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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1258


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (19:25): It has been a tough fortnight in sport as well is in the political arena. Last week, the Minister for Justice and Home Affairs, Jason Clare, hauled the boss of every major sport to Canberra to tell them and the nation that graft and corruption was rife in sport—drugs, physicians, players, gaming, organised crime gangs, the lot. And, while journalists dived for a dictionary to decipher the word 'peptide', we heard allegations of match fixing in multiple sports codes, and we shook our heads in disgust. Steve 'Blocker' Roach, who was no on-field angel in his day, summed it up pretty well on the front page of my local newspaper, the Illawarra Mercury, when he said:

If there’s 100 players, entire teams, whatever, found guilty of this latest drugs issue or match fixing, we don’t want them in our game.

Throw them out.

Meanwhile, over in Sydney, the ICAC was examining a bevy of its reluctant star witnesses, including former members of the New South Wales parliament. The evidence was gut turning. It was made worse by the arrogant, evasive demeanour of those caught in its snare. We have heard some pretty repugnant stuff already, but last week former minister Eddie Obeid smashed through the grubby ceiling of repugnance when he turned on the counsel assisting the ICAC to boast:

I have spent more money than you have made in your lifetime.

This arrogant attitude is abhorrent because it contradicts everything that we as Labor people stand for.

Labor stands for equality and fairness, not hierarchy, greed and privilege. No Labor person, in fact, no decent Australian, would ever think that way let alone say it. No wonder Labor people turn their heads in disgust. More evidence has been heard this week of grubby cheating behaviour from former state ministers. It is hard stuff for Labor people to take, like when thousands of sports fans are crushed by news that their club and its players may be involved in systematic cheating. It leads us to ask ourselves: is this a blight on me, myself? Can I wear my club jumper in public, or am I somehow tainted by association? Is it true that the behaviour of disgraced ministers, like the behaviour of some player, reflects a broader culture in sport or in politics? These are the right questions to ask.

I for one refuse to accept that we are all to blame. This defiance has a use-by date. If we do nothing to weed out the grubs and the cheats, and if we do nothing to change the culture, then we are all culpable. As fans, as party members, as community leaders we have a responsibility to state and defend the values we stand for wherever that may lead us. Labor, like most of our great sporting clubs, traces its origins to the struggling communities at the turn of the last century. The Labor movement formed a political party to run for office so the government would make laws to improve the lot of ordinary working people. When that office is used as a tool for the betterment of the office holder, it defiles that founding purpose. It is nothing short of a disgrace. When players engage with criminals to corrupt the support, when they cheat, they defile the trust that we place in them as inspiration for our kids and our community. Blocker Roach summed it up pretty well: we do not want them in our game, throw them out.