Victorian Sports Minister John Eren Photo: Paul JeffersVictorian Sports Minister John Eren was flown to the Gold Coast to watch cage fighting by the Ultimate Fighting Championship days before he announced Labor would lift a ban on the sport.
In question time on Thursday, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy asked Mr Eren to confirm that he had announced Labor’s policy to lift a ban on cage fighting in Victoria in 2012, days after he returned from an all-expenses-paid trip to the Gold Coast courtesy of cage-fighting operator UFC.
The register of members’ interests shows Mr Eren accepted a travel contribution and a gift exceeding $500 to travel to a Gold Coast event. While there is no date on the declaration, there was a UFC fight on December 15, 2012, on the Gold Coast.
On December 16, 2012, Mr Eren announced the party would lift the ban.
Labor said it had been working on the policy for months before the announcement, including talking to the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board.
In Parliament, Mr Eren “rejected the premise of the question”.
But in a later statement he said the “fact-finding” trip had been appropriately declared in the parliamentary register.
“Mixed martial arts is already a legal and extremely popular sport in Victoria and the Andrews Labor government has committed to making it safer for participants and audience members alike,” Mr Eren said.
Mixed martial arts, which is the style of fighting in the cage, is not illegal in Victoria, but the use of an octagon cage is.
The new Labor government has promised to end the ban, drawing the ire of some groups, including former police chief commissioner Ken Lay.
Labor promised to end the prohibition after advice from the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board to the Coalition government that they should lift the ban.
It argued that it was safer for the bouts to occur inside the “octagon” enclosure than the boxing ring.
Labor also argued that Victoria was missing out on millions of dollars of tourism dollars. The industry said it could fill Etihad Stadium for a UFC event.
The Coalition spent all of Thursday’s question time attempting to pressure Labor on the issue, questioning the Health, Local Government and Education Minister on the sport, which it said will encourage antisocial behaviour.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.