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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 88

Senator LUNDY (3:04 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for the Arts and Sport (Senator Kemp) to questions without notice asked by Senators Lundy, Forshaw and Carr today relating to sport and the Sydney Dance Company.

What we have witnessed today is the absolute height of arrogance on behalf of the coalition government and the Minister for the Arts and Sport in relation to not only the sports rorts grants but also the handling of the Queen’s baton relay. I can just imagine Senator Kemp, and perhaps Mr Costello, before the election, swirling their cognac and puffing on their cigars in the warm confines of the Melbourne Club, surrounded by dark timber and velvet, and determining who were going to be the winners in their little sports rorts scam. I can see them swirling their cognac and having a look around the Liberal marginal seats saying, ‘Who needs a bit of special help? Who needs a few dollars on the side to spread around in their community to get them across the line?’ So it is no real surprise that they look to Makin and McEwen and the struggling candidates in those seats. They looked also to Bass, which had no less than $12 million thrown at it during the election campaign, more than half of which was related to the sports rorts grants.

Turning back to Makin and McEwen, the actual number of individual grants that were given to the member for McEwen during the election campaign is absolutely astounding—no less than 16 individual grants. In Makin there were six individual projects to the tune of some $210,000 and in McEwen there was funding to the tune of some $190,000. The question has to be asked: why on earth did the coalition not announce a program to fund regional sports facilities? There is no doubt that this is an area of need. I know it is an area where the state Labor governments have worked extremely hard to fill the gaps and service the needs. What this coalition has done that is so arrogant is to deny every community sporting club across the country the opportunity to pitch for this funding.

What contempt by the Howard government to pick and choose in this arrogant way in the lead-up to the election, without giving every sporting club around the country—clubs which are always in need of some federal funding support—the opportunity to bid, to apply, to go through a competitive grants process and to have their issues considered in a legitimate way by the coalition government. But, no, Senator Kemp, in his arrogance, decided to look after a couple of mates—the member for McEwen and the member for Makin—and make a determination in that regard.

It seems to me that the new characterisation of handling the sport portfolio in this country is one of being highly partisan. What a sad day it will be when that sinking realisation pervades the Australian sporting community. There is no doubt that the issue of the Queen’s baton relay exposes the heights of hypocrisy that this government is prepared to go to, to put in place a profoundly partisan approach. The cold wind of sports partisanship is at risk of blowing this torch out, as the minister makes it a prerequisite that it has to go through government members’ hands on its way to podiums around the country.

It is appalling that the minister has written in this way and provided these guidelines, ensuring forever that the spirit of sport in this country is captured and constrained by the government of the day. That was not Labor’s way. That was not Labor’s approach to sport, because we understand that sport in this country is about the grassroots, and we respect the grassroots of the sporting community here. It is right that they not only get access to grants but are involved in community events such as the Queen’s baton relay, without being subjected to pictures of John Howard and Costello. Please! What sort of insult is that? When those videos are viewed around the country, it is going to remind every Australian just what a ridiculous government we have in place now and how prepared they are to exploit the good nature of sport—the community glue that sport is in everyone’s lives—for their own political purposes. They will put a big black mark against— (Time expired)