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Thursday, 4 May 1989
Page: 1779

Senator REID(12.45) —I want to raise a matter that I think the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (Senator Richardson) should explain to the Senate. It arises from a press release which was put out by the Minister for the Arts and Territories (Mr Holding) on 3 May 1989 with respect to the future use of the athletic stadium, usually known as the National Outdoor Stadium, at Bruce. For a long time it has been the Government's intention to make this facility available as a rugby league stadium for the Canberra Raiders. Certainly I-like many others in Canberra-am pleased at the concept of developing the facilities to enable the Raiders to be a more effective team. They are an important asset to Canberra. At the same time, I am extremely disappointed that in doing so the Government intends to destroy the international standard athletics facility at the stadium. I cannot see why it is not possible to develop each of these facilities and retain the athletics stadium.

However, that is not the only aspect of the matter I wish to raise today. In the press statement put out by the Minister two days ago, he referred to the fact that the chartered accountants firm Price Waterhouse has been engaged to negotiate the financial agreement with the Raiders. Further down in the statement it would appear that the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Administration will be leasing the facility to the Raiders:

It is proposed that the ACT Administration will lease the Stadium from the Australian Institute of Sport and negotiations on the terms and conditions of the lease are well advanced.

The statement refers also to the fact that the Institute's athletics warm-up track will be upgraded to a national standard facility. What I want to ask the Minister is: Who owns the National Outdoor Stadium at Bruce and who will be leasing it to the Raiders? That is important for the people of Canberra to know. The stadium was originally established by the then Minister, Mr Ellicott, as a national athletics facility. As I understand it, the stadium has been retained as a Commonwealth facility and remains so under the Department of the Minister for Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. It has been managed by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

It is my recollection that when Mr Brown was Minister for Sport he intended that there should be a leasing of the facility, that he wanted to obtain a lease for the Institute from the Department of Administrative Services but that the arrangements for the National Capital Development Commission to define the actual boundaries of the facility were never completed and so discussions between Mr Brown and Mr Uren, the then Minister for Administrative Services, did not result in the lease being issued to the AIS. So I was somewhat intrigued when I saw in the Minister's press statement that the ACT Administration will lease the stadium from the Institute. At the beginning of these arrangements one of the stumbling blocks was that the AIS did not have a lease and so could not issue a lease to the Raiders, as it thought it might have done as part of the early negotiations. The question is: When did the AIS obtain the lease of the stadium from the Department of Administrative Services?

We all know that Commonwealth facilities are purpose-built and that when they are no longer to be used for that purpose they revert from whoever has had the use of them to the Department of Administrative Services. I think that is covered by the Lands Acquisition Act 1955. That has happened recently as, we all know, with the provisional Parliament House. It no longer being used for the purpose for which it was built, it has reverted to the custody or care of the Minister for Administrative Services. It is my view that the stadium is still a Commonwealth asset. The Minister's press release states:

It was essential to make these decisions prior to the establishment of the ACT Government to make sure the momentum of the project was maintained.

Is this asset, having been transferred by some means or other to the ACT Administration, going to appear in the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the ACT Government as a debt owing by the ACT to the Commonwealth, as will be the case, for example, with the Googong Dam and other facilities which are going to become the assets of the ACT? Is this a Commonwealth-owned facility; how did it get into the hands of the ACT Administration; is it a gift, or is it a capital asset which is being transferred? It is very important that answers to these questions be given. If it is a gift, I would then go on to ask, `What are you going to do, Commonwealth Government, about facilitating the ACT to get an Australian football team based in Canberra? The ACT Australian Football League is most anxious to do so. It has elaborate plans drawn to develop the Phillip oval as a suitable venue for Australian football in the national league. Will it be given the same sort of assistance to develop that facility? Will the Cannons, in time, be given the same sort of assistance to develop a stadium which will hold more than the 5,000 people whom they now attract to the indoor stadium?

Senator McKiernan —How much did we give to the Eagles, the Western Australian team, or the Brisbane team?

Senator REID —Senator McKiernan has raised a very good question. I am trying to find out what is happening. That is my point. What is happening? I believe that the Commonwealth owns the stadium. I want to know whether the Commonwealth is giving it or selling it to us. I think we are entitled to know what the arrangements are and how it can then be leased by the ACT Administration, which I believe does not own it at present, to some other group. These matters ought to be disclosed. The facts ought to be known.

As I say, it worries me a little when the Minister, in his statement, talks about the need for this to be done `before the ACT Government is established'. Three Ministers are involved in one way or another; Senator Richardson, Mr West and Mr Holding. Clearly they have come to some agreement about a Commonwealth facility. They are planning that it be available to be leased by the ACT Administration to the Raiders. I would like to know what arrangements these Ministers have come to between themselves. I doubt whether in New South Wales, Western Australia or Queensland an asset of this size would be just given by the Commonwealth Government to the State Government. Doubting that, I wonder whether that is what is happening here. If it is, the Government should clearly say so and we would say, `Thank you very much'. The fact that the Government has not said so is what concerns me, as does the value at which this asset will be transferred and the value at which it will have to be paid back by the people of the ACT in the future arrangement. I hope that the Minister will make a statement and put the matter beyond doubt as to who owns the facility and what the legal situation is, so that all of us will know. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the content of the Minister's press release headed `Raiders Relocation to Bruce', dated 3 May 1989.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-


The Minister for the Arts and Territories, Clyde Holding, today announced the engagement of Price Waterhouse, Chartered Accountants, to negotiate a financial agreement with the Canberra Raiders for the long term hiring of the National Outdoor Stadium at Bruce. Price Waterhouse will negotiate on behalf of the ACT Administration.

``The finalisation of financial arrangements with the Raiders is an important step in ensuring the successful relocation of the Raiders to Bruce for the 1990 football season,'' Mr Holding said.

To allow the Raiders to move to Bruce, an undertaking was given that the Stadium would be redeveloped to make it suitable for rugby league and other field sports. In addition, athletics facilities will be provided by upgrading the existing athletics warm-up track to a national standard facility.

``Design work for the redevelopment of the Stadium and the athletics track is almost complete. All parties have been working closely together to ensure the facilities meet user requirements and that the timetable for the Raiders to commence at Bruce in 1990 is achieved.

``It is proposed that the ACT Administration will lease the Stadium from the Australian Institute of Sport and negotiations on the terms and conditions of the lease are well advanced,'' said Mr Holding.

``It was essential to make these decisions prior to the establishment of the ACT Government to make sure the momentum of the project was maintained.

``I believe it is very important that the high quality facilities at Bruce are redeveloped as soon as possible for the benefit of the ACT community,'' he said.

``Not only will the Raiders have a significantly improved home ground, but it will also be possible for other field sports to make use of this community asset. The ACT athletics community will have access to a national standard athletics field with a new grandstand and associated administrative facilities.''