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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2475

Senator PUPLICK(12.25) —I want to raise a couple of matters which relate, firstly, to the administration of the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism, and in particular to the question of the relative position of sports bureaucracy and the actual funding for sport. During the Estimates Committee hearing some questions were raised about the extent to which funding for sport was simply going into paying bureaucratic salaries as distinct from going through to benefit sports men and women. The Department, of course, was fairly vigorous in saying: `Oh no, heavens above, never let it be said that there are large amounts of money going to paying bureaucratic salaries rather than actually doing something about assisting sports men and women and sports facilities throughout Australia. Never let it be said that there is excessive bureaucracy in sport'. However, that fairly feeble attempt to mislead the Estimates Committee was very largely blown out of the water by the report of the Australian Sports Commission, which came to hand after the Estimates Committee had concluded its deliberations. The Australian Sports Commission's publication titled `Strategic Plan 1986-87 to 1988-89', under the heading `Key Challenges', states:

The Commission believes that three major issues and concerns within Australian sport today require particular attention. They are:

(i) The level of bureaucracy in sport: throughout sport in Australia, and particularly within the three levels of government, the bureaucracy of sport has grown significantly in recent years. That growth has occurred during a period in which Australian sporting performance, with some exceptions, has been disappointing and declining. The more we have spent on bureaucratic structure the less able, it appears, we have been in producing world class athletes and teams.

If ever there were a damning indictment of the way in which bureaucracy in the last couple of years, and particularly under the administration of the current Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown), has grown out of all manageable proportions, it is there nailed by the Sports Commission for everybody to see. More and more money is going on the bureaucracy, more and more on bureaucratic salaries, more and more on commissions, meetings, trips and conferences, and less and less at the end of the day is actually being done to improve the conditions for sports men and women and sports facilities throughout Australia.

The second point I want to raise is to ask where we are with the question of the police investigation of matters dealing with the Australian Institute of Sport and, in particular, the so-called boat contract, which has been the subject of police inquiries. There have been police raids on the homes of individuals. There has been searching for documents and there has been the seizure of documents. The Committee was told that this was going to be cleared up within a matter of days, that a police report was going to be handed in, and that everything would be found to be perfectly acceptable. We have heard nothing. No statement has yet been made. I am therefore asking what now is the state of play as far as the police inquiry into that aspect of the administration of the Australian Institute of Sport is concerned.

The third matter I wish to raise is the question of the Anzac Rifle Range. Here we have a quite interesting and, indeed, quite extraordinary saga of developments, not the least of which is the public attempt of the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism to overturn his own Government's decision. At the time of the Budget the Government announced that it intended to sell off the Anzac Rifle Range. This is an area of about 140 hectares in the southern metropolitan part of Sydney. I was interested to see, in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette at 21 October, that the Australian Heritage Commission has moved to list on the register of the National Estate the 80 hectares located on the eastern and western sides of Anzac Rifle Range. So it is not just a matter of some worthless scrub area, it is an area of some significance.

This area is used by a large number of recreational shooters. In fact one would gather that somewhere between 45,000 and 60,000 people each year make use of the range for recreational shooting. It is used for significant competitions, such as the Queen's Medal shoot. It is used for the training of military personnel, the State police, the Australian Federal Police, bank officers and prison warders. They all make use of the facilities as well as the recreational shooters. It was planned that in April 1988 the Bicentenary Fullbore Rifle Championships would be held on the range. It was expected that that would attract more than 1,000 competitors from 16 nations and in fact invitations had been sent out and accepted by most of those 16 nations. It was felt that it would generate some $4m to $5m in tourist industry income without any outlay on the part of either the Commonwealth Government or the New South Wales Government.

The sporting shooters in Sydney do not have access to alternative ranges. In 1966 the range at Liverpool was closed and, apart from a very small area at Hornsby, there is nowhere else in the Sydney metropolitan area where recreational shooters are able to take part in their preferred sporting activity. The New South Wales Rifle Association has been making representations to me and to other New South Wales senators and members and there have been a large number of petitions presented in the Parliament. Interestingly, the Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services, Mr Uren, keeps writing back to me about my representations, saying: `I am sorry, but the Government has made a decision. It will be sold and nothing can be done about it'. The Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, wrote back to me in the same sorts of terms, saying that the Government had made a decision within the context of the Budget, nothing further can be done about the whole thing, and that that is just bad luck as far as the shooters are concerned. At the same time the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism has been writing to bodies such as the New South Wales Rifle Association. I quote from the Minister's letter to the Chairman of the Association:

Accordingly, I have written to my colleagues the Minister for Defence, Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services and the Prime Minister seeking their support to reverse the decision to sell the Anzac Rifle Range. A copy of the relevant correspondence is enclosed.

Mr Brown has been writing to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) saying: `Please reverse this Budget decision'. In one of the paragraphs of a letter addressed to the Prime Minister the Minister said:

Accordingly, I seek your sympathetic support to reverse the decision to sell the Anzac Rifle Range at Malabar, New South Wales.

It seems to me quite extraordinary for a Cabinet to take a decision and for the responsible Ministers in the Cabinet to be writing to honourable senators and saying: `We do not intend to re-open this matter. The decision has been made'. A Press statement was put out by Mr Uren indicating that the Government had decided to sell the property, and that it was an important part of the Government's rationalisation of its land holdings and indeed was a revenue raising measure. At the same time, the moment the heat was turned on to the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism by sporting organisations, the Minister promptly wrote to the organisation saying: `Of course I am on your side. It is not my fault. It is Cabinet's fault. I am very much on your side, and therefore I have written to the Prime Minister asking him to reverse the decision. I have written to Mr Uren and Mr Beazley and I am sending you copies of that correspondence so you can see what a good chap I am'.

I ask Senator Walsh, who is the Minister on duty, whether the Government has reconsidered the sale of the Anzac Rifle Range, and if it has whether it proposes to pursue the sale of the range, or whether the original Cabinet decision that the range should be sold will be allowed to stand. It is my firm view-and I know it is the view of many other New South Wales senators-that this range should not be sold and that it should continue to be available for recreational shooters and defence purposes. Senator Sir John Carrick raised this matter during the Estimates Committee debate for the Department of Defence. Senator Michael Baume, who is in the chamber at the moment, also has been making representations on the matter. One would hope, therefore, that the Government will understand that it is likely to get very little if it sells this facility, particularly now that the Heritage Commission has listed adjacent areas as areas which it intends to put on the register of the National Estate. The sale of this land will do nothing other than inconvenience a large number of recreational shooters in New South Wales who are entitled to have access to that facility and who do not have an alternative facility available. It would be prejudicial to the interests of the defence forces. I think Senator Sir John Carrick would support me in saying that it was quite clear from the estimates of the Department of Defence that the Department itself was not particularly pleased about the decision being taken and that it is being disadvantaged. The police forces, the security forces, bank officers and various other people who make use of this facility for important purposes will also be disadvantaged.

Undoubtedly, problems will arise from the fact that the sandstone outcrops there are important and are being used for the restoration work being done on the historic GPO building in Martin Place, Sydney. Undoubtedly, the Government will find it very difficult to get rid of this facility, not the least reason being the unexpended ammunition around the place with which I am sure, no developer will be favourably impressed. Nor will he be impressed with the amount of rubbish that is around the place, particularly that which has been bulldozed over the years into the various creeks and valleys surrounding this area. The Bicentenary Fullbore Rifle Championships set for 1988 will also have to be cancelled if this Government decision is pursued. Therefore, I am very strongly of the opinion that this decision should not be allowed to stand. I will be interested to know from the Minister whether the representations made to the Government by Opposition senators and members, who have been belatedly joined by the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown), will be treated favourably by the Government, or whether the legitimate concerns of these sportsmen and women in New South Wales are to be ignored.