In a classic example of “the best form of defence is offence”, on his Facebook page in November 2022, the Premier bellowed about what he called “common mistruths” regarding his stadium proposal that he’d recently announced, but the details of which he’d keep secret until late May 2023. The Premier claimed, “a small, vocal group of detractors … report mistruths in an effort to damage our dreams …”.

That assertion in itself was a mistruth. This was no “small, vocal group of detractors”. Criticism of his stadium flowed from all three corners of the State across local, State and Federal politicians and, most significantly, within the Liberal Party at a State and Federal level. He even failed to mention that two members of his own government were part of that group of detractors.

The subject of his claimed mistruths was that money would be diverted from health and housing to fund the team and the stadium. Yet, since November 2022, nothing has been put forward to counter this. To the contrary, it is regularly affirmed.

The Premier also criticised those who had grave doubts that the State Government’s $375 million contribution towards the proposed stadium was affordable. Of course, by mid-2023, it was clear that these criticisms were well-placed. The $375 million was not affordable. The $240 million that was meant to come from the Commonwealth Government towards the stadium was not coming to the stadium. It was intended for the entire precinct. Moreover, it was, and is, money that Tasmania was destined to receive anyway through future GST allocations.  And of course, cost overruns were never conceded by the Government, but are generally regarded to be inevitable.

When it comes to mistruths, however, the then Liberal Government really takes the prize. It sat on the knowledge that the Federal ‘grant’ was not additional money, but part of the GST carve-up. From when the Treasurer was informed of this in December 2023, that information was concealed. The AFL Team Funding Agreement (signed 3 May 2023) was also concealed from the public until the Premier was forced by the resignation of two Parliamentary members of his own party to reveal it almost three weeks later.

When Our Place released an image of the proposed Macquarie Point Stadium, taken from a popular tourist location, Mures, together with a detailed statement from the architect to justify the methodology employed, the Government retaliated with a highly misleading image.  Its image was taken from the water level in Constitution Dock in an effort to diminish the apparent bulk, size and impact that the proposed stadium would have as it towered over the heritage buildings in Sullivans Cove.

The Premier signed an agreement with the AFL which we are told cannot be renegotiated. Yet the Premier has already breached the agreement in a number of respects. Firstly, the High-Performance Centre – offered up by the Premier without consultation or any planning input – was to be constructed close to the CBD. That is not going to happen (unsurprisingly, because Hobart does not have available suitable land close to the city that is the size of 2 MCG ovals).  Secondly, the contract commits Tasmania to assume all the risks resulting from construction delays and cost overruns, yet the Premier has recently opened the debate to seeking private partnerships to fill any shortfall.

The Premier failed to disclose until May 2023 that the proposed stadium is expected to lose $13.2M per year for its first 10 years, and that was the best-case scenario. That is, it is a financial basket case before it even opens. He failed to reveal that Treasury had never given advice on the stadium. He left the community with the impression that the agreement had been approved by Cabinet, only to concede later that that was not the case.

Planning for the Tasmanian AFL team and for a stadium should never have been run out of the Premier’s office and out of AFL House in Melbourne. In that rarefied corporate atmosphere dominated by gaming, broadcasting and other lobby groups, the Premier was never going to understand that he was not delivering a proposal to unify the State. In effect, he has announced the equivalent of a nuclear power station at Macquarie Point. Sure, some people support the idea. They always will. But everybody has to pay for it.

And when the Premier arrives at a secret deal with the AFL for an unfunded, uncosted and unwanted stadium, it is he who has the monopoly on mistruths. Integrity is important. A major project cannot be delivered in secrecy, without funding and without sensible planning. This Government fails us on all of these fronts.

*Misquote with apologies to Churchill