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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 149


Senator FIFIELD (7:37 PM) —I have been provoked to speak in the adjournment debate as a result of the outrageous way that the former shadow sports minister Senator Lundy has misled the Senate. But I must confess I am a little hesitant to do so because I am concerned I might incur the wrath of Senator Kemp, who has always been extremely fond of Senator Lundy. He has often said that if he had to pick anyone in this chamber to shadow him he would pick Senator Lundy, so I am just a little wary—but I will continue regardless.

Senator Lundy has misled the Senate as to the government’s policy on and commitment to water safety in this country. Senator Lundy said in this chamber today:

... the reality is the government has provided no additional funding to support and promote programs which could save Australians. The $10 million over four years promised in the 2004 federal election campaign for water and alpine safety initiatives merely maintains the current annual appropriation for these programs.

She continued:

The absence of any real increase in the funding to reduce the number of fatalities that occur each year demonstrates the Howard government’s ... real commitment to water safety in this country.

It may seem a small thing but I think to misrepresent the commitment that the government has to this important group of volunteers is something that should not go uncorrected. Little wonder, I think, that Senator Lundy was replaced as shadow sports minister. The wonder is that she continues on Labor’s front bench.

Let me put the record straight. The coalition’s sports policy released at the last election, Building Australian Communities through Sport, could not be clearer on this issue, and I should take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Kemp on a first-class sports policy. Let me quote directly from page 6 of the sports policy:

A re-elected Coalition Government will boost current levels of funding for water, and snow, safety initiatives by $10 million over the next four years.

This will include $6 million to support the development and implementation of national Surf Lifesaving, Royal Lifesaving, Austswim and Australian Ski Patrol programmes.

This support will enable these organisations to increase the effort to reduce death and injury caused by drowning and near drowning.

I will continue because I think it is important to read from the policy to set the record straight. It says:

$4 million over four years will be provided to implement high priority projects ... identified in the revised National Water Safety Plan, due to be released later this year, and to deliver targeted innovative water safety campaigns aimed at reducing drowning in high risk groups, such as the 0-5 age group and young adult males.

                  …         …           …

Funding for these new initiatives will bring the Coalition’s total commitment to water safety to $21 million over the next four years.

I should take a moment to acknowledge the wonderful work of volunteers in the water safety area, people like—if I might indulge—Dr Scott Fifield of the Mount Martha beach lifesaving patrol.

The document goes on to record the government’s commitment to the celebration of the centenary of surf-lifesaving in 2007. The crunch line in the policy states:

Funding for these new initiatives will bring the Coalition’s total commitment to water safety to $21 million over the next four years.

It is clear, it is in black and white and it is in the government’s policy that we are providing an additional $10 million for water and alpine safety initiatives. Senator Lundy falsely claims that the $10 million commitment in the coalition’s sport policy merely maintains current annual appropriations. She is plain wrong. This is new money and clearly tops up existing funding.

Again, for the record, in 2003-04 funding for water and alpine safety was $2.473 million. In 2004-05 the figure will be closer to $5 million as a result of the government’s commitment. Senator Kemp has already written to Surf Life Saving, the Royal Life Saving Society, AUSTSWIM and the Australian Ski Patrol Association to advise them of this additional funding. It is extremely disappointing that this policy area has been misrepresented. Under Labor’s policy, confirmed by Senator Lundy today, there is a commitment to provide only $2.2 million, which is well short of the government’s commitment—it is about 20 per cent of the government’s commitment.

It is disappointing that this has happened. It is no surprise though—Labor in government has an interesting track record in sports. We well remember Ros Kelly and the sports rorts affair. Labor’s two main contributions to the sports portfolio have been to try and build a four-lane freeway through the AIS and to make outrageous allegations about shooting galleries in the AIS, which did not exist. It is disappointing that sport is sought to be used for political advantage. On this side of the Senate, we will not do that, and we hope not to see any further attempts to do so from senators opposite.