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Press Conference at the Australian Institute of Sport

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's press conference at the Australian Institute of Sport to launch the National Sport Plan.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Thanks very much to Kate, to Matt and Craig, to Lynn, to Michael, to Shelly, to Matt Favier and all of the magnificent staff here at the Institute.

There could barely be a more Australian thing than to love sport and to play sport. It is literally in the DNA of Australians.

Now, on Saturday mornings we head out to junior sport, our family is no different. This Saturday, I headed out to junior soccer with my little seven-year-old and on Sunday morning I headed out to junior football with my little seven-year-old, and in the meantime his older sister plays sport, she’s been doing soccer, she’s been doing netball, running. That’s the story of every Australian family, and it should be the story of every Australian family.

And we think of our great names in sport, you mention Indigenous Australia and you think of Cathy Freeman and Lionel Rose, of Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and so many others.

It’s a way through and it’s a way out of circumstances for so many people, and it’s a sense of pride, of inspiration, and in particular, it’s a way of keeping Australians engaged and healthy.

So to develop a National Sports Plan is about laying out a vision where each young Australian can dream and each young Australian can do.

They can be a part of sport, they can play sport, they can be engaged in healthy living. And we have our extraordinary athletes here in Michael and Shelly.

They are examples of Tennyson’s Ulysses, to strive, to seek, to find, but not to yield, and I’m very hopeful for each of them over the coming year at the world championships and Commonwealth Games that they will find their measure of success, and the measure of success, by the way, is to be your very own best self.

That’s what achieving in sport is, to achieve and be your very own best self. That’s also what a National Sports Plan is about.

It’s about allowing Australians to be their best selves and the country as a whole to achieve its maximum potential, and at our best there are always going to be Australians with the right support who will come through and be the best in the world.

So there are really four pillars to what we’re hoping to achieve with the National Sports Plan.

One is participation, and I don’t think there’s been a better example in recent years of encouraging participation than what Kate has done in her work through Netball Australia.

And that’s why she was recruited to be the CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, because she has focussed on both participation and the second pillar of what we’re doing, which is performance.

If you have enough young people coming through you will also have the success at the higher levels. Again, we look at Matt and what Matt has achieved in sport and that’s why he’s been headhunted to take up the role with the Australian Olympic Committee, and the two together are going to form a wonderful partnership and I’m really pleased with their work.

So we have participation and we have performance. We also have prevention, and that’s about preventive health, and only a week and a half ago the Prime Minister and I launched the Prime Minister’s Walk for Life, and that’s an initiative about getting 300,000 Australians, both of school age and at older ages, into walking. So sport is about keeping people healthy.

It’s their quality of life and the length of their life, these two things coming together. And then finally there’s integrity, because around any area of activity there are always the players who are in the shadows, and we want to keep those out of Australian sport and we want to rub them out of Australian sport.

So one of the things we to do is to look at the option, and I have seen very good support from the states and from the different sports going forward, for a national integrity commission and tribunal.

That’s one thing we’ll be working towards through this plan, it’s about eternal vigilance. The question of funding is always important, and this plan will consider, with a strong bias towards support, a national sports lottery.

There are great examples around the world, most notably the UK, of funding on a secure basis coming from a national sports lottery. It’s something which I strongly support.

I know in my discussions with both John Coates and John Wiley, they’ve long been advocates of this. And this is a way of finding funds, working with the states, and we will invite the states to have a representative on the National Sports Plan process and also to be part of the national sports lottery process.

So there’s a lot of common ground here, but at the end of the day this sports plan, which will be open for comment from now until the coming months, will bring people together. We hope to have it out and up and running before 31 December. And at the end of the day every young Australian can dream, but it’s even better if this plan enables every young Australian to do.


Thank you Minister. The Australian Sports Commission of course is very supportive of the National Sport Plan, considering our central leadership position in sport. We also support the consultation process, it’s really important.

We are looking forward to working with stakeholders to contribute to the development of the plan. I’m now delighted to invite my colleague Matt Carroll AM, the chief executive officer of the Australian Olympic Committee, to say a few words.


Thanks Kate, and thank you to Minister Hunt for inviting the Australian Olympic Committee to participate in this important announcement.

The Australian Olympic Committee welcomes the Minister’s initiative. Every athlete, every team, every sport needs a cunning plan, so a national whole of sport plan is critical for Australia’s sporting future.

A national plan will bring clarity on the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved and establish the support, the infrastructure, the funding required to achieve our collective sporting outcomes for the country, and we welcome the Minister’s support for the lottery initiative.

The AOC accepts that Australians set high expectations for sport administrators, not just in providing opportunities for athletes to achieve medal success, but in growing participation, ensuring community outcomes in health education, and importantly setting standards that meet our cultural values.

We welcome the Minister’s national plan which will be addressing all of these important aspects. The AOC will be fully engaged in the plan’s development and I’ll be encouraging our 40 member sports to take part, to participate, to contribute in the formulation of the plan.

The Olympics is a great representation of the diversity of sports and that’s what we hope to bring to formulating the national plan. Thank you very much.


Thank you Matt, and now to my colleague Lynne Anderson, the CEO of the Australian Paralympic Committee.


Thanks Kate and Minister Hunt and my sporting colleagues. The Australian Paralympic Committee also welcomes the National Sports Plan, and we recognise the irreplaceable role that sport plays in Australia for people of all ages and all abilities.

It is not just the bragging rights on the global stage; sport is a key driver for much needed health and social outcomes. Every day at the Paralympic committee we get to see the life-changing, validating, and empowering benefits of sport.

We are pleased to be a part of this timely focus on sport at all levels in Australia. While we are incredibly proud of our record of achieving top five at all Paralympic Summer Games since 1992, it is getting harder to compete against not just traditional rivals, but new rivals with far greater resources.

But it is not just in elite high performance sport that the Australian Paralympic Committee has a role to play.

Our mission is simple, to change lives through sport. We know para-sport inspires, but it also has the power to speak to a broad audience and radically change people’s perceptions and attitudes towards disability.

In this way, sport is also a powerful agent for inclusion, fairness, and hope. For our Paralympic multiple gold medallists, such as Kurt Fearnly and Madison Elliott, as well as the new parents of a child who have just learned that their child will grow up with a disability, sport can and does enrich lives.

Twenty per cent of Australians, that’s 4.3 million of us, live with a disability, yet only one in four with a disability participate in sport, and of those 20 per cent we know that 75 per cent want to participate more but face multiple obstacles in that ambition.

We want all Australians with a disability to be given the access and means to compete in sport at the level that they desire, whether that be in competition at the local community hall or proudly representing their country in a packed stadium in front of millions of television viewers. Today’s an exciting step on that journey.

It’s a challenge we will embrace side by side with the Government and our partners, and we will be doing everything we can to ensure Australian sport, particularly its participants with an impairment, achieve excellence over many years to come.

Our aim simply is to ensure a quality of opportunity, access, and respect for all Australians wanting to engage in sport. Thank you.


Thank you Lynne, and now Craig Phillips, the CEO of Commonwealth Games Australia.


Thank you, Kate. Can I start firstly by acknowledging and thanking the Minister for the support that was recently given in the Federal Government’s Budget for continued Commonwealth Games success on the Gold Coast, and the delivery of the $15.5 million which we know for our member sports, their athletes, will go a long way to help them ensure that we return to the top of the medal tally at the Commonwealth Games – a place we gave up reluctantly in Glasgow three years ago.

So Minister, those funds will be greatly appreciated and we know that they will add to the success of our athletes next April. In April next year at the Commonwealth Games, we will have 470 athletes as members of our team.

It will be the largest Commonwealth Games team Australia has ever had. It will include for the first time the opportunity for athletes from both genders, male and female, to actually have equal number of medal opportunities, which is a first for Commonwealth Games certainly, and we think any other major games, and also to the largest para-event program in Commonwealth Games history, with 38 events across seven sports.

So from our perspective, we’re very focused on not only having a successful team, but one that is very inclusive and very representative of Australia. That’s very much one of our goals.

So, as I mentioned, we have the goal of returning to number one. We can only do that with the close collaboration of our member sports, of the high performance partners that we have, including Australian Paralympic Committee, the AIS and others.

But I think it signals for us, and why it’s pleasing for us to be included today, is that for a National Sports Plan to succeed, and we compliment the Minister on the way this has started – it must have buy-in by all parties and collaboration by all parties.

Cooperation and collaboration in Australian sport has never been more important than it is right now, and we, again, commend the Minister for initiating this National Sports Plan and look forward to playing our part in that.

We know that the plan will be based on four pillars, and we think this is a very important thing. Too often we have discussion in the media whether we should be supporting participation or we should be supporting performance.

They’re part of the same thing. Our sports in this country are based on a continuum from kids playing sport for the love of it at a young age through to athletes striving to do the best they can for their country.

So to have a fully integrated plan that addresses all levels of sport and all outcomes of sport is very important. So we are very happy to be part of this, and look forward to working with our partners in the delivery of the plan in the future. Thank you,


Thank you Craig. Now I would like to invite Shelley Watts and Michael Roeger across to the stage. Shelley made history after claiming Australia’s first female boxing gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the lightweight division.

Shelley made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games and was Australia’s only female boxer at the Rio Games. Welcome Shelley.

Now, you’ve had an interesting pathway to success and came from football into boxing, so can you tell us a little bit about the important of the pathway from participation to the elite?


The participation pathway is obviously huge. Without being able to know where you’re going, there’s really not even opportunity to see the end performance or the high performance. So in the seven years since I started boxing, the participation levels through boxing itself have been amazing.

Young kids are able to watch someone like myself or any of the other boxers on TV and they actually know what they can do to get there.

And they can start from as young as 10 years old in the boxing, and they know that they can train and progress through. And it all starts with obviously being able to participate at a young age, and then being able to progress up and knowing the pathway and knowing where they need to go.


What about the role of sport from a preventative health perspective?


I actually came into boxing through an injury, so it was because of my injury in football – I had a knee reconstruction, that I even found this amazing sport and I started it to prevent additional injuries and for rehab.

I think all Australians should definitely participate in some form of sport because of the fact that it makes us healthy.

I’ve never been more healthy in my life than what I am now because of the amazing sport that I do, and I think that I’ve been the fittest and the healthiest and the least amount of injuries due to the fact that I’m fit and healthy.


That’s wonderful and best wishes for the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Thank you for that.

And now could I speak to Michael? Michael’s competed in athletics at three Paralympic Games to date, but really came into his own post-London.

At the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, he won bronze in the 1500 metres and 5000 metres, and in June 2015 he smashed the 1500 metre world record.

These successes were followed by bronze medal wins in the 1500 metres at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Qatar and the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

So today we’re starting the conversation about what Australians think about sport; can you talk through how important you think sport is in giving people opportunities in life?


Yeah, sure. Sport for me personally has, right from the grassroots level from when I was playing footy in a small town called Langhorne Creek, gave me a lot of opportunities to be active and get out of the house and stop annoying my parents, but right through to the high performance level.

And especially the Paralympic movement, that has opened up doors, I’ve met some amazing people, travelled the world, and really found myself as a person and as an athlete.

So sport for me has been very big and I think the Australian Paralympic Committee and what they’ve done for me have been amazing.


Wonderful, and I have to say it’s actually wonderful having Michael on our team here at the Australian Sports Commission in our Clearinghouse. I’d also be very interested in understanding your views on how important integrity in sport is as a Paralympic medal winner.


Yeah, sure. I think from an early age, you know, you grow up playing sport and integrity is really about being fair so it’s a huge part.

You just want to stand on that line or in that field of play and know that everyone is playing by the rules and with the utmost integrity they can possibly have. So it’s very important.


Wonderful. Can you join me in thanking both Shelley and Michael?

Can I also join my colleagues in thanking you, Minister? It’s wonderful having such an enthusiastic Sport Minister, someone who’s making things happen. And I have to say, we’re really delighted about the plan but also, as Craig said, the investment that you’re making in sport and Australia. It’s highly valued, so thank you.

Now I’d like to invite questions for the Minister.


Okay, I’ll just say two things very briefly, one, there’s only one condition to any of this and that is to Matt Favier. I do want to go to the basketball gymnasium and have a few throws, so that’s my one condition for today.

And then the second thing is I’d like to make some very brief remarks about the NDIS and the Medicare levy.

We’ve seen reports today that Mr Shorten was outnumbered by his Shadow Cabinet, the Shadow Cabinet clearly believed that the NDIS levy is fair, it’s an insurance scheme for every Australian, and it’s about each Australian contributing on a fair basis to their own protection in the future and the protection of those that most need it.

It’s proportionate, somebody on 10 times the income will pay 10 times the amount, somebody on one-tenth the income will pay one-tenth the amount.

And what we see here is very clear, Mr Shorten is not fair dinkum about the NDIS, he’s not fair about the NDIS. If you do not support paying for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, you don’t support that scheme.

Now, I’m happy to take any questions about the National Sports Plan.


Minister, you said you’d go into this consultation with a strong bias towards the national lottery, which must mean that you’ve got some sort of concrete thoughts about how it might work?


Yeah, so the working model, which will be tested in conjunction with the states and will go through a tender process, but the model as opposed to the operator that we’re looking at is two-tiered.

Firstly, the Commonwealth can easily legislate for an online lottery, and that’s something which I believe there’ll be broad support for, then the over-the-counter sales are the responsibility of the states.

I’ve had preliminary discussions so far with four ministers, two Labor, two Liberal, from across the states and what we would be proposing is that the states would opt-in and the states would keep the revenue but apply it to sport for that, which is additional net revenue.

So I looked at it from the perspective of if I’m a state treasurer what do I want to see? I want to see that we’re getting net additional revenue in the state.

But if I’m the Commonwealth Sports Minister what do I want to see? I want to see that net additional revenue applied to sport.

So the preliminary thinking is that the states could sign on, they would keep the additional revenue but they would apply it on the basis of agreed priorities with the Australian Sports Commission. We’d then go through a tender process to find a national lottery provider.


With that working that way, with the states keeping the additional revenue, wouldn’t you then need more people to gamble to make it work?


Look, the way this works is this is a public good lottery and that concept is something that is well accepted, we see in Western Australia a public good lottery, we see in the United Kingdom a public good lotteries.

That’s a very accepted approach and it is a sensible way to provide additional permanent sports funding which I think is fair, reasonable, appropriate, and my view is if we achieve this, and I believe we will, in 30 and 50 and 100 years it will still be here and providing a way to support participation and support performance for Australian sport.


And is that how you’d respond? Because people will criticise it and say; the last thing Australian sport needs is more gambling. Is that how you would respond to those concerns?


Well I think is very different. If you have a legislated and highly regulated and it’s a public good lottery then that’s sensible.

It brings together both the AOC and the ASC. I know from my discussions with John Coates, he’s long been an advocate of it, I know from my discussions with John Wylie, he’s long been an advocate of it. And it’s something that in my time, on my watch, I would like to see us achieve.


Do you believe that there is a conflict of interest at the heart of the current anti-doping regime and the way that’s all assessed?


Well, I think that we have a very strong anti-doping regime in Australia. ASADA is powerful, it is independent, it is fearless.

But I also believe that the notion of sports sitting in judgement of themselves is something that we should move beyond.

Now, I’ve discussed this with various sports and at this stage there is early but broadly supportive commitment to something such as a national integrity tribunal or commission.

I think that that would allow us to avoid the situation where the AFL had to sit in judgement of itself in relation to the Essendon doping case.

I discussed this in brief with the AFL, and we’ll use the sports plan process to consider what should be a national integrity commission, but my view is that that is the right direction and I believe it will actually be a source of comfort for individual sports.


Would this commission and integrity board overrule what the AFL and the NRL already have in place for integrity?


It would only be done on a cooperative basis. So the whole notion is that sports would opt into it, but I would be surprised if there’s an Australian sport that wouldn’t opt into it, but we’ll work cooperatively with the sports.

I’m not one who wants to come in and write in, impose, a view. I’ve had quite broad discussions and my view is that the sports as a whole will welcome it because, frankly, I don’t think the AFL feels that the previous circumstance was satisfactory having had some discussions, and I think that if there is the equivalent of a court of arbitration of Australian sport, a national integrity tribunal as part of a national integrity commission, that would be the best way forward.


And you just said you’d spoken, have you spoken to the NRL as well as the AFL, and what was their broad response to your call?


Look, we’ve had some very early preliminary discussions. We’ve indicated that we’ll lay this down. I’ll let individual sports speak for themselves, but as a general principle the idea that sports do not have to sit in judgement of themselves removes conflicts of interest.

If we had strong integrity measures as well as highly qualified people, whether it’s with judicial or policing backgrounds, then I think that will only strengthen Australian sport.


And two more questions just briefly. Back on the lottery, sorry, asking for a lot of people, would you envisage that the Federal Government would still maintain its level of funding in sport, even with the lottery?




And how would you like the lottery money to be divided up amongst the sports and who would decide that?


That would be for the Australian Sports Commission in conjunction with the other sports. My job is to ensure that we’ve got a structure and we’ve got the funds, Kate’s job is to ensure that the funds are targeted to deliver participation and performance across the sports.


So you would want some of it to go to grassroots sport as well as premier?


Well, one model that the ASC, both Kate and John Wylie, have floated is that we could be sponsoring the athletes through them and in return the athletes who are sport’s best ambassadors are out and about in schools and in communities.

Now, there’s already a measure of that, but additional funding for athletes as they come through in return for additional grassroots activity. It’s a brilliant model which I’d like to say I created, but it was Kate and John and others who came up with it.

Alright, thank you very much.


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