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Save SANFL Broadcasts - Matter of Public Importance

Speeches in Parliament
Sarah Hanson-Young 15 Sep 2011

South Australian National Football League

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (13:15): The matter I rise to speak on today is one of great importance to my home state of South Australia. As people here would know, I am not only a proud South Australian but also a proud football supporter. Despite the fact that my team, the Double Blues-Sturt-is at the bottom of the SANFL ladder, it is all right; we still have the best ground in the league in the heart of Unley.

The South Australian National Football League games are currently televised on the ABC. This is a critical public service for the people of South Australia. Many of my constituents, both in the city of Adelaide and in the rural and regional areas, watch the game on a weekly basis and are very passionate about being able to turn on the television and see their team playing. Unfortunately, though, it seems that the ABC is considering axing the telecast of these games and competitions. I believe this would be doing South Australia a great disservice.

This is something my colleagues here on the east coast may perhaps not appreciate, because we do not play union or-what is that other game?-league. We play football-Aussie rules. The SANFL is so important to South Australians. Football is the No. 1 sporting code in South Australia. In fact, established in 1877 as the South Australian Football Association, the SANFL is now the oldest football league of any code in Australia. This makes it one of the oldest organised competitions in the world. The game of Aussie rules in South Australia was played in 1843, and generations upon generations have enjoyed this sport.

Not only is football a source of friendly rivalry between SA club supporters-and there is also a little bit of friendly rivalry around the teams among South Australian members of parliament-but it also brings people together. It brings families together on a weekly basis. It is pretty commonplace for teenagers to disagree with their parents on a lot of things but, at the end of the day, Mum and Dad and the kids come together to barrack for the family team. When I moved from Victoria-and that was an issue for the supporters of the SANFL-I had to become a true supporter of the local family team of Sturt before I was truly accepted, not just as a South Australian but as a member of the family. It is something that we South Australians pride ourselves on. It is something that is very innate, a part of our local community.

I understand from media reports that the ABC will be making a decision with respect to the broadcasting of these games within the next few months. I know that many members of parliament are concerned about the outcome. Our colleague Kate Ellis, from the other place, has raised this as well. She is particularly passionate about keeping these games on air.
I am going to be giving notice of a motion today in support of keeping the broadcast of these games alive. I look forward to getting support not just from my South Australian colleagues in this place but also other members of the parliament.

In my view, the continuation of the SANFL broadcast falls directly within the ABC's charter-in particular, section (a)(i): to provide 'broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community'. What could do that better than broadcasting the games of the local SA football to the local SA community?

It is a disturbing trend that programs are being cut for what appear to be simply commercial reasons. This is not what we expect from a national broadcaster which is, in effect, not just a news service but a public service. In this context, I note the recent decision of the ABC to cancel Saturday afternoon bowls after 30 years of their being on air. Of course that is disappointing. It is a program watched by over 200,000 Australians on the mainland each week. We know that bowls is a sport valued by many people in the community, and it provides a key platform for televised women's sport. I understand that the ABC has also canned local sport in the Northern Territory. The NT Sports Awards, the NT rugby union finals and the Tiwi Islands grand final have all been axed.

I really do hope that the ABC thinks long and hard before making decisions to axe any more programs that are so critical to our sense of community and of who we are, both as a nation and within our respective states and territories. I urge the ABC not to axe the coverage of our local football in South Australia, and I urge my fellow senators to support my motion calling on the ABC not to dump its coverage of our local SA footy. I have also just sent a tweet to members who follow me on Twitter, asking them to tweet a message to ABC Managing Director Mark Scott to let him know that South Australians want to keep our football on air and that we need to be thinking long and hard before we axe these important cultural and community identities from our television screens.

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