Parliament Updates

Anti-Doping laws in Australian sport

4 December, 2019


Both sides of politics have spoken on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment (Sport Integrity Australia) Bill 2019. I rise to speak on it as someone with a real understanding of some of the issues this bill is seeking to address. I very much know the importance of sport. It's absolutely been the cornerstone of my life since I was too young really to remember. To me, one of the key aspects of sport and sporting performance is in fact integrity, because winning at all costs is not winning at all; what really matters is how you win. I've had the privilege of representing Australia at four Winter Olympic Games and numerous world championships and World Cup events. I've had the privilege of carrying the Australian flag at medal ceremonies, of standing on the dais listening to our anthem. It is amazing, as an athlete, to stand there representing your country.

So it is incredibly important that we implement the recommendations of the Wood review to safeguard integrity in Australian sport. As a past member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, I've also been involved when it comes to our fight against doping and the importance of keeping sport clean. There is nothing worse, as an athlete, than knowing that you've given it everything, that you've trained for so many hours but you're not on an even playing field, or to listen to the story of those people who have found themselves in fourth or fifth place and missed out on the privilege of being on the dais because it has then been found that there were drug cheats. I think we all dislike it and despair when those new allegations come out, and we can only really keep progressing our fight against doping in sport.

There is a new scourge in sport, though, and that's gambling. That also is having a huge impact on the integrity of sport and on that faith we have when we watch sport and we encourage our children to watch sport and look up to their sporting heroes. It absolutely needs to be monitored and absolutely controlled and regulated. We need to make sure that with this bill and these measures, in terms of ensuring integrity, the full force of the law comes down on those practices.

What's interesting about sport, though, is that it's not always about winning—and we often miss those moments. It's the greatest acts of courage where often it's not those who have won but those who have displayed integrity, compassion and fair play in the pursuit of excellence. It's not always rewarded by standing on the dais with a medal. It's actually about standing there, maybe with somebody else who has had to pull out of a field, or standing on the side of a race knowing that you gave it everything and that you really stood by your principles.

I do find it slightly ironic that we're here today debating and discussing passing a bill in relation to integrity in sport. The irony of it happening today is I think quite priceless. I look at the efforts and all the lovely words that have been spoken in this place by members in relation to ensuring integrity in sport—yet, at the same time, there is a complete lack of political will and effort to address the declining trust and integrity in our political systems.

We are here to enact a national integrity commission in relation to sport, but we have no national integrity commission in relation to our politics and in relation to corruption. The only model put forward so far by the government is one where they want to ensure that there be privacy. They are opposing the idea that there be public hearings. I don't hear those same words from anybody in terms of athletes being afforded privacy. For example, an athlete dragged through an integrity hearing would have their reputation dragged through the mud, but they would welcome being cleared and knowing that they're fully accountable to the Australian people. Yet I don't hear many people in this place, especially from the government side, standing up for that same standard to be applied to themselves.

An integrity commission will ensure that sport is held up to that standard we want. As a mother, I want my children to participate in sport, because there are so many skills and it builds character and resilience. You learn to have courage. You learn to give it a go. You learn to do your best and hold yourself up to the best standard you possibly can. It's so important that we hold sport up to that standard, but it is also so important that we hold this place up to a better standard. Why haven't we got an integrity commission like we are asking athletes to have? Why haven't we got more support and a clearer way to address the issues that we have when it comes to our integrity? The hypocrisy absolutely floors me. As someone who is new to this place, I came with a clear intent—I felt the Australian people deserved better. They deserve to know that we are working hard to raise the bar and to make sure that we are holding ourselves up to a better standard. That's what I will urge all the members of this parliament to do. We have to do better. Just as when we look at a national team that's performed below par and there are always plenty of armchair critics who'll say what they should have done and what they could have done, I think there are plenty of armchair critics looking at our performance at the moment and thinking we absolutely must do better.

Think back to only a year ago and the scandal of our cricket team and the reaction around Australia at the idea of our national captain endorsing cheating. The players took it on the chin. They took the consequences. They stood down and took a period of expulsion from the team. They are now back and performing well, and we can respect them for that because they took the consequences of their actions.

What can we say about what happens in this place when we have events like today where decisions are made and people are voting and they don't even know what they're voting on? We know a deal was done, we know people are lying about it, but we don't even know what it was. One of the things that sport actually celebrates is compassion and being your better self. Is that really what we were being today when we were basically saying to people in detention, 'You do not have a right to medical attention; our compassion is so short that we prefer to send you back and leave you indefinitely in detention'?

I have always been extremely proud to be Australian when I've competed internationally. It's always meant a huge amount to me. But I must say today I was absolutely not proud to be a member of this place. If winning is everything, it means nothing. The importance of winning is actually how you win. It's about winning with integrity. I can only urge everyone in this place to think on that and to try to be your better selves. We have to do better, as we're asking athletes to be better, to wipe out doping in sport and to be held to account with integrity. We have to do the same in this place.