Page 892 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 27 February 2013

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If not providing transparent costings and timely notification to users was not galling enough, clubs tell me they are paying higher fees for grounds that are at times unplayable and have less than adequate facilities. Instead of improving existing facilities that in all likelihood would make clubs feel happier about paying higher fees, this Labor government, for the most part, offers to build newer and bigger facilities sometime in the future. Is that treating the sporting community with honesty and integrity? I do not think so.

Another issue the minister needs to look at is the booking system for ovals and grounds. As officials tell me, it is a most unsatisfactory, frustrating and totally inefficient process. It is particularly frustrating when you realise that bookings are mostly done by community sporting clubs that are run by volunteers with limited time. Clubs are not able to see what fields are available when submitting a booking request, and I am told that ACT sportsground personnel are often unhelpful. Interaction with them is difficult, and approaches to meet in person are currently being resisted.

We have a department that puts up fees without consultation, makes you submit requests over and over if your first choice is rejected and will not meet with you to discuss the issues. But the blame cannot sit with the department. It is merely reflecting how this minister has operated across numerous portfolios—no consultation, no review and no appeal process until the opposition bring it to the attention of the Assembly. We saw it with school closures and now we are seeing it with sporting clubs.

Minister, this is your department. This is your responsibility. Where is your customer focus? Where is service to the public that you should encourage in your public service?

Sporting clubs are a fantastic resource, and much is achieved by a great army of volunteers who put up goals, nets and posts during the week for training and on weekends, who run canteens, who manage teams, who transport them to games all over Canberra and further afield, and who run training camps, wash uniforms and help to deliver Canberra’s reputation as a healthy, active community. When they get slugged with huge increases, without warning, by a government that provides substandard facilities and refuses to engage in consultation with clients, they get somewhat despondent. It makes many of them wonder why they bother. And if those thousands of volunteers did not bother, Canberra families would lose the chance for their children to learn a sport in a healthy and fun environment. And why? Because an arrogant government wants to slug junior sports, the trifling matter that Mr Barr referred to—a minister who simply thinks that it is no big thing.

We ask the government, given that it is no big thing, to cancel the 2013 increases for junior sport and adopt the Canberra Liberals’ policy of reducing fees by 50 per cent. This will demonstrate a genuine commitment by government to participation at a community level. We have also asked for the Assembly to be better informed as to how the department calculates its fees. Tell us why you choose 50 per cent for some and two per cent for others. What are these random increases based on?

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