Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


National Sports Tribunal Bill 2019, National Sports Tribunal (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019; Second Reading

9:31 am

Photo of Raff CicconeRaff Ciccone (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As I was saying last night, I send my best wishes to the Collingwood Football Club as they make their way to the 2019 AFL grand final. Senator Van has just left the chamber. I am sure he would join me in wishing the Magpies all the very best.

I'd like to highlight a few findings of the Intergenerational review of Australian sport 2017. That review found that over 90 per cent of Australian adults have an interest in sport, with 8.4 million adults and three million children participating in sport each year. It also found that, in any 12-month period, nearly eight million Australians will attend a live sport event. Our love for friendly competition has naturally led Australia to having an exceptional track record of success in high-performance sport. There is no doubting that we have a long tradition of punching above our weight at the elite international level. On that note, let me put on the record my congratulations to the Australian cricket team, who defeated the English in the fourth test at Old Trafford over the weekend.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear!

Photo of Raff CicconeRaff Ciccone (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Minister. A grateful nation owes much to our mighty XI—and Steve Smith's trusty willow—who have managed to secure the Ashes in England for the first time since Steve Waugh captained the squad back in 2001.

The Intergenerational review of Australian sport didn't just analyse sport participation; it also reported on sport's economic contribution and concluded that it was equivalent to around two to three per cent of GDP. The sector employs more than 220,000 people and attracts roughly 1.8 million volunteers each year, making it Australia's largest volunteer destination. On Monday night here at Parliament House, at Surf Life Saving Australia's quarterly update, President Graham Ford reminded us and all the distinguished guests who were in attendance that surf lifesaving is the biggest volunteer activity in Australia. What a great example it is of something that is enjoyed as a sport and recreational activity also providing an invaluable contribution to our rich history.

The Intergenerational review of Australian sport also confirmed what we all know: that sport can make a major contribution not just to our health but also to our wellbeing. It found that participation by children created foundations for an active, healthy lifestyle, combating obesity and physical inactivity. It also found that sport improves outcomes in core academic fields, promotes knowledge retention and teaches valuable life skills. It found that the network of clubs and competitions brings people together like few sectors can. It is a rich source of social capital and our international success builds national pride and reinforces Australia's international reputation for excellence in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Together, these benefits result in every dollar spent in sport returning $7 of total benefits to Australia.

It's important to highlight again the valuable role that sport plays in our society. The reason for highlighting sport's value is to explain why the integrity of sport is worth protecting. Every time we hear or read a story about doping or match fixing in sport, it damages sport's reputation and devalues it. Thankfully, while there will always be exceptions, Australia has been proactive in deploying measures to protect against these and other threats to the integrity of sport here in Australia. As Senator Farrell mentioned the other night, the threats evolve, and that means that protective measures must also evolve. The National Sports Tribunal is just one part of a suite of measures that will form the government's response to the 52 recommendations of the Wood review. To paraphrase, the review states that, while larger sports have in-house tribunals staffed with experienced lawyers and experts with backgrounds in sports matters, many smaller sports just don't have the resources or capacity to run this sort of in-house integrity unit or dispute resolution body. The National Sports Tribunal, as proposed in the Wood review recommendations and in these bills, would provide those sports with a timely and cost-effective resolution process. The tribunal would provide an expert central hearing body that can supplement the work of current sports internal dispute resolution arrangements and would provide a forum for the smaller sports that just don't have the resources to run their own.

These bills seek to establish a tribunal that will have access to a panel of experts who are experienced in sports law or have backgrounds that qualify them, through practical experience, to determine sporting issues. There are three divisions proposed: antidoping, general and appeals. According to the review report, the model proposed for the tribunal is based on experience of dispute resolution mechanisms in other countries, such as Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, with modifications that the review panel considered appropriate for Australia. Advantages of the model include the conferral of powers to compel evidence from third parties, who may not be subject to contractual obligations to cooperate with inquiries or hearings. That could be an important power if we continue to hear about the so-called facilitators in sports doping cases. As I mentioned last night, there is a need for measures to strengthen Australia's sport integrity arrangements. That is something Labor has recognised and will support the government on. The establishment of the National Sports Tribunal through these bills is one step forward to also strengthening Australia's defences to any and all threats to the integrity of our sports. Can I also add that, as Senator Farrell pointed out in his speech the other day, Labor will continue to work with the government on the responses that put these recommendations together as part of the Wood review. We also look forward to working with the government on this matter in the near future.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Ciccone. I just remind senators that we don't reflect on whether senators are inside or outside the chamber. I know you did not do it with any intent. It is just a custom we have.

9:38 am

Photo of Hollie HughesHollie Hughes (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sport is at the heart of Australian culture, whether it is football in the dust bowl at the back of Moree or in the state-of-the-art facilities in Sydney, and Australians have absolutely no tolerance for corruption in sport. In August 2017, this government commissioned a review of Australian sports integrity arrangements. The Wood review was published a year later and showed us that sports integrity requires ongoing vigilance, and it outlined the need for the National Sports Tribunal. The Wood review is the most comprehensive review of sports integrity arrangements ever conducted in Australia. It's clear that we need a body to address antidoping and general disputes. The National Sports Tribunal will offer a cost-effective, transparent, timely and independent dispute resolution process for athletes and sporting bodies. It will hear antidoping matters, in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code and other sports related disputes, such as player selection and sports code-of-conduct matters.

We know that Australian sport needs to be protected from an evolving and increasingly sophisticated threat environment. This government is working to ensure that Australian sport, sport participants and the economic health and cultural and social benefits of sport to the Australian community are effectively protected. We are committed to supporting sport in Australia, from grassroots to elite; increasing participation in physical and recreational activities to promote physical and mental health; staging major world-class sporting events; and utilising sport as a vehicle to address disadvantage and social inclusion challenges.

In our budget, we're investing a further $385.6 million over five years in sport and recreation. This includes the extension of the Sporting Schools program, with $41 million for the 2020 school year to continue supporting schools partnering with national sporting organisations to deliver free sporting activities. This program helps children develop a lifelong love of sport and connect them with local sporting clubs. It benefits students all over our nation, including where my nephews went to school, Spring Hill Public School, where the level of fitness, team building and increased confidence through experiencing a variety of sports has been incredible. The Sporting Schools program allows schools to give their students access to physical education without increasing the financial burden on families. It gives students the confidence and capability to be active for life.

Our budget commitment also covers the Promoting Social Inclusion through Sport program, with $23.6 million over four years. This includes $19.6 million to local community organisations for diversity and inclusion programs delivered through sport and physical activity, announced as part of the population plan, and $4 million over four years from 2019-20 to expand and extend the government's investment in the Big Issue Community Street Soccer. We're also funding the Special Olympics Australia unified community sport program, with $1.4 million over two years from 2019-20 to improve health and physical activity outcomes for young people with an intellectual disability, and the Get Skilled Access disability and inclusion sport program, with $2 million in 2019-20 to provide support to schools and community clubs.

We're also funding grassroots tennis for girls, with $12 million over four years to Tennis Australia for the Community to the World Stage program, providing support pathways and inspiration to increase female participation generally in the sport of tennis and programs for girls. I love tennis, but I never played at Josh Frydenberg's level and my results could best be described as sporadically brilliant.

We also allocated $42.5 million in 2018-19 to expand the competitive community sport infrastructure grants program to run small- to medium-scale projects, bringing the total investment in the Community Sport Infrastructure program in 2018-19 to $102.5 million. Based on the government's existing industry growth centre model, we've allocated over $500,000 over two years from 2018-19 to develop the Sports Industry Growth Plan, and $2.5 million over five years to support the Sport Australia Hall of Fame mentoring program.

We're also investing $33 million over two years to safeguard the integrity of sport. We're introducing these vital reforms in response to the Wood review. On the whole, the Australian sporting community is law abiding and clean, but in this increasingly global environment we need to be ahead of the threats to keep Australian sport fair. We need to constantly evolve to protect our investment in sport. Global sports corruption and manipulation is evolving at an alarming rate, and Australia must have a comprehensive approach to tackling the threat. This is why the government is funding the National Sports Tribunal as a two-year pilot, allowing for the refinement of its operations. By establishing this tribunal, we're ensuring the community has access to a cost-effective, transparent and effective dispute resolution process. The National Sports Tribunal will be integrated into the current sporting tribunal landscape, complementing the activities of internal sport facilities presently in place and providing a timely and cost-effective alternative to the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Switzerland.

One significant change from the previous version of the bills package is that the National Sports Tribunal (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019 seeks to amend the Freedom of Information Act to exempt material from release where it's covered by the secrecy provisions of the National Sports Tribunal. This proposed amendment is necessary to ensure that parties to a dispute before the National Sports Tribunal have the appropriate guarantees around the protection of their information, including sensitive medical and health information. Without this assurance, individuals may be reluctant to utilise the National Sports Tribunal due to concerns about privacy and reputation. Similarly, parties may be reluctant to fully participate in proceedings or provide required information. Establishing the National Sports Tribunal is just another way we can support our athletes and provide more opportunities for Australians to be active.

9:45 am

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, I thank colleagues for their contribution to the debate on this very important piece of legislation. It demonstrates the passion which Australians hold for sport within our culture. In fact, it's probably notable that when Google came to Australia recently with its arts and culture exercise, which was launched in Melbourne, Australia was the first country in the world to have its sporting culture mapped as a part of that process and as a part of the global platform which is Google's arts and culture catalogue. It's the only nation that has had its sporting culture mapped. It has been designated 'Australia: Great Sporting Land', and I think that says something about Australia and how closely we hold our sporting culture, and that we are such a proud sporting nation.

I would also like to add my comments of congratulation to the Australian cricket team, which Senator Ciccone just made a note of previously, and, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I note that I'm the first sports minister since Rod Kemp in 2001 to have achieved the winning of the Ashes on foreign soil. It was a great sporting achievement in the brilliant cricket contest that is being conducted in the UK at the moment. It has been a brilliant sporting contest which I know has not only attracted a lot of attention from but also gives a lot of enjoyment to the Australian sporting public and, I suspect, sports lovers all around the world. It has been a great contest.

We have a well-earned reputation of competing hard but competing fair. However, inevitably from time to time, sports disciplinary matters arise that require resolution through a formal process. When this happens, it's important that there are cost-effective, transparent and consistent processes for resolution. Australia's current sports dispute resolution mechanisms lag behind those of many similar countries such as the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. They are inconsistent, subject to accusations of bias and lack powers to get to the truth, and that, I think, is a really important point. They can be costly for participants and can take excessive time to be resolved, particularly when matters have to be resolved in overseas jurisdictions.

The new National Sports Tribunal will eliminate these problems. As identified by the earlier version of this legislation introduced prior to the election, the government will pilot the National Sports Tribunal over two years to ensure it works at its very best, giving sports and participants access to clearer, faster transparent and cost-effective resolution of antidoping rule violations and other sports related disputes. I know many sports have been calling for such a tribunal, and the government, through the Wood review and this process, has listened and is delivering.

I will just make some brief comments with respect to the amendment of Senator Rice and the Greens which has been proposed during the debate. The government recognises that all people have fundamental human rights and are entitled to equal protection of the law without any discrimination, so we agree with the Greens' sentiments in the first paragraph of their proposed amendment. However, in relation to paragraph (b), the amendment does not relate to the actual operation of the tribunal.

The Sports Tribunal will exercise power of private arbitration, which is empowered by the agreement of the parties to resolve disputes that arise under the specific rules of an individual sporting body. All relevant parties to the dispute will be consulted prior to the commencement of any matter, and it is not anticipated that the National Sports Tribunal will develop or adopt policies regarding any substantive issues. Rather, the tribunal will on each and every occasion apply its rules of practice and procedure to disputes arising under specific policies and rules of a sporting body, which will vary between individual sports.

It's intended that the National Sports Tribunal will, through the appointment of tribunal members with a wide range of relevant skills and experience and through the statutory ability to inform itself, including through the engagement of expert witnesses, have the capability to deal with a broad range of matters. Therefore, the government will not be supporting the amendment moved by Senator Rice. I thank members for their contribution to the debate and commend the bills to the Senate.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the second reading amendment moved by Senator Rice be agreed to.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.