Monthly archives: September 2019

Swans consider playing in Canberra

Manuka Oval. Photo: Graham TidySydney are considering playing premiership games in Canberra from 2017 as part of a move to increase the club’s flexibility with scheduling.

The Swans say they will continue to play the bulk of their home games at the SCG, but Canberra and Spotless Stadium are emerging as contenders to play host for an “occasional game”, along with ANZ Stadium.

Sydney have not played a premiership match in the nation’s capital since 2011 but did play regular games there from 2003 against North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne – all smaller Melbourne-based clubs keen to sell home games outside of Victoria.

Swans chairman Andrew Pridham said the Canberra idea was only “exploratory” but said the ACT government was interested.

“Playing an occasional game in Canberra is an option we would look at,” Pridham said.

“It could be none, it could be one a year, one every two years, it could be a Melbourne team buys a regular slot in Canberra playing us.

“There’s all sorts of options we would look at. We have a lot of support and members in Canberra, so it’s something we’d think about, but we’re not about to play a whole heap of games there.”

The move would help safeguard the club from situations like this year when they were not able to get onto the SCG until round four due to the ground hosting Major League Baseball matches, or occasions when the season starts earlier and clashes with cricket.

The Swans are about to enter negotiations with the SCG Trust and ANZ Stadium for a new tenancy agreement after their deal expires at the end of the 2016 season. The current deal stipulates the Swans play three home and away games, plus home finals, at the Sydney Olympic Park venue.

Pridham said he was aware there were plenty of Swans members who preferred to watch games at the SCG but said the club also had members in the Hills District who preferred ANZ Stadium.

“The big thing is we need some flexibility because we need to be able to schedule games for clashes with other sports,” Pridham said.

“Part of that flexibility is we will look at the three major stadiums in Sydney and Canberra, where we have played in the past and have support and members.

“That’s something the ACT government has mentioned they would like – the occasional game.”

The Canberra revelation follows comments Swans chief Andrew Ireland made on Melbourne radio, on Tuesday night, that the club would like to return finals to the SCG.

Sydney have not played a final at the venue since 2005, when Nick Davis kicked four goals to sink Geelong in a semi-final en route to the Swans’ drought-breaking flag.

Swans forward Sam Reid was non-committal on whether he preferred to play a final at the SCG or ANZ Stadium but said the 41,317 fans who watched the club beat Port Adelaide on Saturday had created an “electric” atmosphere at the SCG.

“It’s the first I’ve played in front of so many at the SCG,” Reid said.

“It was a good experience for me. A high percentage of fans were Sydney supporters. It was one of the louder crowds I’ve played in front of and it’s really exciting.”

The Swans will travel to Melbourne on Thursday. They take on Richmond at the MCG on Friday night.

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Hawks, Pies team up to get Carter

Geelong president Colin Carter has been ridiculed as a “Hall of Fame hypocrite” and “unstatesmanlike” for accusing the wealthy clubs of hijacking the equalisation debate and shifting the burden of cost onto the middle-class clubs.

Collingwood and Hawthorn presidents Eddie McGuire and Andrew Newbold both took umbrage at Carter’s stinging attack on the wealthy clubs after he said the Cats had been “screwed” by the rich clubs – Collingwood, Hawthorn and West Coast – who bullied the AFL into a sweetheart deal for the rich that unfairly punished the middle-class clubs.

McGuire said Carter, as a former AFL commissioner who had authored a paper on equalisation, was “becoming a Hall of Fame hypocrite” for whining about being asked to help fund equalisation.

“He used to lecture every club about the independence of the AFL, yet as soon as he gets back to club land he is singing and dancing and screaming and carrying on,” McGuire said.

“He wrote the manifesto on equalisation [when on the AFL Commission] and as soon as he has to put his hand in his pocket, suddenly he goes all cold on the idea … he [complains that he has] to put his hand in his pocket for $300,000 after everything the AFL competition has done to help Geelong … that is an insult to everybody else.”

McGuire said the Cats had been able to significantly improve their financial position because the AFL – and the state and federal governments – had significantly funded the reconstruction of Symonds Stadium, which had thus created “a revenue stream that will go on forever”.

“The question might be better asked why are they [Geelong] are only in the middle class, not in the top class as it is,” McGuire said on Triple M.

Under the new equalisation measures in which clubs will be taxed on profit, Geelong will be hit with a $300,000 tax bill. But a cap of $500,000 on the maximum amount of tax a club has to pay on its profit means the richer clubs that achieve significantly higher profits will be proportionally contributing a far lower amount.

Newbold said the criticism from Carter and the language used was “unstatesmanlike” and inappropriate, and his comments about the equalisation simplistic and unfair.

“It’s the first year of this. We don’t even know what the profits will be in 2014 and 2015. For him to come out and whinge at the beginning of year one is unstatesmanlike. You can’t go from no tax at all to uncapped tax,” Newbold said.

“This is a completely changed landscape. It is a seismic shift; we have introduced a tax for the first time on clubs and I think it would have been unfair to have gone from nothing to completely uncapped.

“Colin must have been out of the room in Adelaide when we discussed this in detail over more than three hours. The only thing that changed between the meeting in Adelaide and the meeting two weeks ago is that in the second meeting we got the figures and suddenly Colin is up in arms about it. He never said anything in Adelaide.”

Newbold said no club would be happy with the equalisation measures – the poorer clubs felt it was not generous enough, the richer clubs that it punished their success and the middle class clubs that the burden fell unfairly on them.

“At some point you have to put aside your own selfish point of view and look at the code as a whole. I thought that might have been something Colin understood from his time on the commission.

“I also thought his comments were fairly disrespectful to Brendon Gale who was on the equalisation committee and was one of the representatives of the middle-class clubs that Colin talks about being screwed.

“Brendon was on the committee on a the trip to the US. I think Colin has been disrespectful of Brendon’s role in this.”

He also challenged the idea that Collingwood and Hawthorn had hijacked the debate from being about compensating poorer clubs and into taxing clubs.

“Hawthorn and Collingwood were the last people advocating taxation. It was not hijacked by us, we never wanted taxation.

“We were talking about stadia arrangements, membership numbers. Who is he saying hijacked the agenda and put taxation on the table? It wasn’t us, why would we advocate for that?”

McGuire also challenged Carter and other club presidents such as Giants chairman Tony Shepherd – who until recently was the president of the Business Council of Australia and is the head of Tony Abbott’s Commission of Audit.  As businessmen they operated as fierce capitalists yet pleaded a socialist philosophy when it suited them as club presidents arguing for a bigger hand out from the AFL, he said.

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NSW budget: Government could face $10b bill for road, rail

Projects could escalate: Premier Mike Baird. Photo: James BrickwoodThe Baird government faces a $10 billion bill for a host of big-ticket road and rail plans if a flurry of feasibility studies announced in this week’s budget lead to projects getting off the ground. However, it has emerged that the government may have about $5 billion left over from the proceeds of its proposed electricity network sale after paying for a second harbour crossing and other projects.

The budget allocated money for studies into building the F6 extension from Loftus to St Peters, the M9 outer Sydney orbital road in far western Sydney and a tunnel from the northern beaches  – highly touted projects that promise to relieve congestion and cut travel times. It will also investigate a Parramatta light rail system. A 60-kilometre M9 from Camden to the Hawkesbury would come with a $4.2 billion price tag, if the cost-per-kilometre of the M7 is a guide. A 2008 NRMA study shows extending the F6 by tunnelling between Sylvania and Loftus would cost about $2.2 billion – or $2.5 billion, adjusted for inflation. An unsolicited proposal to the government in 2010 costed the northern beaches tunnel at more than $2.3 billion at today’s prices. It included an above-ground crossing of the Spit Bridge and a tunnel under Military Road. Parramatta City Council has put the combined cost of its two preferred light rail routes at $1.5 billion – only $400 million of which has been funded by the government so far. The council will seek private investment but is likely to seek further government funding. A spokesman for Treasurer Andrew Constance said cost estimates and funding options would not be known until feasibility and scoping work had been done. Infrastructure NSW is also due to report back on costs in November. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon said feasibility work must be done on projects such as the M9 to protect transport corridors from development and avoid costly tunnelling in future. “These are very long-term priorities,” he said. “This is about stopping them being lost to other uses.” Mr Lyon said the government should move to fully privatise the state’s poles and wires assets. “The budget doesn’t have the capacity to pay for the big breakthrough projects,” he said. It is understood that at least $5 billion will be available for the second harbour crossing project from the general roads and transport budget, once the costly north-west rail link is completed. That would mean only about $5 billion – rather than the $10 billion previously thought – for the project would be drawn from the proceeds of the electricity sale, potentially accelerating other projects. Opposition Leader John Robertson claimed the budget contained 69 planning and feasibility studies “in lieu of actual construction”. “The Liberals are spending over $700 million on drawing boards and glossy brochures, when they should have been getting on with the job of delivering real infrastructure over the past three years,” Mr Robertson said.

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Bomb scare: Residents in Sydney’s inner-west evacuated

There has been an explosion inside an apartment block in Sydney’s inner-west with nearby residents evacuated and the police bomb squad called in.

Residents said they heard a loud explosion just after 5:30pm from inside a unit on Wentworth Park Road at Glebe.

Power in the street went out immediately after.

NSW Fire and Rescue responding to the fire then made a discovery which prompted them to call police.

Police then dispatched the bomb squad.

A police spokeswoman would only say that a “police operation” was underway and that traffic was being diverted from the area.

Residents say the same apartment complex was targeted in a suspicious blaze that damaged several units a month ago.

On May 17, a fire was started in the housing complex’s courtyard and the blaze destroyed the bedroom of one unit and caused damage to several adjoining rooms.

Police at the time said they believed the fire was suspicious.

Wednesday night’s incident has again forced the evacuation of residents and lead to the light rail being stopped for a short period of time during the evening peak.

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HSU’s Kathy Jackson accuses Bill Shorten of Labor branch-stacking involvement

Bill Shorten has been embroiled in the royal commission into unions. Photo: Andrew MearesControversial union leader Kathy Jackson has accused her former friend Bill Shorten of being involved in Labor Party branch-stacking saying she had discussed the practice with the now Opposition Leader.

Ms Jackson told the royal commission into trade union corruption that she had told Mr Shorten she had used union funds to give $7000 to Melbourne ALP figure David Asmar.

Mr Shorten, she said, laughed and said he had also recently given money to Mr Asmar and allegedly told Ms Jackson ”the bastard must have double dipped”.

Mr Shorten and Ms Jackson were once political allies but are now bitter enemies.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said Ms Jackson’s claims are untrue.

“As Mr Shorten has previously said, this royal commission provides the platform for all sorts of people to try to settle old scores and make wild claims. He won’t be providing a running commentary every time someone mentions his name to try to get themselves on TV.”

It comes as Ms Jackson admitted that a slush fund – started through a $250,000 settlement from back-pay owed to cancer workers – was used by her to back Labor candidates, on ”various” union elections and for her own use.

In written evidence to the commission, Ms Jackson defended using the “windfall” 2003 settlement with the Peter MacCallum cancer hospital to set up her “slush fund”, the National Health Development Account (NHDA).

Ms Jackson said the HSU No. 3 branch committee of management agreed to set up the fund, of which Ms Jackson was the sole operator, and allowed her to spend it at her discretion to advance the interests of the union.

It also allowed her to spend $4000 a year “for my own personal benefit” as she had not received sitting fees from the meetings, Ms Jackson said.

She said she “did not utilise the full amount” that she was allowed to spend but her statement did not detail how much she spent on herself.

“Any allegation that I took any of the NHDA money for my own benefit without approval is false.”

Ms Jackson alleged the financial records of the NHDA, contained in an exercise book, had been stolen after her office was “ransacked” in 2011 while she was a patient in a psychiatric hospital.

Ms Jackson said a flood in March 2010 resulted in the loss of many documents and an office clean-out five months later when she was overseas resulted in a large number of documents being thrown away.

Ms Jackson broke down during Wednesday’s hearing when she described the stress she experienced as a whistleblower at the HSU, which led to her being hospitalised.

She also defended her spending on personal credit cards. The current secretary of Ms Jackson’s former Victorian branch, Craig McGregor, in a statement to the royal commission, said more than $1 million was reimbursed from the union to two personal credit cards of Ms Jackson.

In her statement, Ms Jackson said she had three union credit cards in her name and that all credit card spending by staff was in her name including travel and accommodation.

“I say that the total amounts charged to credit cards each year for the whole of the No. 3 branch expenditure by credit card, which was well under 10 per cent of total expenditure of the No. 3 branch, is unremarkable.”

Ms Jackson rose to national prominence as a whistleblower on widespread corruption at the HSU involving former senior officials Michael Williamson, now in jail, and Craig Thomson, a disgraced former head of the union and former ALP federal MP. Thomson is on bail pending an appeal against his conviction and sentence on multiple fraud charges.

In evidence she said Williamson was living an “obscene millionaire’s lifestyle” in a “palatial” holiday home that far exceeded his income before he was convicted of fraud.

Her suspicions of Williamson’s corruption “crystallised” when she visited Williamson’s new holiday house in Brightwaters, Lake Macquarie, in January 2011.

Ms Jackson said she understood Williamson had a personal loan of about $2.1 million.

“I considered that the interest accruing on that loan size, alone, would have equalled almost the totality of his then income,” she said.

The holiday home overlooked a lake and was fitted with hardwood parquetry floors, four European fridges and high-end audiovisual units, according to Ms Jackson. She said Williamson had plans to build an in-ground swimming pool, cabana and to buy a boat.

In her written statement, she said since she had exposed corruption she had been called “Judas”, a “Liberal prostitute” and “traitor”, and suffered “smears” on the internet and in the mainstream media.

She also claimed Williamson, a former Labor national president, twice offered her a seat in Parliament, in 2010 and 2011.

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