Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I also rise to speak on the Crimes Amendment (Integrity in Sports) Bill 2013, which deals with integrity in sport. I indicate to the house that the Labor opposition will not be opposing this bill.
In summary, the bill seeks to amend the Crimes Act 1958 as a response to match fixing and cheating by introducing offences in relation to corrupting the betting outcomes of a sporting event. This bill implements a key objective of the national policy on match fixing in sport agreed to by commonwealth and state sports ministers to tackle match fixing in a consistent way.
It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in a situation where many cases have become public and have been featured in the media, which has described how match fixing has been undertaken in a range of different sports. That has led us to respond today in a legislative sense. This bill is designed to protect the integrity of sport now and into the future. I am a little bit perplexed, though, as to why it has taken nearly two years for this important bill to be brought before the house.
As we have heard from previous speakers, sport, whether we watch it or play it or do a combination of both, plays a major role in Australian culture and in the wellbeing of individuals as well as communities. Love of sport is synonymous with sporting success. Everyone likes a winner, and we are always pleased to have someone amongst us who has performed incredibly well in whatever sport they are playing. Last Monday morning many Australians would have been glued to their television screens or, as in my case, driving and listening to radio programs which were giving their listeners newsflashes as to where we were up to in terms of the play-off in the golf championship. It was fantastic to see Adam Scott win the US Masters Golf Championship, the first Australian to do so. Not only that but we had Warrnambool’s Marc Leishman, a proud resident of western Victoria, in the play-off, together with Queensland’s Jason Day. We saw three of our own in the top five at the tournament, and I think any country would be incredibly proud of that situation at any time.
It is from wonderful achievements like that that we see spin-offs of the benefits from sport, whether it be at a professional level or in encouraging the young ones amongst us to take up sport and be active. However, it is frightening that something as healthy and as pure as sport, which is accessible to most regardless of social or economic standing or physical or mental capabilities and is a very democratic activity, can be afflicted by bad behaviour — in fact criminal behaviour — that then threatens integrity in sport.
In terms of the particulars of this bill, it creates five new indictable offences. The first one alters the existing crime of obtaining a financial advantage by deception to include where it is connected with a betting event. The second is that a person must not engage in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome on an event. The third is that a person must not offer to engage in or encourage another to engage in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt an event.
The fourth offence is that a person must not encourage another person to conceal from a relevant authority corrupt conduct. Finally, a person must not use corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.
The racing industry has had its fair share of issues in respect of this. On 23 January this year the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner released its report entitled 2012 Own Motion Inquiry into Race Fixing. It contains three recommendations. The bill we have before us today implements just one of those recommendations. In the report the commissioner regularly mentions the importance of public trust and integrity in sport. As I mentioned earlier, damage and potential damage to integrity in sport and the outcomes of sporting events are the biggest threat to its existence. On a number of occasions in the report the commissioner mentions the number of times race fixing was mentioned in media stories leading up to last year’s Spring Racing Carnival.
In a 10-day period from 6 August to 16 August 2012 there were 153 mentions of race fixing in media reports, reaching a recorded circulation of around 14 million people. Understandably it was of concern that this cloud hung over what is traditionally a wonderful event for Victoria each and every year.
In view of the public interest and concern, on 16 August last year the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner announced publicly that it would conduct its own investigation into race fixing across the three codes of racing. Unfortunately the same vigorous concern cannot be claimed by the Minister for Racing. In an article in the Australian of 21 November 2012 sports journalist Patrick Smith said:
“The politician in charge of racing in Victoria sadly acts more like the sport’s mascot than its leader.”
He goes on to say:
“The problem for Napthine and the men under him who run racing is that they appear to have placed Melbourne Cup carnival success as a more important objective than maintaining people’s confidence that the sport is run uncompromised and without taint.”
The racing industry is an incredibly important industry in this state.
It requires the continued support of government and, most importantly, support from the people who watch and are involved in it. Western Victoria claims to be a significant home for the racing industry, which employs a lot of people in a range of different occupations. It provides great tourism events for us, and what flows from that is a boost to our local economies. It is also part and parcel of the social culture in western Victoria, from the very small racing tracks to the regional tracks.
The support of the public comes with a very important proviso to which we all need to adhere — that is, to ensure that everything that can possibly be done is done to protect the integrity of all sports. The now Premier of this state, in his role as Minister for Racing, failed the people of Victoria spectacularly during the Spring Racing Carnival last year by failing to step in when news of the Damien Oliver saga broke.
The lack of action from the minister during last year’s Spring Racing Carnival was regrettable and has undoubtedly damaged the reputation of the Victorian racing industry.
Labor is confident that very few people are involved in committing the acts that are described in the legislation. We believe that by far those who participate in sport do so in a proper way. But there are people who try to manipulate situations and gain financially from corrupt procedures when it comes to sport. We believe the bill, although it has been tardy in coming to us, should be supported. We look forward to a bipartisan approach to ensure that integrity in sport, in all of its facets and in all of its behaviours, is maintained in this state. I commend the bill to the house.