on behind the scenes. Do you buy that?
The claim by the government that a lot of work has gone on that we just can’t see is crap. And I don’t mind you using that term on camera because that’s what it is. It’s nonsense. This state government could not organize a piss up in a brewery. There’s bugger all work being done down there. There’s a nice bitumen road that we learned is either in the wrong place or there’s something wrong with it, whatever it is, they’re gonna have to rip it up. What does that leave: it leaves a herd a herb garden, a few charging ports for electric cars, a white plastic shed that no one seems to know what the purpose of it is. That’s what’s been done in 10 years. In any other state, the job would be done by now and the public would be enjoying it.
Bugger all has been done. I do not buy this line from the Premier or the state government. What the Premier would be better to do is just to stand up and say okay, we’ve had 10 years of not going on except burning money on bureaucrats’ wages. Well this is a line in the sand. We start again today, and we will deliver this. It was only a few years ago, you know, that Minister Michael Ferguson said that by now the sky would be filled with cranes and the ground with cement trucks. Where are the cranes? Where are the cement trucks? Where’s anything? There’s nothing down there. So I do not buy it from the Premier and nor to the people I represent.
Journalist – Ainslie Koch
We haven’t heard a lot of appetite from developers to build on his site. Do you think that’s because there’s too much government red tape? Is there too much bureaucracy going on for there to be active development opportunities?
It is a fact that one of the reasons things have gone so slow here at Macquarie Point is that investors and developers have been very cautious about doing anything with this state government. Because there is such uncertainty about the future of this project. I make the point again, since this project was announced we were going to have Eden domes: nice idea never happened. We’re going to have light rail coming into it: hasn’t happened, probably won’t happen. We’re going to have a science and Antarctic precinct which I think still should be a central anchor tenant here. We’re going to have a Truth and Reconciliation Park, another good idea, but they all seem to have been thrown out the window with this latest harebrained idea of spending almost a billion dollars – mostly of taxpayers’ money – to put a footy stadium here.
And make no mistake, if a footy stadium goes here, just about everything else gets pushed out. No science and Antarctic precinct, no Reconciliation Park, no multi-use facilities and diverse facilities to benefit the whole community. The state government is singularly responsible for this fiasco. Three premiers are responsible for this fiasco. I do not blame the Development Corporation. I do not blame the CEOs of the Development Corporation. I blame the state government who are incompetent and who are treating Macquarie Point as a plaything and treating the $ 50 million that’s so far been invested by the federal government as play money. Not good enough. And the loser is always the Tasmanian community.
You said in your media release you weren’t against an AFL stadium per se. Could you perhaps clarify your position on the stadium and the club and the appropriate amount of public support?
I think I speak for a lot of Tasmanians when I say it’d be great to have a taste Tassie AFL team. I’d like there to be a Tassie AFL team. And I’m the first to say we need good sporting facilities. I spend a lot of my own time as a member of parliament, trying to get federal investment in community sporting facilities. So this isn’t about whether or not we have an AFL team. This isn’t whether or not we have a new stadium in the Hobart area. This is about should federal and state taxpayer money be invested in a footy team? Should it be invested in a stadium and where should the stadium go?
And in my opinion, and again, I’m confident I speak for many Tasmanians and many residents of the greater Hobart area: let’s have a footy team. Let’s have a stadium. But let both be privately funded. And let the stadium be located in a sensible spot, not at Macquarie Point where we have long looked forward to a science and Antarctic precinct, a convention center, accommodation, restaurants, entertainment zones, a Reconciliation Park, that’s what we’ve been looking for forward to for a decade. And I say to the state government, how about you get off your butt and deliver it.
Journalist – Imogen Elliott
Would you advocate for federal money for the stadium knowing that our state government now has this track record of not spending federal money?
I will not be advocating for one more dollar of federal funding for Macquarie Point until I am confident the state government has got off its butt and is getting this redevelopment underway. And I will not be chasing one dollar of taxpayers money for a footy stadium when the stadium and the team should be privately funded. The AFL is rich. It has rivers of gold running through it. It has more than enough money to subsidize teams and subsidize the building of stadiums.
We can see behind you a whole pile of logs and also these sewage tanks. It was my understanding in discussions over Macquarie Point in the last 10 years that these facilities were going to be moved elsewhere. Do you think TasPorts and other agencies bear a bit of blame, that they’ve been sitting on their hands on the appropriate solutions to clear the site?
Of course this site has many stakeholders. It’s got TasWater and the sewerage plant. It’s got TasPorts. This is an important working port. It’s got TasRail, it’s got the Hobart City Council’s jurisdiction as well. It has the Development Corporation as the body set up by the state government to drive the development and then of course over the top fits the state government, it has lots of stakeholders. But at the end of the day, there is only one organization responsible for the delivery of Macquarie Point and that is the Tasmanian Government.
So I don’t blame TasWater, TasPorts TasRail, the Development Corporation, Hobart City Council, I blame the Tasmanian state government. And if the Tasmanian state government knew how to deliver a project, and if the Premier and ministers had leadership ability, they’d get all the stakeholders into a room and say ‘we’re not leaving this room until all outstanding disputes and uncertainties are sorted ‘.
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