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Thursday, 11 June 2020
Page: 2735

Senator FARRELL (South Australia) (12:05): I rise to speak on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Enhancing Australia's Anti-Doping Capability) Bill 2019. The past few months have presented unprecedented challenges for Australia's sports sector. The appropriate and necessary public health measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have forced the shutdown of very nearly all sporting activities at all levels from the grassroots to our elite competitions. Over the past fortnight, we've started to see the staged resumption of certain activities, including the return of sport. These small but important steps are encouraging to the Australian sporting clubs and organisations. But, just like other aspects of our lives, we know it will take some time for the Australian sporting landscape to look anything like it did before this global health and economic crisis hit. The ongoing impact on sport makes it more important than ever that we do everything we can to protect the integrity of sport. This bill seeks to do that by strengthening Australia's capacity to prevent, detect and deal with doping in sport.

Australians love their sport, and many of us can't wait to again be inspired by our favourite teams and athletes in local and national competitions and the international sporting stage. My team is resuming this Saturday night.

Senator McKenzie interjecting

Senator FARRELL: No, the Adelaide Crows will wipe out Port Adelaide, I'm sure, at Adelaide Oval in front of the 2,000 lucky people who are going to be there—only 500 Adelaide Crows supporters, unfortunately, because it's a Port Adelaide home game. I see the contribution from the former sports minister there.

They love their sport, and when sport returns these achievements will again bring us together, uphold the reputation of Australian sport and make us love it even more. Those things, which we hold dear and have sorely missed over the past couple of months, are threatened whenever revelations of doping are reported. Australians value fair play and expect a level playing field in sport. Our confidence in the integrity of sport is undermined by doping. Doping leads us to question whether the sporting events we love to watch are really being contested on a truly level playing field. In government, Labor recognised the need to upgrade and update Australia's antidoping regime to keep up with new and evolving risks. For instance, in 2012 the federal Labor government established the National Integrity of Sport Unit, and in 2013 we passed legislation to strengthen the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority powers.

Sports doping threatens to continue to constantly evolve, so it's important that Australia's protective measures are regularly reviewed and, if required, updated. In response to those ever-changing risks, in August 2017 the government announced a review of Australia's sports integrity arrangements. The review panel was chaired by Justice James Wood, and its report has become known as the Wood review. After receiving the Wood review in March 2018, the government released its response in February 2019. The review was detailed and extensive—nearly 300 pages containing 52 recommendations. One of those recommendations directly relates to this bill. Recommendation 18 states:

That the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's regulatory role and engagement with sports in relation to the audit and enforcement of sport's compliance with anti-doping rules and approved policies be enhanced by establishing regulatory compliance powers exercisable by the proposed National Sports Integrity Commission in collaboration with (and at the request of) the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority CEO.

This bill seeks to implement recommendation 18. The review also recommends retaining ASADA as Australia's national antidoping organisation. However, the government has decided to bring antidoping operations under the umbrella of a new agency, Sports Integrity Australia. This legislation to establish the agency passed both houses of parliament in February this year and was given assent in March. ASADA has said it supports the inclusion of antidoping activities in the remit of Sport Integrity Australia, and that move is supported by the majority of Australia's sporting organisations.

Labor supports measures designed to protect the integrity of Australian sport and supported the passage of this bill through the House of Representatives last year. However, stakeholders, including the Australian Athletes Alliance, the AAA, have raised concerns with us about the impact some sections of the bill might have on individual rights. In response, Labor has worked closely with stakeholders towards a better balance between stronger antidoping capabilities and the athletes' individual rights. Initially, we sought detailed briefings on the first version of the bill from the office of the former Minister for Sport, Senator McKenzie, and that was willingly provided, and officials involved in drafting the bill. We continued that process with Senator Colbeck, who took over the portfolio after the last election.

Labor initiated the referral of the bill by the Senate to the Community Affairs Committee for a short inquiry, which reported earlier this year. We did that to give stakeholders an opportunity to outline issues relating to certain specific aspects of this bill. Concerns raised during the inquiry and with Labor directly have largely related to the potential for some aspects of the bill to unfairly impact on individual rights. One of the most consistently raised stakeholder concerns has been the lowering of the threshold for the disclosure notice from reasonable belief to reasonable suspicion. Athletes groups have suggested that lowering the threshold would effectively deny athletes protections that are offered to criminal suspects.

Stakeholders have pointed out that complying with disclosure notices, including accessing legal advice, can be costly and time-consuming. Many athletes, particularly those in Olympic sports, are not on six- or seven-figure salaries like those attracted by the stars of some of our local codes, for example. They don't have the resources to secure legal representation for complicated processes which, under this bill in its current form, could be initiated with a lower threshold than that required for serious criminal investigations. Representative bodies argue that putting athletes in a position where such costs are incurred merely on the basis of reasonable suspicion is unfair. The scrutiny committee has queried the need for the changes and asked why a reasonable belief could not be formed on the basis of intelligence gathered while investigating a potential antidoping breach.

Labor flagged, during the debate on this bill in the other place, that we might seek to move amendments to this bill in the Senate if we believe that the matters raised in the committee inquiry required changes. We do think that change is needed. Let me be clear: Labor supports strong antidoping measures in sport, but we also support the intent of this bill to strengthen Australia's defences against doping in sport and look forward to continuing our commitment to that goal. But if the balance between the necessary new and enhanced powers and the rights of individuals can be improved then they should be. Stakeholders believe maintaining the current threshold would lessen the potential for unintended cumulative impacts on individual athletes' rights that could result from the combination of a lower threshold and other sections of the bill. That's why it's Labor's intention to move an amendment to this bill that would maintain the current threshold of reasonable belief for the issuing of the disclosure notice. We have sought to work constructively with stakeholders and throughout the parliament to improve the balance of this bill, and we hope to gain the support of the Senate to do that whilst still ensuring strong anti-doping regimes to protect Australia's integrity in sport.