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Thursday, 18 November 2004
Page: 83

Senator LUNDY (3:38 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

I note with great interest that the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Kemp, did not make it to the chamber, and so Senator Hill was required to table the statement on his behalf. It is not surprising that Senator Kemp was keen to avoid being here. The Second stage report to the Australian Sports Commission and to Cycling Australia leaves a lot of egg on the face of the coalition government's minister for sport. The ministerial statement outlines the final report of Mr Anderson relating to the allegations into doping in Australian cycling and offers up a complete whitewash and spin—that the report has a positive outcome. There are a few lines in the statement, however, which tell me otherwise.

The most damning indictment of the coalition government's so-called Tough on Drugs in Sport strategy is the fact that the Anderson report advocates a whole series of substantive changes to both the Australian Institute of Sport's policy, and the Australian Sports Commission's policy, on the handling of drugs in sport. The Anderson report's key recommendation is for an independent sports doping body that has—and I quote:

... the power and duty to investigate suspected infractions such as substance abuse and to carry the prosecution of persons against whom evidence is found.

Why is this so important? This recommendation implies that it was not possible for an independent investigation to be carried out on this matter under the auspices of the coalition government and its policies. This was an issue that Labor raised at the time. There was a cover-up. It took far too long for this investigation to occur. The issue would never have come out into the open had Labor not brought it to this chamber—that is a fact.

We now know that, had we not taken that action, this issue would never have seen the light of day. These facts would never have been put on the table. The government would not have been forced to appoint an investigator like Mr Anderson to go through the issues, to ensure that there was a police investigation follow-up and to bring not only the government but the AIS, the Australian Sports Commission and other sports involved to account. That is the substance of the report we are faced with today. That is the substance of the statement that Senator Hill has tabled. It is about the changes that are now required to take place. Seeing the minister could not be bothered coming here and presenting this statement to the chamber I think it is worth quoting from part of it:

Based on Mr Anderson's findings, it is fair to say that overall the decisions taken by the ASC and CA were reasonable in the circumstances at the time. His Report includes a range of suggestions regarding detection and prevention of doping offences. I have been advised that the AIS Athlete Scholarship Agreement has been revised to expressly allow searches of rooms, the seizure of goods found in rooms, the search of computers provided to AIS Scholarship athletes and the collection of data found in those computers. The Agreement has also been amended to provide that the Australian Sports Commission can disclose personal information on AIS scholarship athletes to relevant organisations. The AIS has also strengthened its existing policy of prohibiting self-injection by AIS athletes.

They are the minister's words in his statement. It is a list of all of the profound weaknesses in the government's existing policy. Minister, how can it possibly be claimed that the coalition government was tough on drugs in sport when such a comprehensive list of activities arising from this independent review emerges? Surely you must concede that there was a fundamental flaw, that the flaw had to be fixed, and that the flaw would not have been fixed had it not been for the Labor Party putting these issues into the public light to allow for their scrutiny and demanding action.

The Labor Party has not let anyone down. Back in July we first issued our policy for the establishment of an independent sports doping ombudsman's position. Why? Because we knew there was a gap in the ability of people with a complaint—be they athletes, coaches, family members, or people unconnected to the sporting community but with crucial information—to raise that complaint with someone who did not have a vested interest. That is why our policy about a sports doping ombudsman was so critically important. What did the government do at the time? They scoffed, and rejected that approach—whereas now, with the final Anderson report before them and egg on their faces, they have come back and conceded that that is exactly what is needed in the Australian sporting landscape and they have issued—according to the ministerial statement—a discussion paper that will make that happen at some point.

The importance of having an independent investigator in the context of drugs in sport is not a new issue; it has been debated for a long time and, seemingly, resisted with some passion by the Australian Sports Commission. Again, the evidence in this case is of shabby handling by the Australian Sports Commission of investigations into this matter, which led it to resist any government policy—or any weak effort Senator Kemp may have put forward—to put in place an independent investigative body.

The Australian Sports Commission have had their day, and it is now time for them to be accountable to an independent body. It is up to the minister to concede that they have made mistakes. They did not have a `tough on drugs in sports' policy that was foolproof. The commission is in desperate need of an overhaul. There is no other way to describe the action put forward as part of the final report from Mr Anderson: it is an overhaul, it is comprehensive and the detail will show that there was mistake after mistake and flaw after flaw in the handling of this matter. Based on those very clear facts, no amount of shallow political spin, which is clearly evident in the ministerial statement, is going to take that away.