GLADYS WON’T SIT STILL
Premier blasts critics: ‘I won’t sit on my hands on stadiums’
GLADYS Berejiklian has hit out at critics of her more than $2 billion overhaul of Sydney’s stadiums — vowing doing nothing is not an option and she isn’t going to shy away from “thinking big” because of naysayers who would rather she “sit on her hands”. “It’s easier not to do anything, and not to build anything,” the Premier said while on a trade mission to China. “But you can’t make decisions (only) thinking about being a premier for this year. It’s got to be for the next decade.” The comments are her first in-depth response to opposition to bulldozing and rebuilding ANZ and Allianz stadiums.
“We can (afford) this,” she said, promising the money will not compromise health and education spending.
GLADYS Berejiklian says she’s willing to be pilloried in the short term over her decision to spend $2 billion-plus rebuilding Sydney’s major stadiums since leadership is about “making the right call”.
“It’s easier not to do anything, and not to build anything. But you can’t make decisions thinking about being a premier for this year and next year. It’s got to be for the next decade and beyond,” she told The Daily Telegraph in an exclusive interview. “There is always noise around what government does. You need to make sure — in your gut — that what you’re doing is in the interests of the state and no other reason.”
On a trade mission to China and the Philippines, the Premier spoke in depth for the first time since coming under sustained political attack over the plan to bulldoze and rebuild ANZ and Allianz stadiums.
The scale of the spend divided her cabinet, and has also seen backbenchers grapple with concerns from their electorates as voters seize on Labor’s call for the $2 billion to be spent on health and education instead. Ms Berejiklian said she heard the message “loud and clear” about health and education, which were her top priorities. She said she could focus on them yet still build stadiums because she had “so much on the boil at one go”.
“We can do this,” she said, adding the government had the budget to pay for its plans and “you have to think big”. She also foreshadowed more spending on sports infrastructure at a local level in the future. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if we hadn’t brought the budget to what it is,” she said.
“The nub of it is (people are wondering) does she understand we want her and her government to focus on health and education and the things that matter to us. My response is I hear you loud and clear.”
She urged voters to put the stadium spend in a broader context of the state budget, outlining how $20 billion was being invested in hospitals in the west alone, and $200 billion on health and education while the stadiums were being built.
Ms Berejiklian said she would have come under greater pressure if she’d failed to act on the stadiums, adding that Allianz would be unusable after 2019 and ANZ wasn’t built for modern sports needs.
The government’s case was that tourism, jobs and revenue would be lost if the venues weren’t rebuilt and that Sydney “needs to be honest with itself” that tourism is one of the short list of things the city is truly globally competitive in.
“Imagine the criticism I’d face if I didn’t do anything. How would I be judged? Sitting on your hands and doing nothing is the worst option,” the Premier said. “I don’t expect everyone to see the benefit of something when we announce it. It’s our job to explain ourselves.”
As a former transport minister, Ms Berejiklian recalled having to live through the hard sell on big projects like the northwest metro and the light rail, and was proud of “sticking to her guns”. “I keep remembering the time I got pilloried for starting a metro system in the northwest. People said how dare you,” she said. “I got pilloried … I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me. If you want to be a good leader and make a difference for people, you’ve got to do what’s right.”
Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard react as the Premier is presented with a gift portrait in Guangzhou. Below: Meeting Chinese officials.