You could be mistaken for thinking Saturday’s Queensland election is about the whole of the state voting on whether it wants an AFL team on the Gold Coast.

Thanks to an expensive new TV-driven campaign thrust this week by the LNP Leader Lawrence Springborg, attacking the government’s $60 million commitment to redevelop Carrara stadium, don’t expect Springborg to be invited to this year AFL Grand Final if he’s still in Parliament, let alone leader if he loses the election.

The simplistic campaign proposition that was kicked out of Brisbane’s Queen Street mall yesterday for illegal political protest by party stalwarts is that Bligh’s commitment to part fund a $130 million dollar stadium project as the new home for the AFL’s 17th team projected to enter the national competition in 2011, means sacrificing more hospital beds and greater investment in education. Yet Springborg’s also pledging to introduce spending cuts of more than $1 billion in government spending.

The argument is that government policy shouldn’t measure economic benefits and community impact in deciding to fund a multi-purpose stadium, because such spending can always be better spent on more hospitals and schools — ordinarily an easy free kick for an Opposition.

But it’s hard to reconcile this argument on the Coast, where the ALP took out a full page ad in today’s Gold Coast Bulletin pointing out that already underway is the building of what it claims — at a cost of $1.5 billion — is the biggest hospital project in Australia, along with additional expansion at Robina hospital. Given the ALP re-election campaign strategy has been primarily about creating and saving jobs, infrastructure spending of whatever kind is argued as paramount to that goal, and the new Parklands hospital and Carrara are aligned to that.

But in a predominant rugby league state, outside the Gold Coast the LNP has no qualms in going in boots and all on the stadium issue. On ABC 612 Brisbane radio this morning, a LNP campaign strategist told Madonna King that stumping up money to build a stadium showed Anna Bligh would prefer to seat a sick child in an AFL stadium rather than having them being able to obtain medical attention. A sentiment heavily reinforced by the latest LNP TV ads that portray that very scenario. Pictures of a forlorn and one assumes sickly child, sitting all alone in the stands at Carrara — intercut with images of a smiling Premier with football in hand taken from her original Carrara funding media conference.

All of this before the AFL Commission holds its next meeting on Friday when the Coast’s GC-17 licence bid is expected to be given the green light — conditional of course on subsequent confirmation the $130 million stadium funding will be delivered. A source close to the stadium discussions told Crikey they believe the Federal Government is preparing to announce it will provide $40 million, with the AFL making up the final $10 million.

It also makes sense that Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese — who was on the Coast late last week for discussions about Carrara and other potential funding projects — declares that commitment before the election. This would further exacerbate the contrast between the LNP being painted across all local media as putting the boot into the Coast licence bid, while a returned government guarantees the AFL’s 17th club is home and hosed.

Both leaders were today campaigning in south-east Queensland, where the election will be won or lost. As the AFL Commission prays post Saturday it doesn’t need to suck up to the LNP any time soon. But just to be safe, the league is staying out of any public slanging of Springborg’s vociferous opposition!

It’s also noticeable from the campaign, how Springborg’s trademark “foghorn” voice now sounds more mellifluous. Does this mean the Borg’s been receiving voice lessons designed to sweeten that “hee haw” drawl?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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