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Top-earning athletes should repay govt assist -

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ELEANOR HALL: The man who devised the HECS scheme for university students wants elite athletes to
give back to the community some of the money that helped them make their fortunes.

Professor Bruce Chapman says that athletes who have received Government funding should pay some of
that money back when they earn more than a $100,000 year.

But as David Mark reports, the head of the Australian Sports Commission says the idea isn't new and
that it doesn't add up.

DAVID MARK: Australia's Institute of Sport was born out of failure. The country's miserable return
at the 1976 Olympics of one silver and four bronze medals was the catalyst for setting up an elite
sports academy.

The performance of Australian athletes across a huge range of sports since the early '80s is proof
that the Institute has been a great success.

RICHARD DENNISS: People who have gone through the AIS include Lleyton Hewitt.

DAVID MARK: Dr Richard Denniss is an associate professor at the ANU's Crawford School of Economics
and Government.

RICHARD DENNISS: Mark Viduka, a soccer player who earns millions of dollars a year. A number of
soccer players in fact. Craig Moore, Marco Bresciano, Robbie Robbie McEwen the cyclist, Cathy
Freeman, Shane Warne. All sorts of cricketers, rugby league players, rugby union players.

If you go through the wealthiest sports people in Australia, a significant proportion of them have
been through the AIS and we should be proud of that. We should think that the AIS is clearly doing
what we've set it up to do.

DAVID MARK: The Australian Sports Commission runs the Institute of Sport. Its motto is "Enriching
the lives of all Australians through sport".

But the man who devised the HECS scheme for university students in the late 1980s and a colleague
of Dr Denniss' at the ANU, Professor Bruce Chapman, thinks some Australians are more enriched by
our sporting success than others.

Professor Chapman wants to see a HECS-style scheme introduced for elite athletes.

BRUCE CHAPMAN: I don't think all athletes should, but I think those who are subsidised by
Australian taxpayers, who end up doing extremely well at their craft and earning a lot of money,
it's probably a reasonable and fair thing that they do pay some of that back.

And you can help make the Australian Institute more self-financing than it currently is. Keep in
mind these issues are essentially about equity. It's average taxpayers who pay the bill, and
average taxpayers are not multi-millionaires.

DAVID MARK: The Institute awards scholarships to about 700 athletes each year at a cost of around
$50,000 each. But Dr Denniss argues the actual cost per athlete can reach several hundred thousand
dollars a year.

RICHARD DENNISS: The AIS is a very expensive training facility and Australia should be proud of its
world-class facilities, but the cost per athlete are very high because we provide them with such
intensive assistance and with such intensive training.

DAVID MARK: Professor Chapman says the repayments could kick in when a sports person earns $100,000
a year.

And he doesn't believe the fact that many of Australia's top sports men and women live and pay tax
overseas, is a problem.

BRUCE CHAPMAN: You could do this with the HECS system as well and I really think that the
Australian Government should do this.

Make it part of the contract, you would ask for example, for the HECS people who are living
overseas that they repay the minimum amount and you would do the same with elite sportspeople who
are overseas. Just suggest that as part of a contractual arrangement they pay a minimum amount per
year.

MARK PETERS: Well, it is not a new idea. It is probably suggested every second year particularly as
we go into the Olympics.

DAVID MARK: But the argument just doesn't add up according to the CEO of the Australian Sports
Commission, Mark Peters.

MARK PETERS: Well, the fact is that the professional footballers and the tennis players aren't on
full-time scholarships. You know, we're supporting Olympic sport athletes and the few that do make
living, the administrative costs of trying to run a HECS scheme to deliver that sort of outcome is
just so expensive.

DAVID MARK: Dr Denniss takes a different view.

RICHARD DENNISS: The Institute of Sport is evolving and it is moving into a range of professional
sports - rugby league, rugby union, AFL. All have formal involvements with the Institute of Sport
and people going to the AIS in those programs would have high expectations that they would wind up
in one of those quite lucrative jobs.

DAVID MARK: Mark Peters.

MARK PETERS: Well, as I said, if someone can provide the facts that actually look at what the
economic benefit of an athlete putting their earning career on hold for 10 or 15 years, then we
would certainly be prepared to look at it, but once people delve into the economic realities of
what the athletes forego in terms of earning capacity, it really makes the argument insignificant.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Mark Peters, the CEO of the Australian Sports Commission. He was speaking to
David Mark.