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A 13-month-long joint house and senate committee has unearthed a significant and widespread need for increased investment in the National Capital on the part of the Commonwealth Government.

The Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories tabled its report today having received 43 submissions and held nine public hearings. The main committee report makes 21 recommendations. 

ACT Independent Senator David Pocock, who serves on the committee, tabled additional comments and 9 further recommendations saying more ambition and a sharper focus was needed on the key investments that can shape the National Capital into a place in which Australians can be proud based on the evidence provided to the inquiry.

“The Committee has done some important work and I broadly support the main committee reports recommendations,” Senator Pocock said.

“I am concerned, however, that many of the main recommendations are too broad to be practically useful and are too influenced by the submissions of one or two stakeholders, rather than the balance of evidence presented to this inquiry.

“Canberra remains the least-known capital city in the developed world and we receive a disproportionately low amount of federal government investment.

“We were the only state or territory not to get a City Deal under the last government, despite some jurisdictions getting two or more, meaning we missed out on a slice of almost $10 billion in federal funding under the previous government. This deficit still hasn’t been rectified and seems to be part of a broader pattern of the ACT missing out. 

“According to a 2022 Royal Life Saving report, the ACT received $0 of the combined $316.5 million in Commonwealth funding delivered and committed for aquatic facilities across Australia from 2017 to 2022.”

Senator Pocock also noted concerns with the ACT Government’s interaction with the inquiry, saying they had failed to fully realise the opportunity it had presented. 

“Of 31 written questions on notice sent to the ACT Government following its appearance at the hearing, only seven received a response,” Senator Pocock said.

“This inquiry was an opportunity to put forward a strong case to address decades of underinvestment in the future of our city that unfortunately the ACT Government doesn’t appear to have taken full advantage of.

“There is a really concerning story we are seeing emerge across a whole range of areas - from Specialist Disability Accommodation to swimming pools - where the ACT Government isn’t putting in bids for buckets of Commonwealth funding.

“With such a small revenue base, we need the ACT Government to pursue every Commonwealth dollar that we might be eligible to receive and strongly make the case for increased investment.”

Senator Pocock’s recommendations sought to go beyond the “development of the National Convention Centre” recommended in the main Committee report to call for a full rebuild sufficient to accommodate the required exhibition space, consistent with evidence tendered to the inquiry.

Similarly, while the main Committee report recommends ‘upgrading’ Canberra’s stadium infrastructure, the evidence provided to the inquiry overwhelmingly indicated that a new stadium is needed. 

Senator Pocock said the main Committee report’s finding that “any new stadium would now only be built in Bruce” was not supported by the majority of evidence tendered to the committee which favoured a centrally located stadium co-located with a convention centre.

“The Australian Government wants to host the Conference of the Parties. We’ve known since the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2001 had to be moved from Canberra to Brisbane that we don’t have the capacity in the national capital to do this. But we should and we need to get cracking on delivering that. Canberrans have waited long enough,” Senator Pocock said.

Summary of Senator Pocock’s recommendations below - full reports available at this link

Recommendation 1

That the Commonwealth Government invest in the completion of the original City to the Lake vision, as presented in the ACT Government’s 2014 City Plan, to increase connectivity between the City Centre and Lake Burley Griffin, unlock land for much-needed housing and present space for Canberra’s new convention centre and stadium to be optimally located.

Recommendation 2

That the Commonwealth Government invest in the construction of a new National Convention Centre with an exhibition space of at least 10,000 square metres capable of servicing Canberra’s current and future needs as Australia’s meeting place.

Recommendation 3

That the Commonwealth Government invest in the construction of a new National Stadium co-located in Civic with the new National Convention Centre, and that the NCA work collaboratively with the ACT Government to modernise sound laws in the National Capital.

Recommendation 4

That the Commonwealth Government invest in the construction of a new Civic Pool in Commonwealth Park.

Recommendation 5

That the Commonwealth Government remove the efficiency dividend for all our National Cultural Institutions. 

Recommendation 6

That the NCA be given all parking revenue generated on the national land for which it is responsible, and that this additional revenue be used for the purposes of maintaining and restoring that land and the built assets it contains.

Recommendation 7

That the Commonwealth Government request Cricket Australia update its governance structure and the composition of its board to match the rights and representation of the territories to those of the states. 

Recommendation 8

That the Commonwealth Government co-invest with the ACT Government in a Home of Football for the National Capital by contributing the remaining $18.75 million needed to complete the project as originally planned.

Recommendation 9

That the Commonwealth Government provide additional funding to the ACT Government to support its efforts in improving the quality of water flowing into Lake Burley Griffin, including by replacing the concrete stormwater systems with naturalised creeks and wetlands.


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