Page 4325 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 27 November 2013

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I commend the motion to the Assembly and note that it is an opportunity for something that is good for Canberra, an opportunity for all members to get behind it and vote for it today. Maybe that is the only thing you contribute to supporting the project, but at least that very little symbol of support by voting for this motion today will be important in the case that we take in partnership with UC to the federal government for this very worthy project.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.37): I would like to thank Dr Bourke for raising this issue today. I think it is an important issue and one that does warrant a discussion in the Assembly. The regional development fund was established by the former Labor minister Simon Crean to provide funding to regions in a way that attempted to immunise the program against the manipulation of allocations that had existed under previous governments. The regional development fund was one of Simon Crean’s great successes, and I think it is a pity that that good work will now go to waste.

The Abbott government has announced that it will abolish the fund and set up its own version in 2015. I certainly hope that that new version will contain the same rigorous approach to allocation of funds that was taken with the first five rounds of the regional development fund. We also have to hope that the Abbott government recognises the ACT is very much part of a region and that there are advantages to the wider region through facilities, programs and projects located within the territory.

In terms of the UC sporting commons, it certainly is disappointing to learn that the federal government will not be funding further development of this project at this time. $10 million was announced by the former government in August 2013. However, it was not signed off before the election was called. Unfortunately, Warren Truss, the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, has indicated that the federal government will not be honouring the previous government’s commitment unless signed contracts are in place. I think this is another example of the Abbott government reneging on their previous commitments, as they have done with Gonski, which represents a major breach of trust with the states and territories that had signed up to these important education reforms.

The announced federal government funding would have provided funding for future stages of the sporting commons, a state-of-the-art facility that merges high-performance sport, community sport, educational opportunities and community engagement programs for Canberra and southern New South Wales. The funding would have allowed for the development of a mobile sports fitness and health clinic that would work to promote the benefits of an active lifestyle through community engagement and participation for students from the ACT and region.

Work has recently commenced on the first stage of the UC sports commons to which the ACT government has committed a $5 million grant over four years to accommodate community sport within the precinct. The University of Canberra and the Brumbies have also kicked in $5 million each. The commons is designed to include an ACT sports hall of fame, a new headquarters for the Brumbies, sports studies, teaching and research facilities, a bocce court and new student sports facilities.

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