The Berejiklian Government’s plan to tear down and rebuild two major sports stadiums in Sydney at a cost of $2 billion has hit a nerve across NSW, writes Justin Field.
The decision has become a symbol of a State Government that has its priorities all wrong and the public are strongly expressing their displeasure.
A public petition calling on the Premier to revisit the decision and direct at least half the money into community sport or essential public services has attracted more than 100,000 signatures in less than two days and there is no sign of the public mood shifting.
Put aside the almost unfathomable question of why these stadiums, both less than 30-years-old, and one built less than two decades ago for the Sydney Olympics, already need replacing; the public response isn’t just about the need, the value for money or whether or not we should have new modern sports and big event infrastructure. It has struck a nerve that runs much deeper in the NSW community, a frustration that the NSW Coalition Government is serving someone’s needs, but it just isn’t ours.
Could it be that the budget surplus being squandered on these new stadiums has come off the back of electricity privatisations and the sale of our world class land titles office, and people are wondering why they are copping higher electricity prices and service cuts for some comfier seats at a stadium they can barely afford to go to?
Could it be that they are watching the Government throw billions in public money at the big sporting codes with multi-million dollar TV rights deals and alcohol and gambling sponsorships and they are wondering why they have to pay huge fees for local kids sport and run the sausage sizzle every weekend to raise money for new jerseys?
Could it be that they are seeing the Liberal Party boys club on the SCG Stadium Trust who are boasting about the new fancy VIP boxes they are going to get out of this deal and have realised once again that the vested interests, and the political connections that still run this state and the average person barely gets a look in?
The Government can run their bread and circuses strategy all they like but the public won’t be conned that easily. They won’t be bought off by a spectacle. They actually want the things broken in the city fixed, and they want the regions and rural NSW to stop being ignored when it comes to essential services and infrastructure.
The decision may have been made but the stadiums are still standing and the public campaign has given the Premier cover from the special interests, the big sporting code chiefs and media barons, and from Alan Jones (SCG Trust board member), to rethink the plan and to put that money to far better use.
If she doesn’t there is going to be a couple of pretty big ongoing reminders for the people of NSW of how this Government once again put vested interests that run the Liberal Party in NSW ahead of the people of NSW.