The long-awaited Queen’s Wharf Brisbane complex is due to open in 2024, although the Palaszczuk government hasn’t commissioned or finished an independent and full study about the impact on the community.
Absence of research labeled “disgraceful”:
The non-appearance of the aforementioned state-supported study into how Star Entertainment’s latest casino might influence gambling patterns, vulnerable individuals or crime in Brisbane was categorized as “disgraceful“ by Dr Charles Livingstone of Monash University, a flagship gambling researcher. In this regard, he said: “It’s an attempt by the government, I suspect, to avoid unpleasant news.”
Additionally, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has received over $2 million from Queensland to produce baseline reports on topics like gambling and safety impacts, connectivity and tourism, which will allow for future data, as soon as Queen’s Wharf officially open, to compare with the existing ones.
Problems preventing further research:
However, as the Brisbane Times reported last week, future stages of the aforementioned study have been deserted in their most comprehensive form due to postponements, government-imposed data secrecy and financing issues.
On that note, Kerrie Mengersen, a professor at QUT university in Brisbane, wrote to the government three years ago, back in 2020, stating: “It is almost impossible to attract potential investors [to fund the study’s later phases] if we cannot show them any results from the project to date. This is such a shame: the [project] is a fantastic innovation, a tribute to the [government’s] long-term vision and commitment to the state, and an important vehicle for obtaining important insights into the society, economy and future of Brisbane.” However, the request was dismissed. The aforementioned government has not allowed public use of any Queen’s Wharf statistics other than its own data, in addition to that of the Destination Brisbane Consortium (DBC) on cash for the economy and construction jobs.
Furthermore, QUT submitted the aforementioned baseline reports back in 2019, but as the government moved to review them post COVID-19, it dismissed them as “dated.” Relatedly, Livingstone, though he had never seen the aforementioned reports as they stayed in the custody of the ministry, wondered how the data that had already been collected could somehow be irrelevant now. Commenting on this, he asked: “If they’ve got baseline data – which may be the most representative data available, given that it’s pre-pandemic – why wouldn’t they publish? Why wouldn’t they continue a study over a period of time so it can detect changes against those baselines?”
However, the State Development Department stated that the government will primarily direct its focus on its own regulation and legislation rather than moving forward with the QUT project.
The reason for the failure of the QUT project:
According to the 2021 documents, it appears that the government believed that it was of the utmost importance for QUT to conduct a multi-phase study before and after the official opening of Queen’s Wharf. On a related note, the department wrote: “Undertaking the phases post-completion … is essential to provide value from the work undertaken to date, to ensure a rigorous longitudinal study is undertaken over time, and to provide meaningful measurement of the state’s and DBC’s KPIs for the development. Should the study not continue, the state would need to examine other ways to measure the public benefit and other KPIs, or rely solely upon advice from DBC.”
What’s more, the exact reason for the failure of the QUT study project stays puzzling. Additionally, the state government only committed to assist with financing the first reports and supported QUT to attract investors for the later stages. On that note, in compliance with the 2020 documents secured according to the Right to Information laws, Star and DBC would represent “key targets for this funding.”
Also, speaking to the Brisbane Times, Star and DBC said they had “no role in the study, even though they had previously committed money (the exact amount was blacked out by an RTI officer) and were signatories to the study’s memorandum of understanding.”
According to the QUT spokesperson, elements of the study will be carried out via PhD students and their wider project “Monitoring Major Infrastructure.” However, it would not involve Star, government of the Queensland or DBC. He added: “All the partners met their obligations in the first stage. It may be disappointing, but it is not uncommon because of changes to timing, priorities and/or personnel that the involvement of different partners can vary over a long period.”
When asked if some other study was currently underway or completed, which could very well represent a community impact study, the government stated: “We continue to monitor benefits and track delivery of Queen’s Wharf Brisbane in accordance with the development agreements. Further measurement of public benefits and impacts will be undertaken post-opening of Queen’s Wharf Brisbane.” In addition, it is also compiling a wider gambling poll which seeks to understand Queenslanders’ gambling habits, participation and harm. The 2023 survey, which will be revealed during the first half of next year, includes sections on work, health, psychology, legal matters, finance and relationships.