When I started this blog I was determined not to make it too political. The website was to remain – mostly anyway – an activist-free zone. But it’s hard sometimes. I’m not sure what it is about Tasmania but all too often its people tear themselves apart over controversial issues. So far, since I’ve lived here, there have been dams, forests, pulp mills and poker machines. The forestry issue has been ongoing for decades, and with no signs of a resolution. We nearly had one with the hard-fought forestry agreement that for an all- too-brief-time saw an end to the ’wars’ between timber workers and conservationists. The Liberals tore that up when they won government around 10 years ago. Now we’re back to where we were – a situation neither side wished for.
The latest controversy involves football. The AFL version, not soccer – which is of course the ball game of the moment, given the Women’s World Cup Championships, and Australia’s Matildas surpassing all expectations by making the semi-finals. And may the best team win.
But soccer aside, what’s concentrating the minds of Tasmanians is whether the price of finally getting a licence to have a state team in the national AFL draw should depend on building a massive new stadium. The outgoing AFL boss insists it’s a condition of the licence. The premier apparently didn’t say boo to this rather high-handed demand despite most Tasmanians being outraged at the decision. And why not really when we already have two stadiums. One in the South and one in the North. Both have hosted AFL games for years – to audiences that haven’t always filled either stadium. Both stadiums have also successfully hosted other sporting events, as well as concerts.
So once again Tasmania is a state in conflict. The business case for a new stadium is extremely optimistic at best. More than one economist has picked a multitude of holes in it. And with so many other pressing social needs such as health, hospitals, housing and a homelessness crisis, requiring funding, building a stadium is considered the height of reckless extravagance by over half the population. The predictable if depressing result is sides being chosen, sleeves being rolled up, and preparing for another conflict to consume time and energy – for both those who are for it and those who are opposed.
A poem I wrote describes my opinion of the project. I entered it in the Independent Australia competition where I hoped it might at least get published – and raise awareness of the issue on a national platform – but I never believed for a second it could be a winner. But so it is: the July winner in the Fiction/Poetry category. At the No Stadium rally being organised later this month I’ve been invited to read it out.
So once again another poem I’ve written has resonated. I continue to be amazed – but if this one helps to change the hearts and minds of our government, and force a rethink on the terms of the contract, it’s done its job. No to a new stadium. Yes to a team.
Graphic designed by Marion Curtain