Interview with Deborah Knight, 2GB
15 August 2023
Subjects: Coalition's commitment to improving sporting infrastructure, the Matildas, Voice Referendum polling
KNIGHT: The Shadow Sports Minister, Anne Ruston, is on the line for us now. Anne, welcome to Afternoons.
RUSTON: Hi Deb. Thanks.
KNIGHT: I like this idea. I think it's a great idea, investing in sport infrastructure and helping the girls sport in particular. But I guess it's a fair way off from an election promise, I suppose, before a promise like this could be delivered?
RUSTON: Well, we'd like to think that the Government rethinks their idea that a public holiday is a good idea to celebrate the great success of our women's sporting athletes of recent times, and maybe they might see the common sense in investing in something that's going to last longer than a day. Because what we're saying is, we know that so many young Australians have been inspired watching not just the Matildas, but the Diamonds winning the World Cup last week, our cricket team bringing the Ashes home, both the men and the women, that we're seeing young people wanting to get into sport and we're saying let's break down the barriers, let's make sure they've got the infrastructure and the support that they need to be able to get out there and start playing sport. So maybe the Government might reconsider their idea that a public holiday is a good thing and actually accept the fact that this is a better way to celebrate the great success of Australian athletes.
KNIGHT: Yeah, look, I think it's a great sentiment and one that I know you're calling on the states to join the funding and commit to money as well, states and territories, to double the amount up to 500 million. But of course, you were in power for a very long time. You had the opportunity to invest in women's sport, girls sport and in grassroots sports for a long time. It's not as though the World Cup came as a surprise either. We knew it was coming. You missed the opportunity yourself while you were in government.
RUSTON: We made a significant contribution to upgrading facilities for women's sports, making sure – you know, putting lots of money against upgrading change rooms because so many sporting facilities, particularly in rural and regional Australia, often have only got one change room, which is invariably dedicated to the local football team... (interrupted)
KNIGHT: But clearly not enough if you're now calling for more funding to ensure that the girls don't have to get changed in the boy’s change room, which is the situation that they do now. Even though you've invested some, it wasn't enough.
RUSTON: Well, certainly we had a plan under our Sports 2030 strategy that we were going to continue to invest in this kind of sporting infrastructure, believing it was the best investment. Because it's not just an investment in the infrastructure. We know that particularly young people who are active and playing sport are much likely to be healthier. And of course, this is a win-win right the way through, because it means that we're avoiding interactions with the health system down the track. So we absolutely were committed through our 2030 strategy towards making sure that we broke down as many barriers as possible to get young people into sport and everybody living active lives.
KNIGHT: Do you think the Matildas mania, the momentum, will continue? Because we've sort of seen this with football and with soccer, with the Socceroos, when there's been hype with the men's game and then it sort of dies away, with the Matildas too. There's fear that perhaps all this excitement around the Aussies at the moment might not actually equate to a lot of Aussies supporting them and following through in the long term.
RUSTON: Look, I think we've got a wonderful opportunity leading up to the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics for us to build, as they call it, a Green and Gold Runway. But the only way that we build that is by investing in these legacy projects like investments in grassroots and participation. I mean, we've got quite a lot of great events coming to Australia and sadly we won't be seeing the Commonwealth Games as it appears at the moment - but hopefully another Australian state will pick that up - but we've got the Rugby World Cup and there are a number of other events, so hopefully over the next nine years we can continuously encourage young Australians to start getting out there and pulling on a pair of runners and running around an oval, around a track, or the like. So I think the Matildas have inspired everybody now and it's been absolutely amazing, but there's much more in the pipeline and so hopefully that will be a continuous encouragement and incentive for young Australians to start being more active.
KNIGHT: Where will you be watching the game tomorrow night from?
RUSTON: I'll go down to the Festival Centre in Adelaide. I'm actually in Port Lincoln at the moment, but I'll fly back tomorrow night in time to chuck on my scarf and my guernsey and get down there and cheer the girls on from Adelaide. But it'd be just absolutely fantastic to see them get through to Sunday night because I mean, no matter what happens from here, they've made Australians extremely proud. But wow, getting through tomorrow night and beating a team like England would be – It's almost the grand final tomorrow night because I think England's probably still the best team in the competition.
KNIGHT: Even though The Sun reckons that they're underdogs, which is complete bunkum. But yeah, we can dare to dream, we can dare to dream. And I hope that you and your Coalition colleagues help Barnaby Joyce out because we need to make sure he watches the right game tomorrow night.
RUSTON: We love to help Barnaby out all the time.
KNIGHT: Yes, watch the right game, Barnaby. What a stuff up. Now the only other thing I want to ask you about, the new polling today for the Prime Minister and the Voice showing that support has slipped even further. It's not looking good for this referendum passing.
RUSTON: Well, I think the thing that I was most disappointed is the Prime Minister coming out and saying that this poll was fanciful. I mean, it's just so dismissive. I mean, he's dismissing this poll the way he's dismissing the Australian public's request for information about this referendum. It's really disappointing that we are getting very close to calling a referendum and we still don't have the information that I think every Australian deserves to be able to make an informed decision. So, I think it's just a demonstration of Australians asking for information and they're just not getting it.
KNIGHT: All right, good on you. Thanks for joining us.
RUSTON: Thanks Deb.
KNIGHT: Anne Ruston there, the Shadow Sports Minister.