Topics: Port Adelaide Football Club redevelopment funding; Solomon Islands; New COVID variant; Rental crisis

Matthew Richardson, Port Adelaide Football Club CEO:  Delighted to be here today at Alberton Oval to announce the funding from the Commonwealth government and through Minister Birmingham, $15 million, which will now make the redevelopment here at the Alberton Oval precinct a reality. We’re really excited about what that redevelopment is going to do for the Port Adelaide Football Club, but more importantly, the broader community. So it will transform Alberton into a high performance elite sports precinct for our AFL men and AFLW women, which from a timing perspective, obviously is really, really important. But just as importantly, the facilities – it’s going to allow us to open up the facilities for community use with the West Adelaide Bear Cats, and also there’ll be junior soccer that will be able to be played here on the precinct. And then also, it will be a far more open and accessible precinct for the community to be able to use outside of our side of our training hours. So we’re delighted now to have all of the funding in place to be able to start the precinct. We’ll be playing our first AFLW game here in December, you know, a little over 12 months’ time, which we’re really excited about, got the girls out here and our next generation academy that I know are really enthused and excited about what that’s going to mean.

And, you know, on behalf of the Port Adelaide Football Club, on behalf of all the sporting organisations, they’re going to benefit from this development. I’d like to thank Minister Birmingham and the Commonwealth government and the Prime Minister for their support and also the other the other funding partners that are going to make this possible and also thank the city of Port Adelaide and Enfield for their support in approving the vision that we’ve got for Alberton Oval. Alberton Oval has been the home of the Port Adelaide Football Club since 1880. It’s a really important part of our football club and intrinsic to who we are, and we’re just delighted that now with this transformation that Alberton Oval will be our home for another, hopefully 100-150 years. So I’ll hand over to the Minister for a few words.

Simon Birmingham:  Thanks, Matthew. I’m thrilled to be here to confirm the Morrison Government is providing $15 million to support this extensive redevelopment of Alberton Oval. This funding is going to ensure that the historic Alberton Oval, is match fit for AFLW when Port enters the competition late next year. And that’s going to be such an exciting opportunity to inspire next generations of young girls and women, to play footy, to participate evermore and to see the opportunities of elite sport and particularly of AFLW as a competition to aspire towards. This place has been the home of so many historic scenes over the years, and it’s going to be incredible to see AFLW matches able to be played here under lights, broadcast to the nation into the future. And the funding we’re providing will make sure the historic Alberton Oval here is that match fit destination for AFLW games in the future. I acknowledge Matthew, David Koch, the chairman of Port, and indeed many others have worked very hard to work forward and work up these proposals who have been discussing them with me for many, many, many months and their patience and perseverance in working through to build the case for this support. It’s not just going to provide facilities for AFLW, but also enhanced community facilities for the broader Port Adelaide community. Additional facilities for the playing of soccer, for the playing of basketball and for other community activities that will be able to ensure that this site, the home of Port Adelaide, is also activated as much as possible as a sporting and community precinct for the Port community and the broader western suburbs of Port Adelaide communities.

So many congratulations to Port Adelaide for the hard work they’ve done to develop this proposal forward, to the other funding partners and acknowledging, in particular the state government and Steven Marshall’s support for this project as well. But we look forward to seeing it rise up with great new lighting, great new facilities and ultimately exciting new women’s footy players on the ground from late next year, with the best facilities in the nation available to them.

Stick to questions on this redevelopment first and foremost for Matthew or me, and then if there’s any others, I’ll happily deal with those redevelopment.

Journalist: ADF and AFP have been deployed what’s the response been like from locals?

Simon Birmingham: We are very grateful to the people of the Solomon Island as always, for the way in which they have engaged with and respected the role that Australia has played in the Solomon Islands previously and is playing again right now. Our on the ground in the Solomon Islands is about helping to restore peace and security for the people of the Solomon Islands. The politics of the Solomon Islands are a matter for the Solomon Islands themselves, but we are there at the invitation of their government to support that development of peace and security for their people. We do now have resources on the ground helping to provide protection for critical infrastructure and helping in particular to the Solomon Islands Police Force, and to be able to help to provide greater stability. It’s been a very difficult few days for the Solomon Islands, we are aware of the tragic destruction of buildings, the threat to life that has occurred. And of course, we want nothing more than to see that peace across the Solomon Islands restored.

Journalist: How long will they be there and have they been received at this early stage?

Simon Birmingham: At this very early stage our officials and forces on the ground are working hard to help to provide that restoration of peace. They are, I believe, a respected and welcome force on the ground by the people in the Solomon Islands. The work at present is to get that stability there. The intention is that this is a mission lasting weeks, not months. That’s where they’re under the invitation of the Solomon Islands government under the bilateral security treaty we have in place with Solomon Islands. But of course, we’ll continue to work with them in terms of the exact duration.

Journalist: Are they working with PNG personnel who are also over there?

Simon Birmingham: Papua New Guinea has dispatched a police personnel as well and will be working in conjunction with the Solomon Islands Police Force support from Papua New Guinea, our own police and ADF personnel working closely with all of those partners and Prime Minister Morrison has had discussions with a number of other Pacific Island leaders, including the prime ministers of Fiji and New Zealand in recent days, who have also warmly welcomed Australia’s leadership in this regard.

Journalist: Worrying developments out of South Africa. Do you think that Australians will keep seeing the quarantine rules changing over the coming year, given there are more variants?

Simon Birmingham: The Minister for Health will outline some of the detailed steps that our government is taking in terms of protecting Australia from this new variant that has been identified by the World Health Organisation as a variant of concern. We’re taking early precautionary steps to make sure that Australia continues to be as protected today as we have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I really closure of international borders last year helped to keep COVID-19 from our doorsteps and has enabled us to get to this situation where we have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world providing the protection for Australians. This new variant of concern, we want to make sure we also keep from our doorsteps as long as possible to enable us to work globally with our partners to get all of the possible details and information around it well understood so that we know just what level of protection is necessary and how best we can continue to keep Australians safe.

Journalist: Back to the Solomon Islands from a humanitarian point of view. What can Australia do?

Simon Birmingham: Well, Australia has a significant humanitarian program with the Solomon Islands already and we work through our international aid and development assistance programs to support everything through education, health and economic development. Activities in the Solomon Islands we’ll continue to do that and do that in partnership with whomever the government of the Solomon Islands may be.

The Solomon Islands are part of our Pacific family and his family. We care for them. We want to support their wellbeing. And right now and the peace and security so that people can live safe lives in the Solomon Islands is our paramount concern.

Journalist: The PM said that other foreign countries were responsible for the protest. What do you think he meant by that?

Simon Birmingham: We don’t wish to draw into the political commentary that relates to this. Our concern is for the people of the Solomon Islands and ensuring that they can enjoy the type of peace and security that they deserve.

Journalist: Just a few questions on rent. Do you agree that there is currently a rental crisis?

Simon Birmingham: What Australia has seen through COVID-19 years is an incredible degree of economic strength across the nation. We’ve managed to keep people in jobs, keep businesses safe and secure. And from that, we’re able to keep our economy strong. That is certainly led to very strong housing markets across the country. There are many, many property vacancies around the country, though at present. Certainly, it depends what you’re looking for in terms of the degree of vacancies that are there. But we have provided enormous support, particularly in terms of tax cuts and other measures that right now are providing many people support some $1.5 billion a month across the nation right now, additional money going into the pockets, households and families of Australians and to help them when accessing home or indeed meeting day to day living costs.

Journalist: So there’s been some figures seen by 7NEWS that are indicating that there’s rent increases that haven’t been seen before. What do you have to say to that?

Simon Birmingham: Look, we are making sure that Australians have the best opportunity in terms of employment and making sure they have extra money in their pockets through our tax cuts some one and a half a billion dollars a month going into the pockets of hard working Australian families and households to help them with all of their different living costs. Thanks, guys.