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Speech on Olympics Planning

On Wednesday 15 February 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about sustainable planning for the Olympics. You can read the full transcript below.

E WATSON-BROWN: Faster action on climate change means no new coal and gas; that is a no-brainer. But it also means designing the infrastructure for the lives that we share, for the places we live, work and play to truly sustain life and reduce the costs to the planet and to people. We are in a climate crisis and a cost-of-living crisis. With good design, I believe we can tackle these dual challenges together, and some great opportunities present themselves.

Brisbane will be hosting the Olympics in 2032. The government often talks about the Olympics leaving a positive legacy. What a remarkable opportunity this would be to create, to demonstrate a model of an Australian sustainable city, a city that fosters sustainable living, affordability and access to housing, to public and active transport and to clean energy. There are so many great possibilities. For example, well-designed sustainable athletes' villages could, post Olympics, provide social and affordable housing that we so desperately need. Our public transport system could be upgraded to a better and wider service, providing good access for all on a free and frequent electrified network. We could create new green spines and link public parkland with major gathering places and shade trees to mitigate urban heat island effects and cool our ever-heating city. We could build neighbourhood clean energy hubs so all business premises and dwellings including rental properties could access clean energy. We could ensure that we optimise utilisation of existing sporting facilities, well connected with efficient public and active transport networks.

These are not radical propositions; they are sensible, value-for-money ideas. Other Olympic host cities have achieved long-term community benefit. That is what we need in Queensland to leverage this huge Olympic expenditure to provide a long-term positive legacy for our city and for people, not a short-term sugar hit boost to the development industry, who, I have to say, are salivating over the opportunities for them.

There are many examples of unnecessary works that will neither assist the community nor progress the sustainability of the city. The most contentious is the Gabba, the planned centrepiece stadium. We know that the main principles of sustainable resources are reduce, re-use and recycle, and it's very concerning that the current plan is to demolish an existing 40,000-seat stadium to build a new 48,000-seat stadium. If the federal government progresses with plans to help fund this, the community will lose out, with the tragic loss, for example, of the adjacent East Brisbane State School and Raymond Park. Spending $2.5 billion for 8,000 extra seats for a two-week sporting event, with the loss of a school and park, does not stack up. This is not value for money; in fact, it's a hugely irresponsible waste of public funds at a time when schools and hospitals across the country are suffering from chronic underfunding, public transport is not up to scratch and we have a cost-of-living and housing crisis. And the government is still insisting on $250 billion worth of stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy. That's bad business, that's poor planning, and there has been no consultation.

There's speculation in the media now that there might be a plan to ring fence this project from federal funds so that the federal government can distance itself while throwing money at the Olympics. If true, that's an admission that the federal government knows this is a bad deal, so why not share this reasoning with the people of Queensland or, better yet, use the Olympic funding to leverage good, sustainable design to benefit the community and the climate? The community does have a right to know what's going on, and that's why the Senate has ordered the government to tell us.

A remarkable opportunity presents itself right now to deal with these dual and interrelated crises of climate change and cost of living through clever design, creating sustainable, accessible cities and environments. Australia is a wealthy country with abundant natural resources and we are well placed to do this, so let's harness our collective will and our hearts and smarts to design the best solutions. Our very future depends on it.

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