Sports

The Liberals can build their stadiums or win an election, but not both

If it please Your Honours, or your Honourable Members, I have some questions I think you should get to the bottom of:

• Can the former Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, please provide the numbers to back up her extraordinary claims at the time over the amazing economic benefits of the stadiums? She first insisted – and her office gave a briefing sheet to parliamentarians to the same effect – that #StadiumSplurge will pay for itself within two years, meaning the new stadiums will have to be making an annual billion dollars EXTRA than they are making now. She then made the lesser, but still absurd claim, that the stadiums make a billion dollars a year right now. These are her stated reasons for spending that kind of public money! With ZERO back-up! (By way of comparison the Herald reported on Monday that when the boffins crunched the numbers on the $5 Billion spent on the new airport at Badgery’s Creek, the hope is it will pay for itself by about . . . 2050.) Someone here, is pulling numbers out of their hat like a 1960s pub chook raffle, and we need to know who!

• Why has the whole thing been done in such secrecy? There is, firstly, palpable resentment from the parliamentarians themselves that this has been driven by a handful of powerful figures in Cabinet, with no consultation with the back-benchers. But, ummm, what about us little folk who are actually paying for it? Can we be let in on it?

• When it comes to the ‘‘secret’’ KPMG business case released on Monday, which purports to show it will break even, can we find out how the numbers turned so favourable to the government so quickly? KPMG suddenly claims a 1.0 benefit/cost ratio. Really? Just two years ago, I am reliably informed, the figure was 0.6. Infrastructure NSW has been clear from the first it will not provide an economic benefit, and a Cabinet Minute on the day the decision was taken last November affirmed the same. Now, suddenly, just when the government needs it, three months later – a miracle! – those numbers were wrong, these numbers are better. Someone needs to have their arse smacked for bodgy numbers, and we will need the Special Commission to get to the bottom of it!

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• KPMG – who last made headlines with the NSW Government when the NSW Court of Appeal struck down Kuringai Council’s forced merger with Hornsby Council, because the NSW Government ‘‘kept secret a KPMG report which it relied upon as justification for the merger’’ – also pushed the line that the SFS is in such disrepair it is easier to knock it down and start again, than refurbish it. Again, we need to understand how that situation can have changed so rapidly? Just two years ago, Premier Mike Baird, Sports Minister Stuart Ayres and the CEOS of all four football codes were signed on for refurbishment, smiling for the cameras as the press-releases went out. What the hell has happened in the last two years that it has become such a junk heap? And if it was the SCG Trust responsible for letting such a valuable piece of public infrastructure go to rack and ruin, rust and dust, why weren’t they all sacked?

• KPMG claims the economic benefits for the new SFS rest on it hosting an extra 20 events per year, including twice as many NRL games. Ummm, where do those NRL games come from? If we’re moving them from Leichhardt or Campbelltown or Redfern, don’t those places lose much the same economic benefit that the new SFS will claim?

• KPMG says it will drive up attendance by about 15 per cent. Great.
But given that the SCG Trust made – dot three, carry one, subtract two – $1.4 million profit last year, the increased attendance might take them to $1.7 million at best. Meantime, the Olympic Stadium contributed $2 million in State taxes, on the last available figures.
Gee there’s a long way to go to get the $2.5 billion back, yes?
You get the drift. The whole thing is absurd, and quietly acknowledged as such, even by Members of the NSW Cabinet, even if they haven’t yet broken ranks publicly. (Though one former Lib Minister and current Upper House Member, Matthew Mason-Cox, this week highlighted the outrage of spending this kind of money when Family and Community Services did not have the resources last year to follow up on the cases of 55,000 kids judged at risk.) The numbers don’t add up, and never will.

Which is why, ultimately, the argument most often put in favour of the stadiums is the general, vague, feel-good, ‘‘Don’t you get it, stadiums help the economy!’’ Bullshit they do. That argument is no more than a lame meme. It has been put forward by sports nutters, and demolished by serious economists, all over the world. Google John Oliver and Stadiums, and watch it. Play stadium bingo as you tick off the points he makes – drawing on the expertise of the serious economists – and apply them to this debate.

I repeat.

All. Over. The. World. Exactly the same arguments are put, for exactly the same result. The public always gets saddled with huge debt to build sporting cathedrals the bulk of them never wanted in the first place.

Stop this absurdity, Premier. You’ve always been an honest operator and this is a dishonest disaster in the making. Stop it.

And if you don’t, I respectfully submit, you will have a lot of explaining to do before the Special Commission of Inquiry.

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SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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