Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019; Third Reading
I'm pleased to make a contribution in support of the third reading of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019. Again, I make it clear that Labor is supportive of the passage of the bill through the House. As my colleague and friend the shadow minister representing the shadow minister in this place noted, there are a number of issues, which I will briefly touch on, which will be examined through an important though brief Senate inquiry process, which hopefully will go further than the present arrangements, or at least go further in ensuring that we do maintain public confidence and integrity in sport. That is something that is just so important to so many Australians.
When we think about sport, it is so embedded in the Australian ethos. It's a matter of great interest to many Australians, of course, myself included, although I don't share my colleague's interest in rugby league—let me put that on the record in this place for the first time. I hope I don't have to clarify that issue again while I'm here. I hope no-one would suggest that I share his interest in Easts, which I understand is a matter of some concern to many people who would otherwise be good friends with the member for Shortland!
Sport is so important to who we are, but it's also important to how we see ourselves. In the issues that went to the conduct of senior members of the Australian cricket team, I think we saw a deep reflection across our society about how those sportspeople who represent us on the international stage conduct themselves. It was my privilege to be in the House for the contribution from the member for Warringah, who of course has done just that. I think her reflections are particularly apposite in this regard, and they're particularly apposite on this day, in this House, because what we have seen from the government, from members opposite, is an absence of integrity when it comes to the conduct of parliamentary business. We have seen members opposite treat this parliament as if it's their plaything, not a deliberative legislative body.
There is a contrast with this bill, where we have a proper legislative process where stakeholders and concerned members of the community will have an opportunity to test propositions, to test concerns about the regime that is to be established. And what did we see in the other place today? Lawmaking, possibly policymaking, on behalf of the government in the shadows. As Senator Wong said, it's the deal that no-one dares to name. We don't know what happened there on matters that are just so fundamentally important, matters that are more important, I dare say, than sport—how we look after vulnerable human beings; our commitment to ensure that people in our care can access medical support on the basis of medical advice. A government with integrity would have at the very least put all the issues before the Australian people through this parliament. They would have allowed the debate. And it's incredibly disappointing, when we talk about upholding integrity in sport, that we do not see integrity in the legislature or indeed, and more particularly, in the executive government of this country.
The bill before the House is a response to the recommendations of the Wood review, again, as the shadow minister touched upon in his remarks. In essence, it would bring together a new agency of the Australian government, which would be known as Sport Integrity Australia. This was recommended in the following terms by the Wood review:
… establish a National Sports Integrity Commission to cohesively draw together and develop existing sports integrity capabilities, knowledge and expertise, and to nationally coordinate all elements of the sports integrity threat response including prevention, monitoring and detection, investigation and enforcement.
These are important aspirations, and the Wood review has given us a template to make these aspirations a reality—to build more confidence in the administration of sport and its integrity, and particularly to deal with issues of doping, which I may have time to touch on specifically in the course of my contribution.
But let me be very clear in saying this: Labor supports further strengthening of Australia's sports integrity arrangements so that we can protect against ever-evolving threats, threats in some cases driven by technology, whether it's medical technology or IT technology that facilitates new and often concerning markets when it comes to sports betting, which has proliferated in quite extraordinary ways in recent times across a wide range of sports. Of course, when I talk about how Australians see themselves in their sporting heroes, in our national sporting teams, there's another, definitely darker, aspect to this, because these threats don't appear out of nowhere; they don't appear in a vacuum. They are connected to the operation of the most undesirable elements in our society. There is obviously the spectre of infiltration of sporting codes by organised crime, which is a concern that goes above and beyond the mere fact of corruption of a competition, or the cheating on the part of an individual athlete. These are very, very significant issues.
I think we're all conscious that when we look at these issues, we as lawmakers have responsibilities to have regard to some of the background issues which led to the establishment of the Wood review—shocking issues, particularly those that went to the alleged conduct of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority in relation to the supplements case connected to the Essendon Football Club. This is something, again, that raises issues that go above and beyond the sporting code. Here we have a group of workers, a group of young men, in a very vulnerable circumstance in connection with their employment, particularly some of the newer players. Who knows the damage that's been done to them, to their life prospects as well as to their careers as footballers, through the injustice done to them? This is such an important aspect of the anti-doping aspect of sports integrity, because it does go above and beyond these issues of basic integrity when it comes to sport. It goes to the wellbeing of individual sportsmen and sportswomen, which must be something that is in the forefront of our minds.
I'm aware that in conducting this debate we're reflecting on the journey that's brought us to the proposed establishment of this body. It would be remiss not to touch on some of the concerns that have been expressed consistently by those on this side of the House going to the administration of these very important portfolio responsibilities over the life of this third-term government, which is now well into its seventh year. Of course, the patchy approach the government has demonstrated towards sport generally has been demonstrated specifically with regard to sports integrity, with three different ministers having carriage of these particular reforms in the past two years. While the reforms appear sensible and well considered, and are based on a very important review, it is of the utmost concern that we haven't had that consistency in executive government. We hear a lot about stability from the government, but that has not been evidenced in executive appointments generally, nor specifically when it comes to issues like this, which are important but also raise a number of technical issues.
The shadow minister also referred to the issues that the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills raised. These are significant issues, because any question that goes to enforcement obviously enlivens rights as well as obligations of officers with statutory powers. When we consider these questions we have to make sure we get the balance right between affording appropriate powers and providing for effective checks and balances. These are significant concerns raised by the Senate scrutiny of bills committee and they do need to be properly ventilated through the work of the Senate community affairs committee through its inquiry into this bill. These are matters that I'm sure that government members will have regard to, perhaps, in their remarks as we proceed through the third reading stage of this very, very important bill. I know that they recognise, as we do, these integrity issues and these arising issues, whether they were based on technology—be it medical technology or information technology—or were simply the way in which some of these darker elements connected to our sport, or were simply due to people who were desperate to succeed at any cost. As the member for Warringah touched upon in her contribution, we have to make sure that our arrangements line up so that we can meet the threats of today, and, of course, anticipate and be capable of responding to the threats of tomorrow.
Integrity in sport is of the utmost importance. But let's be really, really clear about this today: it pales in comparison to integrity in our politics. What sort of government would be putting forward a Sport Integrity Commission proposal when it's failed to deliver on its commitment to a national integrity commission? That is a contribution that we will continue to prosecute on this side, because we need to restore trust in politics, and that starts with treating this parliament with respect and treating Australians with the courtesy they deserve—being able to participate in proper debate.