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Kardinia Park Stadium Bill 2015

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
15 December 2015

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens in the debate on the Kardinia Park Stadium Bill 2015. I am the first Greens speaker, but unfortunately I am the first non-Cats supporter to speak on this bill. I barrack for the Bombers — third generation. Before I start, the member for Ivanhoe reminded me of a story. I could very easily have been a Geelong supporter. My grandfather lived in the Geelong area and started off being a Geelong supporter, but he eventually moved and worked at a factory in Abbotsford which was owned by the director of the Essendon Football Club, and many of the Essendon players worked there. Essentially you did not have a social life with your workmates unless you went to the Bombers' games. That is how we became Bombers supporters, and I am very supportive of them.

As has been outlined by previous speakers, this bill establishes the Kardinia Park Stadium Trust to take over the operations of the Kardinia Park stadium and surrounding areas from the local council. We are broadly supportive of the principle of having independent state management of that stadium. As mentioned by the member for South Barwon, there are funds for the trust from the government, but it is important that the trust be self-funding and self-sufficient in that regard.

We have a very good history of world-class sporting facilities and sporting stadiums in Melbourne. I love sports and new stadiums, and it is great to see that Geelong now has games under lights, but it seems as though with every election, state and federal, we see money being poured into the Kardinia Park stadium. I really think it is time we had a critical look at how we fund sports and sports infrastructure in Victoria. We need to make sure we are getting the balance right between our major sports, our league sports, our community sports, participation, which sports get funded and which facilities get funded.

Just having a cursory glance through this year's state budget, I note that there is $70 million in it for Simonds Stadium, and I note that there is a community benefit element there, with, I think, a disability service being housed there. There is $15 million for Eureka Stadium. There is the Junction Oval upgrade. There is the grand prix, which of course costs us about $60 million each year. If we look at community side of things for new initiatives, there is about $100 million for the Community Sports Infrastructure Fund and then some other programs for another few million dollars. I am sure there are probably some other things in there I have missed out.

I just point out these things. We have around $100 million for community sports. We have these other programs totalling up to $100 million plus for major sports. I just question whether we are getting the balance right, and I really do think it is time for us to have a real, critical look at how we fund sports in Victoria.

In 2009 the Independent Sport Panel, chaired by David Crawford, published a report on the structure and programs of the elite sport system and recommended an increased focus on participation and physical activity. Although the Crawford report was made at the federal level, there are lessons for the states. The report was controversial at that time because it questioned the medal-tally focus of how we fund sports. The panel argued for a greater focus on lifetime participation and sport's health benefits.

A number of studies in the public domain question the purported economic benefits of major events and sporting stadiums. A case in point is the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, which now costs taxpayers over $60 million a year, or half a billion dollars over its lifetime. The grand prix corporation refuses to count or publish attendance figures, and Victorians have never seen a benefit-cost analysis of the event, so we have to question the economic and other intangible benefits of some of the funding for sports and not necessarily take them as a given. I think we have to take a rigorous and critical look at those areas.

When determining infrastructure funding and recurrent sports funding we need to look at the shift towards community sporting infrastructure. Community sport is an absolutely vital plank in preventative health, in keeping people healthy and active and in supporting the community.

Speaking as the member for Prahran and from an inner city perspective, my electorate has a problem with population growth. People are moving back into the inner city, but there is no space for new sporting facilities and existing facilities are at breaking point. As a case in point, there has been an increase in the number of people playing netball in Prahran but there are only two courts, one of which is undersized. It is a real challenge trying to find the space for full-size netball courts that can serve the community.

I was a bit disappointed that inner city netball funding does not include the City of Stonnington, so I urge the government to widen the scope of that program. I suggest that we need to have needs-based transparent funding for community sports, just as we have for health and education, so that we know where the demand is so that funds flow to where they are needed.

I have raised another issue about sporting funding — that is, the need to diversify major sports infrastructure and elite sports. Having visited the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) in Albert Park, I know that there is a case for greater recurrent funding for the VIS and for support for elite athletes, who have to rely on scholarships and support to fund their endeavours.

When I look at the Toorak Park precinct in Prahran I see a precinct with men's district cricket, women's district cricket, the biggest junior footy club in Victoria and some netball teams. That area is ripe for a facility which would not only serve elite sportspeople but facilitate the movement from community sport all the way up to elite level and lifetime participation.

There is another issue we need to look at in terms of sports funding — that is, support for women's elite sport. There is a huge pay disparity between men and women in sport. I was shocked to find out that netballers who play at the highest level are not fully professional.

Ms Ward interjected.

Mr HIBBINS — I admit it was incredible. I felt a bit silly at the time when I was talking to them when they said, 'By the way, we still have to work for a living'. They are playing in front of big crowds, but they still have to work to support themselves. We have seen the Matildas go into battle with Football Federation Australia to receive better pay.

Women cricketers have started the Women's Big Bash League, which has to be played over a longer period of time because games have to be played on weekends because women cricketers have to work during the week.

Hopefully a women's Australian football league will start up soon. My hot tip is that it will be the sleeping giant of Australian sport; I can see it really taking off. At present women footballers have to pay to have their games broadcast, so we really need to look at the disparity between women's and men's elite sport. For all the issues that I have raised, I am not suggesting that we pull out a chequebook and say, 'Here's the money to solve the problem'. Again, we need to have a critical analysis of how we fund sport in Victoria.

The AFL is certainly the leader in Australian sport, if not international sport, in how it runs things, but this bill shows that the state government is contributing a lot to support the AFL, which in turn supports community sports facilities. I would like to see the Victorian people get a real dividend for that support.

Around grand final time this year I raised the fact that AFL club members only get a 30 per cent allocation of tickets for the grand final. At the start of the footy season a lot of time and effort is put into convincing supporters to sign up to be AFL club members. The clubs rely on members financially, so there is a lot of emphasis put on membership at the start of the year. But come the end of the year, if you are lucky enough for your team to make the grand final, suddenly you are left high and dry without a ticket or having to spend inordinate amounts to get one of the 25 per cent or so of tickets that are available for corporate packages. Some people end up having to pay $1000 or so, if they can afford it, which I think is very disappointing and particularly galling. The game may be sold out or the allocation exhausted, yet there are still advertisements up saying, 'Buy your tickets! Buy your corporate package!'. I would like to see the AFL step up and come into line with other major sporting events, such as the Football Association Challenge Cup and the Champions League Final, and have a majority of their tickets available to club members. I would like to see the sports minister use his powers under the Major Sporting Events Act 2009 to ensure that the ticket scheme for the grand final increases by over 50 per cent — if not doubles to 60 000 — the number of tickets available to AFL club members.

The Greens are not opposing this bill, but I suggest that we need to have a critical look at how we fund sport in this state. The Greens have a number of issues that I have outlined about community sport, elite sport, the demand for local sportsgrounds and supporting elite sportspeople and what the state of Victoria gets in return.

I note that the sport and recreation strategy is due to expire in 2015. If we are looking to have a new strategy, then we could develop open, transparent and needs-based funding arrangements for both community and elite sports in Victoria.


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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
15 December 2015



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