ABC GRANDSTAND FOOTBALL
SATURDAY, 7 JULY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s $25 million investment to get Tasmania an AFL team; Labor’s grassroots footy fund.
LEHMO, HOST: It's not very often we welcome politicians onto the show before the big games here on the weekends but we are today - Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, welcome to Grandstand.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Lehmo. Hello, Angela.
ANGELA PIPPOS, HOST: Hi Bill.
LEHMO: Now, Bill - $25 million. Michael Gleeson from the Age with us as well here, Bill. $25 million being pledged to Tassie footy. I had no idea there were so many marginal seats in Tasmania.
SHORTEN: No, I think it is even bigger than that, isn't it? At the end of the day, Tasmania is a foundation Aussie Rules state. And we need to support grassroots footy, so in fact during the week, we announced $5 million to help upgrade football infrastructure for the clubs down there and in particular, money so that they can to put more junior teams on the field.
LEHMO: And this is conditional, isn't it, upon the AFL granting a licence, an AFL licence down in Tassie for both a men's and a women's team?
SHORTEN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, the talk of a Tasmanian team in the competition has been more talked about than the Tassie Tiger but what I would say is that we want to remove some of the blockages. Tasmania's got a lot going for it and so we're keen to put some money aside if the AFL wants to come to the party. But of course, you can't have a discussion about a Tasmanian team without looking at how you build the grass roots. We think it's all part of the same picture - Tassie football, got to focus on the grassroots, got to talk to the Tasmanian teams. I mean two of the perennial teams in the local competition had to pull out of the state competition on the North Coast which shows you that there's problems there. So we've got it back in junior footy but also give them something to aim for. So we said that if we can get the grassroots going, let's have some support for a Tasmanian team in the comp.
PIPPOS: Bill, this will be music to the ears of Tasmanians but there are critics of a team based in Tassie and those critics point to the small crowds at games this year when other teams have been down there. Is there any substance to that argument? Is the appetite there?
SHORTEN: You can't sort of helicopter in from AFL House and say, well here's a licence, do what you will. No, I think there's legitimate concern that grassroots footy in Tassie is struggling with teams withdrawing from the state league. There's a lack of clear pathways for developing players. The problems are especially acute in North-West Tassie. There were two clubs from North-west, Burnie and Devonport, not competing in the state league. So it's all part of the same picture. I think that we'll get more crowds and you'll get more people provided we look after the grassroots, we give them something to aim for as well.
GLEESON: Bill, how did you come up with the $25 million figure? Who advised you on that to go and decide -
SHORTEN: We go and consult people in football and we get our experts out to see what would be sufficient to help incentivise the AFL to come up with some money. You can't ask the AFL to do it all on their own. Some people might say we shouldn't invest money in football but I think that's the wrong attitude. I think when you look at the benefits of young ones playing football and playing team sport, I just think the argument’s a no-brainer. So it's all part of the same thing. If you like, an AFL license is the sort of glittering prize but I think what it is, is just another piece in the puzzle of how do you get young people away from the screens and out practising their, you know, practising team sport, joining a junior team - so it's all part of the same game.
I mean, 20 years ago a Tasmanian born team played a Victorian born team at the high level and that they could win. I'm not sure that could happen now. So I think it's about junior footy, it's about women's footy – which is without a doubt the single most exciting thing to happen in terms of the general sport – and it's incentivising the AFL to work with Tasmanian football to see if a licence is possible.
GLEESON: Bill, it does hinge on the AFL coming through with a licence. What consultation have you had with them and what indications have you had from them that this amount of money might be sufficient to persuade them and turn their head to do what you want them to do?
SHORTEN: Oh no, we've spoken Tasmanian people in Tasmanian football. We put this out there to the AFL, we'll see if they're interested. But one of the obstacles that's been said in the past is that, where you get the initial money to help make a licence realistic? What we're doing is taking one more roadblock out of the way. So we'll obviously talk to the AFL but we want to show that we're fair dinkum first.
LEHMO: So you've pledged this without gauging the interest of the AFL?
SHORTEN: Oh no. No, no, sorry - The AFL, Gill McLachlan came down to Tassie recently and I think they've come up with some good ideas too - this is in addition to what they're proposing.
Let's be clear, they've proposed a pathway towards a VFL team. They've proposed a TAC team, both men and women - or a boys and girls team for the TAC. So I think they're working on it but our real interest is how do I help a foundation state, where football was part of the sort of DNA, where some of it is crumbling - how do we get that focused again? Where are the footballers of the future? And this isn't just about elite football. Most kids who try and play footy in their teenage years will just do that, play teenage football but we've got to give people some prize, something to aim for rather than just saying it's all too hard and let them go back and play on their X-box.
PIPPOS: Bill, former Labor Premier Paul Lennon began pushing for a Tassie team about a decade ago, from memory. Why should the locals believe they are any closer to getting that team?
SHORTEN: Well I think that there's got to be a lot going on. If I was a local, I'd say that this is a hard thing. You know, they've heard this all before. The difference is that we're proposing to help support grassroots football. That's why we're putting aside money to help rejuvenate their facilities, to help fund junior teams but by the same token, I don't think someone at the federal level as ever before said, alright, well here is some money, let's put this into the calculations to see if it can tip it over into being reality.
And the reason why we can do this by the way, is that we've got plenty of other priorities for Tasmania, everything from hospitals to schools but as you know, there's a big debate going on in Australia about do we give money to the big end of town in tax cuts. I'd rather spend some on Tassie football frankly.
LEHMO: And I know sport is an excellent thing to invest in and I'm certainly not going to argue with you on that front but the AFL has a lot of money. The AFL has heaps of money so some people might look at this and go why are you giving $25 million to the AFL - they've got cash pouring out of that -
SHORTEN: No, we're giving it to Tasmania. Realistically, this is about Tasmania - it's not about the AFL. But everyone says that the economics and even some of your questions go to it. You know, crowd sizes and what have you. I think it is important that you use some scarce resources to help incentivise the development of a potential licence. Let's just move it as an issue. Sometimes mainlanders are more focused on a Tasmanian team than some in Tasmania and that debate will go on for a long time, this is a complex issue. I'm not coming on your show saying, hey presto, here's the money - it'll all happen tomorrow.
It's all about developing junior football, grassroots football but I do think that when you look at some of the support which other clubs have had from the Commonwealth, from stadium construction; you know, the footy stadium down at Geelong is paved in gold just about - you know, gold bricks. John Howard, I think, supported the Western Bulldogs. I know that in the last Federal Labor Government did some work to help Essendon set up their training facilities out near Tullamarine and also Collingwood. So I think Tasmania deserves some football investment. Many other parts of Australia have had it. The Townsville Stadium in that other code, that's getting Federal Government help. So I think that this is pretty modest, really.
GLEESON: Bill, Hawthorn is there at the moment and they receive State Government assistance and funding. Is this $25 million is one off to help establish a team? Would there be ongoing funding for any team that was there?
SHORTEN: At this stage, we've costed it to help as one off funding and it's contingent on the AFL. At the end of the day, the last thing you need is politicians or governments trying to run the football code. That's not what we're interested in doing. What we are saying is that this is a much talked about topic, we're happy to provide money for the grassroots and we're happy to provide some money as an incoming Labor Government to help move the issues about a Tasmanian team down the road to all the other points rather than just arguing about is there initial money for a licence.
LEHMO: Now, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten with us here on Grandstand. When you are making this announcement today and you're at a press conference and the cameras are on you and someone throws you a Sherrin, try and avoid handballing it or kicking it. Because that can turn into some vision that will be replayed over and over again - unless you're doing it in a room with Obama.
SHORTEN: Yeah, yeah. I agree. Listen, I think I'd cope. Having grown up in an AFL state - but having said that, I’m never going to ask people to vote for me for my sporting skills. I still remember that picture of Tony Abbott at Windy Hill chasing after a ball - I didn't know what that was.
LEHMO: Yeah, it's not a good look -
SHORTEN: And he is quite a fit fella.
LEHMO: We will never forget Johnny Howard bowling a cricket ball onto his toes.
SHORTEN: Yeah, my current opposite number, did he do a basketball shot?
SHORTEN: Anyway, it could happen to any of us.
LEHMO: Yeah, try and avoid that. Now, are you a Doggies fan, very quickly?
SHORTEN: No, Collingwood.
LEHMO: Oh, you're on the hot pies.
SHORTEN: But -
LEHMO: No buts.
SHORTEN: I do own two British Bulldogs, so there you go. Like most Victorians, the Bulldogs are you second team, wouldn't they? But anyway, imagine what happens if it's a Richmond-Collingwood grand final? Goodness me.
LEHMO: Well, it would be absolute mayhem.
PIPPOS: I just can't bring myself to imagine it right now -
LEHMO: There will be mayhem in Melbourne -
SHORTEN: Nah, it's a bit early to decide that, I get that.
LEHMO: There it is, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten - thank you for joining us on Grandstand
SHORTEN: Thanks for having a chat. Cheerio, have a lovely afternoon.