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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2142


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (16:54): Like many Australians, I spent a fair chunk of summer on the couch watching our Australian cricket team and, like any Australian, I was very proud to see our team perform so admirably, so well and so successfully against our rivals—England. I had particular admiration for our captain, Steve Smith. He seemed to me to be an incredibly articulate, level-headed young man—yes, a very ambitious young man and a very competitive young man, but someone who all Australians could have pride in. We all marvelled as his statistics got better and better throughout the summer as he came closer and closer—though no-one ever will—to Bradman's test batting average.

So I think every Australian who's heard the news in the last 24 hours—waking up yesterday morning to find out that the Australian cricket team and, indeed, our captain had been involved in what appears to be premeditated cheating—was very disappointed. My overwhelming sense was a sense of sadness and disappointment. It goes without saying that we expect better from our sports men and women, and that when they have the honour of representing us they are not there just to win, to fight successfully and to prevail on Australia's behalf but to represent us with honour and to uphold our values, particularly on the international stage.

Cheating in sport is bad not just because it's disappointing to us and because it's not consistent with our Australian values but because cheating in sport undermines faith in the game. It's not much fun to watch a game where you know that the outcome is premeditated, where you know the players don't abide by the rules and where you know that you can't be sure they are having a real contest. It's a pretty boring game to watch, if that's the case.

Obviously, the motion today is not just about sport; it's also about politics. If cheating is bad in sport, then it's even more serious in politics, because undermining faith in the game of politics is undermining faith in our democratic institutions, and undermining faith in our democratic institutions is a very dangerous thing to do. I think we, in this country, often presume that the prosperous, stable, harmonious liberal democracy that we enjoy is rock solid, that it is immune and that it could never regress, but the truth is that Australia, which is such a young nation, is also one of the world's oldest democracies, and we are one of the world's oldest democracies because democracy is fragile. Anything which undermines people's faith in our political system is toxic to that stability. As other senators have pointed out in this debate already, we've had a very serious example of that in recent years in my home state of Victoria where the then opposition, led by Daniel Andrews, systematically rorted taxpayers' money for political gain. They cheated in an attempt to win an election. As frustrating as that may be for me, as a Liberal, to know that the rules were being abused, that the game wasn't fair and that there was cheating, because my side was on the losing end of that political contest, as an Australian, I'm much more profoundly disturbed about what that does to our political institutions. If Australians form the view that political elections in this free country can be stolen, then no wonder they will be disillusioned completely by our election.

I want to recognise some of the people who were the victims of that scheme to defraud taxpayers to cheat the election. There were people like Donna Bauer, the member for Carrum. Unbeknownst to her, she was not just competing against the Labor Party and any funds it could raise from its members in the union movement; she was also competing against taxpayers. The candidate she was up against, and ultimately lost to, Sonya Kilkenny, was funded by Gavin Jennings, now, laughably, the Victorian Special Minister of State and responsible for administering the resources of MPs. There was Elizabeth Miller, the member for Bentley, who was campaigning against not just Nick Staikos but taxpayer funded campaigners. There was Lorraine Wreford, the member for Mordialloc, who was campaigning against not just Tim Richardson but also taxpayer funded political staff in breach of the rules spending taxpayers' money in an attempt—and, as we now know, a successful attempt—to steal an election. While we might throw around partisan points in this debate—and there are partisan points to be made—I think we all have a much greater and higher duty here, which is to preserve the system as we know it, which has served us very well. If we continue to cheat in politics and sport, we will undermine both.