“I am 100 per cent committed to the Western Force and securing the future of rugby union in Western Australia,” Forrest said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is complete and utter nonsense.”
RA’s relationship with Western Australian rugby understandably deteoriated in the years after the Force were axed and Forrest stoked the fire by claiming the sources of the suggestion he may walk away were the same driving forces behind the decision to pull the plug on their involvement in Super Rugby three years ago.
“We strongly suspect these rumours are being sown by the parties that sought to damage the Western Force in the past,” Forrest said. “It is this off field disharmony that led to the disastrous near terminal funding decisions of the former board of Rugby Australia.
“Our commitment to grassroots rugby cannot be questioned – as recently as July, Nicola and I announced another $5 million to create an elite pathways program in Western Australia. This is on top of the $2 million we had already committed to women’s and children’s rugby in WA.
“We want to build and support our passionate rugby community – the young players, the mums and dads, the schools, the clubs, the volunteers – and make Western Australia a true rugby heartland.”
Now Forrest has secured the “rebirth of the Force”, he claims he does not intent on passing the baton back to RA. Instead, Forrest wants to make the Force – who did not win a game in this year’s Super Rugby AU – the strongest club in world rugby.
“The rebirth of the Force is one of Australia’s great sporting stories. My ambition is to now make the Western Force the strongest club in world rugby, with far more locally grown players,” he said. “We have only just begun on this journey and I am committed to seeing it through for many years to come.”
Western Australia will reopen its borders to NSW and Victoria from 8 December, Premier Mark McGowan has confirmed.
Travellers from those states will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days, having endured almost nine months of restrictions.
It means WA has removed border controls for all states and territories besides South Australia, which continues to grapple with a community outbreak.
Travellers from NSW and Victoria will still be required to undergo health screening and a temperature check at the airport, complete a G2G pass outlining recent travel and take a COVID-19 test if necessary.
“I’d like to acknowledge and thank everyone for their patience and understanding,” Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Tuesday.
“It’s been a long wait.
“As a country, I’m so relieved we’ve gotten to this point. It’s a credit to all Australians that we are nearly at the point of eliminating the virus in the community.”
Victoria has already reached WA’s criteria of 28 days without community transmission to qualify for eased border rules, while NSW has now gone 24 days without a locally-acquired infection.
Travel from SA remains prohibited unless arrivals meet strict exemption criteria and isolate for 14 days.
People driving across the Nullarbor from the east coast will also be treated as arriving from SA.
Mr McGowan said the border controls with SA would not change until at least 11 December and would be reviewed next week.
The premier said he was hopeful of soon reuniting with his NSW-based parents.
“The last nine months have not been easy,” he said.
“I know the border arrangements have put pressure on families and have been hard to comprehend at times.
“As premier of the state, I never thought I would bring in state border controls. It definitely has been an extraordinary year.”
Mr McGowan also announced places of worship will be exempt from the two square metre rule and able to operate at 60 per cent capacity, effective immediately.
WA recorded three new COVID cases overnight, all returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
Super Rugby AU will be played again in 2021, starting on February 19, with the Western Force joining the NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels in a 10-round competition.
This year, the Force were brought in at the last minute to make up the numbers after the normal Super Rugby competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The franchise, which lost all eight games in Super Rugby AU, accepted a payment from RA to be involved.
In recent years, the Force have been funded by billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, who has paid the bills since the side’s acrimonious exit in 2017.
Super Rugby bosses had been under the impression the Force would pay their own way again in 2021, but sources close to negotiations have told The Sun-Herald a request was made by the Force to split broadcast revenue evenly across the five sides.
While Clarke did not want to comment on specific arrangements with the Force, sources have told The Sun-Herald the intention is for the Force to receive an equal share of broadcast revenue.
RA allocates extra funding to Super Rugby franchises every year, but that won’t be given to the Force in 2021. However, the intention is for that to occur in 2022 where there will be full parity.
The Force have splashed the cash to buy players for next year’s competition, but questions have been raised about how long Forrest will continue to remain involved.
“The addition of the Western Force in the competition in 2021, where they will see a significant uplift in funding from what they received in 2020, is a stepping stone towards having five competitive teams for certainly 2021 and 2022 onwards,” Clarke said. “After what the game has gone through in 2020 with COVID, the entire rugby economy has had to look at its cost base and become much more efficient and effective and that stands us in good stead as we head into next year.”
Super Rugby officials have expressed concerns privately about what the Force’s involvement will do to their bottom line given the change to again fund five teams. However, RA’s view is that widespread cuts throughout the game have meant five teams in the long term is now viable, particularly with the security of a broadcast deal.
Clubs are still in the dark as to what the split of the broadcast arrangement is between cash and contra, and no salary cap or squad size agreement has been finalised.
Australian and New Zealand teams will take part in a six-week crossover trans-Tasman competition from May 14 to June 19 next year and RA hopes that will be expanded to a fully fledged tournament in 2022 to replace the old version of Super Rugby.
Meanwhile, Australian franchises are yet to see – or sign – a participation agreement for Super Rugby AU or Super Rugby Trans-Tasman. They do not know how much money they will receive from head office.
“We’re in final draft of participation agreements and they will be going out to the clubs in the coming weeks,” Clarke said. “Certainly we need to get them finalised … That will be done, I would imagine, by the end of this year, beginning of next year. All clubs will have clarity on the funding arrangements by next week.
“We’re making our dollars work harder. I think the game has been able to adapt and adjust its cost base.”
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Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald
Western United has kicked goals in the A-League, almost making the grand final in its debut season.
Value capture can help pay for big infrastructure projects by taxing the future rise in the value of land ahead of time
It’s allowed the Western United’s $150 million stadium to be built without state or federal funding
Property groups say land is taxed enough: 25 per cent of the cost of a ‘greenfield’ site is paid in tax
But it is off the field where they are having an even bigger impact, financing a new $150 million stadium essentially out of thin air.
In Melbourne’s rapidly expanding western suburbs, the new 15,000-seat Wyndham Stadium facility is set to rise out of a paddock and host games from the start of 2022.
No state or federal government money has gone into the plan to build the stadium, which has been entirely financed by the local government’s use of a ‘value capture’ model that could help boost infrastructure in Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
“Value capture is a closed-loop system of ensuring that the public receives a share of publicly funded infrastructure,” said Karl Fitzgerald, director of research at think-tank Prosper Australia.
“In Australia it’s largely the case that the public funds the infrastructure and private landholders who live nearby take the windfall [gains]. That has to change.”
Standing in a paddock about 20 minutes by train from Melbourne’s CBD, Kate Roffey explains the scheme.
Her title, director of deals, investment and major projects at Wyndham City Council, gives you a hint about the model — it creates public value by allowing a private developer to make a profit too.
“The ‘Field of Dreams’ we call it, because it takes a lot of vision to think that one day there’ll be a major sporting precinct out here,” she said, pointing to where the stadium will sit, next to a new station on the Melbourne-Geelong rail line.
Essentially, Wyndham Council — the fastest-growing area in Australia — has given a 100-hectare paddock to the Western United team.
The sale of the majority of the land to developers, beyond the land used for the stadium, will pay the up-front costs of the venue.
The concept is that a profit is made when vacant land is developed into commercial and residential options, and that profit goes to the development of infrastructure rather than into a shareholders’ pockets.
That’s because the land will be sold for commercial and medium-density housing around the new drawcard venue. That makes it more valuable than standard ‘greenfield’ sites, areas without infrastructure or other buildings.
“The biggest question is: is our council paying for it? And the answer is no, we’re not,” Ms Roffey said.
“We’re providing, at no cost, the piece of land, apart from about six and a half hectares for the stadium itself. Anything that the developer wants to develop on, they pay for … purchased at market rate, stays in the ownership of council and we use the profit to pay for the stadium.
“So you need a group of investors who were really interested in doing something good for the community, as opposed to saying ‘we could just buy the land, develop it ourselves and put the cash in our pockets’.”
The model is common in Hong Kong and has helped finance the massive new crossrail tunnel under London.
In 2016, the Victorian Government floated the idea as a way for landholders who benefit from infrastructure — such as a new underground train line being dug under Melbourne’s central business district — to contribute to the cost of projects.
But it hasn’t taken it up.
‘Golden pen tick’ worth millions
That’s a missed opportunity, according to Mr Fitzgerald.
“It’s in the hundreds of thousands, often millions of dollars with what we call the ‘golden pen tick’,” he said, describing the soaring value of land when it is rezoned from industrial or farmland to residential, particularly for high-rise residential towers.
“When the government gives you that that pen tick to build upwards, up goes the land value and you’re sitting on an absolute killer —you’ve made good, good money.
“A little bit is captured through land taxes, a little bit through council rates but really it’s crumbs on the table compared to multi-million-dollar profits that are made through choices of, for example, which way a train line goes.”
A live example is Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne.
The industrial zone, close to the CBD, is mooted as the largest urban renewal project in Australia and set to be home to 80,000 residents.
But when the former government rezoned the land from industrial to high-rise residential overnight — creating windfall profits for landowners — not only was none of that value captured, but the state was immediately priced out of the land it needed to build services like public transport, schools and open space.
It’s the real estate industry’s mantra of “location, location”, said Mr Fitzgerald — the true value of a piece of land lies in how well situated it is and what it’s close to.
“It’s crucial in real estate strategy but if you look at the economic theory it’s all but ignored,” he said.
“Value capture closes that loop so that those who have the best location and have the greatest windfall gains, actually contribute more back to the public coffers than those who live two, three, or four kilometres away.
“That’s the common-sense element of it. At the moment we’ve got this sort of take-take mentality and we need to change.”
Development risky enough, says property lobby
Property groups are less enthused about a potential new tax on land.
Former Property Council of Victoria executive director Cressida Wall explains that every step of the development process is taxed, and charges like property tax are already closely linked to the value of land.
“People who are participating in the property industry — consumers, people who buy dwellings, people who are tenants in commercial buildings — they are paying enough in taxes,” she said.
“They pay more than 45 per cent of state revenue, they pay 25 per cent [of the cost of] a new dwelling in the greenfields … that’s enough tax, they’re already paying enough.”
The council suggests the inherent risks in developing property are already accounted for in the financial models used to obtain financing. Adding a further level of complication would simply add expense.
“Property developers price that risk into what they do and where they can’t they have to get that money from somewhere else. The costs get passed on,” Ms Wall said.
“All projects are going face more challenges to get finance and stack up in a post-COVID environment where demand and sentiment is compromised. In that context, additional taxes are more problematic than ever.”
Proponents of value capture argue it can help finance the billions of dollars of infrastructure required in our increasingly dense cities.
Mr Fitzgerald points to 2016, when the last gasp of a property boom sent the value of land in Australia from just over $5 trillion to almost $6 trillion. (As of June 2020 it was up to $7.1 trillion.)
“Land values in Australia went up over $660 billion in one single year,” he said.
“Now if just a tiny curve of that went back to government we’d be able to build all the infrastructure we needed.”
Ms Roffey sees the concept as the answer for more than just the rapidly growing area she represents.
“We need to use more of these value-capture style mechanisms because we can’t keep going to state and federal governments and saying, ‘You build it for us’,” she said.
“Because we need trains, we need airports, we need major road construction, so part of the value capture idea that we’ve been working on down here is: ‘How can we help fill the infrastructure gap?'”
If successful, if could mean a lot more fields of dreams being built.
The AFL has given the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood more time to negotiate how much the Magpies will contribute towards new Dog Adam Treloar’s contract.
Nominally the clubs have to lodge contract details by Friday afternoon when they make the first list lodgment, which includes preliminary salary cap projections. It is not uncommon for extensions to be granted by the AFL and the league has told the clubs they are flexible on the time frame for them to reach an agreement.
The two clubs had an amicable meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue in detail for the first time since the trade period ended, when the deal to trade Treloar was agreed in the final minute of the trade period that ended on November 12.
The discussions centre around what proportion of the $4.5 million contract each club will pay over the next five years. The two clubs did not put an agreement in writing in the trade period’s frantic conclusion.
Sources said Collingwood believed they would pay a minimal amount of the contract given the Bulldogs gave up relatively little in draft terms. Had Collingwood been able to draw a higher draft pick in the trade, then the club would have been prepared to pay more of the contract to square off getting a better draft pick.
The Bulldogs were of the view the Magpies would still pay a significant amount of Treloar’s contract because it still meant they were clearing a big chunk out of their salary cap.
There is scope for the AFL to be involved to mediate the issue and there is no risk of Treloar losing any of his entitlements.
Collingwood are also expected to announce Jordan De Goey has been re-signed on a two-year deal within the next fortnight, club sources say, as they continue to reshape their list ahead of a crucial national draft on December 9.
The list reshape follows a tumultuous trade period for the club, when Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson, Tom Phillips and Atu Bosenavulagi were traded.
The Magpies have picks 14 and 16 in the first round as well as picks 65 and 70 in this year’s draft, but hold a future first-round and two future second-round picks in next year’s draft, where they are likely to gain highly rated father-son prospect Nick Daicos.
Coach Nathan Buckley admitted mistakes were made during the trade period but the course was the right one for the club to take.
On Wednesday the club delisted Rupert Wills and Flynn Appleby while coming to an arrangement with Magpies premiership player and best-and-fairest winner Dayne Beams, which allowed the 30-year-old to formally retire with two years remaining on his contract.
Brody Mihocek has extended for three seasons, while Tom Langdon’s future remains up in the air. The contracted defender admitted at the start of the season he would contemplate retirement if he could not shake a persistent knee injury.
The 24-year-old De Goey is facing an indecent assault charge for an incident that was alleged to have occurred in 2015. He was charged in July this year and was due to appear in the Magistrates Court last month but the matter was administratively adjourned until April next year.
Beams thanked Collingwood for their “understanding, patience and care” as he formalised his retirement before the AFL’s list lodgment deadline.
The 30-year-old Beams has not played since round 11, 2019, having been unable to train or play in 2020 due to his physical and mental health issues.
He played 119 games with Collingwood and 58 with the Brisbane Lions.
“Challenges remain. That’s life. But with experience, understanding and the help of many people I am in a stronger position to deal with them,” Beams said.
“I have many teammates and staff at Collingwood to thank for helping me through a particularly tough time. The club’s understanding, patience and care were always there and the fact we were able to come to a mutual agreement is important to me.”
Hawthorn delisted Harry Jones and Mathew Walker while offering Changkuoth Jiath and Keegan Brooksby one-year deals as rookies. The Hawks also delisted Dylan Moore but will add him to their rookie list.
Richmond signed Ryan Garthwaite and tall Ben Miller for another season but delisted defender Derek Eggmolesse-Smith.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Kade Kolodjashnij has decided to retire after battling with concussion since joining the Demons.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
It’s early in the morning at Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women in the south of Perth, and prisoners dressed in grey and black uniforms are filing into a classroom.
Written on a whiteboard at the front of the classroom are the words moort,ngangk and koorlangka, from the Noongar language of Western Australia’s southwest, meaning ‘family’, ‘mother’ and ‘children’.
The centre, which prepares women for re-entry into the community, has been chosen as the trial site for the Western Australian government’s new Aboriginal Languages in Custody program.
The program was launched earlier this month during NAIDOC Week, and the first class was held at the centre a week later.
Noongar woman Denise Smith-Ali is a senior linguist.
Aaron Fernandes/SBS News
“They learn about Noongar words that relate to kinship … they can tell stories or sing songs in-language that relate to their families,” senior linguist and Noongar woman Denise Smith-Ali, who runs the class, tells SBS News.
“At the same time, we look at how kinship structures work, being separated from family, and try to link that back together.”
Any prisoners can take part in the five-week program, regardless of background, and different languages will be taught in other regions in partnership with local language centres when it is rolled out further, first to Hakea Prison in January 2021, and then across the state.
This class of about 20 students are of all ages and will all soon be released after completing varying sentences.
Emily* is a Yamatji woman in her 20s, who will be released next year after serving nearly six months in prison. She is enthusiastic about being able to take part in the program.
“Just learning your connections and your roots from where you came from and the changes that our Aboriginal people have been through,” she says.
About 20 students are taking part in the trial program.
Aaron Fernandes/SBS News
Ms Smith-Ali has researched the Noongar language for 20 years and been a qualified linguist for a decade. She has authored 58 books and worked with many senior elders across the 14 clans of the Noongar nation.
She says the Noongar program has been designed not just to teach a language, but to use culture to address intergenerational trauma. Many of the women at the centre have a history of trauma.
“When they are out of prison later, they can teach their own individual families about how to do that research, which is a very strong connection to their own land and their own identity.”
“They will also find out their totems, their heritage names. They will know the place names of where they come from.”
The initial Noongar language course runs for five weeks.
Aaron Fernandes/SBS News
The Languages in Custody program has been created and delivered by the Perth-based Noongar Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation (NBLCAC).
“Language is your culture, it’s your identity. It’s your spiritual connection to country,” NBLCAC manager George Hayden says.
“We teach community members, and the ladies are seen as community members here in the prison, so it’s the first time for us to actually get into a prison and teach languages.”
George Hayden says those in prison are part of the community.
Aaron Fernandes/SBS News
Mr Hayden, a Ngadj Ndadji Noongar man, was raised on a reserve near the WA mid-west town of Merredin.
“When I go back home to country, I’ve got to speak language to my ancestors. That’s why I think language is important to all Indigenous people across this nation,” he tells the women in the Boronia class.
“But for us in southwest WA, our language was taken away. Our elders weren’t allowed to speak our languages or practise culture because of past policies.
The program will expand to all WA prisons in 2021.
Aaron Fernandes/SBS News
WA Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan says the idea for the Aboriginal Languages in Custody program was first proposed by Kimberley MP and Gija woman Josie Farrer.
“She came to me and suggested that we have many Indigenous people locked up in Western Australia and a lot of them don’t know their language. Why don’t we use their time productively, as part of the rehabilitation process?” Mr Logan says.
“[It] is such a simple and obvious idea, but one that has never been tried.”
After the idea was proposed, the state’s Department of Justice held stakeholder sessions with language centres and prisoners.
Rhodessa Krakouer helped to develop the program.
Aaron Fernandes/SBS News
Rhodessa Krakouer, a Noongar woman and projects directory with WA Corrective Services says: “Initially, it was about having conversations with the community … culture is really important, but at the heart of culture is language.”
“When a person learns the language of the lands they’re on, it’s powerful.”
The program has been funded for two years at a cost of $300,000, with a pledge by the state government to provide ongoing funding for what it says is a first in Australia.
“This program will continue, it will exist, and hopefully, it will get the benefits for the individuals that we hope for,” Mr Logan says.