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Wednesday, 30 June 1999
Page: 8015

Mr FITZGIBBON (9:58 AM) —The Australian Sports Commission Amendment Bill 1999 represents complementary legislation to the Australian Sports Drug Agency Bill, which this parliament debated earlier this year and which the opposition of course supported. The Australian Labor Party is proud to have introduced the original legislation in 1990 that resulted in the establishment of the Australian Sports Drug Agency and is very proud to have been the mover of that initiative.

The move was a world first. It was the first time an agency as such had been underpinned by government legislation. Labor's goal in establishing the ASDA was to ensure that Australian athletes are able to perform and compete in an environment untainted by banned substances. The use of illegal performance enhancing drugs has serious repercussions, as we have witnessed in both international and domestic sporting competition. When Labor established the ASDA, one of the key aims was to implement it as a deterrent to any athlete who might consider using prohibited substances. To achieve this goal, the ASDA implemented a variety of strategies based on policy advice, education, advocacy and deterrents.

In 1996 and 1997, the ASDA performed a record number of anti-doping tests. Its success in preventing the use of illegal substances in sport is such that the ASDA estimates that 99 per cent of athletes have been deterred from participating in banned doping practices since its programs began. In fact, the ASDA has not had a single legal challenge against its testing program. Since Labor created the ASDA, it has proven itself to be worthy of the exceptional international reputation it has gained. The ASDA's stated vision of being the leading drug testing agency in the world is commendable and totally supported by the opposition. So, too, is the ASDA's strategy to make its anti-doping programs available to both elite and non-elite athletes. The role of the ASDA in education and policy advocacy is having a positive influence on young sports participants, who can now compete in the knowledge that every avenue is being pursued in the war against doping in sport.

The opposition is committed to seeing the ASDA maintain its enviable reputation, and we will therefore be supporting this legislation as we did the earlier legislation it builds upon. However we do have a few concerns, which I raised in debate on the earlier bill. I do not think I need go over them again. As usual, they go to funding and some of the core principles lying behind the bill that seem to be being dealt with in an administrative rather than a policy way.

It is very true to say that sport is an area of public policy that has always enjoyed bipartisan support, and so it should. Our leading sports people in particular are great role models for our children, and Australia has a proud history of performance in both national and international sport. This is a bill worthy of bipartisan support. The Labor opposition is giving that today, and we implore the minister to give sport the highest possible recognition within the ministry. With the year 2000 Olympics coming to Australia in the not too distant future, that is more important than ever.