Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – 13 February 2013


13 February 2013

Interview with Kieran Gilbert

AM Agenda – Sky News

Topic: Drugs in sport, Customs corruption

KIERAN GILBERT: Hello and welcome to the program. This morning the drugs in sport scandal. The NRL club Manly is the latest to say that they’ve been cleared of any wrongdoing. They say, in a statement last night, that none of the club’s players, past or present have tested positive to illegal performance-enhancing substances. That, after their discussions with ASADA, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. Meanwhile, there are reports that there are no state police investigations into the Australian Crime Commission report, even though they’ve known of the findings for some five months.

Joining me to discuss these and the other matters related to this issue, the Minister for Justice and Home Affairs, Jason Clare. Minister thanks very much for your time.

JASON CLARE: Good morning Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: First of all, on that report, that there are no state police investigations despite them being aware of the findings for five months, is that correct?

JASON CLARE: Well, the investigations are happening, they’re being led by ASADA, the Australian Sports and Anti-Doping Authority and, as we know, they briefed the affected clubs yesterday. This is the beginning of a process, and this will involve a lot of work by ASADA, I suspect, over the next few weeks and next few months.

I should also make the point that the work that the Crime Commission has done is just the beginning. They’re investigations continue and, as we know, in Victoria they’ve set up their Sports Integrity Investigation Unit to look into this as well.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, as I mentioned as well, Manly say that they’ve been cleared by ASADA, they were one of the clubs mentioned in the report. That – it seems like the findings in the report might have been undermined already.

JASON CLARE: Well, I won’t comment on what Manly has said, because I wasn’t part of the discussion that they had with the anti-doping authority yesterday but, as we know, they’ve briefed the clubs, and the anti-doping authority will now be conducting a number of investigations, and interviewing a number of people.

KIERAN GILBERT: On the day of the news conference last week, you said that sports fans would be disgusted with what is revealed. At this stage, though, it seems confused is probably a better description of where they’re at.

JASON CLARE: And people are worried. We want sport to be clean. Players have come out and said they don’t want to play with cheats. Club officials have come out and said look, we’ve got a better understanding of the problem now and we need to work with the anti-doping authority. We’ve seen what’s happened overseas and how it’s corrupted sport, how it’s poisoned sport. We don’t want it to happen here.

One of the criticisms, I guess, of releasing the report over the last few days is that, oh look we already know this. And that’s half the problem here, people have been talking about this, whispering about it in the shadows, but nothing, or not enough has been done, and we need to face up to this and fix it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, yeah one of the criticisms is also the fact that there’s not a lot of detail, and that everyone has been, well, tarred with the same brush, including those within the clubs that have been mentioned. Do you accept that, well do you accept the criticism? Do you think that this could have been handled better? Get the detail out sooner?

JASON CLARE: Well the Crime Commission made the point yesterday in the Senate that they’d rather be criticised for releasing the report, than to be criticised by a coroner for not releasing the report. This is the situation that confronts us, there’s been a 200 per cent increase in the amount of these sorts of drugs seized at the border. The Crime Commission conducted a twelve month investigation and found real links to organised crime in distributing these drugs to players. There’s no alternative than to provide that information. If the report had been buried, we’d be criticised for not putting it out. The Crime Commission made the deliberate decision to sound the alarm by putting the report out. For this reason Kieran, because they want to prevent this from getting any worse than it already is.

KIERAN GILBERT: But Mr Lawler, the Commission Chief, says the purpose of such an operation is not to make arrests. The purpose is to understand the threat, risk and vulnerabilities. That’s what he said yesterday at the Senate estimates. So, you’re talking about intelligence, not evidence. Why not wait till there’s evidence? Isn’t that the way that investigations normally work?

JASON CLARE: Well, it depends, law enforcement officers need to make a decision about what is going to make sure they get the result they want. Sometimes they’ll run something purely covert, sometimes they’ll sound the alarm in order to make sure that they change behaviour.

Now the investigations here will take some time, but the change in behaviour in clubs right around the country is immediate. Now you’ve got young people saying what’s that supplement? Should I be taking that? What’s in that bottle? What should I be doing here? We’ve got to change behaviour before this gets worse.

KIERAN GILBERT: Sound the alarm, but do you feel for those who’ve done nothing wrong, and have been – well there’s a cloud of doubt hanging over them now?

JASON CLARE: I made the point last week, that the majority of players are doing the right thing. But the report has told us that this is affecting organised sport, that you’ve got peptides, hormones, as well as illicit drugs and organised crime involved. The Crime Commission made the decision, and I back them, that it was important to tell the public what was going on here, in order to stop it getting worse than it already is.

KIERAN GILBERT: Sure, if that point is accepted, why then were all the chief executives of the Australian sporting codes there last week? Whose idea was that? Because didn’t that just raise doubt, even more doubt, over other codes that haven’t been mentioned, or haven’t been affected?

JASON CLARE: Well, the Crime Commission briefed the codes, and as I understand it, the codes were keen to participate, and I’m glad they were there. Because this is not just the NRL, or the AFL, the work that the Crime Commission has done has identified that there’s these drugs being used in other places as well. And what we saw last week were the heads of all of the major sports in Australia saying we’re determined to tackle this.

As I said earlier, the problem in the past is that people have known about this, but not enough action has been taken. We need serious action here if we’re going to make a difference. I think, you know, people that watch the Tour de France in the middle of the night, in the middle of the year, would be saying I wish this sort of action was taken 15 years ago in the Tour de France.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, you said, I think it was you, it was certainly mentioned at the news conference that this was widespread. Now, from what we know already, there are half a dozen rugby league clubs, and one, possibly two AFL clubs. Was widespread the right use of words? Because from what I can gather, and certainly a lot of the coaches are saying, that they’re bemused by it, by that assessment.

JASON CLARE: Widespread is the assessment of the Commission, and you see that in the report. We’re talking about a number of clubs in the NRL, we’re talking about a number of clubs in the AFL as well. And, as I said, we’re seeing evidence of that in other sports.

What we’re seeing from the coaches, and from the administrators today I think is terrific. People saying we understand the nature of this problem now, and we understand now, because of the briefing that they’ve had from the doping authority, how serious this is and how they need to work together. Now, the obligation on the government agencies now is to help the clubs, to work with them to weed this out of the sport.

KIERAN GILBERT: And you’d be keen to get as much detail out as soon as possible, surely?

JASON CLARE: Oh, absolutely.

KIERAN GILBERT: That would take a bit of heat off the Government and the Crime Commission.

JASON CLARE: Well, it’s about getting the drugs out of the sport, and so that’s why it’s important that ASADA was briefing the clubs yesterday. It’s also important that they do the work they need to do as quickly as possible, so they’ll be working very closely with the clubs over the next few weeks and months. That’ll involve a lot of interviews as part of, as I say, a number of investigations.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, there was a big story yesterday, five more arrests on the alleged drug importation syndicate and the Customs corruption issue. Will there be more?

JASON CLARE: Possibly. I’ve said in the past expect more stings, expect more arrests. We should continue to expect more arrests for this simple reason – when you lift rocks, you find spiders, and we’re hunting for corruption now and finding it. And the more people we arrest, the more potential is to identify other people that are part of what we’re alleging here is a corrupt cell operating inside Customs.

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you feel that the authorities have now smashed the syndicate, or is it a large – how would you characterise the work done thus far? Some 17 arrests made…

JASON CLARE: I guess I characterise it like this. I’d say they’ve been very successful to date, but their work isn’t done yet. I was briefed on this in the first week in the job back in December of 2011, and that’s what drove all of the reforms I implemented into Parliament last year. Drug and alcohol testing, which commences this week and will start to roll out next month, but also integrity testing, to be able to run a covert sting and see if somebody is corrupt. But that’s stage one of the reforms, and big reforms, root and branch reforms to Customs are necessary and I’m doing that with the assistance of Justice James Wood, who is the architect of the anti-corruption reforms in New South Wales and is now assisting me to drive big reform in Customs now.

KIERAN GILBERT: As we sit here this morning, can you safely say that the sort of corruption and alleged corruption that we’ve seen in this episode, drugs being allegedly shuffled off the back of planes and so on, cameras diverted, that that’s not happening in our airports as we speak?

JASON CLARE: What I would say is this – you can’t be naive about this. Organised crime target law enforcement officers, whether it’s Customs or police, and we’ve seen evidence of that, and where we find it we have to hunt it down. I’m confident that we’ve got a corruption watchdog that knows what it’s doing and is working well with the Federal Police. This is the problem we had five years ago – there was no one in Customs that was investigating corruption. There were five people, there’s now 42. And five years ago Customs wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the corruption watchdog. Now, that was a big mistake by the Howard Government. We fixed that, we’ve put Customs under the jurisdiction of ACLEI, the corruption watchdog, and as a result we’re finding corruption. You find it when you hunt for it, and we’re hunting.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Clare, appreciate your time, as always. Thanks.

JASON CLARE: Thanks Kieran.