The New Broom At CAS Wins Support – CAS Again Becomes A Key Influencer in National Sport Sports Policy At A Critical Time in Sport

The Target 2000 agenda looks to the future

History of Australian sport policy series: Part 17

By Greg Hartung AO

In it together

The change in leadership and policy direction in 1988-89 won CAS long overdue support from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) — and it heralded the end of the debilitating conflict which had defined the relationship during the 1980s between the two peak sporting organisations.

As a positive and practical sign of the improvement, the head of the ASC’s Sport Development program, Dene Moore — a respected and knowledgeable administrator — was transitioned from the ASC to join the new leadership team at CAS as Chief Executive. 

The Chair of the ASC, Ted Harris, was well aware that sport functioned best in Australia when it was strongly represented by an articulate non-government organisation with a solid membership base and a clearly defined policy platform. This dynamic was considered sufficiently important for the ASC to back the new CAS regime with hands-on support by agreeing to continue to provide the salary for Moore thus allowing time for CAS to re-build its business approach after a fractious decade. 

Moore brought with him a wealth of experience and an intimate knowledge of Australian sport and National Sporting Organisations.  Credibility with national sport came with him. 

This administrative change, along with a new revamped Board with five new members, provided an opportunity for the CAS-ASC relationship to be re-set, this time based on collaboration, not conflict. 

Money and ideas together   

CAS was a key influencer of the sport policy debate; its influence during this period on policy, programs and funding cannot be underestimated.  Nothing encapsulated the historical importance of CAS during the late 1980s and 1990s more than the ground-breaking report Target 2000. (Ref 1) It was described as a White Paper and it set the real agenda and roadmap for the direction of Australian sport for the rest of the decade when it was released in September 1992 — 10 years after the publication of the Confederation’s first major directional document, the Master Plan for Sport.  (Ref 2)

It was a dynamic period in sport with the CAS report being released in the shadow of the massive $100 million increase in funding over four years announced by the Sport Minister, Senator Graham Richardson in late 1989. Funding had improved dramatically – and there were ideas to match.   

Target 2000 report

Target 2000 was the result of two years of intense consultation and research through formal conferences in each State and Territory, and detailed feedback from the CAS membership.  It was a membership driven investigation, analysis and presentation to government, not the other way round! CAS led it but sport owned it.  Too often, especially since the decline of CAS in later years, it has been the government, through the ASC and its sponsored enquiries, that have dominated the sports debate and determined future directions. This report provided a comprehensive outline of the needs of sport by sport, and how government might adjust its planning to support those needs.

Target 2000 owed its rigor and thoroughness to the CAS Sport Manager, Tony Naar, whose long and successful career in sport included Volleyball as a national player and later sport high-performance manager. Naar’s sport pathway led ultimately to the Australian Paralympic Committee where he became a passionate advocate of Paralympic sport and became one of the APC’s longest serving staff members and custodian of its history. 

New deal for sport

Naar and Moore brought sporting administrators together in 1989 to host a ‘New Deal for Sport’ conference and in 1991 did the same again with the focus this time on junior sport.  It was not unusual for CAS to attract attendances of more than 200 to these conferences, such was the interest and engagement of national sport.

Effective communication underpinned the CAS approach through these special conferences and through a national seminar and luncheon program conducted around Australia as a regular link with its members.  This was a very successful and popular mechanism to ensure that sporting organisations “owned” the CAS agenda.  This agenda was regularly shared and expanded upon through the respected CAS journal ‘Sport Report’ and regular bulletins.

The Target 2000 report carried with it the combined support of most of the national sporting community and placed CAS at the centre of the sports policy debate. It invested in CAS the authority of a more united membership base to continue “selling” the importance of government investment in sport.

The report focussed strongly on sport as an industry, not just a pastime, and drew strength from its value proposition: sport employed, in 1992, some 80,000 people and accounted for approximately one percent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product – almost $3 billion according to the government’s own estimates at the time. (Ref 1)

The “targets” to be met by 2000 were ambitious and across the spectrum of sport policy – CAS had produced a comprehensive suite of policy initiatives targeting the core issues confronting national sporting organisations:

  • Funding;
  • Junior sport and participation;
  • High performance facilities and venues;
  • Sport infrastructure, including the need to take stock of the sports facility inventory;
  • Doping in sport;
  • Sports medicine and science;
  • Coaching and officiating;
  • Development and hosting of events.  (Ref 1)

All the initiatives were grounded on the principle of sport “owning” sport and that government agencies such as the ASC were there to support, not control. This was a principle understood and supported by the acting head of the ASC Perry Crosswhite.  A former Olympic basketballer, Crosswhite was an administrator attuned to the practical needs of sport and while he was in that position, saw value in working with CAS to achieve shared outcomes.

For CAS the next decade represented the high point of its influence. They represented some of its best and most productive years.

It was a momentum, however, which would prove to be difficult to sustain beyond 2000.  A future change in name to Sport Industry Australia and later a change back to Confederation of Australian Sport did not inspire confidence.

CAS and ASC connection

The improved connection between CAS and the ASC was highlighted by ASC Chair, Ted Harris, in an interview with CAS President, Greg Hartung, in Sport Report in the summer of 1990-91.  Asked his view of the relationship after the debilitating 1980s, Harris replied:

“I think it’s a very good relationship.  I think that largely arises because of personal relationships and I think it can easily be upset or fractured if we get into each other’s hair,” he said.

“…the Confederation has an important role to play and, as you know, I have been a strong supporter of the Confederation, although I had a turbulent starting point with some of your predecessors.”  (Ref 3)

Harris agreed that CAS’s role was as a lobby group on behalf of its constituents and it should stay within the boundaries of that role.

It was a period of significant recovery in CAS’s reputation and strategic important in the sport policy debate.  Collaboration with the ASC was at its strongest. For instance, the ASC financially supported a joint initiative with CAS examining all aspects of Masters Sport, including a review of the Australian Masters Games.

CAS was stimulating constructive debate on issues across the spectrum from children’s sport through to mature aged programs and events. It was also actively challenging government to review Australia’s sports facility infrastructure with the aim to develop a national facilities strategy. 

Critically, CAS brought the views of individual sports to the discussion.  It championed the case for improved federal sport funding and questioned the negative impact of certain taxes on sport.  It tackled issues from doping and drug testing to broadcasting and tobacco advertising.  All issues relevant to the interests of sport were featured in the regular series of lunches and seminars with sports across all States and Territories and through the pages of the increasingly important magazine, Sport Report, edited by CAS Manager, Jak Carroll. Nothing was off limits.

The journal became an effective mouthpiece for CAS and individual sports, and it also developed as  a vehicle through which politicians of all stripes could express their own views and policies, and connect directly with sport.  The seminars and annual meetings of CAS attracted enthusiastic attendance from across sport and were “must attend” meetings for Ministers and Shadow Ministers and senior officers of the ASC and Sport Departments.  

1993 federal election debate

It was a long way from the acrimonious 1987 experience.  Prior to the March 13, 1993 poll, CAS forwarded a comprehensive questionnaire to the major Parties to draw out their commitments to sport and to pass these to its membership via a special edition of Sport Report.

The Autumn 1993 edition of Sport Report carried nine pages of detailed sport policy insights from Labor’s Sport Minister, Ros Kelly, the Liberal’s Shadow Minister, Senator Michael Baume, and the Australian Democrats, Senator Meg Lees. (Ref 4)

It was the first occasion that a genuine contest of ideas about sport policy had been conducted during a federal election campaign. As CAS Executive Director, Dene Moore, described in Sport Report: 

“At last we can truly say that the importance of the sporting enterprise to this country is recognised by all political parties.

“This extends not only to the important role of sport in shaping national pride and prestige but the more important role of contributing to the national health and social well-being.  And how timely it is that all parties are recognising the important economic impact which sport has across the country.” (Ref 4)

CAS was performing a positive a constructive role for Australian sport — one which was not possible, or desirable, for the ASC to perform as a government agency. It had earned the respect of its membership in the process and gained the ear of key political players.

Different ideology

The responses from the three politicians revealed much about their different styles and ideological approaches to sport policy although there was a welcome common ground around the importance of specific programs and support of national sporting organisations. 

Kelly pointed to Labor’s record: “It is the Labor Government who doubled funding to sport through the ‘Next Step’ program, and it is the Labor Government who have guaranteed to maintain funding through the ‘Maintain the Momentum’ program.”  (Ref 4)

Baume promised that a Liberal/National Government would “maintain funding to sport “at present levels in real terms”.  He declared, however, that sportspeople’s votes were not up for sale to the highest bidder: “…while politicians should not insult sportspeople by trying to ‘buy’ votes, the impact of policies on them is a proper issue for debate in an election campaign.” (Ref 4)

For Baume, the delivery of sport funding demanded review: “Sports funding should go to sport, not to government bureaucrats administering it. As a result, any avoidable duplication of bureaucratic function in sport, either between the Federal Government or between federal and state governments will be removed.” (Ref 4)

Lees was in agreement over funding: “The Democrats support the increased level of funding for sport provided in the Federal Government’s four year Maintain the Momentum program. We will strenuously oppose proposals to reduce overall current funding levels.”  (Ref 4)

For the Democrats, the focus of sport policy should be to help “every Australian achieve satisfaction, social skills and physical benefit from participating”.

Lees backed the Target 2000 strategy: “it is precisely this sort of long-term vision and planning that sport (and indeed many other areas) require.”

The report was similarly endorsed by Kelly but Baume, while supporting the general thrust of Target 2000, took issue with CAS’s funding targets: “…we can give no undertakings that your objective of $200 million a year, including $50 million for facilities programs, could be achieved at a time where there are over a million people unemployed…”

Bi-partisan support

Despite differences on several specifics, CAS was pleased with the degree of bi-partisan support for sport that it had managed to extract from key political players.  Moore drew attention to the generational change, writing in Sport Report that fifteen years earlier the level of federal government funding was “effectively nil”.

“The enormous progress that Australian sport has made over the last decade – including administrative and coaching standards, our ability to host major international events, the increasing competitiveness of many of our sports and the overdue attention being given to increasing participation in sport by people of all ages – simply would not have been possible without this improved level of government support, Moore said. 

He may well have added that this progress would not have been possible without the constant urging and “arm-twisting” of CAS.

CAS and ASC Lock Horns…Again!

It would prove difficult for CAS to sustain its position developed early in the decade. By the late 1990’s, the overwhelming focus in sport was on the delivery of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000 and the preparations of the Australian Teams. 

In shades of times past, and with a new leadership team in place, CAS decided it was time to direct a political attack against the Commission.

In correspondence with National Sporting Organisations in October 1998, it sharpened its criticisms of the government agency declaring it was not happy with the directions being taken by the ASC. This was a CAS position which had been festering for more than 12 months.

CAS complained directly to the Minister, Warwick Smith, about the mounting costs of running the Commission juxtaposed against the cuts in direct funding to National Sporting Organisations. It was not an unreasonable observation to make, but it was assured of testing the CAS-ASC relationship yet again.

CAS urged the Minister to initiate an independent review of the ASC drawing strength for such a review from a report by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) into ASC performance. (Ref 5) In correspondence with the Executive Director of the ASC, Jim Ferguson, on 24 June 1997, the CAS Chief Executive. Steve Haynes, referred to the ANAO report: “Governments as far as possible should operate as funders of programs, with funding separate from the actual delivery of the service provided.  This goes back to the idea that referees shouldn’t be players and vice versa……Government should try to separate its role of forming policies and delivering the outcomes to its citizens.”

CAS was effectively urging the ASC to withdraw from the direct provision of certain services to sport but rather to “purchase” those services from external sources.  This position was reminiscent of the position taken by CAS in the early 1980s.  Haynes warned that CAS would be “questioning” the need for the ASC to provide from its own internal resources, programs such as volunteer involvement, masters sport, coach education and accreditation.  He said all these programs had previously been provided by non-government organisations but which had been “taken over” in recent times by the ASC.

The ANAO had provided extra ammunition to the CAS position by declaring in its report: ”…in general, where the government wishes to provide access to a particular service for a group of clients, it should be a purchaser rather than a provider of services.  By separating and clarifying those roles, accountability is enhanced, conflicts of interest are minimised (for example, the referee is not one of the teams) and the principles of contestability can be embedded.”

CAS highlighted the growth in staff numbers and salaries at the ASC at a time when funding to sporting organisations was being cut.

No cut through

The CAS endeavoured to prosecute its case by sharing its concerns with sporting federations about the ASC’s direction and growing salary costs which, by 1997, had risen to almost $19 million. Jim Ferguson, an experienced public servant and astute Chief Executive, responded to the criticism by explaining that the ANAO report was a performance review of the ASC, designed to assist in improving management practices.  It was not a compliance audit. Ferguson had effectively returned serve.

Drawing on the conclusions of several reviews and reports, Ferguson pointed to the undoubted successes of the ASC. He said staffing levels were considered reasonable and compared favourably with other government organisations. He claimed an independent evaluation of grant delivery found that the ASC’s delivery of funding to national sporting organisations was considered to be “the benchmark for performance monitoring of general-purpose funding.”

The CAS argument was lost. Or at least the words and letters had failed to take shoot. It was now more difficult for CAS to get the traction it needed to prosecute its case.  The times were not on its side.  The national political, public and sport interest was firmly on the pending Olympic Games. There was no appetite for the internecine squabbles between CAS and a government agency.

Change again for CAS

In the euphoric aftermath to 2000, change was afoot with CAS.  It changed its name (if not permanently) to Sport Industry Australia (SIA) and ushered in a new Chief Executive, Sarah Lucas, on 6 August 2001 who promised to set “a clear plan” for CAS in the post 2000 world. 

Membership continued to dwindle, however, as CAS struggled for relevance. Along with its membership, its influence was declining.  Eventually, through constitutional changes following the Sydney 2000 Games, CAS ceased to be a representative body of sport and eventually survived with a part-time executive officer. Its interest progressively became more closely aligned with fitness, participation and health issues.  Important as these things were and still are, its voice was rarely heard in sport policy debate.

The essential strength of an industry association is fundamentally vested in its membership. As this Series of Papers has shown, it was the membership which gave CAS the authority to gain political attention.  It was listened to. Even when membership was divided, as it often was throughout CAS’s history, it was still vitally important to CAS.  CAS acted as a distiller of membership views and attitudes. The challenge was always to stay within these boundaries, or at least mould them through its internal consultative arrangements, before launching a political campaign. But without membership underpinning its message, CAS could not speak with strength or authority.  

It was a far cry from the robust days of the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.  The decline was evident before the 2000 Games and accelerated afterwards.  In 2002, CAS — by then known as Sport Industry Australia (SIA) – had only four Board Directors.

Throw of the dice 

SIA arranged meetings with National Federations in early 2002 in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to reveal the extent of its financial and membership decline, and make a final effort to test if sport wanted SIA to continue and, if so, would they agree to stay as members and to financially support it.  CAS’s future was in the hands of sport.

The accounts showed the extent of the crisis with cash reserves at a perilous $70,000. As a depressing sign of the inevitable outcome, the workshop in Sydney attracted a mere six sporting organisations, a far cry from the hundred which attended regular meetings a decade earlier.  As further evidence of the parlous situation, the CAS building in Canberra which was constructed during the late 1980’s, needed to be sold.

CEO, Sarah Lucas and Chair, David Morgan, outlined the clear and dire financial position of the organisation to the national meetings.  They heard from those present that CAS/SIA had drifted away from its original purpose as a representative and advocacy body for Australian sport resulting in a loss of credibility and support. 

The meetings were designed as an honest “bare all” opportunity, organised with the hope that they would rekindle interest among sports to back a new and final push for CAS to re-capture relevance.

A commitment was reached to change the name back to Confederation of Australian Sport from SIA and to return to the fundamentals of lobbying, communications and the conduct of the Australian Sport Awards as the central priorities. A new fee structure was proposed to keep the organisation afloat but by then the membership was in rapid decline; there was no mood for higher membership fees.  It was apparent that the organisation was in dire trouble, at least from the lofty heights it had reached in the final decades of the last century.

 The last hurrah

CAS continued to struggle in the post-Sydney environment.  In January 2005 CAS had a new President, Michael Sparks, who arranged emergency meetings of any interested sports in Sydney and Melbourne to again discuss the future of the Confederation.  In his communication, Sparks said CAS had been “established a quarter of a century ago to act as a lobby and umbrella agency for national sporting organisations.  In that time, CAS has played an important role in representing the interests of sport to Canberra and throughout the country.” 

Almost sensing the mood of its (mostly) former membership Sparks wrote frankly and honestly: “The landscape in which the organisation operates has changed substantially.  There seems little doubt that the organisation has now entered a critical period in its history, and at an equally critical period for the Australian sports industry. 

“Arguably, the impetus created by the 2000 Olympic Games, the 2006 Commonwealth Games and other major international events staged in Australia has diminished the need for a national membership agency.  Funding for sports has been secured from Government in support of Australia’s representation at these multi-sport events and some of the larger NSO’s have become quite adept at putting their voice forward to government.” The die had been cast.

The demise of CAS from its height cannot be laid at the feet of any individual or Board. Rather, it was the outcome of a combination of a number of factors and circumstances not the least being the complacency and lack of engagement of national sporting organisations, many of which had long questioned whether CAS offered the same level of policy direction, enthusiasm and political influence which underpinned its creation. It was impossible to sustain the organisation, as originally conceived, without the backing and engagement of sport.  Sport voted with its feet. As sporting organisations walked away, CAS could not survive as it was.    

The 2005 crisis meetings were a last-ditch, albeit unsuccessful, effort to mobilise sport once again. Whether at some time in the future another “gang of five” will emerge with the energy and capacity to elevate CAS to a leading “ideas factory” of Australian sport is unlikely….but, like all things in sport, not impossible. 


  1. Confederation of Australian Sport, Target 2000: a White Paper on the Direction of Australian Sport, Canberra, The Confederation, 1992.
  2. Confederation of Australian Sport, The master plan for sport, March 1980, Melbourne, The Confederation, 1980.
  3. Ted Harris and Greg Hartung, Commission chairman addresses sporting issues, Sport Report V10 (4) 1990, p.3-6.
  4. Sport : the issues – where the major parties stand, Sport Report V13 (1) Autumn 1993,p. 4-13
  5. Australian National Audit Office, Accountability and performance information : Australian Sports Commission. Canberra, Australian National Audit Office, 1998.

Author’s Background

Greg Hartung AO brings great knowledge and experience to the development of sport in Australia. He was a sport & political journalist, Member of the Interim Committee of the Australian Sports Commission (1983-1984), inaugural CEO Australian Sports Commission (1983-1988), Commissioner of the Australian Sports Commission (1991-1996), 2006-2010), Chair of the Australian Sports Commission (2008-2010), President of the Confederation of Australian Sport (1989-1995) and Australian Paralympic Committee (1997-2013) and Vice President of the International Paralympic Committee (2009-2013) and Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra (2014-)

Part 18 – The New Australian Sports Commission Hits the Ground Running with Landmark Programs to Develop Australian Sport in the 1980’s

Listing of articles in Listing of articles in History of Australian Sport Policy Series

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