Page 4017 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 30 October 2013
(e) in the lead up the 2013 federal election the Chief Minister wrote to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader requesting that the Commonwealth partner with the ACT Government and private sector to deliver the Australia Forum project; and
(2) calls on the Minister for Economic Development to report back to the Assembly by the last sitting day this year on progress made towards reaching investment ready status for the Australia Forum project.”.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.11): I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Australia forum today because it is a project that all three parties in this place agree is a good idea and for which there is a clear need in Canberra. We could, indeed, say there is tripartisan unwavering support for the idea of needing a new convention centre in Canberra. As a city state without primary industry or other large private sector revenue activities, the knowledge and information sector of our economy is extremely important to the ACT.
I think we all agree our current convention centre is simply not big enough for many events and especially not for a number of simultaneous events, such as the sorts of things that take place at other convention centres. A medium to large scale trade fair is simply not possible, and EPIC is not always an appropriate venue for the wide range of trade fairs on the annual calendar.
It is a shame this proposal has lagged to a point where we have one of the smallest and oldest convention centres in Australia, meaning that we are now in a place where our facilities are lagging behind other jurisdictions. That puts us, to some extent, at a competitive disadvantage, something we need to address as a community. As a result, there is the danger of Canberra missing out on being in the convention, conference and trade fair circuit for a large portion of these events, yet we all know this could be a very positive boost to our economy.
As Mr Smyth’s motion notes, the Australia forum is an item in the ALP-Greens parliamentary agreement. And as the motion also identifies, the government is working with stakeholders to progress the proposal to a stage where it is investment ready for consortium partners. The fact that it is in the parliamentary agreement recognises the fact that, when Mr Barr and I spoke about this in November last year, we both knew this was a project that needed to have some energy put behind it, and I was pleased we were able to put that into the parliamentary agreement.
The work towards creating a new convention centre for Canberra—the Australia forum—is not only significant for Canberra as a city but also for Canberra as the nation’s capital. It is an opportunity to create a space and a venue that can be used not only by our knowledge and research sector for conferences and our commercial sector for trade fairs and exhibitions but also by the federal government for conventions and international-level meetings and conferences.
It has certainly been a shame that this has not been a possibility for the past few decades simply due to the lack of facilities. We have all been involved in those conversations when it was announced that CHOGM would be in Australia and