17 March 2022

Candidates dazzled by stadium lights need a reality check

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Stadium

Canberra Stadium is hardly primitive. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

It is not surprising that political footballs are being kicked around in the phony war leading up to the Federal election that will probably be held in May.

But if a new stadium is the biggest issue this city or the country faces when Ukraine is going up in flames, our relationship with our biggest trading partner is in tatters, the changing climate is wreaking havoc on communities, the pandemic is still with us and securing a roof over your head is becoming ever harder, then this election is heading into surreal territory.

Former Wallaby David Pocock came into the poll fray as more than just a footballer, but his first big policy ambition is for a new stadium for the Brumbies and Raiders in the city, despite running as an independent with next to no chance of ousting Liberal Senator Zed Seselja from his Senate seat.

It was a headline-grabbing opportunity eagerly facilitated by Canberra’s daily newspaper, which has been on a relentless crusade for the Barr Government to splurge on a state-of-the-art stadium on the Civic Pool site that would cost half a billion dollars.

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It would obviously need private sector involvement to ever happen, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has continually confirmed that the government priority for city development is the much-needed Canberra Theatre and cultural precinct redevelopment first, then a stadium and third, new convention facilities.

That isn’t about to change unless the private sector funds it or a Federal Government of any colour wants to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the safest Labor seats in the country for, of all things, a football stadium.

David Pocock

Independent Senate candidate David Pocock kicked off the stadium wars. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Pocock launched his candidacy as a progressive concerned about integrity in government, but his cachet must surely be damaged by this opening gambit, despite the cheap headlines about the lack of a city stadium holding the city back.

But not to be outdone, Senator Seselja revealed he had been working on his own stadium plans, where else but in his southern heartland in Tuggeranong.

He says that the Treasurer has given his pitch for a mid-sized, 10,000 seat stadium at the Vikings ground a good hearing. But if Josh Frydenberg is willing to splash millions on this then the Budget and election really will hit unprecedented levels of pork barrelling.

No doubt there are marginal seats that would be better bets.

Rugby fan Senator Seselja says the Brumbies could play down in the Valley at the new facility, but the players themselves don’t want to make the journey there, and many fans in Canberra’s north would agree.


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It could also weaken the case for a city stadium, and even if the Brumbies did play there, they would drop it like a hot potato if the Civic venue is ever built.

What Senator Seselja won’t talk about is why the Federal Government has let the AIS Arena slide to the extent that the Canberra Capitals cannot play there and have been forced to host their WNBL semi-final at a 1000 seat venue in Tuggeranong.

Restoring the AIS is achievable for Senator Seselja, who could claim credit for the infrastructure dollars flowing to the national capital.

He could also champion more worthy projects than a stadium, such as the Federal Government funding much-needed social housing.

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Realistically, a new stadium is something for the end of the decade, given the ACT Government’s limited funds and priorities.

And there is probably a more compelling argument for Mr Barr to spend more on grassroots facilities than something for big pro sport on the national stage.

Canberra Stadium at Bruce may be old, but it is hardly falling down and still provides the public with a comfortable, if sometimes chilly, football experience.

Yes, a new central, weather-proof stadium would be wonderful, but that field of dreams is just that at this point.

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Capital Retro6:07 pm 20 Mar 22

Mark Chapman, most of the “London CHAVS” in Tuggers have moved out Gungahlin way, close to the trolley folly line.

Capital Retro4:47 pm 20 Mar 22

After seeing the Raiders play the worst I have ever seen them play last night against the NQ Cowboys, I don’t think many Canberrans will be following them to a new stadium.

This isn’t about competition with health and housing, Canberra badly needs a showpiece stadium. We’ll end up with a very very expensive tram and theatre used by about 2% of the population.

A pretty good article. I agree with it except for one thing:
the comment that David Pocock doesn’t have a chance. I’ve seen the figures and he’s wrong. Zed wouldn’t have come out of his slumber if David Pocock didn’t have a chance.

Except he doesn’t have a chance.

Zed needs to campaign to keep his base but he only needs 33.3% of the vote to get elected.

If Zed was to fall, it wouldn’t be to Pocock, it would be to the Greens.

But there’s Buckley’s chance of that happening, the progressive candidates are just cannibalising their own votes.

Absolutely agree.

Conservative voters won’t vote for a candidate that is left of the ALP.

Pocock is really an Independent Green and no risk to Zed at all.

ChrisinTurner3:30 pm 18 Mar 22

A new stadium would be cheap compared with the $3billion to replace buses to Woden with slower trams.

While football etc may be important to many, shouldn’t we be making sure that everyone has suitable housing before spending up big on other things? And by that, I think the government should put housing before things like the tram extension as well. It is needed less than the stadium is.

Hold on a minute David, don’t we need to replace the Civic Pool first, with something that caters to all the current users (dive tower, water polo, rescue training, lap swimming, sun baking, disability exercise, triathlon training, etc), before we turn that site into a stadium. The pool was built in 1955, and needs to be replaced ahead of the stadium.

Agreed. It’s becoming harder to find a place to swim. Deakin Olympic pool was ripped up, and now they want to do the same with the Civic pool. Less and less places to swim. Manuka pool is not open in winter.

“It was a headline-grabbing opportunity eagerly facilitated by Canberra’s daily newspaper, which has been on a relentless crusade for the Barr Government to splurge on a state-of-the-art stadium on the Civic Pool site that would cost half a billion dollars.”

The irony of the author writing this considering his relentless crusade for the government to “splurge” on light rail which will cost many multiples of that $500 million dollars.

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