Hands up Herald readers who believe the Home Affairs and Justice Minister, Jason Clare, and the Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, have gone over-the-top in their response to the Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport that the Australian Crime Commission released last Thursday. I believe so.
The Minister for Justice, who oversees the ACC among other agencies, is supposed to be responsible for matters relating to the security of life within Australia. He is not expected to be an investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury whose public advocacy happily coincides with the perpetual 24/7 news cycle. The Minister for Sport is responsible for supporting sport from the grassroots to the professional levels. She is not expected to hector and threaten sporting organisations.
Yet, in an extraordinary media conference in Parliament House last Thursday, Clare and Lundy stood at podiums with the ACC chief executive, John Lawler, and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority chief executive, Aurora Andruska, nearby. Flanking them was what seemed like an old fashioned police identification line-up. The potentially guilty men – they were all male – consisted of the heads of four main football codes plus Cricket Australia. The heads of basketball and netball were not present. Perhaps they had the good sense not to accept an invitation to such a confected event.
The ACC's report does not justify its media-grabbing title Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport. If organised crime has established such ''a tangible and expanding footprint'' as the report suggests, then you would expect it would have come to the attention of the Australian Federal Police and its state and territory counterparts.
Legal provisions prevent the ACC from disclosing detailed information about the nature of the matters in the report. You wonder why Lawler got involved. Especially since the report is littered with the word ''some''. As in: ''some coaches''; ''some sports scientists''; and ''some individuals''.
Clare and Lundy used the report as a platform to lecture-at-large about the unspecified involvement of organised crime and the undocumented prevalence of illegal drugs in unnamed sporting organisations. Initially, Clare declared ''the findings are shocking and they'll disgust Australian sports fans''. In fact, the ACC did not make specific findings and its conclusion is vague – even if it does contain an attention-grabbing reference to disgraced drug cheat Lance Armstrong.
Then Lundy proclaimed a threat: ''For those that wish to ruin the games that we love, the government has a simple message; if you want to cheat we will catch you, if you want to fix a match we will catch you.'' There is virtually no evidence of match fixing in Australia. In any event, the role of government is to make laws. It is up to police to catch alleged law breakers, not politicians.
By Sunday, Clare moved into hands-up mode. Appearing on Insiders, his message was simple. And repetitive. The Justice Minister appealed to guilty individuals and organisations to give themselves up. Early in the interview, Clare conceded the ACC ''can't identify persons or organisations that it has criminal intelligence on''. And he added that ''those people and those organisations can put their own hand up''. He used the ''put their hand up'' phrase on five additional occasions.
So Clare's strategy is that the managers of sporting organisations should dob-in their clubs and members. During the interview, he conceded the ACC ''report identified one potential example of match fixing which is under investigation at the moment''. Just one and this is being investigated.
In the tradition of the NSW Labor Right, Clare has picked up the habit of repeating himself for emphasis. Having dealt with Australian sport, he told Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy one Customs officer had been arrested at Sydney Airport last year and more would follow. The Justice Minister emphasised the point: ''There'll be more stings, there'll be more arrests and there'll be more reforms. And let me emphasise that point to you again, Barrie, there will be more arrests and there will be more reform.'' Yeah, we got it. However, it is not the role of the Justice Minister to urge that individuals be arrested for criminal activity that has yet to be detected.
It may be that the ACC can sustain the suggestion Australian sport is riddled with illegal drug use and match fixing along with organised crime. Until, and unless, it does there is good reason not to blacken Australian sport in the eyes of the world. Hands down.
Gerard Henderson is the executive director of The Sydney Institute.