Daley wipes the floor with Jones in stadium debate


Present a startling contrast to the premier’s infamous bowing to Jones on the issue of turning the sails of the Opera House into a billboard for a freaking horse-race? BIG TICK!

Not for nothing did Daley receive the equivalent of a standing ovation from Sydney and regional NSW this week. For how could he not?

As demonstrated by every poll, the people have had a gutful of the whole stadium debacle, and Daley successfully wiped the floor using Jones’ own noggin as a mop.

“[You said] the seats were flammable,” Daley said as part of his long list of Jones’ nonsenses, “[SCG Trust chairman] Tony Shepherd swore on oath that those seats were flammable and the next minute we see Stuart Ayres, a friend of yours and others, bragging on TV about how they’re shopping those seats to rugby clubs all over the state and that’s one of the reasons Alan why I’m going to sack the board.”

The people stomped. The people cheered.

Floundering, Jones said, “That’s OK, we do the job for nothing,” which was an outright lie, as the latest available Trust report has it in black and white: “Fees totalling $192,000 were paid to the Trustees in accordance with rates determined by The Department of Premier and Cabinet.”

In desperation, Jones then reached for the lowest card in the deck, again invoking the UK’s Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which killed 96 people. His clear implication was that if the SFS was not knocked down we risked a disaster like that of our own, and that the SFS no longer fitted into the building codes.

“Guess what, Alan,” Daley replied. “The Ladies’ and Members’ stands at SCG don’t comply to building standards and we don’t knock them down as well.”

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Got him, yes! Flailing loosely outside off-stump, Jones caught behind as the people rise to their feet once more.

It was a bravura performance by an opposition leader just before an election, to a people hungry for someone to lead rather than waver between kow-towing and bow-wowing before a bullying broadcaster, most particularly on an issue so transparently farcical as this.

As to the government itself, they continue to try to justify the knockdown on the grounds of safety, and the stadium’s lack of enough women’s and disabled toilets. As this columnist has pointed out at length the claims on safety are farcical, and while the toilet issue is a factor in the need to renovate, it doesn’t justify knocking it down.

Still, Daley, pithily demolished those arguments, too, doubling down later on, noting his shock when he found out what the “archaic” board had actually been spending its money on.

“In 2016-17, $12.9 million was spent not on safety, women’s toilets, women’s change rooms … [but] upgrades to private suites at Allianz Stadium, upgrade to the stadium spa and the pool room in the private members’ room.”

BOOM!

Seriously, if they actually thought at that time that the SFS had to be knocked down because we risked another Hillsborough, how could they POSSIBLY have spent that amount of money on tarting up private suites?

The answer is they didn’t think that, and the whole Hillsborough thing has only been invoked since all their other arguments bar one have been laughed out of town.

For even now you hear commentators and shock-jocks echoing the government line that rebuilding the stadium is good economic management and ultimately benefit the NSW people – though they never provide hard evidence, because there simply is none. This is similar to when Premier Gladys Berejiklian claimed that the $2 billion dollar spend would pay for itself in two years – such a demonstrable nonsense she had to back away from it.

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The point is that not even government’s own number crunchers make that claim. The best figure they can come up with is that it will return 95 cents on every dollar spent – and even that figure is strongly disputed by people with access to the same numbers.

Ah, but it gets better still.

You will recall that to finance the stadium spend, the government initially hived off the Land Titles Registry, a superb government business which was in itself a licence to print money – making $130 million-a-year profit. It was leased for 35 years to private interests for $2.6 billion, which was supposed to go to the stadium rebuild. I know. If you could guarantee $130 million profit for 35 years, then handing over $2.6 billion would be cheap at the price.

And in fact, once privatised, the profits have grown exponentially as costs for homebuyers to deal with them has tripled.

“Good economic management?” Please. Can you see any benefit for the people here?

Yes, because of the government’s own legislation regulating proper use of public funds, the government had to get funding from elsewhere than the Land Titles Registry, but the point remains. This whole thing has been a debacle from the first, and Daley has been right to call it out.

And now, apparently, as the last legal obstacle was removed yesterday, those are bulldozers we can hear in the distance, now approaching the SFS to knock it over – with an election just 16 days away.

This, friends, is madness. If the government is truly confident of its position, they must do the right thing. Wait till the election. If they win, they’ll have a mandate. If they lose, we the people will have an extra $750 million to put into things that count, not obscene waste like this.

Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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