Adelaide 500 Motion Speech
You can find the transcript below:
That this house—
(a) condemns the Marshall Liberal government's decision to cancel the Adelaide 500 race;
(b) notes the negative economic impacts that the cancellation will have on the local hospitality and tourism industry; and
(c) recognises the need to restore a sporting event that has received bipartisan support for more than 20 years.
Thousands of South Australian businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and tourism industries are looking at an empty space in the calendar this month as they mourn the loss of an iconic international motorsport event, the Adelaide 500. Held annually in and around the city's east since 1999, the event drew hundreds of thousands of people to our state and to our city. In 2019, the event injected $45 million into the South Australian economy, creating 435 full-time jobs and attracting more than 15,000 interstate visitors.
Over the years, this race placed Adelaide on the international motorsport stage. Acclaimed commentator Murray Walker declared it the most pre-eminent touring car event not just in Australia but in the world. Now it is gone, which is of course a devastating blow to our motorsport enthusiasts. However, there is also the economic, employment and reputational damage to our state to be considered.
Over the years, successive governments have lauded the success of the Adelaide 500. A look back in Hansard demonstrates that the only contention was whether the government of the day, from either side, was investing enough in the event and its infrastructure. Whether it was the jobs created, the volunteer experience, the festival atmosphere, the booked-out accommodation or the excitement of hosting international bands such as the likes of Kiss, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robbie Williams, the bipartisan enthusiasm for this event has been unwavering. In fact, let's revisit the very words of the former minister for tourism, the Hon. David Ridgway, who addressed a question by one of his colleagues in the other place with the following:
It is the largest motorsport event in Australia. It is one of the largest production motorsport events in the world. It has close to a quarter of a million visitors every four years. It has a 21-year history. It often wins national tourism awards. What it does is, it fills all of the hotels. It activates Adelaide. It is one of the few times that Adelaide is chock-a-block full.
We have great events—the Tour Down Under, the Fringe, the Festival, all of those things—but this actually fills every hotel for about a week. It is an exciting time of the year, and I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question and the opportunity to highlight to the chamber the importance of this great event. An initiative that was started under the former Liberal government over 20 years ago, it has now grown to be one of the nation's great sporting events, a great sporting festival. We are proud that we started it back more than 20 years ago, and we are proud to be associated with it today.
Until now, because now it is gone, because Premier Steven Marshall and the Liberal state government, who for decades claimed this event for their very own, have walked away. I do not need to stand here today and even articulate why. I know that the axing of this event is a devastating blow for our state. There are plenty of stakeholders willing to go on the record. Former supercar driver and five-time championship winner Mark Skaife said that he was absolutely gobsmacked by the decision. I quote:
It is one of Australia's biggest sporting events and, at a time when hospitality and tourism is being smashed by the pandemic, it is a government decision that is extraordinary.
The 2016 Adelaide race winner and former Holden worker Nick Percat said that the Premier's reasons for scrapping the event did not make sense. I quote:
He's just used COVID as a scapegoat. You know the support for us is growing—all the numbers have grown in the previous years.
Just two years ago, the then acting Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the member for Chaffey, declared the following:
We know this event is a significant economic driver for South Australia, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year,15,000 from interstate, who provide enormous flow-on benefits for the city's hotels, bars, restaurants and local retailers.
Regional tourism operators also experience uplift as visitors stay longer and experience all the wonders our state has to offer.
Since its inception, the race has injected more than $600 million into our state's economy and created hundreds of jobs.
The race is getting bigger and better each year.
So why has the Liberal government axed this incredible event? Let's work through the various reasons that have emerged from the Premier since the cancellation was announced last October. Make no mistake: the reasons have been changing as each one was exposed as a complete fabrication. Initially blame was laid on the coronavirus pandemic and an alleged long-term decline in motorsport evidenced by the lowest crowds at the 2020 event in 17 years.
As articulated by Percat, this is utter nonsense. The reasons for the smaller numbers in 2020 were attributed to a number of factors, including South Australia's catastrophic bushfires, the emergence of COVID-19, extreme heat and a smaller concert line-up compared with that of past years. Despite lower crowd numbers, 206,000 people still made it the largest supercar crowd in Australia. EventsSA executive director Hitaf Rasheed told the ABC, 'I still think more than 200,000 people across four days in anyone's language is still a great crowd.'
Premier Steven Marshall then claimed it was unviable to host the race in 2021 or any other year going forward because it could not be managed in a COVID-safe way. This was immediately repudiated by the Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, who corrected the record to note that SA Health had not been approached by Adelaide 500 organisers about holding a COVID-safe event, more evidence that Percat's observation that COVID was being used as a scapegoat to axe this event was entirely accurate.
It then emerged that the state government had actually requested that the event be moved to the end of the year, and the organisers had agreed, so it was a genuine surprise to all concerned when the contract was ripped up and the event permanently axed. Premier Marshall confirmed under questioning in estimates that Supercars were only advised the night before the announcement to axe the race was made public.
That brings me to the question of what damage we have done to our state's reputation when a multimillion dollar international sporting event can have its contract ripped up without notice or warning. Supercars themselves said, 'We regret that the South Australian government has decided to cease holding this event.'
So, with the initial excuses for axing the race exposed as being nonsense, the Premier moved on to a new reason for axing the Adelaide 500—the expense. Suddenly an event which over the years had injected north of $40 million back into the state economy every year was no longer providing bang for buck for South Australian taxpayers. There has been much talk of ring-fencing the Adelaide 500 expenditure to roll out a series of smaller events, but talk is cheap, and the events have not been forthcoming in any numbers that would compare with the 90,000 accommodation nights the race provided each year.
Now we turn to the economic cost to our state of cancelling an iconic, internationally renowned event established for more than two decades, an event that has evolved over time, adding a depth to South Australia's knowledge of event management, an anchor event in the calendar that contributed to not only the economic welfare of our state but our social welfare as well. What happens when you remove an anchor tenant from a shopping centre? You see other stores close their doors and move to a location where the foot traffic will resume.
The Adelaide 500 was an anchor tenant for our state. Whether you were a motorsport fan or simply a lover of a good concert, the race literally brought Adelaide to life. Let's remind ourselves that, since its inception, the race has injected $600 million into the state economy. It was recognised on several occasions as the winner of the Major Festivals and Events category at the Australian Tourism Awards, and it has been inducted into the Supercars Hall of Fame and the South Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame.
Despite a drop in attendance in 2020, the event continued to have a record economic impact for our state. With high numbers of interstate and overseas visitors and a massive television audience globally, it has been the jewel in the crown of the South Australian tourism sector. Now, at the whim of the Premier and the Liberal government, it is gone. I will leave you with a final message from Supercars themselves: 'If at any time in the future the South Australian government decides to recommence the Adelaide 500, Supercars will be delighted to be there.' A Labor Malinauskas government will do just that.