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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7142

Senator LUNDY (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Kemp. Can the minister confirm reports that the government demanded and received undertakings from Soccer Australia that it must accept and implement all of the recommendations of the Crawford inquiry into soccer in return for a $700,000 advance from the Australian Sports Commission? Is it also true that the Sports Commission has demanded the power of veto over the appointment of Soccer Australia's chief executive? What authorisation did the Sports Commission have from the government to make these demands? How can the Sports Commission possibly demand that Soccer Australia implement all recommendations of an inquiry which is still seeking submissions from the public and will not report until mid next year?

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) —What a pleasure it is to get a question from Senator Lundy on sport. This is a rare and precious moment. I thank Senator Lundy for her question. I was to have a dorothy dixer on soccer today. If I give some advice to my colleagues, I think that can still go ahead. Let me turn to the substance of Senator Lundy's question. When I announced the inquiry into Soccer Australia, I am pleased to say that Senator Lundy was very quick off the mark in welcoming the inquiry—it is not often I give credit to Senator Lundy, but this time I do. Senator, because you have not asked me a question, I have not had a chance to thank you for that and I am very pleased to do that. This is a very important inquiry that was, and I hope will continue to be, a bipartisan inquiry.

Let me turn to the matters Senator Lundy has raised. I am aware of the media reports today that obviously Senator Lundy is aware of. Senator Lundy, you will be pleased to note that I sought advice from the Sports Commission, and it advises that it has made its position very clear to Soccer Australia. The Sports Commission's expectation is that Soccer Australia will make its best endeavours to implement reasonable recommendations of the Crawford inquiry. My understanding from the advice that I have received is that this has been accepted by board members. I think that is very important.

I make the point that we are a government that consults. We are a consultative government and we listen to people. Because we consult, this inquiry is undertaking widespread consultations with all stakeholders and with the public, and we are very confident that the recommendations that will be produced will lay the foundation for the way forward for soccer. Soccer is arguably one of Australia's most popular sports. It is no secret that soccer has undergone very considerable difficulties in recent years. I put it to Senator Lundy that it is important that this soccer inquiry be supported. I am very encouraged by the widespread support that we have from stakeholders. If I do not get a chance in the supplementary question that Senator Lundy is about to ask me, perhaps if one of my own colleagues could ask me a question later in question time I may be able enlarge on that aspect.

Senator LUNDY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, given you have conceded that these serious allegations about the conduct of the Sports Commission are true, will you be comprehensively and independently investigating them? Does the government support all of the actions taken by the Sports Commission in relation to Soccer Australia?

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) —I do not know who writes these supplementaries, I have to say. Can I provide some advice to Senator Lundy: could whoever writes them provide her with more assistance in the future. Senator Lundy, as you know, the Australian Sports Commission is an independent body. The Australian Sports Commission plays a very important role in sport in Australia—it has the interests of sport in Australia. There is no question that these are difficult times for soccer. I think it is a good thing, not a bad thing, that the Australian Sports Commission is taking an interest in soccer. Senator Lundy, it was an interest that you welcomed. Let me make this point to you: on the announcement of the inquiry, you immediately rushed out and supported it. And what happens? The first whiff of grapeshot and you run and duck for cover. (Time expired)