Council’s amendments: Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Bill 2017

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (18:51:14) — I rise to speak on the amendments that are present before us today in regard to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Bill 2017. Can I say at the outset that as a member of the opposition I support these amendments. I want to place on record again my support for the work that has been done here. I know in the other place there was a lot of work done on this bill. I want to particularly thank Mr Davis in the upper house for working through this and also the shadow minister for environment in this chamber, the member for Ferntree Gully.

These amendments are very important because they are specifically around ensuring that there is recreation and there is community benefit from the racecourse itself. A working party was established, and it included me and the member for Oakleigh working in a bipartisan way to ensure that we delivered this outcome for the community. I want to place on record the importance of that and the fact that it has been a long process and an important process but also ultimately something that we had to get right. I will say that it has taken a little bit longer than I would have liked. I would certainly like to see that we get use of open space, particularly when it comes to sporting activities in my area, as soon as is practically possible.

The amendments that we have in front of us today are important because they bring in a reporting feature. The government has brought that reporting feature in so the trust gets to report on it, but the amendment that the opposition put forward, which is also being supported by the government, allows the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to report on it, and this is very, very important. I know the minister said that it could be seen as doubling up, but when we have had a situation of a lack of transparency when it comes to the use of this particular racecourse, the fact that we have had an Auditor-General’s report looking at that transparency and looking at the fact that we have not had the public benefit of this racecourse up to now, then I think it is certainly incumbent on the government and this place to ensure that we provide every single opportunity for that transparency, and the community are looking for that; the community expect that.

The situation at the moment is that we still do not have a trust; we still do not have the new entity formed. This bill goes some way towards that, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, and we want to make sure that there is a reporting feature each and every period. I wanted to point out specifically that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning must include in its annual report of operations for each financial year details regarding the use of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for the purposes of recreation and for public purposes during that year. It is very important for that to be reported each and every year.

As we have said on many occasions, racing is a very important part of what we provide in this state, and we are very proud in terms of what the Caulfield Racecourse does to contribute to that. It is a great racecourse and is highly regarded and respected internationally, but we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the middle of that racecourse and turn it into something and give it back to the community. We have an opportunity to have racing living together with sport and public open space. This will provide an absolutely perfect opportunity for this to happen — a great opportunity.

I have talked to a number of clubs in my area that are absolutely desperate for open space. I actually had meetings with some of the clubs only yesterday and also in previous weeks about them absolutely wanting to see the utilisation of the racecourse as part of that.

One of the things we know in our area, as we do throughout Victoria, is that we want to get more women participating in sport, particularly when it comes to sports like soccer and football where you need big playing surfaces. We have more women’s teams in Caulfield through the City of Glen Eira. We have three clubs — the Ormond Football Club, the Caulfield Bears and the Ajax Football Club — that now have women’s teams as a result of more women participating in those sports. This is brilliant, this is fantastic, this is what we should be seeing. But in order for that to happen, we need the open space, and when Glen Eira has the lowest amount of open space in Victoria, then we have a situation where we have got to try to make that space available and we need to look at every opportunity do that.

This is something that was started by the previous Minister for Environment and Climate Change and current Minister for Police, who is here as well, as is the current Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. It is important in terms of that collaboration to work together. There are quite often times when we do not get that chance. Here is an opportunity to do that, and I thank the government for giving us that opportunity and for giving me the opportunity to be part of driving that change.

As I said, there is a lot of work to be done. We need the trust to be established, we need to ensure that we get the board going and we need to see sport in there as soon as practically possible, and these amendments will ensure that we deliver those outcomes. That is what we are seeking.

I will say that it will be important for the government to get on with it. I know there is a fair bit of work to be done in negotiating the lease between the Melbourne Racing Club and the parties, whether it be the trust or the government, but we need to get that done. We need to understand what the future of training will be once the lease is signed to ultimately ensure that we can get more participation in sport. These are all very, very important decisions that need to be made. I would hope those decisions will be made well and truly in time for us to see sport being played at the racecourse within the next 12 months. It would be great to see some form of sport played there within the next 12 months. That would be a really good step forward, not that we would see the whole centre turn into sporting activity, but even if we got one ground going — something to show that we have made a step forward — it would be a really positive move.

The community are desperate for it; my constituents in Caulfield are desperate for it. I think certainly in terms of increased participation in sport throughout Victoria, whether it be women, whether it be young people, whether it be us encouraging more people to get involved and get active, this is a great step forward. The Caulfield Racecourse Reserve could be that key facility at which we could have an internationally recognised racecourse proudly sitting right alongside the kinds of sports that are played, whether it be football, basketball, cricket or soccer, whatever we can possibly entertain and absorb into the fantastic facility that we have at that racecourse. With those remarks I support these amendments.

Motion agreed to.