Interview with Francis Leach on SEN Afternoons
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview with Francis Leach on SEN Afternoons speaking about the National Sport Plan; sport integrity tribunal; sports lottery; AFL; Essendon and the Richmond Tigers.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Greg Hunt is the Federal Minister for Sport, he’s been good enough to join us today. G’day Greg, how are you going?
I am very well, thank you.
So where’s this proposal come from?
So it’s come from, both within sport and it’s something that I’ve been looking at and considering since pretty much coming into the job. Obviously one of the origins has been the way the whole Essendon saga has played out.
I was asked to look at it and re-litigate it shortly after coming into office. We reviewed the material, decided that it had been through multiple court levels and there was nothing to take any further, but many people think that the best possible thing for Australian sport would be to pick up what’s a New Zealand model, where there’s the equivalent of a national integrity tribunal, and so in the case such as the Essendon saga there would have been a final Australian appeal which really would have settled matters to the equivalent of a national sports integrity tribunal.
Can I ask you about that? Under the current WADA code, once ASADA issue an infraction notice, it’s there currently for the governing bodies of the sports to convene their own tribunal process. Would you be eliminating that?
I met with all of the major professional sports this week. So Malcolm Speed is the CEO of that, but you know, cricket, football, union, league, soccer, netball, they’re all there, plus tennis, and we talked a lot about this.
And the proposal that I have got, but it’s the start of the process, not the end, is that we would establish a national integrity tribunal.
Sports could appeal, or players as well, from either directly if there’s no first instance appeal in the case of a sport, you can imagine squash or boxing, things such as that, but in the case of the professional sports they would have their first round of assessment and a final court of appeal at the tribunal level across the nation.
It provides the situation where a sport wouldn’t have to sit in final judgement of itself. Now, we do it on an opt-in basis.
I am hopeful that if we get the model right all of the major sports would opt-in, but by not threatening them and not trying to impose on them I’ve found that there’s been much more early support and cooperation.
Greg, Ashley Browne here from AFL Media, I’m interested to know whether you believe that the way the drug code is set up at the moment, they’re more geared around individual sports and that perhaps they don’t work as they should for team sports.
Well, I’m very respectful of the role of individual sports, and obviously with the Olympic movement it’s absolutely critical that we have unimpeachable standards.
For the codes, the critical thing now is that we have consistent standards and standards at a high level. I found that there was a very strong unified view amongst the leaders of all of the major professional sports on that.
Now, I won’t try to speak for individual sports obviously, such as the AFL, but they all took a strong, clear line that there was just no role for performance enhancing drugs in their sport. So we will work with them, but honestly their first meeting was very, very positive and professional.
I think we can get to a situation where Australia will have an integrity tribunal, and it wouldn’t just deal with doping, but you can imagine match-fixing or major infractions against sports codes, and that gives us a chance to have a world standard body.
And you can imagine in the case of Essendon, where so much of the drama, and there’s no criticism here, it’s just a historic fact, so much of the drama was about the AFL ultimately having to sit in judgement of it’s own processes as well as Essendon.
And I think that if this were to happen again now and there were such a tribunal, that would really provide a court of last resort within Australia and it would provide a standard which, if you had the equivalent of a retired judge, a senior barrister, a former senior police integrity specialist, then if they were sitting in judgement through an independent body then that would pretty much, I would hope, settle the matter.
Can we get any sort of sense, Minister, of the timeline for when you want to establish this, or is there any sort of deadline you’ve set, or any timeline?
Well we’ve literally just opened the consultation process this week. That runs until the end of July, but then we’ll actually have design and discussion with the sports.
I want to speak with the players associations and an open line to speak with the presidents for example, I’m off to the Dreamtime match at the ‘G this Saturday night. I’m a die-hard Richmond supporter and I’m hoping…
Oh we’re sorry about that.
My heart won’t suffer from another less than a goal, last second loss. But as part of that, I’d like to speak with senior officials from the clubs if they’re available, and I’m sure we’ll do that.
On a slightly related issue, the sports lottery is being talked about as well. How far down the path is that towards happening and what do you say to the critics who say it’s just another form of sports gambling?
Well, it’s not a form of sports gambling. That’s about betting on the results of individual sports, and often in many cases of individual sports actions, will there be a no-ball on the fifth ball of the fourth over.
Those are the sorts of things which can be manipulated. This idea of a public good lottery is aimed directly and squarely at improving participation and improving performance. The Sydney Opera House was largely built through a public good lottery.
One of the secrets behind the UK’s success in recent years has been that they have had a national sports lottery pumping significant amounts of funds into it, and that’s obviously good for national pride, and sport is such a part of the Australian identify.
You know, it has in many ways, along with the extraordinary achievements of our medical researchers and our front-line soldiers from Gallipoli, being one of the three key shapers of the Australian identity.
But going forwards, if we are having successful outcomes it’s great for the country, but above all else it inspires and brings young people into sport and they get the health benefits and the social benefits on frankly a lifetime basis.
Would you be happy, though, to have public money like that given over to an organisation like the Australian Olympic Committee, which we just saw tear itself apart in full public view in a petty power squabble? I’m certainly not that keen to see taxpayer’s funds spent in that direction.
No, they’d be going to the Australian Sports Commission. So the Sports Commission is the Government body that administers sports funds, and that, again, I discussed with the major sports and codes this week and they seemed very comfortable with that approach.
So the Sports Commission is led by Kate Palmer, who is the CEO. She’s an outstanding leader of professional sports, she essentially set up the modern Netball Super League, and so she’s very widely respected, and we’d work with all the sports on the distributions.
Can I just ask you one final important question. You get one choice here, Minister, you get one choice.
I don’t know where this is going…
You win the next federal election or see a Tigers premiership – which one is it going to be?
You’ve got to barrack for your own team, and so I’m playing on the field, so I’d have to pick that, but that’s a bit like asking your son or your daughter. So, I’ll pick both. I’ve got to pick the team that I am on.
Good on you, Greg. Good to talk to you.
Take care, cheers.