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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 395


Dr CHARLESWORTH(5.47) —Before I was interrupted earlier in the day I had spoken on the Olympic Insignia Protection Bill in respect of Australia's Olympic participation and about our outstanding record of having participated in all 23 of the modern Olympiads. Indeed, I mentioned that it was important for Australia to participate, because of the international recognition, goodwill and the relationships that have developed as a result. I said that in view of Australia's enormous participation in sport and the fact that it was an integral part of the fabric of our lives, it was important to Australians in general. I also mentioned that it provided opportunities for individuals to achieve excellence. I further pointed out that Australia's performance in international competition had fallen off over a period, and I made the comparison with East Germany, in which there had been a mass participation program. I said that that had been reflected in its medal performances at Olympic Games and that Australia had been left behind.

While we may not subscribe to the same sort of philosophy that exists in that country, it is necessary for us to have the same sorts of levels of participation. Because of the initiatives of this Government there is at the moment a participation boom in Australia. Our coaching programs and our kids' sports programs such as Aussie Sports, through the Australian Sports Commission, have gone a long way towards bringing that about. There is also a need for us to continue to support excellence in sport.

What is the Opposition's policy and what suggestions do we have from the Opposition in respect of this? The honourable member for McPherson (Mr White) said that he hoped we did not become professional about sport; he hoped that some of the old amateur traditions could remain. But I remind him that already we are very professional about sport. Robert de Castella is not the champion that he is because he does anything else except run. Indeed, Greg Norman and Jeff Fenech are exclusively professional sportsmen. It is necessary for us to innovate and develop our sports science so that we can return to having a number of champions. Certainly, it is hoped that those champions will have an effect on participation levels in this country. Does the honourable member really want to see us return to the days when only the wealthy and the privileged were the amateurs? That was the case in the olden days, but, thankfully, those days are gone.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) has another view. At the moment he is running around the country trying to see how he can save $14.7 billion. Indeed, last year, he described the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism as an irrelevant luxury, and certainly on top of the list of those departments that he would see as necessary to axe. I hope that, before the next election, the Opposition will enunciate that policy. Approximately six million people every week take the opportunity to participate in or enjoy watching sport in this country. I hope they will all understand that the Opposition's policy is that this Department should be eliminated.

I must say that the Australian Olympic Federation is becoming increasingly self-sufficient. This Bill will protect its capacity to raise funds and I hope that it will cut out any unauthorised or deceptive use of the logos and symbols that the AOF has developed. Of course, the AOF has made a magnificent contribution to sport in this country. For nearly a century it has carried the flag for Australian sport internationally. To its eternal credit, it resisted the forces of the Fraser Government in 1980 and attended the 1980 Olympic Games. It showed resilience against coercion and, at times, outright blackmail.

On occasions I have had the opportunity to question the allocation of funds by the AOF. Indeed, I remember asking a question in this House in 1984. I will continue to appraise its performances. Critically, I know that the likes of Kevan Gosper, Phil Coles, John Coates, Judy Patching, Bill Hoffmann and, from Western Australia, Jack Howson, have worked tirelessly for sport in this country and for sport in general. Today I acknowledge publicly their contributions. However, I hope that the AOF continues to have as its paramount consideration the interests of athletes. I hope that it will continue with its policy of allocating funds in advance of Olympic years so that prospective Olympic athletes have the opportunity-- (Quorum formed) Before the disruptive Opposition called a quorum, I was concluding my remarks in respect of the Australian Olympic Federation and this legislation which will assist it to raise money for future Olympic Games.

I take this opportunity to make the point that the Leader of the Opposition has already very clearly told us what he intends to do with the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism. He described it last year as an irrelevant luxury. Of course, we are aware that he is now fishing around for $14.7 billion in expenditure cuts to make up the revenue gap in the promises that he has been making for the next election in respect of taxation and expenditure. Indeed, if he were to abolish the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism, that would save $40m. That would be one-fortieth of one per cent of the cost of all the promises that he has been making. Unless his arithmetic is very much astray, that amount will not go very far to solve the problem. But I am sure that all the sports people of Australia-all those who participate in and watch sport-will be interested to know that that is the Opposition's policy.

I was saying, and I say in conclusion, that I hope that the AOF will continue to put the athletes as its first priority. I accept the need for it to establish a firm administrative base and a firm and sound economic structure to protect its autonomy so that future governments are not able to coerce it, as has been attempted in the past. But I hope that it will not neglect the athletes as a first priority. This Bill will assist the Federation to raise its funds and will protect its logos and symbols so that it can effectively market its products. I support the Federation and this Bill wholeheartedly.