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Transcript of press conference: Parliament House, Canberra: 9 May 2014: Announcement of new CEO of ASADA,

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Announcement of New CEO of ASADA Parliament House, Canberra

9 May 2014

E&OE Transcript

Peter Dutton: Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here this afternoon. It's with a great deal of pleasure that I announce today that the new chief executive officer for ASADA, Australia Sports Anti-Doping Authority, is Mr Ben McDevitt. Just before I go on to talk a little bit about Ben's extensive career, I wanted to firstly say some words of thanks to the outgoing CEO.

Aurora Andruska has been a public servant for 37 years. It's an extraordinary effort, and predominantly her time was within Centrelink, within the Department of Education, Science and Training, and she has worked hard for the Commonwealth for all of those decades and I thank her very much for her leadership of ASADA over a period, of course, that covered some turbulent times. And she has provided leadership to the organisation over that same period of time.

Ben McDevitt coming into the role is, I think, an excellent development. When you look at Mr McDevitt's CV, it's impressive to say the least. The reality is that in the modern context of dealing with gambling or dealing with doping issues, intelligence and an ability to work with intelligence agencies to share and interpret that information will, of course, be increasingly necessary as we go forward.

If you look at Mr McDevitt's CV, he's a person that not only has had 30 years or so involvement in policing, but he's also had a career previously in the Army. He is somebody who's run CrimTrac for five years. He's served in the Solomon Islands. He's been an assistant commissioner with the Australian Federal Police. I think he comes to this job very well-credentialed, and I'm very pleased to make that announcement today.

The other point that I should make is that Mr McDevitt's appointment will take effect from tomorrow. Ms Andruska's appointment expires today, so it is a seamless transition, and Ms Andruska has kindly agreed to stay on in a consultant capacity for a short period of time so that we can provide a full handover to the incoming CEO. I might ask Ben to say a few words and then I'm very happy to take some questions.

Ben McDevitt: Firstly I'd like to thank you, Minister, for the tremendous opportunity that I've been given to become part of the ASADA team. ASADAs reason for being is to protect Australia's sporting integrity and also the health of Australian athletes.

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Sport, as we all know, is a multi-billion dollars industry in this country. We have to protect the integrity of that industry.

Beyond dollars, though, the reputation of Australia's sporting excellence and the achievements of our athletes is just extraordinary and we have to jealously guard our reputation for fair play. As Australians, we all love sports and we all hate cheats. I'm really looking forward to working with the sporting codes and clubs, with the executive teams of the 90-plus sports in this country who have anti-doping campaigns and rules.

I want to help them to target harden their sports and thereby their reputations. I'll work hard with sports in a partnership approach to make environments at sporting clubs hostile towards doping and cheating. There are a couple of messages that we will continue to work with sporting organisations to reinforce. These are important messages.

The first is that professional athletes, clubs, and sporting organisations are responsible for making themselves aware of what constitutes a violation of the anti-doping codes. Frankly, in my view, ignorance is no excuse. Secondly, each professional athlete is personally responsible for what substances enter their body. Let me just say that again. Each professional athlete is personally responsible for what substances enter their body.

Health of our professional sportspeople and the integrity of our sports is much more than important than winning at all costs. So for those who put in blood, sweat and tears, keep going and be true champions. And for those who also choose to put in a little bit beyond the blood, sweat and tears, be aware we will do all we can to detect cheating and to protect and celebrate the true heroes.

To the 300-plus staff of ASADA who take their job so seriously and perform it so professionally, just continue to do your job without fear or favour, malice or ill will, and I guarantee you will have the full support of myself and the minister and government. Amongst its peers around the world, ASADA is an extremely well-respected anti-doping organisation and I'm excited by the opportunity before me.

I also would like to acknowledge the work of outgoing CEO Aurora Andruska. She's achieved much for the anti-doping movement not only in Australia, but also for the wider anti-doping effort around the world. Let's be realistic. Australia faces an ongoing threat of doping. Every year, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of new or modified substances developed in laboratories or new products released onto the market or the black market.

And in fact, my understanding is that almost 25 per cent of new products are actually initially released through the black market. Doping, unfortunately, is not going away. It is more sophisticated. It's more readily available and it's harder to detect. There are people willing to push the boundaries with experimental substances and methods which have not been clinically tested or even approved for human use.

So we have a difficult, but not impossible, job to ensure our athletes have the confidence that they can compete on a level playing field in Australia and overseas. There are responsibilities at several levels here. There are responsibilities at the

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individual athlete level. There are responsibilities at club level and now responsibility at code levels for the various sports involved.

What I will undertake to do is to do my utmost with the ASADA team to work at identifying those responsibilities at each level and to continue the very good work that has happened very recently in particular at strengthening the anti-doping integrity regimes which exist in this country. Thank you.

Peter Dutton: Thank you very much. Are there any questions?

Question: One question on future investigations: will there be future activities or investigations like the one done - sorry - future investigations with sporting bodies like the one done on peptides? Will that still be an approach taken in the future?

Peter Dutton: Well look, I'm happy to answer that.

Question: [Inaudible question].

Peter Dutton: Sure. Well, that's - the response that I'd give to you, David, is that that is an issue for ASADA and I think for people to try and second-guess in any of these investigations is very difficult. So I suspect it depends on the circumstances at the time and that then becomes a decision for the CEO of ASADA. But Ben, you might have something to add to that.

Ben McDevitt: I'm not sure of the specific, you know, sort of form of partnership or collaboration that you've been speaking about. I come from law enforcement and every law enforcement agency that I've ever worked for, which is quite a few, have almost never done anything alone. Everything they've done has been in partnership with various groups and entities, other investigative agencies, where appropriate with the public sector, private sector and so on. So my experience is most agencies operating in sort of enforcement or regulation or, you know, criminal law will generally seek partnerships. And that can be done in an appropriate and effective way.

Question: Sorry. Behind my question was the publicity around that peptides scandal where we had ministers and investigators and the heads of sporting bodies all in a single press conference. After that, there was a bit of controversy about whether they'd overdone it. And so, behind my question is basically another question, which is are there any lessons from that experience and the way investigations are undertaken?

Peter Dutton: Well, the lesson to learn from it is that politics doesn't belong in sport. And people stood up on this very stage and, for our country, they were the darkest days of the Gillard government period. And people stood up on this stage at the behest of the then-minister for political purposes, not in the best interests of sport in this country. This government has made it its business to make sure that we respect the authority and independence of ASADA to conduct the important work that they must do whilst at the same time protecting the integrity of the sports more generally and making sure that we respect the young athletes as well. So…

Question: Are you saying ASADA wasn't sufficiently independent at that time?

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Peter Dutton: I'm saying that if you look back to all of the government's intent in the Gillard period, it was at that time, on this topic, to try and distract away from the woes of the then prime-minister.

Question: And you believe ASADA was a willing participant to that, and the ACC?

Peter Dutton: And I believe that ASADA was wheeled out for political purposes at that point in time to the shame of the previous government, and the point that I'd make here is that this government is determined to make sure that we have clean sports, to make sure that we support our athletes, to make sure that when people are turning up to matches - want to make sure that when they are joining clubs that they are watching a sport that is world-class and that is as clean as humanly possible.

That's the determination of this government: not to try and use sport as a shield or to try and provide some political interference. And I'm very pleased at the fact that we have a person in Ben McDevitt here who is an outstanding CEO and I think will continue the good work that we've seen at ASADA and will make sure that those dark days of the Gillard government aren't returned to.

Question: In light of those comments, then, was Aurora Andruska encouraged not to seek another term?

Peter Dutton: No. What I looked for going forward in the CEO role was somebody that had the ability to be able to gather intelligence in particular. I think that is crucial in these investigations as we go forward. Ben, of course, has a longstanding career in law enforcement and not just his time at the Federal Police, but at CrimTrac, at the Australian Crime Commission, and, most recently, chairing the Australian Criminal Intelligence Forum. I think…

Question: Was it made clear to Aurora Andruska that that was what you were not looking for, not someone of her administrative background?

Peter Dutton: Well, Ms Andruska signalled to me that her intention was, after 37 years, to retire. I thought she was an effective CEO. I have a lot of time for her and I believe that the next CEO needed to be able to gather together the intelligence which is so crucial to making sure that we can fight doping where it exists and quash gambling where it might pop up. So that's the…

Question: How long will the handover period be…

Peter Dutton: Well, the…

Question: [indistinct] while you get introduced to the organisation?

Ben McDevitt: Well look, I think I've got a fairly steep learning curve here to - this is quite a difficult and complex area. And just to add to the minister's last answer, there is a push globally to actually incorporate investigations and intelligence capabilities into anti-doping authorities globally, because more and more it is recognised that the science and technology of testing alone is just not enough in this space. So, you know - so I think there's a sort of logical transition and it's - look, it's like anything. The

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science changed. You know, the nature of the work changes, so you need to sort of adapt to that, and I think that ASADA now is well placed to do that.

Question: Is that born somewhat of ASADAs reliance on collecting evidence as opposed to getting sent positive samples in the Lance Armstrong case - is that sort of approach what you're referring to when you say looking at more investigative processes for anti-doping bodies as opposed to merely relying on strictly drug testing regimes?

Ben McDevitt: Well, let me give you an example. I've been chairing a forum in law enforcement called the Australian Criminal Intelligence Forum and that forum has as its mission criminal intelligence partnerships for a safer Australia. In my sense, an organisation like ASADA in this operating context should have an arrangement whereby we have intelligence partnerships for fairer sport. Now, we're seeing that already, and there's some MoUs already entered into with agencies such as the Australian Crime Commission and ASADA, with the Australian Federal Police and ASADA, with Customs and Border Protection, and so on, and so on.

So the facts that we're seeking are - where we're seeing, for example, an increase of supply of performance-enhancing drugs coming across the border, why have we got increased supply? Because, obviously, it's to service increased demand. Where is that? So there's lots of things beyond and after taking a sample from an athlete, and this is what we've got to sort of broaden the efforts.

Question: If I can go back to some of the recent investigations of ASADA, we had the - Garry Downes' review sent back to the minister, which has now been received. Will that be made public?

Peter Dutton: Well, just to clarify, the report goes from Justice Downes - goes back to the CEO of ASADA. It doesn't come back to me, so it's legally privileged information and that's obviously being considered by ASADA and will be considered by the incoming CEO as well.

Question: Do you believe that should be made public?

Ben McDevitt: Well look, it's early days for me. My understanding is that that particular report was only received right at the end of April so, you know, it's only actually been around a very, very short period of time.

Question: But it did an important review of ASADAs investigations to this point, which have been highly criticised for how protracted they have been. Do you agree in principle that it is something the public is entitled to be able to view so they can make their judgements about ASADAs handing of the cases?

Ben McDevitt: Let me just tell you a little bit about my limited understanding at this stage. ASADA plays a role, a key role and a pivotal role, but this is - there is a significant number of moving parts here. There's a whole range of forums and processes for very, very good reason. So this doesn't all start and end with ASADA. There are appeals mechanisms. There are a whole range of good, logical reasons why these processes take time. Now, what I can say is that what we have to have here is certainty. What we have to have is a sense of urgency. I am a strong believer

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in the concept that justice delayed is justice denied. All that I can say is I will bring a sense of urgency, but I will not sacrifice certainty for speed.

Question: Would you seek to institute reforms to ensure that future ASADA investigations do not take as long as those into Essendon, and Cronulla, and the like have?

Ben McDevitt: Again, if we were to do that, the ASADA component would be just a single part of that. If you really wanted to do it, if you really wanted to look at the end to end processes, you would have to go far beyond the ASADA component, if you were looking for streamlining here. So let's be careful of that, because it seems to me there is a misunderstanding as to what ASADAs role is and, more importantly, what ASADAs role isn't.

ASADA just plays a very important, pivotal - but it's a - you know, it's a very specific role in all of this. So we've just got to be careful about that. We've got to protect individual privacies. We've got to pay due respect to the policies, the processes, the safeguards for individuals, the right to fair hearings, the right to appeals, and so on, and so on.

Question: But many of those things can't start until ASADA issues a show cause notice or, in some cases, declares that it will not be doing that, and that is the point that is within ASADAs control and which has taken more than 12 months. So aren't those elements within - isn't that stage within ASADAs control?

Ben McDevitt: Again, my very initial briefings here are that we are dealing with extremely complex matters, that we have actually had interviews of well over a hundred people. We've had thousands of pages of documentation to be worked through. There have been, to my knowledge, several reviews of that material and, again, this is about careers hanging in the balance. Let's get it right. Let's not sacrifice certainty for speed. I agree we need a sense of urgency. All I can do is commit to bring that to the process. If I identify impediments I'll make recommendations to have those removed for future investigations.

Question: We've heard Paul Little from Essendon say that he regrets having self-reported to ASADA. Do you have concerns that other clubs and individuals and officials may be put off self-reporting to ASADA because of the protracted case that we've seen over the last 12 months or so?

Ben McDevitt: Well look, I'm not familiar with that gentleman's comments or views and, quite frankly, every individual is entitled to their own view and their own commentary. And I guess in time that'll be - you know, that'll be gauged for what it's worth.

Question: Minister Dutton, how did it come to be that the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel came to a position where it wasn't able to form quorum during a critical time in ASADAs investigations?

Peter Dutton: Well again, I mean there's been lots of misreporting in relation to these matters. They have a quorum and we made appointments. The fact that we weren't out there, like the previous Government, leaking the fact that we were about

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to make appointments and we did it with due process shouldn't be held against us. We made appointments to the panel.

The panel has, over different times, had different numbers of people that constitute the panel. But they need three to sit on a matter and it's been in quorum and I don't think anybody could fault the people that we've appointed or that we have on the board or on the panel. And again, I think there's been a lot of scuttlebutt and people who are trying to presume certain things, but the fact is that I think now we have a process that people can be confident in and we'll go forward on that basis. Okay.

Question: Just a wider health question: do you reckon there's any scope for people to pay a bit more for medicines that are listed on the PBS?

Peter Dutton: Well look, the point that I'd make is that Labor presided over an incredible mess for six years and they have left us with that mess. We were elected at the last election to clean up Labor's mess and clean it up we will. Thank you very much.

Question: What about driving down the costs of medicine when they're off [indistinct]…