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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26150

Senator LUNDY (2:38 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan representing the Minister for the Arts and Sport. Is the minister aware of the launch this week in Sydney of the ABC television program—to screen tonight—titled Dope: The Battle for the Soul of Sport, which addresses difficulties in the fight against drugs in sport, particularly those issues highlighted in recent times by the Howard government's mishandling of allegations in cycling. Given the fact that this program received some funding from the Film Finance Corporation, an agency within the minister's Arts portfolio responsibilities, can the minister inform the Senate why Senator Kemp attempted to apply pressure to the Film Finance Corporation to have me not launch the program this week?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —I am aware of the proposed program—and also one on Foxtel or Fox Sports. I think that is right: there is a program on both the ABC and Foxtel. The ABC program Dope: The Battle for the Soul of Sport says that there can be no doubt that this government is tough on drugs in sport. I think that is a very clear message that is conveyed in the documentary. It is very unfortunate, as I am sure Senator Lundy would agree, that recent events appear to have the potential to overshadow our achievements and to impugn, to some extent, Australia's commitment to fight against drugs in sport. The fact that that has been called into question is a matter of great regret.

The Australian government remains vigilant on this issue through our support for the Australian Sports Drug Agency, the Australian Sports Commission, funding for research into detection methods for banned substances and methods, and support for the World Anti-Doping Code. I am advised that the ABC program Dope: The Battle for the Soul of Sport deals with the issues of drugs in sport and what is being done around the world to combat the problem. It shows that more is being done than ever before to eradicate doping from sport. This government has a very fine reputation for tackling the very unfortunate issue of drugs in sport. I think the documentary very clearly shows that the government is very tough on drugs in sport. My advice in relation to the Foxtel program is that it examines whether or not performance enhancing drugs really work. My advice on this is that it has received ethics approval from Southern Cross University. I am further advised that no Australian elite athlete or Australian coach participated in this documentary.

In answer to Senator Lundy's question: to the extent that these documentaries deal with a serious issue, I think that is a good thing. The extent to which they may not properly highlight the way in which this government has introduced world-class standards in dealing with the dreadful problems of drugs in sport is very unfortunate. I have absolutely no information about the launch of the documentary. It is an issue that no doubt Senator Lundy can take up with Senator Kemp when he is present in this chamber.

Senator LUNDY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As part of my supplementary question I ask that the minister take on notice my original question about why Senator Kemp attempted to apply pressure to the Film Finance Corporation and I ask the minister: isn't Minister Kemp's attempt to misuse his position as Minister for the Arts and Sport to heavy the Film Finance Corporation just another example of this government's well-known mean, tricky and deceptive approach to public administration in this country, as identified by the group of 43?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —Mr President, I utterly reject the spurious claims and imputations in Senator Lundy's question. I do not think the Labor Party, after 7½ years in opposition, even had a policy on drugs in sport. Unless I am much mistaken the Labor Party did not ever turn their minds to the very serious issue of drugs in sport.

Senator Lundy —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. There is about 20 seconds to go. The minister has not turned her mind to the question. I should also point out that Labor introduced the Australian Sports Drug Agency.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. Senator Coonan has 30 seconds left for her answer.

Senator COONAN —The Howard government has developed a comprehensive sports policy for all Australians and it has also developed a very comprehensive policy and program in relation to the handling of drugs in sport. The suggestion that the government has done anything to the contrary is utterly without foundation.