Federal Golf Club defects to new clubs group in bid to build retirement units
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Federal Golf Club defects to new clubs group in bid to build retirement units

The Federal Golf Club has defected to the new Tradies-linked clubs group, believing that will result in a sympathetic hearing on its development plans.

The golf club wants to build 125 retirement units on its land at Red Hill, and will be asking the government to waive or discount the lease variation tax the multi-million proposal will attract.

Manager of the Federal Golf Course at Red Hill Scott Elias, pictured in front of the site the golf club hopes to use for 125 retirement homes.

Manager of the Federal Golf Course at Red Hill Scott Elias, pictured in front of the site the golf club hopes to use for 125 retirement homes.Credit:Gary Schafer

The clubs industry has been split by internal fighting and is now in turmoil over Chief Minister Andrew Barr's refusal to deal with Clubs ACT after it ran a fierce campaign against Labor at the last election. Gaming minister Gordon Ramsay confirmed this week that he, too, would not meet Clubs ACT.

Instead, the men are talking with a new industry group, Canberra Community Clubs, which was set up by the Tradies group, owned by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Burns Club president Athol Chalmers, who heads the breakaway clubs group that the golf club has now joined.

Burns Club president Athol Chalmers, who heads the breakaway clubs group that the golf club has now joined.Credit:Jay Cronan

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Now the golf club has joined Canberra Community Clubs, saying it expects a better hearing from the government if it belongs to that group.

"The government will talk to them. As far as I'm aware the government won't talk to Clubs ACT," general manager Scott Elias said. Canberra Community Clubs had a better relationship with the government and "that's pretty much it".

"It basically comes down to what's in the best interests of the club to get that development through ... We want to get it through this time and we will do everything we can."

Canberra Community Clubs had not made promises to the golf club, but the club believed "it's our best chance".

"I believe they have got the ear of the government. They have got the opportunity to speak to them, and that's what we want," Mr Elias said.

A spokesman for Mr Barr said the club was wrong to think it would get more favourable treatment in planning or in a lease variation charge waiver. He would speak to each club individually no matter which peak group it belonged to, and the outcome would not change, he said.

But Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said it was "sad for Canberra when good people think they have to appease the union".

"I guess they must do what they need to to move forward," he said. "Federal has been desperately trying to move forward on the lease variation charge which will be millions for the club. Without it, I understand their future is far from secure."

The golf club is the first club to defect from Clubs ACT to Canberra Community Clubs since the group was set up in May with a core group of four clubs: The Tradies, the Burns Club, the Belconnen Soccer Club and the Hellenic Club. The new group is chaired by Burns Club president Athol Chalmers.

Mr Chalmers would not comment on the golf club's decision.

Greens spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said she expected the government to treat each application on its merits. The Greens have opposed the golf club's redevelopment and Ms Le Couteur said it should only be done with a Territory Plan variation, given the land was zoned recreational.

"If a lease variation waiver is sought, then the Greens will continue to voice our significant concerns as to the loss of native vegetation, bushfire risk and potential impact on the local community," she said.

Separately, former head of Clubs ACT Jeff House has hit back at Mr Ramsay's explanation for why he won't deal with Clubs ACT. Mr Ramsay said the group was not apolitical.

But Mr House said the government was happy to deal with Clubs ACT when he was at the helm at the same time as he was (and still is) a long-time member of the Labor Party.

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For its part, Canberra Community Clubs was "about as apolitical as my left foot", Mr House said.

The Tradies Club was run by the Labor-aligned CFMEU, and the Burns Club board "reads like a who's who of an ALP branch meeting", he said, referring to the presence of two Labor members, including a two-time candidate, on the Burns Club board.