Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:51): I am pleased to support this motion moved by the member for Melbourne Ports in this parliament today. The great, late Nelson Mandela once famously said:
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does … Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.
Last year, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in Reclink’s Community Cup in Sydney. This Reclink Community Cup event is, of course, a much larger event in Melbourne. My team, the Rock and Roll Walers, coached by Jason Evans and skippered by Mark Evans, took on the media industry based Sailors, captained by Adam Spencer, at Henson Park in my electorate of Grayndler. It was my Aussie Rules debut. I took a mark, somewhat surprisingly, which features, for those doubters, on YouTube. This was the highlight of my short Australian Rules career and, given that the KPI I had set myself was simply to be able to walk off the field, I was pretty pleased. Yet for the third year in a row my team, the Walers, lost.
The real winner of the day, however, was undoubtedly the community. The money we raised went to Reclink, a Melbourne based charity that works in partnership with over 450 charities from around Australia. It is a charity that until the coalition’s first budget in May last year received funding from the Commonwealth government.
Reclink has a long and proud history of coordinating sporting and cultural programs for those less fortunate. It provides a valuable link between vulnerable people and their community in towns and cities across Australia. Reclink makes a difference for youth at risk, those experiencing mental illness, people with a disability, the homeless, and people tackling alcohol and other drug issues and social and economic hardship. In the year 2013 to 2014, Reclink Australia delivered over 115,000 participation opportunities for sport, recreation and arts. Reclink helps facilitates pathways for education and employment, often giving people a confidence in themselves they previously struggled to find. Reclink believes there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that, for every dollar invested by the federal government in the Reclink National Program, there is at least a tenfold equivalent dollar benefit to the community. That makes the federal government investment of $560,000 per annum value for money in economic terms, as well as priceless in social terms. I would like to recognise the hard work of the team behind Reclink Australia and congratulate founder Peter Cullen for all that he has done to make communities around the nation a better place.
The Senate select committee into the Liberal government’s budget cuts recommended that the government reinstate Commonwealth funding for Reclink Australia immediately. Today, the coalition should do just that. Brian Millett, a participant in the Reclink program, spoke to the Senate select committee about his friends and the positive impact of Reclink in their lives. He said:
Wednesday is football and they cannot wait for Wednesday. They belong there; they have a connection there. That is what I needed. I needed that gap filler to get me there.
It seems that the coalition know the price of everything and the value of nothing. You do not create stronger communities by tearing them apart.
I call upon the coalition to immediately reinstate funding to the Reclink national program and express some disappointment that there are no coalition speakers on this motion that has been moved by the member for Melbourne Ports and seconded by the member for Lalor in this House today. That is extraordinarily unusual. It is the case that people front and put their argument when debates occur in this parliament. To simply withdraw from the debate, to have nothing to say, does not do anything to give credit to the coalition government. However, all will be forgiven with the stroke of a pen if they fix up this funding shortfall and reinstate the cuts that they made in last year’s unfair budget.