Berejiklian Government ministers lose faith in $2.5b stadium plan
"I have not had an issue that has boiled up as much as stadia."
That's the worried assessment of one unhappy minister in the Berejiklian Government about its $2.5 billion plan to rebuild the Sydney Football and Homebush stadiums.
The proposal has been met with widespread dismay in and out of Parliament.
Anxious ministers won't speak on the record but they clearly believe the longer the Coalition sticks with the policy the more votes will be lost.
Since December those ministers and plenty of backbenchers have been privately telling journalists just how bad the reaction has been.
"It will kill us," said one.
"It's political poison," offered another.
A senior minister told the ABC this week: "I'm very concerned. This can't be explained away … I cannot believe it."
Another said "I've had hundreds of emails about our stadia plan. You thought greyhounds was bad, it's nowhere near this."
That's right. The assessment of some in the State Government is that this issue is worse for its electoral hopes than either the greyhound racing ban or local council amalgamations. And both of those were reversed.
Minister on the record
One MP has gone on the record about the stadium plan. Backbencher Matthew Mason-Cox, a Liberal member of the Upper House, said the Government's priorities were wrong.
Mr Mason-Cox argued the money being spent on stadiums would be better off spent on helping the state's most disadvantaged children.
"Let's not forget the vulnerable families who are left behind every year in this state, that have their cases closed to the tune of 55,000 kids, which is an absolute disgrace," he told the ABC.
He said disappointment within the Government began when the decision was "rammed through" in secrecy by Cabinet.
Despite the growing resentment in Coalition ranks there's no hint from the Premier that the policy might be ditched.
In a heated exchange with reporters last week Gladys Berejiklian insisted: "That is our policy."
Is history repeating?
History suggests she might want to be more flexible.
In October 2016, Liberal MP Peter Phelps and the Nationals' Chris Gulaptis told the ABC's 7.30 they wanted then-premier Mike Baird to overturn the greyhound racing ban.
It was only a matter of days later that Mike Baird did just that.
So just why is Gladys Berejiklian so wedded to the stadium plan?
Some speculate it's because on this issue she has the support of the influential broadcaster Alan Jones and The Daily Telegraph. That's the exact opposite of Mike Baird's situation with the greyhound ban, where nearly every morning he was being beaten up on the issue in the paper and on radio.
At the time Alan Jones was scathing of Mr Baird's decision, and ultimately of his leadership.
On stadiums though, he's an avid supporter. But as a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, some are questioning his influence.
Gladys Berejiklian would no doubt welcome support from Alan Jones who, at the time she became Premier, said she was a "bad choice".
But it only makes any consideration of backing down on the stadiums an even more difficult prospect.
Premier knows the risks
The sentiment from some in her Cabinet, though, is that the policy has to be ditched, or at least changed, even if it is tough.
One senior minister told the ABC: "I would rather be criticised for changing and listening than being pig-headed."
There's speculation that if the Government does make a change it will be to go ahead with rebuilding the Sydney Football Stadium, but to put any major fix of the Homebush arena on the backburner.
That, of course, would open the Government up to criticism that it's prepared to splash money around for the rich and powerful in the eastern suburbs, but not for the west.
The Premier would know the risks. Backflip on the stadiums plan and she could be judged as weak, rather than listening to the electorate.
Stick with it and she faces a growing perception that the Government has become arrogant and deaf to the community.