Tasmanian Labor ‘naive’ about stadium: former leader

Ethan James |

David O’Byrne (centre) says his former party’s vow to renegotiate a deal for an AFL team is naive.
David O’Byrne (centre) says his former party’s vow to renegotiate a deal for an AFL team is naive.

A one-time Tasmanian Labor leader believes his former party’s election pledge to try to renegotiate the state’s deal for an AFL team is naive.

Tasmania was granted the league’s 19th licence in May, contingent on the construction of a 23,000-seat, roofed stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart.

Labor, which has been in opposition for a decade, says the stadium is a bad idea and has pledged to try to renegotiate the deal if elected on March 23.

The AFL is unmoved, saying the contract is locked in place.

David O’Byrne, who is running as an independent after being booted from the Labor party room and not endorsed as a candidate after sexual harassment allegations surfaced in 2021, believes his former party needs to be realistic.

He served briefly as Labor leader after the 2021 election and was replaced by Rebecca White, who is having a third tilt at becoming premier.

“The AFL have been very clear and the clubs have been very clear,” he told AAP.

“They have spent significant capital (for) Tasmania to get a licence … and all the benefits for Tasmania that go with that.

“To say the team is safe and that you can renegotiate when clearly the clubs and the AFL are saying we won’t renegotiate is in some respects a little naive and … puts the team in jeopardy.”

Labor Leader Rebecca White.
While Rebecca White backs an AFL team she hasn’t specified what she wants in a new arrangement. (Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr O’Byrne is among several independents and minor party candidates who could hold balance-of-power positions in a new parliament, with opinion polls suggesting neither the Liberals nor Labor will be able to form majority government.

Ms White has previously said the state Liberal government gave the AFL “everything they wanted on a platter” in the AFL deal.

She maintains support for the team but has not specified what she would seek in a new arrangement.

The Liberals have pledged to cap their spending on the stadium, slated to cost $715 million, at $375 million with private investment to cover any cost overruns.

The federal government is chipping in $240 million with $15 million coming from the AFL and $85 million from borrowings against land sales or leases.

The stadium project must be voted through both houses of parliament to gain approval.

Mr O’Byrne believes the stadium could trigger growth in Tasmania akin to the 2011 opening of Hobart’s Museum of New and Old Art.

“My starting position is not ‘no’,” he said.

“My starting position is ‘this is a great opportunity, let’s do all we can to deliver it’.

“If we get to a point and there are major problems, then we have to work around that.

“You need to capture the opportunity.

“If we blow it now …we will never get another opportunity to join the AFL.”

The Liberals on Saturday announced they would provide existing customers of state-owned forestry company Sustainable Timber Tasmania with long-term supply contracts for plantation sawlog until 2040.

The party previously pledged to “unlock” 40,000 hectares of native forestry – a move which has been criticised by a major industry body as well as conservationists.

Labor, meanwhile, said they would incentivise the development of 1000 private rentals over five years by providing 50 per cent land tax concessions for developers who construct build-to-rent developments which stay on the market for 30 years.