Independent ACT senator David Pocock has accused the Albanese government of "pure politics" and taking Canberrans for granted in the wake of a new review of the Canberra-based Australian Institute of Sport.
The Canberra Times has revealed the government is seeking a "clear-eyed view" of the infrastructure needs of the "national home of sport" in a two-and-a-half month review to be undertaken by the chair of the National Intermodal Corporation Erin Flaherty and CEO of Sport Inclusion Australia and Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee board member Robyn Smith.
It comes after this masthead last week revealed contents of the confidential AIS masterplan showing the Australian Sports Commission rejecting the "significantly high execution risk" and more than $1 billion cost to move the AIS to south-east Queensland ahead of the 2028 and 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.
Senator Pocock wants the federal Sports and Infrastructure Ministers to rule out relocating the AIS as any potential move "shouldn't be contemplated.
"It's part of Canberra. The people who work there are Canberrans. It's played that role as a national institution for decades now. Why would we spend a billion dollars to move it elsewhere? Where for a few 100 million we could make it world-leading again," he told The Canberra Times.
"The only reason you do that is if you think well, 'Canberra's gonna vote for us either way, so let's send it somewhere where we might need to win seats in the next election.'"
This masthead has sought comment from the Infrastructure Minister Catherine King.
Senator Pocock insists moving the AIS should not have been part of the review's terms of reference.
"It's hard not to think it's pure politics. Four very safe Labor seats [in the ACT]. Will we hear from local MPs and the Minister of Finance about this?" he said.
The AIS master plan business case, which will form part of the review, showed the cost of moving the AIS assessed at a minimum of $600 million, exclusive of land costs, but could cost in excess of $1 billion in initial capital investment.
The master plan also shows moving the AIS would take "at minimum" an additional four years and accrue a "significantly high execution risk" for athlete preparation for the 2026 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2028 and 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.
Ultimately, the commission, headed by swimming legend Kieren Perkins, chose the option of staying in Canberra but spending $200 million to upgrade existing facilities.
The new review's terms of reference show it will examine the Australian Institute of Sport, including its "optimal location" in the context of the 2032 home games in Brisbane and the proposed revitalisation of the existing AIS campus.
"The independent review of the AIS Infrastructure will give the government a clear-eyed view on priority investment in the AIS in the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond," Ms King said in a statement.
"This is part of a national approach that supports international competitiveness and achieving success at upcoming major sporting events, including the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Queensland officials have been lobbying to move the AIS for several years, garnering support from former Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates and former sports commission chairman John Wylie who have criticised its location and age.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Monday said the AIS review ought to "absolutely confirm" that the best option is to reinvest in its Canberra campus.
Senator Pocock said the work of the Sports Commission should be listened to.
"I don't understand why we need the review and so disappointing to see them leave the door open to relocation. It is again, Canberra getting taken for granted. I'd love to see the government rule out relocating the AIS," he said.
"The AIS has to stay in Canberra. It is one of our institutions. It's been world-leading. We've seen a lack of investment from government over a while now. The answer is not to reconsider everything, including potentially moving it to Queensland. The answer is to invest in it."
The review will look at what facilities are required for the AIS to "achieve its purpose" and to "deliver on its responsibilities" in supporting high performance athletes. Around 5,000 athletes and staff from 31 sports will use the AIS campus every year.
It will also consider international best practice developments and consult with state and territory governments, national sporting organisations, the Australian Olympic Committee, Paralympics Australia, current and prospective athletes, sporting peak bodies, and industry.
The review is due to deliver its report before the end of the year with distinct and prioritised options for consideration by government.
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