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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2241

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(4.42) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This Bill is for an Act to establish the Australian Sports Commission as a Commonwealth statutory authority. The Bill sets out the objectives, functions and powers of the Commission. It also covers a wide range of issues relating to its management and operation. The Bill defines the relationship between the Commission and the Government within which the Commission will undertake its tasks. It also authorises the establishment of an Australian Sports Aid Foundation.


Federal government involvement in sports development assistance began in earnest a little more than a decade ago. Under the guidance of the late Frank Stewart in the Whitlam Labor Government, the Federal Government established a sports assistance program under the auspices of the first national department with direct responsibility for sport. The program covered assistance to sporting organisations as well as an attempt to increase the number and improve the quality of sports facilities throughout the community at various levels.

Under the previous coalition Government, the pattern of funding and support from the Commonwealth Government was erratic and unreliable. Indeed, in 1976, just before Australia's undistinguished performance at the Montreal Olympic Games, the Federal Government withdrew entirely from direct support of sports development. Our performance at those games, together with some concerted pressure by the sporting community, saw a measure of support reinstated. The decline in funding came to an abrupt halt in 1983. Since the last year of the Fraser Government total sports funding through my Department has increased enormously to reach $54m under this Government in 1984-85.

It has often been suggested that Australia's sports effort has been fragmented and that consequently we have been unable to realise fully the basic objective of developing opportunities for sporting excellence and participation for all Australians. The Federal Government, the argument continues, should take a stronger leadership and co-ordinative role. Prior to our election in 1983, we published a major policy statement outlining our plans and objectives for sports development assistance. Central to those plans was the creation of the Australian Sports Commission to more effectively draw together our national sporting effort.

In September 1983 the Government appointed an interim committee to advise on the role, functions and responsibilities of the proposed Commission. The interim committee reported to me in March 1984. During its investigations, the interim committee identified a range of problems and issues confronting contemporary sports development in Australia. Although the priorities and emphasis placed on those problems understandably varied between a range of groups and individuals, two persistent themes emerged: The need for a mechanism that allowed a much greater direct involvement by sport itself in determining needs, priorities and strategies for action; and the need to develop alternative sources and funding for sport both to supplement existing public sector sources of funds and also to provide a measure of certainty and stability in the flow of resources. Undertaking those two fundamental reforms provides the most effective foundation upon which to build a more cohesive, co-ordinated sporting system throughout Australia.

While it is generally acknowledged that the departmental structure that has existed in the past has serviced governments well in its programs of support for sport in Australia, it is also recognised that there are some restrictions on the flexibility of such a structure. The Commission, on the other hand, will be able to forge stronger links between the sporting community and the decision making process as well as to operate, through the proposed Australian Sports Aid Foundation, in the entrepreneurial and highly competitive world of private sector sponsorship and fund raising. The Australian Sports Commission will be able to provide the necessary flexibility and autonomy to address those major reforms, while working within a framework of stated Government policies.

Government Announcement

On 13 September last year the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) announced the Government's intention to establish the Commission as a statutory authority. He also indicated the membership of the Commission, to be chaired on a part time basis by Mr Ted Harris, Managing Director of Ampol Ltd, who had chaired the interim committee. The part time Deputy Chairman will be former Olympian Mr Herb Elliott. Current members who will be confirmed are Mrs Vicki Cardwell, Mr Pat Clohessy, Mr Phil Coles, Miss Betty Cuthbert, Mr Mick Fitzpatrick, Mr Neale Fraser, Mr Colin Hayes, Mr Grant Kenny, Mr Andrew Lederer, Mr Ray Lindwall, Mr Bruce MacDonald, Mr Roy Masters, Mr John Newman, Mrs Glynis Nunn, Mrs Wendy Pritchard, Mrs Margaret Pewtress, Mr Mark Tonelli, and Mr Jim Yates. They provide a wide range of sporting experience and knowledge, as well as skills in business management and other fields. Since that announcement, the Commission has assumed a number of significant existing policy and program management responsibilities, and has addressed itself to some exciting, new priority areas which we believe required urgent attention and action. I shall mention some of these later in this speech.

Major Features of the Bill

The Bill, which builds on the experience of the last seven months, outlines the Commission's objectives, which are to maximise funding for sport from the private sector, to provide leadership in the development of Australia's performance in international sport and to increase the level of participation in sport by all Australians. It also defines the functions of the Commission, which include program management, the co-ordination of our national sporting effort and the requirement to consult widely with the sporting community. The Bill also describes the powers that the Commission will have to undertake its work. These include the vital provision to establish and operate an Australian Sports Aid Foundation, through which to increase the volume and value of funds for sports development from the private sector.

I would draw the attention of honourable members to those aspects of the Bill that define the powers and responsibilities of the Minister. The Government is anxious to ensure that the Commission operates within the framework of overall Government objectives and policies, which will guide the strategic plan to be prepared by the Commission for consideration by the Minister. These provisions make it clear that the Commission will remain directly responsible to the Government. Together with the provision to allow the Minister to issue directions to the Commission, they will ensure a due and proper degree of ministerial overview and responsibility. The Bill contains the usual sorts of provisions relating to a range of administrative and operational issues, including membership and appointment, the committee system, remuneration and financial management. It should be noted that the Commission will be required to submit estimates in respect of its proposed budget-it will be subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General and the production of an annual report.

Financial Impact Statement

Following the establishment of the Commission on 13 September 1984, the administrative and operational expenses relating to staff, travel, meetings and day-to-day running of the Commission are estimated to be $937,000 in 1984-85. These costs reflect the Government's concern to ensure that the Commission has sufficient funds available in this important establishment phase to undertake a number of projects in line with Government sports development priorities. In addition, the funds cover the payment of fees and allowances to Commission members. At the same time, the Government recognises the environment characterised by a need to control overall levels of Government spending. The cost in 1985-86, being the first full year of operation of the Commission, will be determined in the Budget context.

Under the legislation the Commission will have the power to set up a company, the Australian Sports Aid Foundation, whose prime function will be to raise funds from the private sector to supplement public funds made available for sports development. This Bill, especially those provisions relating to the Commission's strategic plan, places the organisation in the vanguard of the Federal Government's commitment to overall management improvement within the public sector. Within the context of the strategic plan, which has to be endorsed by the Minister, the Commission will be required to develop objectives for its programs and activities, to define measures against which it can test performance and to subject all aspects of its operations to regular evaluation. In broad terms, of course, the provisions of the legislation itself, to the extent that they set out the objectives and functions of the Commission will offer a primary measure against which to constantly monitor its performance.

Achievements and Priorities

I mentioned earlier that, since it commenced operations in September last year, the Commission has addressed itself to a number of priority areas which we believed required urgent attention. For example, it has advanced considerably in the development of a major children in sport campaign. This has involved extensive consultations with the sporting community, with State and Territory education and sport departments, and with expert researchers in the field. The result has been the publication of an action plan entitled 'Young Sport 88'. The plan, itself the subject of wide consultation amongst the various groups that will play an important part in its implementation, is directed towards a series of specific outcomes or targets. These targets are based on the simple, but vital, objective of providing every child in Australia with the skills and experience in a range of sporting and fitness activities. The plan is to introduce a high proportion of those children to those skills by 1988, Australia's bicentennial year. Depending on availability of funds in the Budget, I would want to see an early start made on an agreed program of this sort.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Commission is developing a plan that will spell out some basic principles to assist the development of programs to cater for the sporting needs of older Australians. By the year 2000, some 15 per cent of Australians will be over 65. We have heard much of the trends in our technological age, towards earlier retirement and increasing leisure time. These changes impose priorities to which it is imperative we respond right now. The Commission is doing just that.

The Commission has taken two major Government commitments-the Sports Aid Foundation and the provision to allow sportspeople with short, high earning careers to average their incomes-and is urgently developing specific proposals for our consideration. With reference particularly to the Australian Sports Aid Foundation, the Government recognises that it is essential to provide sufficient incentive to ensure that the Foundation receives the maximum support possible from individuals and corporations within the community. In line with a commitment given during the last election campaign by the Prime Minister, the Government is giving full consideration to the provision of full tax deductibility for donations to the Foundation.

As well as these and other major new areas of activity and involvement, the Commission is running major programs of sports assistance taken over from my Department; for example the sports development program and the national athlete award scheme. In 1984-85, the SDP will provide some $7m to national sporting organisations and other bodies to assist with, among other things, administration, junior development programs, coaching development and travel to international competition. This year, NAAS will allocate more than $700,000 to over 155 individual athletes and 18 teams to assist with training and competition expenses. A major new program of assistance to our top sportspeople-the sports talent plan-has been foreshadowed and its full development will occur as soon as funds are available.


Perhaps most importantly, the Commission has already developed avenues of consultation through which the sporting community can become closely involved in, and fully informed about, the Commission's activities and decision making processes. Consultation is necessary not only with other organisations within the Commonwealth, such as my own Department, and the Australian Institute of Sport, but also with State and Territory governments, major umbrella groups and individual bodies responsible to such a large extent for the primary delivery of sport to the Australian community.

I believe the Commission's conduct even in these first, brief months of its existence provides ample and compelling evidence of the co-operation and consultation that will be the cornerstones of its overall approach. The Commission has no power or charter to intervene in or direct without the direction of the Minister, the affairs of any individual organisation. It has neither the power nor the competence to effect some sort of unilateral 'takeover' of sport. Its charter is clear and simple: To ensure that Taxpayers' money is used, wisely, to achieve the most effective outcomes for sport and for the community. The Government has no intention of allowing any compromise of the proud tradition of independence and autonomy of sporting organisations that lies at the heart of Australia's sporting achievements.

The Commission is to have powers that are independent of my Department and will have primarily an entrepreneurial role, as well as being responsible for recommending the allocation of funding to various sporting organisations and groups and the management of relevant assistance programs. My Department, on the other hand, will continue to provide an avenue of advice on sports policy issues as well as maintaining responsibility for those areas in sport where co-operation of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments is a major factor. I am referring here to such things as the provision of sporting facilities and assistance with major multi-sports events of an international flavour where assistance could not normally be provided through appropriations available to the Commission. The Department is also to assume a more active role in the development and implementation of the Government's policies relating to community recreation and fitness.

A New Era in Sport

Australia has suffered in the past from a curious form of schizophrenia about sport. While proud of their sport, Australians have been uncertain as to where it fits into community life. And this is despite the fact that we are one of the most 'sports crazy' nations of earth. Our people spend vast amounts of their time, energy and money playing, watching and enjoying sport. It is widely accepted that sport has been, and continues to be, a major expression of an enormous range of personal, emotional values and experiences as well as a vital and vigorous element of our national identity and culture. The Prime Minister recognised these values when he commented, in a speech in November 1984, that 'over the years Australia's high performance athletes and coaches have been treated so shabbily by coalition governments'. He went on:

Sportsmen and women, through their dedication and sheer hard work, have been great ambassadors for this country and have been great morale boosters at home. It is simply unfair and unjust for governments to underestimate-and hence undervalue-the role played by our sporting community in the projection of our image and prestige overseas and in the focus they provide for national pride and national achievement at home.

These values have not been lost on private enterprise and shall not go unheeded by this Government. We already estimate that direct sponsorship of sport by the private sector is at least $50m, and takes no account of the value of sports related advertising. We will not only help sport-we will ensure that the efforts of business to promote and assist sport are encouraged.

We recognise that sport delivers not only valuable primary 'products' such as fun, fitness and involvement, but consistently provides such vital secondary outcomes as better health-mental and physical-a sense of national pride, and one of the most marvellous manifestations of human striving after excellence and performance. But we are also beginning to understand more accurately the impressive dimensions of the involvement in sport by the community and its contribution to our national life. For example, we know that in 1983-84 registered participants in cricket, Australian rules, bowls, netball, soccer and tennis exceeded a total of 2.5 million people; the total registration of all national sporting organisations assisted by the Government reaches well beyond five million Australians-35 per cent of our population-and takes no account of those who play sport without formal registration with an organisation; a study into recreational fishing-one of Australia's most popular sports-identified a $2 billion contribution to the economy; and in the 1981 census, 6 per cent of the population was working in the leisure industry-that is a 27 per cent increase over the figure in the 1971 census.

Sport is becoming a major facet of the advertising industry, the insurance industry and the media, all multi-million dollar activities of immense value to our country. Production of sports equipment alone accounts for over $75m in Australia per year. Sports related industries, of course, account for far more. Yet, for all that, we have been strangely reluctant to see sport as a serious or significant area for government support and assistance. While we invest heavily in many other areas of our national life, Federal governments have not seen assistance to sport, despite all the enormous benefits it can deliver to our community, as the investment in national development that it truly represents. We will not only look to helping sport, but also to active co-operation with the private sector in their efforts in this field.

I have already mentioned the remarkable record achieved by this Government in the provision of more adequate funding for sport. To adopt a particularly apt metaphor, I can confidently say that the runs are well and truly on the board. But money is not the simple or singular answer. There must be a sound infrastructure of efficient and effective management to ensure that what we spend has the most beneficial impact on our community. We must put in place machinery to undertake the increasingly complex task that is sports development in the 1980s, or we shall fail to achieve the high aspirations we have for sport and for what sport can provide to all Australians. The Government believes that the Australian Sports Commission will achieve those vital objectives and, working closely with the sporting and wider community, will become an integral element in Australian sport's brave new world. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sheil) adjourned.