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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1116

Mr MARLES (Corio) (11:19): I acknowledge the fine contribution of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, who made some very good points but was sadly misguided about what was the best region in Australia; that, of course, as we well know, is Geelong and Bellarine. Notwithstanding that error, it was a very good contribution and so I commend the member.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Griggs ): I might have to challenge you on that because it might be that the Northern Territory is the best region!

Mr MARLES: Far be it from me to cast aspersions on the chair. I am not sure whether we can move dissent from the chair in this chamber; but, if we could, I would!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not think you are going to try!

Mr MARLES: In any event, Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to tell the House about the Leopold Football and Netball Club. I visited Leopold Football and Netball Club earlier this year; it was just at the beginning of the football season, mid-week, and it was a very, very happy scene indeed. There were literally hundreds of kids across a range of teams out there on a Wednesday evening—cold but not terrible weather—being active and providing community spirit.

This is, of course, the story of so many community sporting organisations around the country but particularly in relation to the community of Leopold in my electorate it is really the sporting club which is the heart and soul of that community. At this point in time Leopold does not have a community centre, but we hope to change this. So, in this sense, the football and netball club really plays that role.

What is wonderful about it also masks something which is of concern, and that is that the physical infrastructure, the buildings around the grounds, is very outdated. The buildings have not been renovated since the late 1970s. In the early 1980s the population of Leopold was 4,000; today, it is close to 13,000. So you can imagine the stress which is being placed upon those buildings. It was for this reason that I was very pleased to be able to announce with the then Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, a $500,000 grant for the Leopold netball pavilion in order to begin the process of renovating their facilities.

The grant was awarded under the Round Five program within the federal government's Regional Development Australia Fund. This was money which was allocated in the last budget. This entailed a process where the Leopold netball pavilion, the Leopold Football and Netball Club, had to go through a competitive process of putting their case before Regional Development Australia and in that process were successful in doing it and were awarded this $500,000 grant—money which had been committed in the budget and passed through this parliament. That is money which is now being said by the new government to not be flowing. We are now in a situation where that is a cut which seems to be occurring. Although there is a question mark about it, all the indications are that that money is not going to flow. This is of deep concern.

The best argument that we have from the government about why it is not flowing is that contracts were not signed, which is disingenuous in the extreme. We all know that, having gone through a competitive process like that, the time it takes in order to sign a contract can often be months, as planning permits need to be obtained and a range of other processes need to be gone through. But the critical thing from the point of view of the federal government is that the money had been passed through this parliament, set aside and in a competitive process allocated to this club for a very important need, and now it is being taken away by the Abbott government.

It is not surprising then that there is enormous concern within the Leopold Football and Netball Club about that. In the last couple of days, I spoke to Brendan Thompson, the president of the football club. He expressed his great concern about this development. He made the point that right now there are no disability facilities; there are no women's facilities, women's change rooms; and there are no umpires' change rooms available at the club. Yet this is a club which has 600 participants across 41 different teams. There are umpires who are not coming to umpire games at the club because there are no change facilities associated with it. It is a disgrace and it is something that needs to be rectified. I say to Brendan and to all those at the sporting club in Leopold: I am going to fight on your behalf. We are going to do everything we can to get this money back.