Question: Royal Croquet Club


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 14:55 ): My question is to the Premier. How much money did the state government provide to the Royal Adelaide Club as part of the Qingdao International Beer Festival sponsorship, and what was the nature of this funding? 

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL ( CheltenhamPremier) (14:55): I understand that the Royal Croquet Club, or the Royal Adelaide Club, as I think it has latterly been known, has made, largely at the behest, I think, of the Adelaide city council, a decision to engage in a project as part of the 30th year celebrations of the sister state relationship between South Australia and Shandong Province. 

As part of that, there was a Qingdao beer festival, which they decided that they were going to participate in. I think the Adelaide city council has since formed a sister city relationship with Qingdao. I believe that that would be an excellent way of demonstrating our friendship between the two jurisdictions—the city and the state, Shandong and Qingdao—during that period. They were very supportive of that. 

At their urging, they also requested the South Australian government to provide some support for the Royal Adelaide Club, and I think we did provide some support. Indeed, I think they did participate in the Qingdao beer festival, but I will bring back the precise amount of the financial support that was given to that project. 

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 14:57 ): Supplementary: given the Premier's answer just then, in which it was characterised that the Royal Adelaide Club, perhaps with the encouragement of the Adelaide city council, undertook some engagement with the beer festival in Qingdao, why then did the Premier identify in March last year that a substantial presence at the Qingdao International Beer Festival was a coup for South Australia, and why was the presence there described as a joint venture between the Adelaide city council, the state government, Australian Trade Alliance and The Social Creative, the Adelaide company behind the Royal Croquet Club? 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH ( WaiteMinister for Investment and Trade, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Defence Industries, Minister for Veterans' Affairs) (14:57): I will take this question because I am in a position to provide some additional information, Mr Speaker. Let's just be clear about this: this was a proposal by the Royal Croquet Club. It was their venture from the outset. They came to the council and to government seeking support. It was completely their idea. On 15 June 2016, the directors of that organisation announced that the company, along with its parent company, The Social Creative, and the Royal Adelaide Club would be placed into voluntary administration partly as a consequence of their initiative. 

Several corporate entities associated with the Adelaide Croquet Club launched that venture to which the member refers. The SA government was one of many sponsors in the private venture. We wanted them to succeed, but it was their idea. I will say to you that when I spoke to them I urged them to do a reconnaissance and some thorough business research before they put their neck out. I strongly urged them to go to the Qingdao beer festival and look at what unfolded, rather than relying upon information they had been given. 

The decisions they made in regard to how they approached the matter are for them to answer, but it has been made publicly available how it ended from their point of view. The South Australian government— 

Ms Chapman: We know that, but how much did you give them? 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH: Well, if the deputy leader would like to ask a question, hop up and ask one, Vickie. I have been waiting for a question from you. On Facebook, the club claim: 

The Royal Adelaide Club is an initiative led by the Adelaide City Council and the South Australian government to celebrate the sister city and sister state relationships with Qingdao and Shandong Province. Coopers Brewery, Yalumba Wines, Mori Seafood, Cleanseas Seafood, Stehr Seafood and Adelaide University will represent South Australia at the Royal Adelaide Club during the month-long festival. 

That description was not quite correct. The SA government was a sponsor only. We provided them with support. It was their venture. The Royal Adelaide Club showcased SA food, wine and beer in Qingdao, and I give them credit because they put on a very good show. They put on a very good show and they established a very good presence in Qingdao, and it was actually quite a good stand. The only trouble was that people didn't turn up, and had they turned up I'm sure it would have been quite successful. 

The Royal Adelaide Club Pty Ltd established in Qingdao an Adelaide trading company limited, Huangdo, in order to import sample products, such as beer, wine, food, beef, lamb and pork. I am advised they approached the Adelaide city council with concerns regarding import duties and bond-store delays, and those concerns were raised with us and we tried to help them with it. I just make the point that this was completely a private venture. We would love for it to have succeeded. We were, along with the council, happy to support them, but essentially it was their show and it was theirs to run. Now, that's what happened. 

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:01 ): My supplementary question is to the Premier. Given the minister has just advised that—and I think his quote was—'nobody showed up', what due diligence did the Premier undertake before telling the people of South Australia on 31 March last year that more than one million people will learn more about the tourism and studying opportunities we can provide in South Australia as a result of that sponsorship reported to be $600,000? 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH ( WaiteMinister for Investment and Trade, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Defence Industries, Minister for Veterans' Affairs) (15:01): The member is obviously not listening to the answer. You need to listen to the answer before you ask a supplementary question because, as has been explained, this was completely a private venture by the entity concerned. The $600,000 sponsorship, which has been publicly reported as having been provided, was in the hope that they would succeed. 

They spent much more than that and they lost a significant amount, and we are very sad that that occurred on their behalf. But when a private venture goes to another country and runs an event, that is the risk that you take, and it would have been delightful if it had been successful, but it wasn't. We were happy to support it, but unfortunately it didn't work out for them. 

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:02 ): My supplementary question is to the Premier. How many other projects received $600,000 in state government sponsorship, and I quote from the minister's answer just then, 'in the hope that they could succeed'? 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH ( WaiteMinister for Investment and Trade, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Defence Industries, Minister for Veterans' Affairs) (15:02): It's a silly question. It's a silly rhetorical question, but we're accustomed to silly rhetorical questions from those opposite. There clearly isn't any intent of there being a serious answer, so I think we will just dismiss it as another bit of opposition nonsense. 

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:03 ): Why has the government been at pains to describe this as a private venture in which they were not involved—in fact, all the interest came from The Social Creative themselves—when that is clearly a contested point in many public fora, and the Premier himself, in March last year, described it in different terms? 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH ( WaiteMinister for Investment and Trade, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Defence Industries, Minister for Veterans' Affairs) (15:03): It's never a good idea to make up your questions off the mobile phone on the spur of the moment without having run them through your question time committee because the question is like— 

Members interjecting: 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH: Here they go. Here they go. There's a 20-year project over there to get into government, and I wonder how successful that's been? It's one thing to set targets; it's another one to achieve them. It might be another 20 years before they get there—but nothing like a target. Work away at it, boys, but you will have to ask better questions than these. 

Members interjecting: 

Mr GARDNER: Point of order: standing order 98, the minister is going nowhere with the substance of the question. 

The SPEAKER: The member for Morialta provoked such a response with his question, and I hope it's now over. 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH: I'm sorry, Mr Speaker, but I'm just dying to further answer the question because in his question he purported that we, as a government, had not supported the project. We have made it clear in our earlier answers that we did. We would like for it to have succeeded, but unfortunately it did not. It would have been terrific if it had become an annual event, but unfortunately the venture has been unsuccessful. 

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:04 ): Supplementary: given the minister's description that he had hoped it would be an annual event, and reports that the sponsorship was for the event proceeding over two years, how much money is the South Australian government owed as a result of the failure to fulfil the second year of the proposed contract? 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH ( WaiteMinister for Investment and Trade, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Defence Industries, Minister for Veterans' Affairs) (15:04): I will come back to the member with a more detailed response, but I will say this: the project—

Mr Whetstone: You are pathetic. Get a brief. 

The Hon. M.L.J. HAMILTON-SMITH: Coming from the member for Chaffey, that's a wonderful compliment because the member for Chaffey is a person who certainly understands incompetence. I have made it clear to you that the government gave the project $600,000 for a two‑year commitment. The project has failed. The project owes us $600,000. In effect, we have lost our investment. As far as I am aware, and I think it has been made clear by the entity, they have no intention of returning for a second year. 

Sadly, the venture has failed and others have lost money. There is a long list of creditors involved. Sadly, this one has been unsuccessful. If you want to know what went wrong with the project, go and ask the people who organised it and, hopefully, they will tell you. We were a supporter of the project, but others ran it and others invested their money and, sadly, it was unsuccessful. That is disappointing.