OPINION: A Guaranteed Gold Medal in North Queensland.

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It’s a no brainer that certain Olympic events should be moved to the very regions that are actually paying for the Games. Mackay has one of the best Cricket stadiums in Australia, brand new and ready to roll, or rather bowl.

Australia won its sixth Cricket World Cup in India against the odds this month. While not many of the heroes from this victory will still be playing in 9 years’ time, we have the chance to repeat the feat at home for the Olympics when cricket will most likely be an Olympic event.

However, leading up to that moment, Queensland may miss out on hosting high level cricket matches as the Gabba is redeveloped as an Olympic stadium. The works there will likely make cricket homeless in Queensland for at least 4 years.

To fill the gap some have suggested that a new cricket stadium should be built in Brisbane to host Test and other major matches. How much more does Brisbane deserve to get from the Olympics?

Already the Queensland and Federal Governments are investing $7 billion on new Olympics-related infrastructure. Most of this funding is coming from the massive taxes the Queensland Government is levying on our coal industry.

Instead of building a new stadium in Brisbane, which will presumably just play second fiddle to the Gabba once it is rebuilt, why don’t we build a new stadium in regional Queensland. A regional Queensland venue would deliver a legacy for the games which would give us an alternative city to host future cricket and AFL matches of all types.

We already have a world class cricket ground which can step up. When the LNP were last in government we invested $10 million to upgrade the Great Barrier Reef Arena at Harrup Park in Mackay.

In recent months Mackay has hosted international cricket (including a pink ball day night match), a 4-day Sheffield Shield match and an AFL Women’s Gold Coast Suns game. Cricket Australia now rates the Great Barrier Reef Arena as the best cricket ground in regional Queensland.

So I am working with the local Member of Parliament, Andrew Willcox, to start a campaign to bring Queensland’s test match to North Queensland. With minimal investment regional Queensland would get a world class oval shaped stadium. And, we would promote our wonderful Great Barrier Reef to the world and grow our tourism industry. Just imagine how sunburnt the Barmy Army would be after spending a few days at the Whitsundays before or after the Ashes.

Ever since winning the bid for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics Games, the Queensland Government has claimed that the games will benefit all of Queensland, not just the south-eastern corner. The Government and our sporting bodies need to make sure that promise is kept.

Regional Queensland stepped up in 2021 hosting a sell-out NRL game in Rockhampton, and two sold-out games in Mackay. These successes gave us the chance to show that while we might not have the biggest venues, we have what it takes to put on a good show for those that want to see their teams play.

The state government has committed to venues for the Olympics in both Townsville and Cairns but if it’s truly going to benefit the whole state the area between the Sunshine Coast and Townsville should be seeing some of that benefit.

This month I took a Senate inquiry to Mackay and we saw first-hand what a world class facility the Great Barrier Reef Arena now is. The whole of the country deserves to see and cheer on our World Cup heroes and it is about time we have a first-class cricket stadium in our regions.

Hon Matt Canavan

Senator for QLD

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