House debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021


Watson Electorate: Land Zoning, JobKeeper Payment: Arts Industry

12:34 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I've been to the electorates of everybody here and enjoyed the magnificent open space that is part of all of those different parts of Australia. My electorate is a very different story. In my part of Sydney, open space is at an absolute premium; we have very little. To those who don't know Sydney well: can I suggest that you look out the window as you come down in the plane. You'll see that on one side of the Parramatta River Sydney is filled with trees, and that on the other side there is an image of concrete. What has happened over the last few years in my area is that the premium of the limited open space we have has been challenged further and further.

There's currently an ICAC investigation on foot over a large number of high-rise developments in the suburb of Canterbury, and at the exact same time the one area of potential additional open space we have is compromised. Canterbury Racecourse was bought by the Turf Club back in 1945. They got it cheap. Why did they get it cheap? Because the land was zoned open space. They now pay their rates cheap. Why do they get their rates cheap? Because it's zoned open space. And what's the Turf Club trying to do right now? Piece by piece, start to change the zoning to increase the number of people relying on a decreasing amount of open space available, to change the zoning through deals with development companies so that what limited open space we have shrinks and yet the need for it increases.

The number of people in my part of Sydney who live without a backyard increases every day. The park isn't just for picnics; it's your backyard, and it's the only opportunity you have to enjoy local open space. In the suburb of Canterbury itself, there's one playground for every 2,403 people. In another part of the electorate, where I live, there is one playground for more than 9,000 people. These are suburbs where we so many people without a backyard.

If the Turf Club continues with this plan, if they get away with it, if the decisions that go through the various levels of local and state government result in them getting away with rezoning this land, it will be a permanent hit to what it is to live in one of the less wealthy parts of Sydney. In Sydney people often use the term 'leafy suburbs', and they always mean wealthy suburbs. The two shouldn't be the same. Whether or not you get public open space shouldn't be determined by personal wealth. Public open space should be just that. If the Turf Club wants there to be a total master plan, we are there for that. But to have a piecemeal approach of taking away the opportunity for open space that we have in my part of Sydney is nothing more than theft of community assets.

I want to refer to an open letter that was signed recently by 3,500 of our musicians; they put together an open letter urging the government to continue JobKeeper. As I have said on many occasions before, a whole lot of people in the arts sector missed out altogether. There are a whole lot of people who weren't able to qualify for JobKeeper. Some people, because of the way their agents had set up their personal business, have operated as sole traders and been able to access JobKeeper. It's a limited number of people but it's still significant, and it's been a lifeline for them. They need continued support every bit as much as the tourism industry. In fact, there is a direct link between supporting our musicians and supporting our tourist industry.

Studies just released say that last year live music went down to four per cent of what it's normally been. On the other side of this crisis, I want to make sure our musicians haven't been forced to move on to other careers. I want to make sure the people who enrich our lives in that way, who are always competing against overseas artists but have managed to cut through and make a living here in Australia, keep being able to do that. I would encourage all members of the House to make sure that we support the musicians of Australia so that the soundtrack of Australia keeps getting played for years to come.