Bill's Speeches

STATEMENT OF INDULGENCE - AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC TEAM - CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 30 AUGUST 2016

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

It’s a pleasure to join the Prime Minister in congratulating all 422 of our Australian Olympians on their efforts in Rio.

And – before we go any further – we send the goodwill and best wishes of this house, and the Australian people, to the 178 members of our Paralympic team who are preparing for their games which will begin on 7 September. 

Mr Speaker

Every four years Australians from all walks of life are consumed by the performance, by the athleticism, by the opportunity to watch the best in the world perform at the Olympic games.

We sacrifice sleep to follow the fortunes of people who have given up years of their lives in pursuit of excellence.

At this Olympics, we had so much to be proud of and so much to cheer about.

Mack Horton, reclaiming the 400 metre freestyle for Australia.

The remarkable comeback of Kyle Chalmers, 7th at the turn and first to the wall.

And in that same race, the extraordinary sportsmanship of Cam McEvoy, who was overjoyed for his friend, rather than disappointed for himself.

Our sailors, as we've heard, raking in the medals yet again.

And, Mr Speaker, as is so often the case – the women of Australia carried the torch for us at the Olympics. Claiming 5 of our 8 gold medals.

The trailblazing success of our Rugby Sevens.

Kim Brennan’s stunning victory in the single sculls.

Catherine Skinner, the new hero of Mansfield in Australia, winning gold in the trap-shooting.

Our women’s 4 by 100m relay, defending their London title.

Chloe Esposito – the first Australian to win a gold medal in modern pentathlon – who, rather than basking in her well-deserved glory, she rushed back to the stands to watch her brother compete. 

In winter, we honour the achievements of our football codes, but when it comes to the Olympics, our women athletes always deliver.

It's the tradition that we saw in Rio was the same tradition of the 1956 Melbourne golden girls. And Marlene Mathews, Marjorie Jackson, Dawn Fraser and Susie O’Neill - and so many Australian women champions. And once again led by the remarkable Anna Meares in Rio.

Perhaps this might prompt us to redouble our efforts in supporting women’s sport – and the coverage of women’s sport in this country.

Mr Speaker

In Rio, the Boomers, the Opals, the Stingers, the Sharks, the Kookaburras, the Matildas and the Hockeyroos gave their all, against the best in the world.

And when we think about Australia performance, sometimes I'm a little disappointed by the lack of generous comment in some parts of our media, about the accomplishments of our young athletes.

When you look at any medal tally in the world, we do very well, and there's not an Australian who doesn't feel more proud of Australia at the end of an Olympics than at the start. 

And sure, we'd always like to have more medals, but when you think about how Australian athletes perform at the Olympics, they've got everything to hold their heads up about.

And of course, the Prime Minister and I had the opportunity to meet the Olympic athletes on their return from Rio, and there we also saw other people who deserve to be mentioned. 

The parents who drove their kids to practice before first light, the coaches – inspiring and motivating, driving, timing.  

Demanding another inch of effort, absolute self-discipline, the early starts, the late finishes.

There's the physios and the medicos, and the support staff at Rio who keep these high-performing people healthy and well.

And now so many of our heroes we honour today have spent the past week visiting their former schools and their junior sporting clubs.

Showing a new generation that the track marked on their school oval, the little lasers at their local beach and the humble community pool, they were the training grounds of athletes and dreams.

And if the efforts of our athletes inspire more Aussie kids to try something new, to step away from the screen, to go for a ride or a run, or to join a team, to be active and healthy, then that is a very good thing they do.

And for all those young Australians who watched these games, who witnessed the toughest of athletes shed tears of both joy and pain.

Who could see athletes from small and developing nations struck by the vivid delight of wearing their country’s name on the highest global stage.

It is not too much to hope that the Olympic ideal will live in their memory too. 

Not just the pursuit of individual excellence, to be the strongest, to jump the highest, to run the fastest. But to draw satisfaction from beating your personal best, from the thrill of simply taking part.

Mr Speaker

In the modern spectator’s pentathlon, complaining about the broadcast coverage comes right after ‘pretending you knew about judo’ and my particular favourite is that 'the diver's splash was too big' or of course, the perennial event: ‘I reckon I could do that if I trained’. It's a great event and many of us enter it.

But I think we can agree that Channel 7 did an outstanding job bringing the Rio Games into our lounge rooms and onto our phones.

The deeds of the Australian Olympic team deserved the widest possible audience, and 7 did a great job in making it happen.

Now, Mr Speaker, in the weeks to come already, some of our team will already be turning their minds to the Gold Coast in 2018.

I’m sure we will have all of our Australians – including our top sport administrators – backing our teams for these games in Tokyo 2020.

Others from Rio of course will be moving on to a new phase of their lives.

But wherever our Olympians go, whatever they do, no one can take away from them that they were Australian Olympians.

And no one can take away from them, the rest of us are very proud of them.  


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.