Subjects: Marrickville Golf Course.
ROBBIE BUCK: If you look around Sydney there are a lot of green spaces that are taken up with little holes and flags coming out of them, and people playing golf on them. It’s been a great pastime for Sydney-siders for decades and decades. But as you heard over the weekend there are a lot of people concerned about what the future of their golf course is going to be.
WENDY HARMER: That’s right. It’s no surprise I guess that people look at a golf course and think, “That’d make a nice park.” The figures tell us that only 2 per cent of Sydney-siders play golf once a week, 5 per cent play once a year. But obviously golf is a pastime that needs a lot of space. Some have described it as low-hanging fruit I guess, for local councils or developers – they see that open space and think, “I wouldn’t mind a bit of that.”
ROBBIE BUCK: One course that was hosting a fairly big protest yesterday was the Marrickville Golf Course. There have been plans to turn it from an 18-hole into a nine-hole golf course and it has been gaining some support from the local Federal member, Anthony Albanese who’s the Labor member for Grayndler. He’s also the Shadow member for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism. Good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Robbie and Wendy.
WENDY HARMER: Good morning. You have some sympathy for the golf club there do you Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I absolutely do. I have to declare an interest. I’m not a great golfer, but I am a great dog-walker and one of the things about this club is that it’s open to the community. People walk their dogs, people run, there’s even one person I’ve seen walking their Shetland pony along the path which runs along the Cooks River. This is a community asset that’s used by the community right now. The Clubhouse there has birthday parties, has anniversaries, has even had a few weddings. It’s a community-based organisation. It’s been there for decades. You see little kids playing, you see older people playing. It’s affordable, and it’s known locally as “Royal Marrickville” which is a bit of a joke because it’s probably the exact opposite of Royal Sydney.
ROBBIE BUCK: That is true. Tell us what the plans are. We have tried to get Darcy Byrne from the Inner West Council to join us this morning, but give us an idea of what the plans are.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well there are two plans from the bureaucrats on the council, and supported by some of the Greens Party on the council. One is a 9-hole golf course, so you would convert some of it into perhaps other playing fields or just bushland. The second proposal is to have picnic areas at various spots along the course, but anyone who walks along there sees people – and I’ve walked my dog there yesterday morning – people there are having picnics, there are people there fishing, which is probably not advisable in the Cooks River, I’ve got to say. But a whole range of activities take place now on the golf course. It is a viable asset and I think it certainly is worth defending as it is now.
WENDY HARMER: Greg Norman has said the future of golf is 12-holes because people are time-poor. Could you split the difference do you think?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it’s a pretty small course. It’s a par 62 I think, and they have a professional there, Kylie Moulds who does a fantastic job. She even tried to teach me how to play golf, which I was very, very ordinary at, I’ve got to say. But it’s a very small course now, and because it runs along the river there’s walking paths, where if you go there after work at 6 o’clock, everyone knows each other who’s walking along. Whether they’re just exercising; the dogs all know each other as well, which is helpful. They build canine relationships along the banks of the river. It’s a good use of space because it is mixed-use, right now.
WENDY HARMER: You don’t want to get whacked in the head with a golf ball, sorry. I’m a mum with a baby. I don’t want to be walking through a park in that instance.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let me tell you – there are mums with babies walking along there all the time. It’s because of the nature of where the walking paths are, which are along the river, which is separated from the fairways and the greens et cetera.
ROBBIE BUCK: What about on a broader level though, and this is not just Marrickville, it’s really a question about the golf courses right across Sydney, and I guess in other parts of Australia too. We are seeing declining numbers in the memberships for golf courses. They are huge swathes of really beautiful land in ever-increasing cityscapes. With more and more people coming into Sydney – the percentages of people who play golf, those who play weekly is something like one per cent.
WENDY HARMER: It’s two per cent. Five per cent play once a year.
ROBBIE BUCK: So there’s very small numbers of people who are taking advantage of it. For those who argue, “Why shouldn’t parts of those be opened up to more green space for people who are going to be able to use them,” what do you think about that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The first point I’d make is – it is green space. The second point is…
WENDY HARMER: … I tell you, the ones that I pass, a couple that I pass on my way to work Anthony, have got big fences around them.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Marrickville has zero fences, so perhaps that’s an argument – the nature of access to the space is where the argument should be. You know what I hear whenever I hear people speak about conversion and changing green space? I hear the ching-ching from developers, that’s what I hear. There’s no doubt that part of the push in Marrickville at various times has been for development. It was singled out on the Sydenham to Bankstown line with the Berejiklian Government’s policy of having increased density along that line. I just think we need to get real about the debate between passive space and active space and to me Marrickville is the example that I can give because it’s the only golf course – it’s just outside my electorate now, but it’s the only golf course in the Inner West. It’s used by people both young and old and it’s a fantastic sport. There was a golfer there yesterday who was in his nineties. They can do that, it’s a sport people can walk and engage in, and that’s a good thing in my view.
ROBBIE BUCK: All right, I know that you’ve probably got other things to think about a couple of months out from a Federal election, but it’s good to see that you’re focusing on local issues as well.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is important. We committed to an upgrade (inaudible) yesterday as well.
ROBBIE BUCK: We’ll leave it there Anthony Albanese, thanks so much for your time this morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.
WENDY HARMER: Not at all.
MONDAY, 8 APRIL, 2019
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.