Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie
Deputy Leader of The Nationals
Minister for Rural Health
Minister for Sport
Minister for Regional Communications
National Press Club address 1 August 2018
My world view has been indelibly shaped by my rural upbringing. First generation born off the farm- time was spent playing sport and working in the family small business.
One of my earliest memories is at the local Marysville Mustard pots Footy club where my mum would pull an old tartan rug from the Kingswood station wagon and we would sit and watch dad play footy. My dad was the golden boy of the Club, he played full forward, and he played very well!
In the summer we would have to decide each Saturday whether to go with mum to tennis or to cricket with Dad. We would spend the day building cubbies with the other kids while parents played. From across the district everyone would end up back at the Goorambat pub where tales of glory and defeat were shared, and we as kids drank too much raspberry- lemonade, and ran around outside in the dark.
Despite being a self-confessed nerd with an over-developed interest in science and quadratic equations, I went onto play a lot of sport. To study it, to research it, to lecture in it. I love it. It’s part of my identity. And now, just after my prayers every morning, I thank the Prime Minister every day that I am the Minister for Sport in the greatest sporting nation on earth.
Yet, despite my obsession with all things sport, you all seem to know me simply for my support of the sport of shooting.
Shooting is a great sport that has been part of the global sporting calendar since the very first modern summer Olympics in 1896 and hopefully back in for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
From my experience, the similarities between success on the shooting range and success in politics is surprising.
• Shooting is competitive;
• It requires a steady hand, calmness, no flinching at the last minute;
• Nothing can distract you: you need an ability to block out irrelevant noise;
• You have to aim for your target and the difference between success and failure is measured in millimetres!
• In hunting and many competition shoots, gender is immaterial.
• For every prey there is a specific type of ammunition.
Yet despite the gold medals: often people choose to demonise it along with its participants. It requires people, like me, to stare down the name-calling, the shrill slogans, the emotive rhetoric, the uninformed commentary and to challenge unfair stereotypes.
I believe shooting for success in our regions is the National party’s particular responsibility.
Shooting for the success of the nation is a goal that the Nationals share with our Liberal colleagues, and even Labor on its good days.
The difference is that our side has a clearer aim, a steadier grip and succeeds in hitting the target.
Eight months ago I had the honour to be elected Deputy Leader of The Nationals by my party colleagues.
In my role as Minister for sport, regional communications and rural health I feel a great weight of responsibility as I sit at the Cabinet table for the seven million people who live outside our main cities.
Today “Shooting for Success” will focus on the exciting and energised landscape for sport in Australia toward 2030.
As Deputy Leader of The Nationals I will also outline what I believe success looks like for regional Australia.
A successful regional Australia is confident, prosperous, globally focussed and sustainable.
Lead by Michael McCormack, each and every one of my 20 Nationals colleagues, is a local champion – fighting to deliver a better deal for their communities- for the regions- they are patriots always putting Australians first.
Proud of who we are, what we stand for and where we come from.
The Nationals never try to be all things to all people; we don’t try to pretend we’re something we’re not. We have the courage of our convictions and are not afraid of a fight in order to stand up for our people.
While our opponents continue their futile campaign to brand us as narrow, old fashioned or even dinosaurs, our party stubbornly refuses to conform to that stereotype.
From Blackjack to McCormack, over nearly 100 years, the Nationals have not been about promoting special interests – we are about the promotion of the regions which is always in the national interest.
We are Australians first and foremost, and the nation must come first.
That is what distinguishes us from the boutique parties that wax and wain, trading on the politics of complaint and fear.
We have endured because we have always understood who we represent, and have held firm to the values we uphold.
These values are as relevant now as they have ever been.
We are the party that believes Australia’s greatest days are ahead of us, and that the regions will do the heavy lifting as we build an even better nation than the one that we inherited.
We represent the farmers and miners who lead the world in innovation, reliability and quality.
We supply the resources to support the developing Asian economies.
While the Labor Party seems increasingly intent on taxing wealth, we unashamedly stand for the people who produce it.
We stand for the workers and are not abandoning them for green votes in the cities. As the Nationals prepare to embark on our next century, it is time to look ahead.
A successful regional Australia is one that is populated with bright, energetic, hardworking people;
It has strong globally focussed industries, world class health services and high quality education … because – let’s face it – it’s still Australia and regional Australians are citizens too.
Populating the regions has always been an issue close the Nationals heart.
Last year, the Nationals through the Page research centre, commissioned work on the policy levers for successful regional migration policies. We are clear on our desire to promote decentralisation generally. Not just through moving government departments, but improving internal migration and strategic international immigration.
This is not a new idea but is vital to the ongoing success of our regions.
Think back to what the Italian migrants bought to our Murray river communities, building a thriving horticulture industry. Or more recently the successful integration of the Sikh community who have built a prosperous blueberry cooperative in Coffs harbour; and the Karin in Nhil who work at LuvaDuck.
That is why our Government backs business. The most successful relocations are driven by local solutions where communities are open and local jobs are available.
We need to ensure that our young people have a reason to want to return to the regions. Families like that of Colin Campbell of Campbell’s Wines in Rutherglen, in my home state of Victoria.
Colin’s daughters have returned to their small hometown from studying and working abroad to take on roles in this global wine business – marketing, exporting and wine making – ensuring that this business continues to be successful for generations to come.
But our industries need backing not attacking.
Our two largest employers in regional Australia are agriculture and mining, who combined represent 70% of our national exports.
The gross value of Australian farm production last year was $60 billion. Agriculture supports 1.6million jobs both directly and indirectly across the sector.
Our mining industry employs over 200,000 people and contributes to 56% of all Australian exports, worth $226 billion last year alone.
Too often these significant industries become easy targets to make cheap political points in a partisan city centric “national conversation”.
We need to ensure that those farmers who are doing it tough during drought can get back on their feet, farmers who send live sheep to the Middle East are able to continue to do so, and that we accept coals role in our energy mix into the future. It’s not kryptonite!
The Coalition Government has already made significant strides in addressing the inequity of service provision in the regions with our stronger rural workforce strategy which will result in thousands more doctors and health professionals across our regions.
Our needs based schools funding model ensures that our regional kids get the high quality education that they deserve.
But there still more to do.
As Deloitte identified, the future growth opportunities for Australia – post mining boom – are in our regional backyard.
Ensuring our agribusiness sector continues to have access to a broad range of international markets; increasing the international student numbers at regional universities; ending state Government moratoriums on gas exploration to grow industry; and capitalising on the ever growing tourism interest from Asia in experiencing our regions.
Politically, we have a challenge to connect with a new generation of voter – the tradie, the mining worker and new migrants.
We need to reconnect with those jaded by rhetoric, who often feel let down by political parties who have little respect or understanding of what really matters to them.
We have got to keep it real.
Infrastructure has always been high on the Nationals agenda. For most of the party’s history that meant road and rail, the arteries that allowed wool, wheat, coal and iron-ore to become the mainstay of our economy.
In the 21st Century, however, we are confronted with a new infrastructure challenge, every bit as important as roads, rail and airports.
We have to get connectivity right to ensure our regional industries are connected for the 21st century. Globally, we can’t compete with the low wages and production standards of many countries. So our advantage comes from the adoption and use of science and technology.
Access to fast broadband and next generation mobile phone technology is as important to regional economies today as access to roads and rail.
This is why I have bought forward the Independent Statutory Review of Telecommunications in the Regions. This is not just about streaming movies on Netflix, it is about giving our regions the tools to connect globally, and allowing our famers to utilise the internet of things.
There is a big to do list to ensure that regional Australia is confident, prosperous, globally focussed and sustainable.
I believe successful regions mean a successful nation and the Nationals are key to driving this success.
When we talk about success, I think we all agree that success is best embodied by sport.
Whether about individual achievement or as part of a team. Playing Tarwon Sharks C Grade netball or for the Australian Diamonds. Aiming for your own personal best, smashing world records, making a grand final or representing your nation at the Commonwealth, Olympic or Paralympic level.
Just as it has for me personally, sport has shaped our national identity.
Australians are known across the world for our love of sport. We have an extraordinary passion for it and we’re renowned for our competitive nature; always punching above our weight.
Sporting success to me is a young refugee child from the Sudan named Joseph Deng breaking a 50year Australian record in the 800meters just last week;
It is a basketball aimed perfectly through the hoop from someone sitting in a wheelchair; It is a workout in the gym or yoga in the living-room.
Sport and physical activity is about including, inspiring, invigorating and creating pride.
Every one of us in this room knows that the power of sport can change lives and communities.
This was so evident to me when talking to Invictus Games competitors about the role of sport in their recovery from injuries sustained in the service of our nation.
14 million Australians participate in sport annually. Incredibly we have 1.8 million volunteers, giving up 158 million hours of their time each year for sport.
Sport is big business – providing an estimated $83 billion in combined economic, health and educational benefits each year, with a return on investment of $7 for every dollar spent.
Over 220,000 are employed across the sector.
Yet, as Minister for Rural Health it concerns me Australians are spending less time engaging in physical activity.
Inactivity is the fourth largest cause of chronic health conditions in Australia. More than half of Australian adults live sedentary or low-activity lifestyle.
Staying active is a challenge for both young and old. Less than a fifth of young Australians are meeting the recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.
Yet this same group spends on average two to three hours in front of the TV or computer screens.
Only 25% of Australians over the age of 65 meet the physical activity guidelines. This is an increasing challenge as our population ages.
We should not fall into the trap of pretending the government can fix this problem on its own. There are multiple factors driving these trends, and we must never overlook the importance of personal responsibility.
Yet as Sports Minister I do believe government has a role to encourage people to be more active. We can be particularly effective with young people. Research shows that those who pick up the activity bug as children are much more likely to be active in later life.
Equally, Government sometimes has to get out of the way. Allowing access to open spaces, unlocking sporting facilities, and making it easier for people to be active.
I want more Australians, more active, more often.
Today there will be no new million dollar announcements. However Sport 2030 represents a deep commitment to building partnerships to deliver on our national sporting potential- from developing motors skills in early childhood, playing B grade netball, swimming for your nation or playing bowls in your whites.
This will require teamwork….. teamwork makes the dream work!
I believe the team is made up of the federal, state, territory and local governments. It’s about having utilising the amazing expertise and experience of the Australian Olympic Committee, the Australian Paralympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Australia. It is about harnessing the power, know-how and resources of our COMPS sports and national sporting organisations.
Key to this teamwork is the leadership of the Australia Sports Commission who from today will be known as Sport Australia.
Sport Australia will lead physical activity, participation and high-performance sport in Australia, empowering sports to embrace and engage more Australians.
A successful team needs a clear plan and today, I am pleased to announce the first ever national sports plan commissioned by the Australian Government – Sport 2030!
Sport 2030 is a strategic plan to deliver sporting success over the next decade. It is a vision for Australian sport to make us the world’s most active and healthy sporting nation, known for our integrity and sporting success.
Sport 2030 has four key priorities:
• High Performance
• Safeguarding Integrity in Sport
• Strengthening the Australian Sport Industry
It is vitally important that everyone across the country should have an active lifestyle, to stay both mentally and physically healthy, reach personal goals and build social cohesion.
Concurrently, all Australians should also have access to quality community sporting facilities, a range of sport offerings that better suit lifestyles and an expectation that physical activity will be embedded in our schools.
Our $42 million investment over the next 18months in our Sporting Schools Program is already oversubscribed – so the need is there. Australians educators need to take physical literacy seriously.
Sport 2030 will focus on encouraging and supporting all Australians to be more active, in an accessible, affordable and attractive way.
The Government is taking the first step in helping to improve access to quality community sporting facilities through $29.7 million for Community Infrastructure Sporting Grants.
As I have travelled and visited clubs around the country I have seen first-hand the need for better change rooms, lighting, and access for those with a disability, for women and girls.
In Government you have choices. Choices on how to spend tax-payers dollars. You can invest in stadia or you can invest in community facilities. I don’t believe girls should have to get changed behind a towel just to be able to participate in their footy.
These Grants will open for application from tomorrow, and I know many of you are ready to go.
As Minister for Sport I believe it is completely unacceptable that in a country like Australia, children can graduate primary school and not know how to swim. With my state and territory colleagues I aim to fix this.
Sports also need work harder to make participating more affordable for all Australians families.
We recognise the families that are up at 5am daily to take their young athletes to train hard – these families are often then faced with expensive travel costs to compete at their highest levels.
That’s why the Government has invested over $11million in assisting young, aspiring athletes to compete at national and international competitions through the Local Sporting Champions Program.
Sport is big business in Australia and Sport2030 outlines ways in which we can best harness this strength to deliver success across the wider sporting sector.
We will have a thriving Australian sport and recreation industry with contemporary governance structures, world-leading research and innovation, strong economic investment, hosting global events and facilitating Australia’s international interests through a renewed Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy. We will also deliver the first Sport Industry Strategy that will identify the economic contribution of sport and related industries to the Australian GDP.
A key to achieving success in building a more active Australia also means harnessing the power of our elite athletes and national sporting teams.
These athletes have a unique ability to be able to capture, motivate and inspire all Australians. Who can forget some of those amazing sporting moments; Cadel Evans riding down the Champs Elysees in his yellow tour de France jersey; John Bertrand skippering Australia II; Kurt Fernley winning his first Gold in Athens; Steven Bradbury making the finals and being the last man standing in Salt Lake City; and of course Cathy Freeman, in her body suit, winning gold in Sydney, draped in the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
In 1981 the Australian Government established the Australian Institute of Sport. The AIS became a benchmark for other nations on how to deliver high performance outcomes for athletes, and a symbol of sporting excellence that has continued to inspire generations of athletes.
However over the years the role of the AIS has changed. Many of our athletes are now training at state institutes and academies of sport, directly with their sporting organisations centres of excellence, or in the environment that best suits their sports (this is not necessarily the cold of Canberra).
The AIS is no longer at the cutting edge of sporting excellence – but we are prepared to turn this around.
I am pleased to announce today that the Coalition Government is further backing our high performance athletes through the development of a business case for the revitalisation of the AIS at the current site in Canberra.
I want to see the AIS regain its previous world-class status and develop into a contemporary organisation. The AIS will support able-bodied and para-sports athletes across Australia
through research, testing, training, athlete wellbeing, injury prevention and rehabilitation facilities that can deliver a genuine competitive edge.
Australia is the nation of the fair go. However we also want to be the nation of fair play.
You only needed to look at the front page of every paper in Australia in March this year following crickets ball-tampering scandal to understand the importance of integrity in sport. This incident alone shattered the hearts of many die-hard-cricket fans.
This matters to people. We must preserve the integrity of sport, if we are also to preserve the benefits that flow from it.
Honesty and integrity in sport has ramifications far beyond that sector alone. We all know how we judge other countries that aren’t seen to be fair. It impacts on attitudes beyond the sporting sector: it impacts on business, trade and various cultural exchanges – it affects national reputations.
Pleasingly, Australian athletes have an enviable reputation for their success and also for being tough and fair on the playing field, in the pool or on the courts. It is crucial that the hard-earned reputation of sport in this country is not tarnished or diminished in any way.
Its more than reputation – it’s about being Australian! It’s our identity. Australian’s love winners but we love battlers even more. It’s un-Australian to lose the fundamental respect for integrity in sport.
The sports integrity threat environment is more complex than ever, fuelled by the increasing commercialization of sport, the rapid growth in sports wagering, and revelations of ongoing manipulation of sports competitions and doping scandals. We are faced with external threats on an unprecedented scale.
Of particular concern is Australia’s ability to confront the ever-growing threat of illegal wagering on sport and its connections with match-fixing and organized crime. The numbers are staggering with the global sports wagering market turnover currently estimated at up to US$1.5 trillion. In 2016 Australians made up about AU$9.7 billion of that – and that is just the money being wagered on the regulated market.
We are seeing incidents of global doping scandals and increasingly sophisticated doping practices. In Australia, ASADA’s own intelligence has seen doping as an emerging problem in Masters-level and at community level sports.
If we don’t act, we risk damaging Australia’s sporting reputation – having a negative impact on television audiences, on sponsorship, audience attendance and, most importantly, on participation.
We risk losing the ability to use the opportunities offered by the growing sports wagering market for stimulating interest in sport, and opening new sources of revenue for government or sporting organizations.
It is in this context of a growing global threat to sports integrity that the Coalition Government commissioned the Report of the Review of Australia’s Sports Integrity Arrangements which I release publically today.
The review was overseen by a distinguished panel, led by the Honourable James Wood AO QC – here with us today. This report is the most comprehensive analysis of a nation’s sports integrity arrangements ever undertaken and includes 52 insightful and interrelated recommendations.
The key themes of the review were;
– National match-fixing offences, including signing of the Macolin Convention
– A national approach to sport wagering regulation – the Australian Sports Wagering Scheme
– Establishing a National Sports Integrity Commission
– Establishing a National Sports Tribunal
– Strengthening Australia’s anti-doping framework
This report presents Australia with an opportunity to safeguard our sport for decades to come.
I have already established the Sports Integrity Review Taskforce to develop a whole of Government’s response. The Taskforce will engage with stakeholders across many sectors and all levels of Government and I would encourage all to get involved through direct engagement on the Taskforce’s website.
In preparing for today’s speech I spent some time reflecting on the similarities between a successful athlete, a successful nation and a successful government. The common thread is perseverance.
Given my maths obsession, when I think of perseverance in problem solving, I think of the spectacular story of the 350 year quest to crack Fermat’s theorem.
It has many heroes, a few villains, tragedy, suicide, obsession and passion, duelling at dawn, and of course another passion of mine….mathematics!
In the 17th Century, the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat created a theorem, which was essentially an extension of Pythagoras theorem, which he claimed, had no solution.
However, he died before he was able to prove that the theorem had no solution.
Across centuries great mathematicians attempted to prove the theorem. Mathematicians such Oiler and Sophie Germain – who had to pretend she was a man in order to attend university.
Galois, who was rumoured to have stayed up all night working on the theorem before being killed in a duel the following morning.
A million dollars was even put on the table for anyone who could prove the theorem by a mathematician who, after threatening suicide following a failed love affair, got distracted from his life-ending act when he became engrossed in maths journal outlining Fermat’s unsolved theorem. He credited Fermat’s theorem with saving his life.
In 1963 a ten year-old boy named Andrew Wiles had a dream that he would one day solve the problem.
Wiles worked to find the proof and some thirty years later officially proved the theorem. It took 350 years to solve.
I tell this story because it teaches us that “shooting for success”, whether in life or sport is about persistence; the value of truth and logic; the value of hard work; of learning from failure; and building on the work of the past.
Our party is nearly 100 years old. When it comes to growing our regions and positioning them for success through the 21st century, the Nationals will always take sure aim and shoot for success.
Like our sports men and women, people in our regional communities grind through pain barriers to become world renowned for their excellence and success. These people know about persistence over generations, they survive droughts and flooding rains.
As someone who’s identity has been shaped by the power of sport and my rural upbringing I am truly blessed to now be in a position to make a difference for the communities I love.
For me this is true success!
Media contact: Kate Woodbridge 0409 679 927