I wish to use my time today as opposition spokesman for racing to discuss the extraordinary saga that has been the Victoria Park redevelopment proposal. Members are well aware that the newly elected Adelaide City Council has made a decision to reject a lease for the project. Let me firstly back up the comments of Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith by saying that the opposition has consistently supported a sensible redevelopment of an area that sorely needs some significant attention. In a recent release Mr Hamilton-Smith said that the state Liberals would support legislation so that construction work could begin straight after the 2008 Clipsal 500 race.
The opposition called for an end to the dithering and pleaded for some much needed leadership from the Hons Mr Rann and Mr Foley. It now appears that the government is not entirely sure what it wants to do, and the stand-off continues. After talking tough for so long, on radio yesterday the Treasurer made the following comment:
The Adelaide City Council has said they want to talk to us; let’s sit down and see what they mean by a compromise. I mean, you can legislate a lease in parliament but what you can’t legislate is cooperation and commitment.
Earlier the South Australian Jockey Club CEO, Mr Steve Ploubidis, remarked that he would ‘certainly be encouraging the government to continue with the process and legislate to make this project happen’. Rob Chapman of the Motor Trades Association also added his support by saying:
We think it’s time for the state government to get on and put legislation into the parliament and have the grandstand built.
In today’s Advertiser the South Australian Tourism Alliance has expressed its anger over the fact that the proposal is now at a standstill. So I repeat that, as an opposition, we have supported a sensible proposal and will support legislation to secure an outcome for Victoria Park. However, now the Treasurer is quoted as saying:
What I do know about the Liberal Party of this state is that they would frustrate legislation, they would add amendments to it, they would want to leverage other projects off it. The Liberals are not sincere about this. They’re playing opportunistic politics.
It is not opportunistic politics. What we are doing is trying to show some leadership on this matter. We understand that the current facilities are substandard, and there has been enough dithering for far too long. The situation has been made more urgent by the fact that the sale of Cheltenham is reportedly set to be finalised within about the next 10 days. The SAJC has indicated that it will be looking to host up to 35 race meetings at Victoria Park every year, but yet again racing has to wait while the saga continues.
Racing expert, Dennis Markham, commented on FIVEaa yesterday that metropolitan racing meets may even have to be held in Gawler or Murray Bridge while the impasse over Victoria Park drags on. It has become apparent that the government now fears legislating for an outcome to this sorry saga. Those cynics amongst us might even suggest that Mr Rann is simply very keen to protect one of his favourites, in the member for Adelaide, and avoid a political disaster.
Should it come to having to legislate, minister Lomax-Smith would seriously need to consider voting against her own party, given that she was given the rare and special right to oppose her own cabinet’s decision to press ahead with the redevelopment back in January. We could seriously have the situation of a government minister voting against her own government’s legislation while the opposition supports the government.
This would be tremendously embarrassing for Mr Rann and his government, and I am sure that they are desperately trying to avoid this option. Treasurer Foley was quoted in The Advertiser today as saying that overriding legislation would be ‘fraught with danger’. I agree—fraught with danger for the government. Strangely, minister Lomax-Smith is nowhere to be seen of late in respect of this issue. Since first making public her opposition to the proposal, the strategy has obviously been to hide her away at all costs.
In conclusion, if one looks at the Adelaide Now Web site, or reads the letters to the editor, one gets the distinct impression that there is a great deal of support for a clean up and suitable redevelopment of the site. But one also gets the distinct impression that the public is pleading for some strong decision-making from the Hon. Mr Rann and the Hon. Mr Foley. To date, that simply has not happened. There are those in the opposition who suspect that the Hon. Mr Foley will try to use the Adelaide City Council to get out of the redevelopment of Victoria Park, knowing full well that his budget is apparently now in disarray, so we will be watching this space with a great deal of interest.