Country Athletes Scheme
Mr THOMAS GEORGE (Lismore) [5.31 p.m.]: I would like to make a plea to the Government on behalf of the constituents of my electorate in relation to a cross-border issue, and I believe that the members representing the electorates of Ballina, Northern Tablelands and Tweed will support me. I have worked out a solution and perhaps we could look at it. I have been invited to attend a meeting in Queensland to discuss shifting the border, and that might solve the problem.
Mr Tony McGrane: Which way?
Mr THOMAS GEORGE: South. I have made several representations to the Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Women seeking support for constituents of my electorate under the Country Athletes Scheme. I understand that the Minister is aware of my intention to raise this matter and that the Minister at the table, the Minister for Fair Trading, is aware of it. On behalf of Karina Sexton of Goonellabah I wrote to the Minister:
Over the years Karina, her family, local supporters etc have all assisted and fundraised in order to encourage her representation at National level. With her recent selection again this year in the Australian Open Women's Baseball Squad, the financial burden of travelling so far just to attend training sessions is becoming a strain. I believe Karina's father, Julian, has estimated his funding to be over $40,000. I understand Karina and her father continue to seek corporate sponsorship to no avail as women's baseball is not televised and not considered a high profile sport.
I also forwarded a representation to the Minister on behalf of Timothy Knight. It reads:
An application has been submitted on behalf of Timothy, however the local sporting club is affiliated with a Queensland authority. Mr Knight wishes to express that this affiliation is beyond an individual member's control and feels that it should not deem them ineligible for assistance as they remain residents of the state.
Tim is 10 years of age and is currently ranked number two in Australia for his age in the long jump. Since the Combined Schools Australian Championships last September Tim has jumped 30 centimetres further than he had previously, and he recorded the longest jump in Australia in 2003. Last year he travelled well over 15,000 kilometres to major competitions all over Australia. The cost to his family has been substantial—approximately $12,000, excluding training and incidental costs—and they hope to receive some assistance.
The Far North Coast Baseball Association, which is based in Lismore, is seeking financial assistance for a women's baseball team. The Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation has assisted the association with support for the establishment of a major playing field and other facilities in Lismore. However, because the association is affiliated with a Queensland sporting body it has been informed that it should ask the Queensland Government for assistance. It is difficult enough for New South Wales residents to get funding from the New South Wales Government, let alone from the Queensland Government. The association is extremely frustrated about the matter and it wrote to me as follows:
This "passing of the buck" from NSW to Queensland is the same standard line that [Far North Coast] Baseball has had to endure for decades.
These girls, the majority of whom are over 18 (and one of whom is indigenous—perhaps the only player in the tournament) are located in NSW. They pay their taxes in NSW. They play the majority of their baseball in NSW. When the team trains as a whole, some of this occurs in Lismore, in NSW. Their expenditure and accommodation is therefore in NSW.
Every time we seek financial support from the New South Wales Country Athletes Scheme for such sporting bodies we are told they are ineligible because they are affiliated with Queensland organisations. I ask the Minister at the table to forward my plea to the Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Women so that this issue may be addressed.
Ms REBA MEAGHER (Cabramatta—Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Commerce) [5.36 p.m.]: The Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Women has given an undertaking to request higher-level discussions between officers of the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and their Queensland counterparts to explore the extent of the problem and to investigate whether there are opportunities for shared support for cross-border sport competitions.