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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3540

Mr MARTIN (Banks) - If one is to believe the old saying that man does not live by bread alone one has to express one's disappointment over the allocation in the Budget to recreation and sport. The total amount, about $4,500,000, certainly looks impressive by past standards. It is in fact a great deal more than the Liberal Government saw fit to dish out in the previous 10 years or more. But surely we do not measure progress in this country against that sluggish pace. Of the total made available in the Budget, $3.2m has been earmarked for the creation or completion of single and multi-purpose community recreation and sporting centres. Perhaps the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and his advisers felt that they were being extremely generous. But how far will this money get us? One tartan track costs $130,000; one indoor 25 meter swimming pool would cost $280,000. So with this paltry sum all the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) can do is to plug the most frightening gaps, but hardly what is needed to create a chain of modern recreation and sporting facilities so badly needed in all our cities and the country areas.

One cannot rid oneself of the feeling that somehow, for some mysterious reason, probably inherent in our upbringing, we in Australia still tend to regard sport and recreation with some condescending amusement, and that our public and even many of our politicians somehow fail to grasp the real significance and meaning behind this all. People who have devoted half a lifetime to these problems have proved - if only we, the legislators, would listen - that physical fitness, mass recreation and sport are not idle pastimes but matters of national importance. (Quorum formed). The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) probably called attention to the

State of the chamber because there were only 5 Liberal members present. I do not think there are any more now. As I was saying, Australians do not regard physical fitness, mass recreation and sport as idle pastimes. Honourable members on this side of the Parliament consider them to be matters of national importance. It is not because we want to create a super race, imitating Hitler's Uebermensch but because we are losing, through premature cardiac failures and other illnesses directly attributable to lack of exercise, thousands of outstanding Australians whose skill, brains and work capacity are indispensable for our country. Despite the undoubted progress in these fields since 2 December last when the Labor Government took office, I feel that we have still not quite accepted full responsibility for the physical well-being, fitness and recreational pursuits of our people. In many other parts of the world this has been achieved, with remarkable results. In those countries governments have come to the correct conclusion that they are responsible not just for the formal scholastic education of their population but also for their physical and mental health. What are recreation and sport if not the most striking aids in this battle?

We tend to cry poor mouth whenever we have to give money to projects or causes, the immediate results of which cannot be seen. We are a pragmatic people, ruled by what we fondly refer to as common sense. We have to have evidence before we are convinced or converted. There is plenty of evidence in a number of Western countries that recreation and sport contribute materially and significantly to a nation's overall prosperity, happiness and health. We also have evidence of what happens in places where these are ignored. Rome did not decline only because of its faulty plumbing system. The decline was possibly caused by an overemphasis on sex and an under-emphasis on healthy recreation. Australia could be developing rather rapidly to that stage also. We are a rich country, and recent generous grants have merely underlined this. The Government has given over $lm to fewer than 100 writers in the hope of encouraging literature. No doubt many of them will never write one worthwhile line or stanza, yet no one claims that the money is wasted. We have spent $1,400,000 on a single painting which will hang in our national art gallery and will no doubt puzzle most visitors except perhaps those who are able to see in the picture what even the painter might not have seen.

There is a lot of money for many other things as well. New South Wales is forced to spend about S70m a year on the cure or punishment of alcoholics - something like $800 a head. We are also spending vast sums on the prevention and detection of illnesses or diseases, many of which are caused by our soft life style with lack of sufficient exercise. Even horses and dogs in this country are luckier than humans. Only recently the Totalisator Agency Board in New South Wales announced a pay-out of $llm to various galloping, trotting and greyhound clubs. No doubt these grants will make our horses and dogs fitter, whilst their trainers and owners die of heart attacks at 50 or 60 years of age due to lack of exercise. I am not begrudging what the Government gave to sport and recreation; all I am saying is that it is a mere pittance compared with our other expenditures, especially when one considers the millions of Australians who are involved. Our needs are tremendous, almost stunning. In just about every category our facilities are inadequate, outdated or shabby. Consider Sydney with almost 3 million people. It does not have one public indoor swimming pool, one proper football stadium, one decent indoor stadium and dozens of other things which even small, much poorer communities in Europe and Asia now take for granted. It is time we had a good second look at our attitude to recreation and sport.

One would have to be a magician to produce really good results with these paltry sums amounting to about 35c for every Australian, not in a week or even in a month, but in a year. That is about the price of a pint of beer. Would one pint of beer satisfy most honourable members every year? After the events of the last few days, I doubt it. I hope that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation will be much more demanding before the next Budget session and that he will convince the doubting Thomases in our Government and the Parliament that a much larger slice of the national cake is required, in order to plan and execute a large scale recreation and sports program, than he received in the last August Budget. Let us take it as a start, as a foot in the door, but not more than that. If this country with its allegedly sports loving, outdoor living people, basking in the reflected glory of our few brilliant individuals, cannot spend more generously on the physical fitness, recreation and leisure time activities of its people, it is our woolly attitude that is at serious fault and not our ability to meet these serious obligations.

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