2006 Sport Policy Summit
Friday 23 June 2006
Speech for the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp
Thank you for that kind introduction.
It is great to be here in the Netherlands.
Relations between our two countries started 400 years ago when a Dutchman, Captain Willem Janszoon, first put us on the world map.
And this tradition has continued with another Dutchman, Guus Hiddink, putting us on the world football map.
Football is very popular in Australia and the performance of Guus and the team is being keenly followed by legions of nocturnal fans.
We have always loved sport, and even before Australia was officially a nation, we were competing internationally.
We have built a distinguished global reputation in sport, and it is through sport that many Australians see this as part of our national identity.
Many of our ideas of excellence, fair play, persistence, and mateship are formed on the sporting field.
Despite our relatively small population, Australia has produced world champions in many sports.
We are able to do this because our elite sport system is based on the delivery of high quality, innovative programs built on the latest advances in sports science.
The results of our sports policies were on display at the 2004 Athens Olympic and Paralympic games.
Australians won 17 gold, 16 silver and 16 bronze medals at the Olympics and ranked fourth overall in the medal tally behind the United States , China and Russia.
Paralympic athletes ranked fifth in the world, with a total of 100 medals: 26 gold, 38 silver and 36 bronze medals.
But Australians don't just watch sport from their armchairs.
Almost 13 million Australians—out of a population of about 20 million—aged 15 years and over participate in some form of physical activity for recreation or sport.
Our weekend warriors emerge in communities all over Australia to do battle on the nation's cricket pitches, football fields and tennis courts.
We are a sporting nation and the influence of sport can be seen in many areas of Australian life.
It contributes to everything from health and social cohesion right through to international trade and tourism.
That is why last year the Australian government committed around $180 million to the Australian Sports Commission.
The Australian Government's sport policy, Building Australian Communities through Sport, is based on a philosophy of excellence and participation.
The policy focuses on continued achievement in high performance sport; greater grass roots participation; excellence in management; and continuing to work towards a drug free environment.
Today, I would like to talk to you about the Australian Governments sports policies and our mechanisms to implement them.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is a good place to start.
The ASC is responsible for implementing the Australian Government's national sports policy.
The ASC promotes an effective national sports system that offers improved participation in sports activities and helps those who are talented and motivated to reach their potential.
It does this by administering and funding national sporting programs on behalf of the Australian Government and providing leadership, co-ordination and support for the sport sector.
The ASC manages the internationally acclaimed Australian Institute of Sport – the national centre of sports excellence for the training and development of elite athletes and teams.
The Institute gives athletes access to expert coaching, world-leading sports science and sports medicine services, state-of-the-art sports facilities, and opportunities for travel, work and study.
Elite athletes benefit from a supportive network of coaches, managers, scientists, doctors, physiotherapists and nutritionists.
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), funded by the Australian Government, leads the development of Australia 's elite athletes with sports facilities and support services of the highest standards.
It provides training in 26 different sports, and programs include biomechanics, physiology, sport psychology, scientific research and talent search.
More than 75 coaches train the current enrolment of 700 athletes.
At the 2004 Olympic Games, current and former AIS athletes accounted for almost 60 per cent of the team and won 32 of Australia 's 49 medals.
Along with the AIS, Australia also has a comprehensive network of institutes and academies at the state level and in some cases, at the regional level.
Despite our world class development facilities and programs, Australian sport faces strong challenges in the international arena.
Countries such as China and the United Kingdom are pouring money into sports development and are seeing excellent results.
In response to these challenges and to ensure we maintain our international competitiveness, the Australian Government recently boosted its commitment to elite sport.
This increased funding addressed the areas of high performance athlete development, coaching, and sports science.
The funding also increased the AIS scholarship program to enhance training, development and competition opportunities.
All of this will ensure that Australian people continue to see their athletes achieving great things on the world stage.
Building Australian communities through participation
There is a strong link, of course, between elite performance and participation at grass roots levels.
When Australians see heroic performances at the elite level, they are inspired to participate and this strengthens the foundations of Australian sport.
More participants generate a great talent pool and even greater strength at the elite level.
Australian Government support ensures that this cycle of sporting participation and excellence is maintained.
But, sport is not simply about being the best or beating other countries or gaining the most medals.
From events like the Olympic Games to local matches on a Saturday afternoon, sport brings people together.
It is a key part of creating safe, strong and sustainable communities.
Indeed, in some of Australia 's regional and remote communities, it is the local tennis, football or basketball club that provides and sustains community interaction.
The ASC supports the development of the Australian sport system at all levels through the Sport Performance and Development Group.
This gives national sporting organisations access to advice and resources, including funding, policy development advice and management models, education, emerging information technologies and evaluation frameworks.
National sporting organisations rely on the ASC for support and advice that helps them encourage more community participation in sport by making sports safer, more inviting and better managed.
All Australians – including those with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, juniors, women and girls, volunteers, coaches, officials and older people – have opportunities to be involved.
And there are good reasons for encouraging the highest possible participation.
Sport assists many Australians to develop physically, socially and ethically.
Sport for a healthy Australia
Theodore Roosevelt once said:
“…a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives.”
Physical health is not an afterthought.
It is not something we should think about after financial or academic success.
Health is fundamental; it is an essential element of success in other areas of life.
Investment in sport is an investment in the health of our children and the health of our society.
There is, however, a paradox in Australian society.
While we lead the world in many areas of sport, we also are at the top for rates of childhood obesity.
The problem is increasing at an alarming rate, and this is an area where regular sporting activity can play a significant role.
An estimated 1.5 million young people under the age of 18 are overweight or obese and therefore may be at risk of preventable chronic conditions such as Type Two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke1.
The combination of poor diets and inactivity are threatening our children's right to a healthy and productive adulthood.
This has very real consequences for our health system and for Australia 's economic prosperity.
In 2004, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, announced the Building a Healthy, Active Australia initiative—a $116 million package over four years to tackle the problem of childhood obesity.
Of this package some $90 million will go towards the Active After-School Communities (AASC) Programme.2
This program provides a real opportunity to offer a structured physical activity program to primary school aged children.
This is yet another example of Australian communities coming together to tackle a common problem.
The Australian Government recognises that sport can also help us face other serious challenges in our society.
In 2005-06, the Government committed $11.7 million to support Indigenous sport and physical recreation projects and to provide assistance for Indigenous athletes to participate in major events.
The Australian Productivity Commission—Australia's principal review and advisory body on microeconomic policy and regulation—released a landmark report called Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2005 which highlighted the role that participation in organised sport can play towards gaining improvements in many areas of Indigenous disadvantage.
Some of these areas include long-term health and physical wellbeing, as well as better social cohesion in Indigenous communities.
The economic benefits of large events
Along with its many social benefits, sport is big business.
Events like the Football Wold Cup, the Olympics, and the Commonwealth Games involve huge sums of money and huge global audiences.
The challenge is to turn world-wide attention into dollars for Australian businesses.
It is a kind of economic alchemy, this ability to turn a good reputation into dollars.
I was interested to hear the results of a 2005 international survey looking at international reputations and attitudes.
Among the 10,000 people surveyed around the world, Australia was seen as the world's favourite place to live and invest and the world's friendliest nation.3
The authors of the survey suggested that ‘the Sydney Olympics helped to portray a country that combines an ideal climate with good-humoured, fair-minded people, talented athletes and considerable organisational abilities'.
And the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games gave us an opportunity to keep this image fresh in the minds of people all around the world.
The Australian Government sees these large sporting events as an opportunity to showcase and celebrate Australia as a successful multicultural society.
As well as building national pride and being an entertainment spectacular, these events can lead to tangible benefits such as a strengthening of bilateral trade relationships and further developing our international tourism markets.
Consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, estimate that the Sydney Olympics resulted in $3 billion in business outcomes and more than $6 billion in inbound tourism spending during the year following the Olympics4.
And it is very important that we take the opportunity to impress these audiences.
The Australian Government saw such an opportunity at the recent Melbourne Commonwealth Games and provided almost $293 million in direct funding and other support to help stage the event.
These Games attracted record numbers of spectators with more than 1.6 million tickets sold and a television audience of over one billion people.
Building international Communities
I have talked about how important sport is to Australians in terms of our identity and also socially and economically.
It stands to reason, therefore, that sport should be used as a vehicle for spreading social and economic advantage to developing countries.
We know that in these countries sport can underpin broad social and economic development objectives, especially in health and education.
As it does in Australia, sport also fosters a sense of community and national identity in places where these concepts are desperately needed.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the Australian Prime Minister announced a $10 million Australian Sports Outreach Program aimed predominantly at Commonwealth member countries.
This program will focus on increasing physical activity participation at junior levels and provide advice on basic coaching education and club administration procedures.
Drugs in Sport
Australia is arguably a world leader in the fight against drugs in sport.
Earlier this year, I announced the establishment of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
The World Anti-Doping Authority has welcomed the arrival of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority as the new lynchpin in Australia 's anti-doping framework.
David Howman, the Director General of the World Anti-Doping Authority, has commented that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is the model for the rest of the world and that he will be promoting our model to a World Anti-Doping Conference in June this year.
This Authority is now the focal point for Australia 's anti-doping activities, which include testing, investigation, presentation of cases, research and education.
ASADA presents a unified, integrated response to doping in sport, which treats all athletes fairly.
The Australian Government's Tough on Drugs in Sport strategy, launched in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, ensured that Australia has a robust anti-doping framework that is world's best practice.
The Government's unrelenting pursuit of this strategy has meant that all major Australian sporting organisations are now compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.
Now, with the creation of ASADA, we are protecting Australia 's outstanding reputation by making the Tough on Drugs in Sport strategy even tougher.
Through record investment and by supporting effort at all levels, the Australian government is strengthening community sport and building on Australia 's success in the international arena.
I hope you now have a better understanding of the Australian sports system.
The sharing of ideas between nations will ensure that sport continues to develop in all countries and that all countries continue to develop from sport.