The ACT Labor-Greens government has been accused of breaking an election promise by not budgeting for a multicultural venue at EPIC.
Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Peter Cain will move a motion in the Legislative Assembly today (20 September) calling on the government to provide a detailed timeline by the end of the year on when the facility can be expected.
According to the Labor-Greens Parliamentary Governing Agreement for the current Assembly, the parties had committed to “construct a large new multicultural events venue at EPIC for cultural performances and available for hire for large private functions, such as weddings”.
Mr Cain’s motion stated ACT Labor had committed to creating “hundreds of new local jobs” by investing $21 million in the EPIC indoor venue.
During budget estimates hearings, the committee was told by Multicultural Affairs Minister Tara Cheyne that the government would be refurbishing Fitzroy Pavilion at EPIC, with the final design to be considered.
“The proposed redevelopment of EPIC will begin with the refurbishment of Fitzroy Pavilion. A refurbished Fitzroy Pavilion will provide upgraded catering facilities and amenities and be suitable for hosting larger-scale community and multicultural events,” she said at the time.
“Design is now underway and construction is expected to be completed within the next 12 months.”
Mr Cain said this wasn’t what was promised.
“This year’s budget revealed a minor refurbishment, of an undisclosed amount, to the Fitzroy Pavilion that will fulfil the commitment in the ACT Government’s eyes,” he said.
“This is disingenuous from the Minister [Cheyne] to believe this facility will match what they have promised.
“This is a broken election promise to Canberra’s multicultural communities.”
Mr Cain’s motion calls on the government to formally honour the election promise for a new purpose-built indoor venue and wants to see the Multicultural Advisory Board provide an update on the project within 30 days.
It also calls on the government to “expedite” project planning work and tender procurement so that a timeframe on delivery could be available by 31 December.
“The multicultural and multifaith community occupies a treasured and celebrated position in the ACT, and as such deserve delivery of what was promised,” Mr Cain said.
“This Labor-Greens government should not get away with breaking this promise. They cannot sweep it under the rug and they cannot afford to disappoint our multicultural community where it’s politically expedient.”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has also been questioned on the promised facility during budget estimates. He argued a specific multicultural facility had not been committed to in the governing agreement.
“The promise, and I have the wording in front of me, is that it can cater for large multicultural performances and private events,” Mr Barr said.
“I said, ‘also be available for regular users, including trade shows, business events’ et cetera. So, yes, it is certainly to meet the needs of large multicultural users and I imagine that they would be amongst the most frequent hirers of the venue.
“But it is not exclusive.”
He acknowledged the EPIC facilities needed to be updated and a master planning process is underway.
“The government is certainly looking at, in addition to the Fitzroy Pavilion refurb for the purposes of events, trade shows, business events and the like, another new pavilion to be built,” Mr Barr said.
“The preference on location is more what I would describe as the north-western side of the EPIC precinct – that is, in proximity to the light rail stop.
“It is … also somewhat linked to further discussions with the Racing Club in relation to their offer to locate harness racing within the facility, on the other side of the road.”
Mr Cain’s motion will be moved this afternoon.