Subjects: Marrickville Golf Course, Federal election, advertising.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve just had a very successful rally here at Marrickville Public Golf Course from community members – over 500 have gathered to say they want to save their course as it is. They are opposed to plans to cut it to nine holes that have been supported by some of the Greens Councillors here on the Inner West Council and they are also opposed to the idea that you could break up the golf course by having picnic areas in between some of the holes.
The fact is that this is a community facility, which is right now being used effectively by walkers, by people who enjoy this open space, by dog walkers, as well as by golfers. This space has been here for decades, since prior to the World War II and what has happened over all those years is that volunteers have kept this open space a beautiful place here in the Inner West by the banks of the Cooks River. Some Greens Councillors on the Inner West Council have expressed their support for breaking up this golf course; have said that golf is a minority sport. Well the fact is this is a community-based asset and Federal Labor will invest further in it by contributing $350,000 to help improve the facilities at the Clubhouse that’s used for charity events and that’s used for other community-based activities.
REPORTER: With the proposal to break it up, can you just clarify what do they want to do? Put in other sporting fields or what’s the proposal there?
ALBANESE: Well it’s a bit unclear, but one of the proposals suggest that you would create other sporting fields, but inevitably what would happen would be pressure from developers and pressure on the council to sell off this precious open space land here that’s currently being enjoyed for such a wide range of activities.
REPORTER: But that’s not on the table at the moment, that it be sold off to developers?
ALBANESE: We think that is inevitable, that if you have the golf course – cut it down from 18 to nine, what you will do is destroy the viability of the course. So it’s not a matter of having nine, you’ll have none, in a very short period of time and this proposal reared its ugly head five years ago and it’s back again from council bureaucrats, supported by some Greens councillors. There’s one proposal from one of the Greens Party activists in this area to turn into an area where people can do yoga and do other activities. The fact is that it’s being enjoyed now, it’s available to everyone and it’s an affordable golf course. Royal Marrickville, as it’s called, is a bit of a joke; it’s a joke to compare it to Royal Sydney. Try walking your dog on Royal Sydney. They’ll call the police and security will round you up. Walk your dog on Marrickville Golf Course and you get a G’day, you get a welcome and you get positive feedback, because that’s the sort of community it is and this golf club is at the heart of this community.
REPORTER: Is it subsidised by the council or is it financially independent?
ALBANESE: It’s financially independent. They raise money, they contribute to this pristine area. We know that we’ve been through a period of drought in recent times. What they do is they make sure they look after this open space. They have a Clubhouse where every Sunday there’s jazz whereby local people are able to join the club, enjoy their golf at a very affordable price and just be welcomed to this club. This isn’t a financial drain on the Inner West Council. This is an asset for the community.
REPORTER: There was a lot of speculation that Scott Morrison would call the election this weekend and it doesn’t look like that’s happened. Is that frustrating for you?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly Scott Morrison is wanting to spend taxpayers’ money, some $680,000 a day of taxpayers’ money, on selling his Budget that has disappeared after just a few days; using taxpayers money to go out there and talk about infrastructure that isn’t being built, to talk about tax cuts that aren’t happening anytime except a long way into the future, and to talk about education funding that isn’t there. This is quite farcical and quite frankly Scott Morrison has the opportunity tomorrow to go to the Governor General and call an election for May 11. Scott Morrison needs to do one of two things – either call an election or commit to cancelling all Government-funded advertising because if he doesn’t, I think it will be seen for the cynical exercise that it is; a Government that is so desperate that they are avoiding facing the Australian public and they are using taxpayers’ funds to basically mislead them about what was in Tuesday night’s Budget.
REPORTER: The Government says that Labor also ran taxpayer-funded ads ahead of an election campaign. So why are you criticising them for doing the same thing?
ALBANESE: These ads are misleading. On infrastructure for example, the full-page ads that are in the newspaper are of the bridge on the Pacific Highway over the Nambucca River that was funded by the former Federal Labor Government, not funded by the Coalition. It was completed after 2013 but it was funded and commenced beforehand. What you have across the board, you have statements about ten years into the future, you have statements about tax cuts that haven’t been legislated, that aren’t actually happening. This is a cynical exercise and this is a very unusual situation because we know when the election will be. We know it will be in May and we know we are effectively in a de facto caretaker period right now. And for the Government to be using taxpayer funds to do that – I mean last night in Parramatta, people who were gathered in Eat Street there, where the restaurants are in Parramatta, had to suffer whilst they were trying to enjoy dinner with their family and friends; had to suffer a full scale video billboards broadcasting out these ads constantly while people were trying to enjoy their night out on a Saturday. This Government needs to stop. It won’t be successful. I think that people who see those ads will view it for the cynical exercise that it is and every time they see those ads; we made a commitment today to fix up the Marrickville Clubhouse which is a community asset. They are spending twice that amount every single day at least on advertising and it’s got to stop now.
They should just call the election. Let’s have the real contest and let Australians decide whether they want tax cuts to benefit those under $40,000 or those above $200,000; whether they want funding for public transport, such as the Inner West Metro, Cross River Rail in Brisbane, the Melbourne Suburban Rail Loop; or whether they want just funding for local roads in Coalition marginal seats; whether they want more funding in public education; whether they support Labor’s plan for Medicare, which will see the greatest expansion of it to help people who are dealing with cancer. So that decision will be made by Australians in May. We should get on with the campaign because it is very clear that this Government has run out of steam and that is why they are using taxpayers’ money to advertise what they say is their agenda.
REPORTER: Just back to the golf club, Jeff Angel from the Environment Centre says it is time to look at golf clubs and whether they should in fact be divided up because of the low membership and turned into parks or playing fields. Is there not an argument there, aside from Marrickville Golf Club, which you obviously have got a connection to?
ALBANESE: Well Jeff Angel is wrong and people who argue against active sport are wrong. Engagement in sporting activities is so important. I have seen little kids playing golf here as young as six on this course but I have also seen older Australians using this course to keep active. What that does is actually save the health budget. It enables them to engage with their community. They do that here. They’ve been coming here for decades and frankly the idea that what we need in terms of green spaces is just trees is wrong. We need to encourage sporting activity. This course does that, whether it be active sport in terms of golfing or whether it be walking, people walking by themselves, enjoying this open space, walking their dogs. I have seen people walking their cats down here. Indeed and there is one person who actually walks their horse on this course. This is a course that is very much a part of the community and we need to recognise that you need a range of green spaces, but active green spaces are vital for our community and vital for the health of our society.
REPORTER: What about other golf clubs? He is saying that healthy activities and sporting activities that those golf courses could be utilised for that.
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that golf is a legitimate activity and a legitimate sport. It is an important part of Australian life. I play tennis at Marrickville Lawn Tennis Club. It is again a community-based, council-owned facility and it is a fantastic facility that has been there for 90 years. These facilities are really important for the local community. From time to time what you will have is people who propose let’s just get rid of it. What you will end up with is no open space, no capacity for people to participate in community sport and what they ignore isn’t just the benefit obviously of playing golf and walking on a golf course, which is a very active sport whether you are young or old. What they also ignore is the social capital – the build-up of what happens at a club like this where people interact, where people have friends and family and one that helps bind a community together, whether they are here playing golf, whether they are having a beer in the club or whether they are listening to music in the Clubhouse on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks.
SUNDAY, 7 APRIL, 2019