If Premier is so hell-bent on killing Games, at least spend it on something worthwhile

Don’t look now but the world is giggling behind our backs at the Olympic Stadium shenanigans. Surely we could use our money more wisely than that, writes Madonna King

Mar 20, 2024, updated Mar 21, 2024
It's over there. Or over here. Suncorp Stadium General Manager Alan Graham (left), Queensland Premier Steven Miles (centre) and former Rugby League great Wally Lewis (right) are seen at Suncorp Stadium(AAP Image/Darren England)

It's over there. Or over here. Suncorp Stadium General Manager Alan Graham (left), Queensland Premier Steven Miles (centre) and former Rugby League great Wally Lewis (right) are seen at Suncorp Stadium(AAP Image/Darren England)

You can’t have everything you want all of the time.

And while it would be heartbreaking for many, cancelling the 2032 Olympic Games might be a life-saver for more.

It will certainly be the only move that might keep Queensland Premier Steven Miles in his job.

Miles has made two slip-ups in recently weeks. The first was not to divorce himself from his predecessor; ensuring at least a chunk of the big anti-Labor swing was seen for what it was – an anti-Palaszczuk swing.

But the second mistake is what is muting wider support for his no-frills Olympic Games plan.

All we were told is that the Games, which is more likely to cost upwards of $10 billion than any of the figures so far talked about, will be downgraded.

And all we heard was that we will miss out on something else again.

But what if he had announced that instead of forking out $10 billion – with limited economic benefits because that has been shown repeatedly with previous Olympic Games – that money would be used to tangibly change the lives of Queenslanders.

What if he’d said the Games would be cancelled, because his legacy wouldn’t be a mediocre stadium and a couple of weeks of phenomenal sport in the state’s south-east, but a genuine drive to fix youth crime, and to put a roof over the head of every homeless person?

Yes, he could have said, it will cost billions but he had a plan to:

  • Double the number of police officers we have to 25,000.
  • Audit the 5000-odd administrative and police support positions and move them to the suburbs and towns across Queensland.
  • Re-open closed police stations, which would be staffed, and which would house those administrative positions
    Introduce suburban police patrols on horseback, or scooters or bikes.
  • Or take police out of flash stingers and let them patrol the streets in a Camry or a Kona.
  • Remove the ridiculous compulsory police retirement age of 60, which has seen world-class police officers like the former head of Taskforce Argos Jon Rouse leave the service. If you can run a marathon at 62, you probably can patrol a suburban Toowong street in a car.

That’s just the start. Other reforms could focus on the long-term causes of youth crime – but we could also – and need to – address the (hopefully) short-term epidemic we have now with tough laws that might even be able to carry sunset clauses.

It sounds harsh. But so is the consequences of having a gang break into your home in the dead of night, threatening violence, to steal a car so they can post it on social media, to gain ‘likes’.

But Miles, who says he’s heard the lessons in last Saturday’s electoral battering, also has to address the cost of living issues, which are breaking families and lives. That’s where the remainder of the Olympic money would be directed.

Here’s one fact: Foodbank Queensland last year worked with hundreds of schools to provide more than 3.3 million breakfasts across the State.

And we are talking about the economic benefits of a once-in four year sporting event which no other city in the world wanted to host!

What about the economic benefits in thousands and thousands of Queenslanders not living on or below the poverty line, being able to send their children to school with a full stomach, and an ability to learn?

We tell our kids we can’t have everything all the time; that we need to consider our priorities and plan accordingly.

We’ve got to do that as a State too. I love the Olympics as much as the next person, and was responsible for planning how Australians read it about it in 2000. I’ve sat in the front row of a Games, and screamed from the back row of others.

But we can’t build a Games and put a roof over people’s heads at the same time. Most people can’t even find a builder to fix their back deck!

And we can’t afford to do this now, either. Other cities around the world knew that. We are just finding it out a bit later.

So if you were going to cast your vote, would it be for a sporting mecca for a couple of weeks in eight years? Or a once-in-a-life time chance to change the story of an incalculable number of Queenslanders, across the whole state?

For me, it’s a no-brainer. And Labor might even find itself still in the race in seven months’ time.

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