Friday, March 22, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

A stadium’s last stand
Arrogance. Vandalism. Victory. It’s the NSW disease


Surprise, surprise, the major newspapers have this morning endorsed the Coalition government in New South Wales. The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph all backed the re-election of Premier Gladys Berejiklian in editorials this morning, which The Guardian’s media editor Amanda Meade described as “a stark reminder of the lack of political diversity in Australian media”. As Labor leader Michael Daley said at a press conference outside the part-demolished Allianz Stadium today, the papers have been backing the Liberals for most of the last hundred years.

That the premier was hell-bent on demolishing the stadium so close to the election, rather than waiting for a month, says everything about her government’s hubris. In the face of a massive backlash, from one corner of the state to the other, the government’s message is simple: we don’t care what you think. Just like former Victorian premier Denis Napthine signing the massive East West link toll road contract weeks out from the 2014 election, knowing full well it was contentious, or the current federal energy minister Angus Taylor rushing to sign some fair dinkum power contracts, the Berejiklian government’s behaviour is arrogant. There’s no other word for it.

For anyone interstate it may be hard to understand why the demolition of a football stadium has been such a hot-button issue. As I sit in the Olympic Hotel across the road from the stadium, listening as Lendlease’s diggers and wreckers rip into a working public asset, allow me to offer a mug punter’s explanation.

For starters it’s not such a bad stadium – plenty of fond memories here – and it’s got a nice wavy roof. Second, it’s only 30 years old. Third, this is sacred ground: just minutes from the Sydney CBD, there is a long history of people wanting to muck around with the public land at Centennial and Moore parks, and an equally long history of communities fighting back – from the Green Bans to the recent controversy over the ridiculous Tibby Cotter Bridge nearby, in which Mark Davis for the ABC exposed the grandiose plans of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust for a land grab. Then there’s Mr Jonestown himself, who has sat on the SCG Trust for decades, and who has earbashed Sydney for so long that anyone who stands up to him, as Opposition leader Michael Daley did last week, or Sydney Opera House chief Louise Herron did last year, becomes an instant hero. Alan Jones backs the demolition of Allianz? Say no more. A jogger running past Daley’s press conference today shouted out, “Sack that trust!”

But the main thing is that there are much higher priorities than spending an astonishing $729 million on demolishing and rebuilding a stadium, which apparently will then have fewer seats. There is no getting around that figure. Without getting technical, to the average person, it’s suss. A gross waste of public money, and plenty of it no doubt going straight into some well-lined pockets. Maybe the stadium was no longer compliant with the latest building code. A report this week suggested it could have been made compliant for $18 million.

At his press conference today, Michael Daley said the SCG Trust itself had a report saying a refurbishment would’ve cost $130 million. He insists if he wins tomorrow that he will sack the trust, the stadium will stay, and the public won’t pay a cent for the refurbishment. The Australian’s Andrew Clennell cited [$] figures that, if the SCG Trust had to fund the refurbishment itself, a craft beer at the footy would cost $30 and a pie would cost $18. We are in that peak frenzy, a day before an election, by which time it’s over bar the shouting.

Everyone has their own priorities: out at Menindee, they’d like drinkable water, please. Personally, I would like a government that isn’t chock-full of coal-fondling, closet climate sceptics like Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who thinks action on climate change is a “gratuitous waste” of money. It was literally nobody’s priority – not in Sydney, not out of Sydney – to spend almost a billion dollars knocking down and rebuilding a stadium that wasn’t broke and didn’t need fixing.


“I’d long been very concerned about the wage system in banking. Not chief executives, but particularly those involved in markets where in most banks people are paid what they earn in the market using the bank’s balance sheet. Some of it is good risk management, but most of it is just betting.”

Former Westpac chair Ted Evans speaks frankly about the banking royal commission over lunch with The Australian Financial Review.


“We can find no reason to doubt the correctness of the decision of the court of criminal appeal.”

High Court chief justice Susan Kiefel delivers a final blow to the families of the three Aboriginal children killed at Bowraville, refusing to hear the NSW government’s appeal to overturn two previous acquittals in relation to the case and for a single trial of three murder charges to be held.

The Number

The price per tonne that thermal coal has dropped below for the first time in two years, as more Chinese ports restrict or delay Australian imports.

The Policy

“We do not consider that the grant of [Clubs Australia’s] application to vary the Hospitality Award … would achieve the modern awards objective … [T]he Clubs Award is not obsolete or incapable of operation, and the employees covered by it would not be covered by any other modern award were it to be revoked.”

The Fair Work Commission rejects Clubs Australia’s attempt to strip penalty rates worth $100 a week from club workers.

The list

“In 1967 just 22 per cent of Australians favoured decriminalising homosexuality; by 1974 the figure was 54 per cent. Arrow says she wanted to tell the story of this transformation as an alternative to existing 1970s histories that focus on the decade’s political and economic upheaval and chaos: ‘stagflation, oil shocks, constitutional crisis and Dismissal’. But this undersells what she achieves, which is to show how the political and the economic were intertwined with social change.” 


“Sorry, we are experiencing a high number of calls and a low number of staff. Press ONE for further options, hang up or ...” 


“The poor journalist who is the current object of the director’s scorn has made the flip suggestion that we all end up in a black hole eventually – figuratively, if not literally. Denis is not having it. ‘I don’t think so,’ she shoots back. ‘No, the characters go in a black hole but I’m not sure I will end up in a black hole. It depends what you mean by a black hole. If it’s a philosophical or metaphorical object, maybe. But a black hole exists, physically. Ending up in a black hole? I think it’s a joke.’” 

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

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In Liu of a defence

When Bolt asks if Beijing’s writing Morrison’s speeches, the PM has a problem

From the front page


Spiralling admissions

Victoria’s royal commission hears stories of a dysfunctional, under-resourced mental health system

Failure to launch

The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

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‘Here We Are’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

An opportunity for rethinking the position of women in contemporary art


The Newcastle trial of Graeme Lawrence

The second most senior churchman in Australia to be found guilty of child sexual abuse