LABOR HAS THE WRONG PRIORITIES

Like many of your readers I’m an avid footy fan and so, I’ve grappled a little with what I’m about to write but here goes.

As an Essendon fan (don’t ask and yes, 2000 was a very long time ago) living and working in South Australia I get very few opportunities to watch my footy team play in person.  Accordingly, like so many South Australians and it would seem footy fans from interstate, I can see the merit of Gather Round and I congratulate the AFL and the State Government on its success.  Indeed, had Gather Round not clashed with the Karoonda Farm Fair where I had a mobile office over the weekend, I would have happily (or maybe not so happily as it turned out) watched Port Power blast Essendon away.

Having said that, the obvious success of Gather Round can’t justify the announcement made Monday following it, namely the decision by the South Australian State Labor Government to spend $20 million of your money to establish a sports precinct in Lyndoch, in order to host a game there in next year’s Gather Round.

For those of you who haven’t been, Lyndoch is a town in the Southern Barossa with a population of 2,000.

The overall project is slated to cost $40 million with the balance to be provided by The Barossa Council.  I will leave criticism of the Council’s decision for their ratepayers but for me the decision of the State Government to throw down $20 million for Lyndoch makes no sense at all.

Now don’t get me wrong, pushing Gather Round into regional parts of SA is an initiative I support (not that I accept Mount Barker as regional) but having decided on the Barossa why not the existing and well-developed ovals at Tanunda and Nuriootpa? I’m told these didn’t suit the AFL and what was required, according to the AFL, was a completely rebuilt facility at Lyndoch at a cost to the taxpayer, not the AFL mind you, of $40 million presumably so the broadcast can include sweeping views of the valley.

You might recall the Malinauskas Labor Government swept to power on the back of a crisis in health, principally ambulance ramping and a criticism of the then Marshall Liberal Government’s proposal to build a convention centre in Adelaide which Premier Malinauskas (then opposition leader) dubbed a ‘basketball stadium’ and claimed that it represented the wrong priorities for SA.

That was a brutally effective campaign, one which right now, given the announcement on Monday, I expect Premier Malinauskas hopes we have forgotten.

When I heard of the announcement my mind instantly went to a long list of priorities that I would have regarded as more pressing right across my electorate but given your readership I’ll just list those that relate to Mount Gambier (a community 15 times the size of Lyndoch).

This $20 million could have delivered the following; a Radiation Treatment service for the Limestone Coast, an in Home Hospice care facility (instead of the State Government asking locals to fundraise for a feasibility study!), the Mount Gambier Saleyards redevelopment, funding for forestry research which has been diverted away from Mount Gambier by the Federal Labor Government, or perhaps a significant social housing project to address Mount Gambier’s growing homelessness problem.

Instead, our State Government will deliver a purpose-built sports facility for millionaire footballers in a small Barossan town because the AFL asked it to.  At least the Premier will get some great selfies with famous footballers.  Talk about wrong priorities.

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