Thursday, 30 October 2014
Chisholm Electorate: Ashwood Reserve
If you are going to run for any level of government, be it state, local or federal, you should have some connectivity with the community you are seeking to represent. If you do not, you should at least get to know them. It is with a feeling of great tragedy, almost comedy, that I rise today to speak about Ashwood Reserve in my electorate. I am not going to have a go at the Liberal candidate in the last federal election, John Nguyen—a very nice guy—but if he had not got to know his local community he should not have made a funding commitment without consulting the groups concerned and the local council that would be impacted upon. John made an announcement in respect of Ashwood Reserve. Now the state election has come along and Graham Watt, the sitting member for Burwood, has made another campaign announcement in respect of Ashwood Reserve. What is more galling about Mr Watt's statement is that he has been the local state member for the last four years and still he has no idea about the communities involved in this reserve. Again, he did not consult with one individual about the announcement he was about to make. Most particularly he did not speak to the local government area that has authority over the site, the Monash City Council, about the announcement.
So what has been announced? John Nguyen announced $150,000 under the Community Grants Program to upgrade a pavilion at Ashwood Reserve—the pavilion used by the Victorian Sikh Association. The Sikh Association has been using the pavilion and one of the grounds at Ashwood Reserve for 20 years—they have an affiliation with the ground. Next door to the ground is the Waverley Hockey Club. John Nguyen comes along and offers $150,000 during the federal election campaign—that is currently being honoured and contracts are now with Monash council. The state election is happening in four to five weeks time, so Graham Watt comes along and says to the Waverley Hockey Club—opposite the Sikhs—that he is going to give them $1.5 million to upgrade the same reserve. So who wins? Who now has control of the ground—a ground needed in my community?
Sporting facilities are needed everywhere, and in areas like metropolitan Melbourne we do not get regional grounds, we do not get money and we do not have access to things, so when a grant like this comes along the community goes 'Yay!' So the Waverley Hockey Club were really excited—they desperately need a second pitch, they have one magnificent pitch; next door to them is a field—not used much and not covered by turf in any way, shape, size or form. State government comes along and says: 'If we win, we're giving you $1.5 million. You can build your pitch.' Terrific! Nobody has consulted with anybody.
So the Victorian Sikhs have written to the local council and to everybody, including the state government, and said:
The federal Government … via then Shadow Minister and now Hon Minister Mr. Kevin Andrews had made an announcement to grant $150,000 to rebuild the current clubrooms of the Sikh Community at Ashwood Reserve. A further $650,000 was confirmed from the Monash City Council.
The plans and designs were finalised in Feb/March … The committee of VSA and thus our community were made to believe that the tender process would commence in July—
and that they would be able to be in the facility by April 2015. The committee were absolutely astounded, then, when they learned:
The bombshell agenda item then slowly came to light. We were asked if we knew of the announcement by the State coalition—an election promise to give the Waverley Hockey Club $1.5M (should they win the elections) to build a second hockey pitch at the grounds used by our community for soccer and other sports activities. This therefore puts an indefinitely hold on the VSA community pavilion …
So the Sikhs, who thought they were going ahead with their pavilion and the use of the ground, now find: no, another level of Liberal government says, 'No, we are giving money to the hockey pitch.' Waverley Hockey Club do not want to seem ungrateful and they want their pitch, but they also do not want a brawl with their neighbours in the Sikh community, so they have been trying to resolve who gets the ground. It is the council's ground. It is crown land. Somebody should have consulted. We now have two groups at each other's throats that did not need to be. Some common sense and some understanding about the area and the needs of the community were needed. Waverley Hockey Club is a huge club. It has over 500 players. It has one of the largest junior groups in the country. A pitch is needed. We desperately need that second ground there. But the Sikhs also have rights. Somebody should have talked. We have supposed community candidates out there making different offers, throwing money around without consultation and without knowledge of how this is going to work—or consulting with anybody. It is an absolute disgrace and Graham Watt stands condemned.