House debates

Wednesday, 4 December 2019


Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019; Third Reading

7:04 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | Hansard source

A very good ruling. I endorse it and I thank those opposite for their assistance. Their interest in integrity is noted, and I hope it continues, but this bill deals with sporting integrity. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019 responds to a key recommendation of the Review of Australia's Sports Integrity Arrangements, the Wood review, a very significant moment in Australian sporting history, responding to some truly scandalous behaviour that the member for Shortland outlined earlier. This bill would establish a new Australian government agency known as Sports Integrity Australia. This is in response to a key recommendation of the Wood review. This review recommended the need to 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.

This is worthwhile. Labor supports this initiative. It's important because we need to respond to what is an evolving integrity threat environment when it comes to sports. It's not just the doping that we've, sadly, become familiar with on the sporting field. It's not just the match-fixing or the corruption of competitions. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of the Wood review and the challenge when it comes to dealing with sports integrity is dealing with ensuring integrity in new and emerging sports. I want to talk a little bit, on my portfolio responsibilities in communications and cyber security, about the fastest growing sport in the world—that is, eSports. Those in this House may look quite askance at that comment.

Ms Murphy interjecting

I note the comments behind me from some keen squash players who might want to consider the glass house that they are standing in when they are throwing rocks at the despatch box here. However, eSports are the fastest growing sports in Australia. These are enormous competitions—games like Counter-Strike and League of Legends. Indeed, the League of Legends finals attracted a bigger audience in the US than the NBA Finals, the NFL finals and the baseball finals combined. It is an enormously followed game. They play in The Forum in Los Angeles, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers. In Korea they play in front of literally tens of thousands of fans. This is a multimillion dollar business. Many, many hundreds of thousands of people watch eSports from their homes via services like Twitch. There is a burgeoning industry of people who don't just play the games themselves but also watch the games from home.

Unsurprisingly, when there is a lot of money involved and when there are a lot of people engaged, we see the classic sports integrity issues emerge in this sector. Indeed, earlier this year Victoria Police announced that they had arrested six Australians in connection with an investigation into match-fixing in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive matches. These are the first arrests in Australia in relation to corruption and match-fixing in eSports. An investigation began in March this year after tips from a betting agency around suspicious behaviour, suspicious betting practices, around that tournament. What was going on here, the Victoria Police allege, is that players were arranging to throw matches and were subsequently placing bets on those matches. At least five matches were affected by the activity, and warrants were served on a number of people in relation to this across multiple states. Neil Paterson, the Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police, noted:

Esports is really an emerging sporting industry and with that will come the demand for betting availability on the outcomes of tournaments and matches.

I don't know much about whether there is an exotic industry that's evolved and whether you can do the equivalent of betting on ball-by-ball behaviour, as the member for Scullin indicated earlier, but there is a lot of money now tied up not just with the prize money but with betting on eSports in Australia.

The Wood review tackled this. One of the complexities with regulating eSports and dealing with integrity arrangements related to them is that governing bodies for eSports look a bit different to the governing bodies set up for traditional sports, shall we say. It's an emerging sector and an emerging governance framework. Sometimes these bodies are run by the developers and publishers of the games. Riot runs the League of Legends eSports competitions. That creates layers of complexity as well and potential conflicts, too, I would imagine. The Wood review, to be fair, didn't try to solve all of these problems. It didn't try to dictate an answer to these emerging fields where we are seeing the governance arrangements still unfolding. But it's something that we ought to pay attention to.

I think it's fair to say that video games more broadly, not just eSports, are something that deserve more attention in this place. Sales of video games in Australia each year are bigger by revenue than for the film and television industries combined. It's the kind of thing that really deserves recognition in this chamber—the scale of the role that it plays in our culture and in the modern economy today. Video games are no longer things that are played furtively in the rooms of teenage boys staying up past their bed times. Gamers come from all walks of life, and there are games designed for people from all walks of life. Indeed, one of the best games to come out of Australian producers last year was a game that won the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference award. That was Florence, a game about two people falling in love in Melbourne. It's a game about the relationship and emerging love. It's not the cliche of spotty teenagers playing on their consoles.

As gaming becomes a mainstream issue and a cultural product consumed by people from all walks of life, issues like integrity and ensuring the probity of eSports tournaments will become mainstream as well. It's an issue that it really is incumbent on all of us in this place to get across. I know it's something that I have discussed with my parliamentary colleagues and Senator Farrell, who has portfolio carriage of this, but also with Michelle Rowland, the Labor shadow minister for communications, who in the past has been a champion for recognition of gaming in Australia. Her predecessor in that championing role, Terri Butler, has had a lot to do in this space as well.

It's an emerging threat, it's an emerging sport and it needs an evolving response from government. It needs all of us to be engaged. As I say, eSports is the fastest growing sport in the world. It deserves the attention of all members of parliament in this House. It's not a triviality. It's big, big money and big, big crowds. The integrity issues are not limited to eSports becoming mainstream sports. This year the other thing that happened was that the Essendon Bombers launched an eSports team. That didn't last long. They've wrapped up now. They folded without an integrity scandal, which is a good effort for the Bombers! But eSports are becoming mainstream. It deserves the attention of all of us. It was recognised in the Wood review. Labor supports ongoing engagement on this issue.

(Quorum formed)


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