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Our Sporting Future Conference: speech.

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Speech by Senator Rod Kemp - Minister for the Arts and Sport

Our Sporting Future Conference Senator the Hon Rod Kemp Minister for the Arts and Sport Thursday 13 March 2003

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Peter Bartels; Mark Peters; distinguished overseas guests; conference delegates.

Welcome to a truly significant conference-an event that will help shape the future of sport in this country.

I'd like to pay tribute to the Australian Sports Commission for getting this major initiative off the ground, and the sponsors who have helped make it possible.

Anyone who has ever played sport knows that if you stand still, someone will go past you.

Australian sport cannot afford to stand still.

In fact, at a time when so many of our competitors are speeding up, we cannot even expect to maintain our existing pace and get the same results.

We all know that Australia is a nation that fights well above its weight when it comes to sport. I don't need to recite a long list of our national achievements to this audience-after all, many of you have played a part in compiling that list.

But our achievements have not been accidental. They have been the result of:

● Exceptionally talented athletes willing to do what it takes;

● strong and committed financial and logistical support from government;

● effective administration by our national sporting organisations;

● excellent support for athletes, including talent identification initiatives and

world-class development pathways;

● quality coaching and officiating;

● first-class facilities and opportunities to compete at the highest level.

● world-leading sports science and sports medicine and research;

● a network of high-performance training centres-including the jewel in the

crown, the Australian Institute of Sport; and

● an aggressive and innovative sporting private sector that is increasingly


And yet all these elements by themselves do not guarantee success.

Fortunately, we have that special quality that brings these elements together to create a unique sporting system that is the envy of the world.

And that quality is integration.

We have the world's best-integrated national sporting system, a system that aims at excellence and opportunity, from the grass roots right up to the high-performance end of the sport.

For many years, the quality and success of our system has been envied around the world-often by nations with bigger budgets and much larger populations.

But, as all of you here know, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and many nations have chosen to introduce programs and structures which are remarkably similar to those that have been developed in this country.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the United Kingdom, where the flattery has extended to luring away Australian coaching and administrative talent and the establishment of Australian-style institutes and infrastructure.

This UK push has involved a huge financial investment. This year the sports lottery will contribute close to 230 million pounds sterling to the development of the UK sports system.

For us here in Australia, this means greater competition-and we've never shied away from that. Competition keeps us keen. It keeps us focused. And it encourages us to think of better ways of doing what we already do well.

Our task-and one of the reasons we are here today-is to ensure that by the time this concerted effort by the UK and others bears fruit, Australia will have moved on to the next level, setting new standards to which others must aspire.

At stake is not just our national pride in the performances of our sporting heroes, but a significant sector of our economy.

So what you do here in the next two days will have implications not only for the Australian sporting psyche and our national self-image, but for the Australian economy.

What are the big challenges facing Australian sport in the coming years?

Where are the big opportunities for growth, and how can we grasp them?

How can we help the foundation stones of sport in this country-our sporting clubs and organisations-expand their membership and become better managers?

Today I'd like to touch briefly on some of the issues that will impact on out future.

The first is the issue of governance-which once again has come to the fore with the imminent release of David Crawford's blueprint for the reform of Australian soccer.

Another is the question of insurance-a particularly perplexing issue for many of you here today.

Drugs in sport has had a particular focus recently.

And finally, as we are in Melbourne, I'd like to say a few words about the Commonwealth Games due to begin three years from this Saturday.

First, to governance.

Good governance is critical to our sporting future.

Back in 1993, David Crawford took the knowledge, skills and experience he had accumulated in the business arena and applied them to Australian football.

From his landmark report emerged the establishment of an independent central commission and the thriving national code that we see today.

I'm not saying that everything is perfect- as a Carlton supporter it is often difficult to argue that all is right with the world-but I'm sure all of us will concede that the sport is run on a much more professional basis now than it was 15 or 20years ago.

We are fortunate to have David Crawford's expertise again to help with another football code - soccer.

We have had nothing but positive support from broad base of soccer - there are many eagerly awaiting the release of the Crawford Report which I am told will be in the near future.

I imagine the Report will present some challenges but the governance of our national sporting organisations is matter of high priority - for us all.

I know that the issue of governance will arise again and again in your formal and informal deliberations over the next few days. I hope that the lessons learnt and the commitments made here will travel with you when you leave here.

The 'insurance crisis' has been affecting the sport and recreation industry for some time.

Resolving this crisis will require collaboration between legislators, the insurance industry, the sports industry and the community.

On the legislative front, the joint Commonwealth and State review of the law of negligence-the Ipp report-which was released last October, has already had a significant bearing on law and judicial reform across all jurisdictions.

At the federal level, the Commonwealth Volunteer Protection Act has been passed and amendments have been made to the Trade Practices Act and taxation laws on structured settlements and structured orders.

At the State level, I'd have to say the response has been variable and that, in itself, creates problems for national organisations which operate across State boundaries.

As many of you will be aware, my colleague, the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Coonan has portfolio responsibility for this matter at the Federal level.

In various Commonwealth-State forums the Federal Government has been pushing for consistency and best practice.

To enable me to continue to present your interests to Senator Coonan, I need to hear from you on what is happening in your particular sport.

In September last year the Australian Sports Commission commissioned Ernst and Young to research how the situation was affecting Australian sports, how the legislative reforms would work in each jurisdiction, and the prospects of group buying or pooling schemes.

In response to the report the ASC has identified a number of ways it can help sport through the crisis.

These include insurance education and working directly with sports to help them implement effective risk-management practices from the grass roots up.

The ASC has already met with national sporting organisations to discuss the report's findings and debate how to move forward in coming months.

I don't think there is any doubt that risk management and insurance will remain high-priority issues for the Commission and for all Australian sports.

Another issue which will remain high on the agenda for this government is combating drug use in sport.

In recent weeks we have seen significant movement towards a common, global stance on drugs in sport.

At the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Copenhagen earlier this month 50 governments signed a Declaration committing themselves to upholding the World Anti-Doping Code. Another 23 governments indicated they would sign up at a later date.

The Declaration outlines the other measures governments can take to support the work of the World Anti-Doping Agency and to improve international cooperation in such areas as testing.

During the final session of the Conference, all major sporting federations and over 70 governments worldwide backed a resolution accepting the World Anti-Doping Code-a significant step towards the creation of drug-free competition.

Australia was one of the first nations to take a strong domestic stand on drugs in sport-and also among the first to urge an international approach on the issue.

We played an important role in the development of the Code and it is therefore gratifying to witness the outcome achieved in Copenhagen.

As you may be aware, the Government is currently reviewing its Tough on Drugs in Sport policy in light of international and domestic developments.

One of the lessons we have learnt in recent times is that consistency-and the appearance of consistency-are crucial.

In Australia at the moment the handling of positive test results is left in the hands of individual sports.

An independent Tribunal to conduct hearings into positive drug tests has been on the Government's agenda for some time now. I have asked a working group to consult widely on this issue and report back to me on ways we could develop a consistent approach across the sporting spectrum.

I understand that some meetings are already planned during this Conference.

I'd like to finish today by looking forward to 2006 and to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

The Commonwealth Games occupy a cherished place in our sporting history.

The 72 nations taking part share a common historic link with Britain. Even now, in the early years of the 21st century, our bonds endure across cultural, political and physical borders.

2006 will be an important opportunity to showcase this city, its first-class sporting facilities and its unique culture.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the 1956 Melbourne Olympics can't wait for another opportunity to show the world how well this city can run a sporting event of this scale.

The Federal Government supports the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

The Federal Government is currently in discussion with state officials about the shape that support will take.

This event is important for all Australians-not just Melburnians.

All of us want to see our athletes excel.

But, as I said earlier, that means we can't stand still.

A very sobering analysis recently undertaken by the ASC indicated that if an Olympic Games had been held at the start of this year Australia would have won 12 fewer medals than in Sydney-a decrease of 20 per cent.

I know that the ASC, our national sporting organisations and other stakeholders are doing all in their power to meet this challenge.

I imagine that these are issues that will come up time and time again during the formal and informal networking that will take place over the next few days.

I look forward to receiving some detailed feedback and recommendations through the Sports Commission and other delegates to the forum.

Once again, let me say what an honour it is to welcome such a range of knowledgeable and talented delegates to Melbourne.

It gives me great pleasure to declare open this conference about our sporting future.