Struggling Gungahlin Jets have been robbed twice

The Canberra Times today runs an op-ed from me on the Abbott Government's shabby treatment of the Gungahlin Jets.
Struggling Gungahlin Jets have been robbed twice, Canberra Times, 17 February 2014

Among the guardians of Canberra’s community spirit are the people who keep our sporting clubs running. On scorching days and freezing nights, thousands of volunteers throughout Canberra make sure that there are sporting opportunities for everyone aged four to 94.

These people don’t ask much from the government, but occasionally a small grant can go a long way. One of these programs is Labor’s Building Multicultural Communities program, which gave $66,000 to the Gungahlin Jets to refurbish their clubhouse, and make it more secure.

The Jets – like most sporting clubs – aren’t political. They love their AFL, and run a damn fine team (though as patron of the Belconnen Magpies, I should be careful how much I praise them!). The Jets also have some innovative ideas about using sport to build a strong multicultural community. From Adam Goodes to Majak Daw, the AFL has a proud record of diversity, and the Jets wanted to be a part of this.

$66,000 isn’t much in the scheme of things, but Labor wanted to make sure that it was guaranteed, so we put money aside in the budget for the multicultural communities program.

And yet upon winning office, the Coalition retrospectively cancelled the grants. While the Jets management patiently worked with the department to see if they could get reimbursed for what they’d already spent, the club was told that they couldn’t get most of the money. Among other things, that meant no upgrade to the secure roller door, and no security cameras to detect intruders.

Then, as the Canberra Times has reported, thieves broke into the Jets Amaroo clubhouse last Thursday night. They damaged the building and stole items to be used for a fundraiser.

We’ll never know for sure whether the break-in could have been prevented if the Jets had received the grant, but we do know that the government’s penny-pinching didn’t need to happen. For all its hot air about ‘the age of entitlement’ coming to an end, the Abbott Government is offering tax cuts to mining billionaires and big polluters, and keeping open tax loopholes for multinational firms.

Indeed, the government went to the election promising a parental leave scheme that would pay $75,000 to the most affluent families to have a child. Just one millionaire family will get more if they have a child than the Gungahlin Jets were denied to build a better sporting club.

I’m not inclined to get angry about most things in politics, but what the Abbott Government has done to the Gungahlin Jets leaves me seething. If they have any decency, the Government will apologise to the Jets, and pay them their full grant this week.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser, and his website is www.andrewleigh.com.

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