Sport is central to the Australian story and the Australian way of life. Every weekend, Inner West parks and ovals fill with kids playing soccer, rugby league, touch footy, AFL, netball, hockey or cricket. The benefits of sport for kids are clear: improved fitness and mental health, a better understanding of teamwork, stronger connections with others and the opportunity to be outside and use our wonderful local public spaces.
I love sport and I love what sport means for our community, but as a parent and as a legislator I am alarmed by the encroachment of alcohol advertising in sport. To put it simply, alcohol advertising in sport puts kids at risk and I believe we need to draw the line. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education has released a report into the prevalence of alcohol advertising in sport that should serve as a wake-up call. It revealed that kids watching the AFL Grand Final were exposed to 0.7 instances of alcohol advertising per minute, or a total of 118 occurrences over the course of the game, all of which was broadcast during children's viewing hours. Kids watching the National Rugby League [NRL] grand final were exposed to 3.3 instances of alcohol advertising per minute or a total of 365 occurrences over the course of the game.
The AFL, NRL, rugby union, cricket and the Australian Open are all sponsored by alcohol companies that relish the opportunity to festoon their brands across our television sets, the stands, the grounds and even the players themselves. This last aspect is perhaps what disturbs me the most, because kids love their sporting heroes. They idolise these athletes and then ask their folks to buy them jerseys and other merchandise, which is plastered with the logos of the alcohol companies. When this advertising is teamed with the frequent media coverage of irresponsible behaviour—there are bad boys on the front page of the newspaper again this week—it is no wonder that parents and sports lovers are raising the alarm about alcohol advertising in sport.
While the responsibility for broadcasting content regulation is mostly with the Federal Government, there is a role for the State Government and the community here too. Currently, regulation of alcohol advertising is ramshackle and largely self-regulated by bodies such as the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and others, depending on the broadcast medium. Layered on top of that is a regulatory mess. Sports broadcasts are exempted from the few restrictions on alcohol advertising that exist and sponsorships of sports teams or athletes are not even considered to be advertising in the first place.
The End Alcohol Advertising in Sport campaign has a number of sensible and achievable goals. First, we must phase out alcohol sponsorship from sporting and cultural events, just as we did with tobacco. Secondly, the Federal Government must end the alcohol advertising exemption on free-to-air commercial television and standardise and legislate advertising regulations for all media platforms. Thirdly, the campaign recommends an alcohol sponsorship replacement fund to help transition our sporting codes away from alcohol advertising. It is a sensible plan and the New South Wales Government can lead the way.
The Government should show leadership and demand that alcohol advertising is banned in the stadiums that are built, maintained and operated with public money. The Premier is set to splurge more than $2 billion on sporting stadiums that New South Wales does not need. If the Government wants to show real dedication to sport and health, it should commit today to banning alcohol advertising from those stadiums, particularly the kind of ever‑present electronic rolling fence advertising that we constantly see on television. The Government should stop our stadiums from being sponsored by alcohol companies. I think this issue is much broader. The people of New South Wales have many more concerns. People are sick and tired of seeing the things that they love manipulated and coopted by corporations and vested interests. The community is rightly fed up with our public services, assets and public spaces, and even our hobbies and national pastimes—weekend sport for example—having a price tag.
It seems that everywhere we turn our precious public spaces are being sold off to the highest bidder. Our suburbs are being pumped with development, with none of the community infrastructure or open recreational space that we need to support it. Our environment and precious heritage is being trashed to the benefit of developers and the big end of town. People are sick and tired of this Government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I believe that there is a better way. We can do better and we must do better for our community, and most of all, for the future generations of New South Wales.