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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1462


Mr FISHER(3.53) —One of the many notable successes of the coalition Government between 1975 and 1983 was its innovative program and achievement in sport and recreation. During that time, in 1977, the sports development program was established to improve standards of administration, athletes' performance and coaching. This was supported by the national coaching accreditation scheme in 1979 to upgrade and standardise coaching education in all sports. Of course, 1980 was a year of outstanding achievement with the opening of the Australian Institute of Sport and with scholarships being given to young Australians to provide the opportunity for them to develop and to encourage their sporting potential. That year also saw the creation of a sports studies course at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, a program of assistance for sport and recreation of disabled people and a program of co-operation with the States to construct throughout Australia a full range of international standard sports facilities. I mention these achievements because they were a watershed in Commonwealth Government assistance to sport and were coincidentally, but appropriately, capped off by the spectacle and success of the Commonwealth Games . I acknowledge that these innovations have been continued and reinforced by the present Government. The overall Budget allocations for sport and recreation are, by any standards, generous. The Government has kept its election promises to sport. I mention that it is one of the few promises that have been kept in the Budget area.

There are a few areas with which I find disagreement and about which I wish to express some concern. One item is the allocation of funds for the Australian Institute of Sport. The AIS asked for a working budget of $6.4m. The administrators of the AIS believed that this figure was needed to keep all the current programs going and to allow a proper allocation of funds to sports people preparing for the 1984 Olympic Games. The Budget, in fact, allocates them just over $5m, which is a cut of 17 per cent on what they asked for. My argument is not so much that the AIS allocation was less than what was asked for, despite the fact that this is a pre-Olympic year, but that the Government also announced that programs at the Institute would be expanded to include new sports programs. I welcome these new programs but, with inadequate funds, this creates a number of difficulties.

For example, more programs are to be started but the request for an extra 38 staff has been denied. This will result in more programs with no one to run them . The problem facing the Institute now is that it has to prune its costs and programs. But what will it cut? Should the Institute reduce its competitive budget-the biggest single factor in all the Institute's costs? If it cuts its budget in that area we could be faced with the prospect of sending to Los Angeles Olympic contenders who have never had overseas competition experience. To do this would put Australian sport back to where it was 10 years ago. Should the Institute reduce its sports medicine programs? Sports medicine is a relatively new science and one that needs all the government assistance it can get. It is of real concern and embarrassment that Australian teams competing overseas do not have adequate personnel in the sports medicine area and that they sometimes have to rely upon the expertise and assistance they can borrow from other international teams. Should the Institute cut back on its national training programs so that even fewer sports students will be given an opportunity to reach their full potential?

Another area of dispute is the subject of subvention fees. Subvention fees are those paid by the AIS to the Government for the privilege of using the facilities at the National Training Centre at Bruce. One could ask: What is the national sports facility for if it is not for the use of the national sports institute? This financial year the AIS has been charged $650,000 in subvention fees. It seems to me that the Government either has to give the AIS another $650 ,000 for its budget or has to remove this impost from the Institute. Out of a total allocation of $5m, $650,000 is a large slice. I urge the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown), who I know has had lengthy discussions with AIS personnel on this issue, to examine this matter seriously. It is unfair and immoral to offer the sporting sector of Australia international sporting facilities, coaches and equipment and, in the next breath, not to give it enough money to keep operating at a maximum level. If we are to compare ourselves in the international sporting arena with overseas sports men and women , we must be prepared to provide international equivalent budgets.

I note the very significant increase in allocations for staffing and administration costs within the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism. I understand that staff is to increase from 25 to 40 personnel. I acknowledge publicly the effectiveness and dedication of this small sports department and its expertise in the administration of programs and the implementation of policy , but I caution any move, either by design or by natural growth, to overbureaucratise the administration of sport in this country. We need more indians and fewer chiefs. The imposition by government of its will upon the freedom of individual sports, coaches or administrators has failed in other countries.

The loss of Don Talbot, the Executive Director of the AIS, is regretted. I feel that this may largely have been due to the view that the AIS might become a statutory authority and the administration part of the Public Service. I pay a tribute to Don Talbot, the Chairman of the AIS, Kevan Gosper, and his committee for their successful development of the AIS in its formative years. The new appointment should be independent of the Department and given very great flexibility and autonomy. The ignorant and insensitive views that have been expressed by some-a minority of the Government-indicate support for a sports policy based on the premise that tall poppies should be lopped off in the interests of social equity. Any doubts about the Government's policy should be dispelled by the Minister. Such people as Robert de Castella, Ken and Robin Lorraway, Paul Narracott and many others who performed so well at the World Championships in Helsinki and young sports people such as Pat Cash and Darren Clark do more to stimulate the nation and the interests of young people in sport and recreation than token and wasteful handouts to anyone or any organisation that asks for assistance. The Government has met in full the commitment made for the former Government to the Australian Olympic Federation, which is so important in these months prior to the 1984 Olympic Games. I applaud the continuation of the Federal-State arrangements for international sports facilities in capital cities. However, I ask that the injection of funds into sport this year reflect a true concern for sport in Australia and not be used just as a political smokescreen designed to take attention away from inflationary measures contained elsewhere in the Budget.

The sports development program has been generously supported although, to my knowledge, full details of the individual allocations are still not known. I hope the Government will ensure that these funds are used to assist sports administrators and coaches to use their skills at the grass roots level for the young people who are so vital to the future development and physical health of this country. Care must be taken, I believe, not to spread the funds too widely to passive recreational areas or to areas of support that more correctly fall within the health budget. One of the sad features of a number of State government departments of sport and recreation has been the trend to use the disbursement of limited funds to gain political publicity. The construction of toilet blocks at football grounds or the writing of small cheques to every sporting club throughout the State does no more than subsidise the annual Christmas wind up. While they are popular, they are useless in improving the skills of our sportsment and women in encouraging them to reach their full potential as athletes, coaches or administrators.

I now comment on the proposal to form the Australian Sports Commission. The Minister, I believe, has put together an interim committee comprising personnel with a broad spectrum of expertise in sport, commercial administration, education and public relations. In saying this, however, I refute the Minister's comments that the members of the Sports Advisory Council were inexpert amateurs. Les Martyn and his council have had the respect of the broad Australian sporting community. The Commission has a formidable task ahead. It must be given every opportunity to operate in a completely autonomous manner, free from bureaucratic intervention and influence. It is vital that the Commission be given the freedom to develop long term goals that meet the aspirations of Australian sports and form a national approach to recreation that is based on participation at all levels, without reducing our elite mediocrity. I hope that the policies the Commission develops are geared to the present and future needs of sport and not dissipated in areas that, as I said before, more correctly belong in the health or environment area. I hope they are developed for people involved in sport and that there is an awareness of the diversity and needs of sport and sports people . In conclusion, I say to the Minister that the Opposition will give its full support in underwriting the Disabled Olympics in Canberra. We seek an early commitment to this.