Dr Rhonda Jolly
This Government has been generous in funding sport. Not long after it came to power it declared that Australia’s sports system needed to take new directions to meet emerging challenges and to maintain Australia’s status as one of the world’s great sporting nations. It commissioned the Independent Sports Panel (ISP) to identify the types of reforms required for the system to prepare for and meet the future.
In 2009 the ISP recommended reforms intended to ensure elite athletes could continue to enjoy international success and which would also improve the health and well-being of the Australian population in general. The Government pledged support for the majority of the ISP’s recommendations, responding with a 2010–11 Budget commitment for elite and community sport of $1.2 billion. It proclaimed this funding to be part of what it called an ‘integrated whole-of-sport approach to the Australian sport system’. It promoted this sports funding windfall as one which would put Australia on the pathway to success at community and elite levels.
However, since certain commentators questioned the performances of Australian athletes at the London Olympics, the Government appears to have reassessed the existing funding formula for elite sport. Hence, its Winning Edge strategy, announced in November 2012, stressed the need for more responsible use of taxpayers’ dollars by national sporting organisations and more efficient allocation and use of government funding by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). This change in funding emphasis away from elite sport foreshadowed that there would be no substantial new funding for elite sports in this Budget. This is the case; no extra funding has been provided in the lead up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the ASC and the AIS are clearly on notice that they will need to operate more efficiently within their Budget allocation of approximately $170 million for elite programs.
The only elite sports item noted in this Budget is the modest allocation of $14.5 million over five years offset against a Contingency Reserve previously included in the 2012–13 Budget. This is to assist with the staging of the 2015 Cricket World Cup and follows significant cricket infrastructure commitments made in the 2011–12 Budget. In addition, extra funding of $3.0 million over three years also included in the Contingency Reserve will assist a Major Sporting Events Taskforce in the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport to contribute to the staging of the World Cup.
There is also no additional funding for grassroots sport in this Budget, despite previous rhetoric about the importance of funding sports and recreation for the masses and the acknowledged importance of sport and physical activity in delivering health and other social and economic benefits. Funding of $39.4 million has been provided, however, to extend the successful Active After-School Communities (AASC) program in which over 2,000 schools and 1,200 out-of-school care centres participate, for a further two years. Continuing with AASC appears to be sensible given that is has been evaluated in the past as fulfilling an essential objective of government since the 1970s to improve community participation in recreation by providing access to activities that are safe, fun and inclusive.
Integrity in sport
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) announced in February 2013 the results of a year-long investigation into drug taking and possible criminal connections in Australian sport. The investigation exposed possible corruption in a number of football clubs that are currently under Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) scrutiny. This Budget responds to the ACC concerns by including an extra $1.8 million in funding for ASADA over three years. This funding is to assist the anti-doping agency with its current investigations and to help individual sports strengthen their integrity systems.
The Budget provides a further $1.7 million over two years for the National Integrity of Sport Unit, established by the Government in 2012, to assist it to deal with unethical conduct in non-doping matters by employing specialist intelligence officers and assisting individual sports to establish and enforce integrity policies.
In previewing the funding for these measures the Minister was convinced they would ensure that sport meets the highest expectations of integrity, both at home and abroad. It could be argued, however, that if drug taking in sport is as pervasive as the ACC and ASADA implied in the ACC’s report then a more substantial increase in funding would be required if any resolution of the problems associated with drug taking and the infiltration of organised crime into sport is to be achieved.
. Contributions to Adelaide Oval redevelopment ($30 million) and Sydney Cricket Ground redevelopment ($50 million).
. ‘ASDA funding’, Sunday Canberra Times, 5 May 2013, p. 4, accessed 14 May 2013.
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