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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11630

Address at the Offcial Opening of York Park Launceston, Tasmania

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/08/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11630

E&OE..................

Well, thank you very much, Mayor, to the Premier of Tasmania, Jim Bacon, Senator Jocelyn Newman, my other Parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

I always enjoy coming to sporting grounds as you know along with, I'm sure, everybody in this room, in this dressing room. I see sport as one of those things that unifies Australians and cuts across all of the other divides that may be in our community. And that's even becoming increasingly true of the various football codes we play in this country. When I was a young bloke growing up in Sydney, not only did people in Sydney sort of usually look with indifference on the football codes played in Victoria and Western Australia and the other non-rugby league or union playing states, but even between rugby union and rugby league there was an enormous divide. But as the years have gone by one the great things I think has happened in relation to football in this country is that it has become increasingly Australianised. And there are now increasing numbers of people in traditional rugby areas of Australia that are following with great interest the AFL. And it's amazing in a city like Sydney how many people now follow, not only as spectators when the Swans and other teams are playing, but also on television, follow with a tremendous interest and affection the fortunes of Australian Rules.

And I hope that in a small way this $5 million grant from the Federal Government will play a part in strengthening the support for and the participation of Tasmanians in the football code I know that predominately claims their affection and that is the AFL. And I know that there is growing interest of some of the best known AFL clubs from the mainland in this part of Australia and I know there are representatives of even of some of those clubs here today. And I welcome and encourage that growing interest across state boundaries and that growing movement to well and truly complete the Australianisation of football in our country.

This ground, to use the jargon of the Mayor, is AFL compliant. It looks a magnificent surface and even to the relatively untrained Australian Rules eye of the current Prime Minister, it looks and feels extremely smooth. I didn't give it the Tony Greg key test. I didn't think that was necessary, I couldn't find enough bull eye soil in the middle in order to do that. But I did find walking across it a very smooth surface. The Mayor spoke excitedly to me of the 15,000 people that had gathered here for the Olympic Torch. And what a fantastic unifying experience that Torch Relay has proved to be. And isn't it wonderful how quickly some of the cynicism and reserve and indifference in relation to the lead up to the Olympic Games disappears once we are into the real thing. And the real thing started when the Torch arrived in Australia, and that real thing is going to continue right through until the holding of the Games.

I know how very important, from what I've been told, I know how very important the development of York Park is to the strength of Australian Rules football here in Tasmania. I know of the measures that were taken several years ago to address some of the concerns people felt about the strength of the game. I know how strongly supported it is at a junior level, and I also know from other experiences that I have had where the Federal Government, for a combination of reasons, has decided to directly assist in either the creation or the upgrading of a sporting field. I remember the pleasure I had in opening Graham Park, which is primarily but not totally a rugby league field in Gosford on the Central Coast of New South Wales which we jointly funded along with the New South Wales Government and I opened it in March of this year. And the exhilaration that that facility brought to the community and I know also of the tremendous encouragement that the supporters of that beautiful cricket field in Bellrieve have derived from the support that the Federal Government is giving to that ground.

Now this is a joint effort, $5 million from the Federal Government, $1.4 million from Launceston City Council. And in my discussion with him this morning, I know the Premier is personally very committed to the promotion and marketing of the ground and the promotion and marketing of the opportunities and the importance of getting major AFL fixtures to this ground. I understand the economic and other dynamics of the code mean that if things like that can be achieved that will represent another marvellous step forward. But you need the basic facilities, you need a good playing surface, you need good facilities for the players, you need comfortable, congenial facilities for spectators. Australian sporting spectators will no longer put up with inferior facilities. They like decent facilities and the more that they can be provided and the more locations they can be provided, the better it is.

And the other great advantage, can I say, and it's always a dilemma with, particularly with football fields, the other great advantage of this is that it is compact, and you are close to the game. I was saying to the Mayor that it may exciting to be one of 110,000 people at Stadium Australia watching a rugby test, or at the grand final in Melbourne in the Great Southern Stand, but you are a long way from the action. And although it can be enhanced and brought to you by the replay screens, there is nothing quite like the intimacy of a smaller ground like this or Bellrieve. And I know on the occasions that I have watched an Australian Rules game at the Sydney Cricket Ground from the Old Members Stand, you are really quite close to the action there compared with say, right up even in the where they have the sort of the guests, the Great Southern Stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. So it's got that great facility.

So, as you can see, ladies and gentlemen, I'm pretty enthusiastic about this particular expenditure by the Federal Government. I think every last dollar of it has been very well spent indeed. I mean everything we spend money on is very well spent, let me tell you. I wouldn't want you to think we regard ourselves as in any way profligate. But this is really, you know, this is a very, very good one this. And we are pretty enthusiastic about it. And we hope all who play here, all who change here, and all who view here and cheer here enjoy a great Australian pastime; that's watching football and in the process of it, if it can make a contribution towards the, how shall I put it, the greater prominence of a Tasmanian based club in the AFL, it's somewhere along the road that that materialises then nobody will be more delighted than I and I know everybody else in this room will share that enthusiasm.

Thank you very much.

Transcript 11630