Parliament bill addresses 'No 1 threat' to sport

CHARLIE MITCHELL
Last updated 13:52 31/07/2014

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A bill that seeks to address the threat of match-fixing at major sporting events in New Zealand has passed its first reading in Parliament with unanimous support.

The Crimes (Match-Fixing) Amendment Bill will amend the Crimes Act to make match-fixing a form of deception, meaning match-fixers could face up to seven years of imprisonment.

The bill comes after international threat assessments suggested crime syndicates could target Australasia for sports match-fixing.

The bill would be introduced before next year's Cricket World Cup and Fifa U20 World Cup, major tournaments being hosted in New Zealand that could be targeted by match-fixers.

It was introduced by Justice Minister Judith Collins on behalf of Sports and Recreation Minister Murray McCully.

Collins said the bill was necessary to protect New Zealand's reputation as a fair place to play sport.

"This is a short, but very important bill. It is designed to protect the integrity of New Zealand sport," Collins said.

"Match-fixing is a growing problem internationally and has been described as the No 1 threat to the integrity, value and growth of sport.

"As we have seen with recent events, New Zealand is not immune to this growing threat. That's why the Government is taking action on this matter."

While match-fixing was covered under existing offences, the bill would put it "beyond doubt" that match-fixing was covered under the Crimes Act, Collins said.

McCully also welcomed the first reading of the bill, saying it was part of a package of measures progressed by the Government to address match-fixing.

NZ First leader Winston Peters spoke in support of the bill, but said the National Party was itself engaged in fixing outcomes.

"While we support this bill, we consider it does not go nearly far enough," Peters said.

"Because match-fixing in sports is bad, and must be stopped. But match-fixing in politics is much worse."

Match-fixing "pays people to underperform," and encourages people like Paul Goldsmith, National's candidate in Epsom, "to pull down his hoardings in Epsom", Peters said.

"Match-fixing in politics stinks. It's corrupt. It goes against the very character of our society, and it's being condoned by the National Party today because they are its main proponents."

Labour MP Chris Hipkins also supported the bill, but said it was "ironic" that the Government was pushing it in the wake of its electorate deals with ACT and UnitedFuture.

"People gamble on the results of general elections," Hipkins said.

"And [Prime Minister] John Key, with his dodgy 'cup of tea' deals, is trying to fix the outcome of certain elections."

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He suggested that because people made bets on elections such as the Epsom race, Key might be infringing on the law being introduced.

"Will John Key be infringing this law if he's trying to fix the outcome [of elections]?

Kevin Hague, Green Party spokesman for sports and recreation, had unconditional support for the bill, calling match-fixing a "cancer".

"Match-fixing is another form of cheating, and cheating undermines that nobleness of spirit we encounter in sport," Hague said.

"Match-fixing has absolutely no place in sport, and the Green Party fully supports this bill."

- Stuff

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