XVI Commonwealth Games
XVI COMMONWEALTH GAMES
Ms HARRISON (Parramatta - Minister for Sport and Recreation) [3.21 p.m.]: I move:
(1) congratulates the athletes selected to represent Australia at the XVI Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur; and
This Friday is the official opening of the XVI Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, the first Commonwealth Games to be held in Asia. For 10 days the eyes and ears of all Australians will be turned towards that city, with the largest Australian team ever assembled for a Commonwealth Games competition. More than 6,000 athletes and officials from 69 Commonwealth nations will take part in 18 sports during the Games which, for the first time, will include team sports such as netball, cricket and rugby union.
More than 450 Australian athletes, our largest ever Commonwealth Games team, will attempt to better the record medal tally that our team won in Victoria, Canada, just four years ago. During those Games Australia won 182 medals - 87 gold, 52 silver and 43 bronze - a tally for one country which many good judges thought impossible to reach. As the 1998 team awaits the start of these Games, it is important to reflect on the history of the Games. In 1891 in an article in the magazine Greater Britain Reverend J. Astley Cooper suggested a festival combining sporting, military and literary events to bring the British people throughout the world closer together.
The suggestion generated a great deal of interest in Britain and in the British colonies. The sporting contest suggested by Reverend Cooper was eventually staged at the Crystal Palace in London in 1911 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King George V, and was called the Festival of Empire. The festival comprised a series of different entertainment events and exhibitions, with particular relevance to the progress and development of the British Empire. Importantly, the festival also included a sports meeting featuring athletes from Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and Canada.
Harold Hardwick, who also later won one gold and two bronze medals at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, won two events for Australia. He finished first in the 100 yards freestyle and competed the following night in the boxing tournament, which he also won. Being the heavyweight boxing champion of Australia in both the amateur and professional ranks would have helped him. I am sure honourable members will acknowledge that he certainly showed an interesting combination of sporting skills. Canada was the most successful country and was awarded a silver cup, with competitions being held in track and field, boxing, wrestling and swimming events.
The first Empire Games were not staged until 1930, in Hamilton, Canada. Empire athletes who attended the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics felt the need for regular competition between the athletes of the empire’s nations and, fittingly, it was a Canadian, M. M. Robinson, who provided the impetus for the Hamilton Games. Support for the Games was strong with teams from 10 countries, including Australia, taking part. Events for the Games were similar to those held in 1911 with the addition of rowing and lawn bowls. While no points were allocated, Great Britain’s athletes finished in the premier position.
The success of those Games was proof positive of the spirit that existed between the countries which made up the British Empire. During those Games it was decided to hold similar meetings every four years between the Olympic Games, and to form a British Empire Games Federation. The name of the federation and the Games have changed several times in their short history. In 1952 the federation was renamed the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation. In 1974 its name changed again in Christchurch, when it became the Commonwealth Games.
Like the Olympics, many stories from the Commonwealth Games will live forever in this country’s sporting history - stories about some of the most memorable and courageous performances by some of our athletes; not just great victories but also great defeats, for in defeat there can often be just as much glory. Some of the performances have become important chapters in the history of the Commonwealth Games. Stories of performances such as Robert de Castella’s marathon victory in Brisbane in 1982, Raelene Boyle’s 400 metres win at the same Games and Tani Ruckle’s gallant and life-threatening marathon in Canada in 1994 bear telling time and again.
Robert de Castella, or "Deek" as the Australian sporting public knew him, first came to prominence in middle-distance and cross-country races such as the City to Surf. Deek ran his first marathon in 1979 and two years later won the Fukuoka marathon in Japan in the then second fastest time in history. In fact he was a personal hero of mine. In 1982 at the Brisbane Games, Deek was a hot favourite for the marathon. I well remember being taken by my parents to see him compete. However, in the lead-up to the Games, Deek had to overcome a few obstacles.
Despite suffering from a spinal disc problem, Deek was still installed as the three-to-one favourite, ahead of the 1978 Games champion, Tanzania’s Gidamis Shahanga and his classy team-mate, Juma Ikangaa. Games organisers started the race at 6.00 a.m. to give the runners the best of Brisbane’s weather. The temperature was only 14 degrees but the humidity was an already stifling 94 per cent. The Tanzanian ran early and set a fast pace, while Deek settled back in the pack, a few hundred metres behind the two Africans, relaxing, conserving his energy, while not letting them get too far ahead.
Eventually picking up the pace, Deek was five seconds behind the leaders at the 10-kilometre mark but his presence seemed to spur the two on, and at the halfway point they were a minute ahead. After 30 kilometres Deek was still almost a minute behind, with the prospect of gold and glory quickly disappearing. Despite suffering a stitch, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, Deek rallied and closed the gap. He caught and passed Shahanga at the 37-kilometre mark and was running side by side with Ikangaa just one kilometre further. If, like me, honourable members saw those last few kilometres of the race, particularly the exact moment when Deek grabbed the lead, they will never forget it.
The expression on the tiny African’s face showed many emotions, among them admiration for a great opponent and resignation that he was destined to take the silver medal. Deek finally finished 12 seconds ahead of Ikangaa and became an instant national hero as a result of what one of Australia’s greatest long distance runners, Ron Clarke, called "the greatest marathon ever run". That was the greatest marathon I have ever seen. While Deek’s performance signalled a new chapter in his great career, another performance at the same Games signalled a glorious end to one of the most turbulent and well publicised careers in Australian sport.
In 1982 Raelene Boyle was already a multiple Commonwealth Games gold medallist and an Olympic silver medallist over 100 and 200 metres - beaten at the Munich Olympics by a representative from the Eastern bloc whose performance was widely considered to be drug enhanced. A false start and a subsequent disqualification at the Montreal Olympics and the Australian boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 ended the dream of Olympic gold for the then 29-year-old. However, the prospect of one last chance for glory presented itself at the Brisbane Games.
After a carefully planned preparation, under threat of a damaged achilles tendon, Raelene took her place in lane four for the final of the 400 metres. Raelene’s form was good. In the Games trials she had broken her own Australian record and was ready for a great performance, and she gave one. The smooth Boyle stride was in evidence as she moved down the back straight, and when the field turned and took the staggered start out of the picture, she was in the lead. With a parochial crowd urging her on she hit the tape in front. She broke no records but she had the gold medal around her neck. That was a fitting end to a terrific career.
Twelve years later in Victoria, Canada, another Australian athlete hit the headlines with a gold medal performance for sheer guts and the sort of stubborn determination that only elite athletes have. Tani Ruckle, the 1990 Auckland silver medallist,
was on autopilot. She refused to listen to the voices in her head and acknowledge the pain wracking her body. She valiantly forced herself to complete the marathon. Fewer events demand as much of an athlete, both mentally and physically, as a marathon, and Tani experienced the most extreme of those demands.
Nothing could stop Tani: not the race organisers, who practically ordered her to pull out; not her coach, who wanted her to stop at the half-way mark; not even the police who escorted her over the last six kilometres as she made the agonising journey to her own personal goal - to finish the race she started. When she eventually finished, incredibly, under those conditions, in fifteenth place, she had endured the ultimate in physical and emotional punishment. Vomiting, diarrhoea and leg cramps - the marathon runner’s constant companions - could not stop her as the athlete’s inner voice kept telling her to keep going. No gold medal for Tani but she won the race in her own mind and achieved more than many other athletes who competed without giving everything they had.
This story, as much as the stories of Deek and Raelene, show us all what is ahead for our athletes in Kuala Lumpur. Two weeks from now some of those athletes may have a story to match the three I have just mentioned. They face the glory, the despair, the excitement, the frustration, the sweet taste of success, the pain of defeat - whatever it is, we salute them and wish them well. To us they are all champions and we are proud to have them represent us in victory or defeat. They all deserve our congratulations and best wishes and we look forward to watching their progress.
Mr HAZZARD (Wakehurst) [3.31 p.m.]: I am genuinely pleased to support the motion moved by the Minister. The Opposition intended to move exactly the same motion but chose not to do so but rather to support the Government in what we see as a worthwhile and opportune motion. Tomorrow is the opening of the XVI Commonwealth Games, a momentous event. These are the first Commonwealth Games that could be described as being of Olympic proportions. As the Minister said, 6,000 athletes from 69 nations will compete in the Games in Kuala Lumpur; 63 nations took part in the previous Commonwealth Games, held in Canada,
As the athletes arrived in Kuala Lumpur over the past few days they would have been greeted to the friendly Games with those welcoming words used by the Bahasa, or Malay, people - "Selamat datang", or "Welcome". As the Minister said, the Commonwealth Games have a proud tradition, having commenced in 1911. Although they were not held regularly in their first few years, they have been held regularly in recent years. As the Minister said, the Third Commonwealth Games, then known as the British Empire Games, moved from England to Canada. The Games have developed a friendly focus; they are competitive, but that competitiveness is between friends of the Commonwealth, unlike the Olympics, in which friendship gets a little lost because of their slightly more competitive edge.
The Commonwealth Games are held every four years, between the summer Olympics. Tomorrow millions of people across the Commonwealth will watch the opening ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on their television sets. As the Minister said, Australians will proudly support and encourage our athletes as they march into the magnificent new stadium at Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur. A few hours ago, in a bipartisan gesture, the Leader of the Opposition sent a facsimile to Perry Crosswhite, the General Manager of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association. Perry has represented Australia on three occasions in the sport of basketball. He now has the onerous task of ensuring that the Australian team is fully kitted out, prepared, organised and delivered to Kuala Lumpur. The message stated:
(2) on behalf of the people of New South Wales wishes those athletes the best of luck in their pursuit of Commonwealth Games medals.
On the eve of the opening of the 16th Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, I take this opportunity to wish the entire Australian Team (including athletes, coaches, managers, administrators and supporters) the very best of luck as they represent Australia over the next two weeks.
The NSW Liberal and National Parties are extremely proud of the contribution of our sportsmen and women make to sport and the wider community.
We well understand the level of commitment and application that is required to achieve the opportunity to represent the people of Australia.
Along with all residents of NSW, we take great pride in every member of the team who will be in Kuala Lumpur during these Games.
Please pass on my best wishes as well as those of the NSW Coalition and I trust that above all, every member of the team enjoys the very special experience of representing Australia in Kuala Lumpur.
Perry Crosswhite, and other sports administrators, managers, coaches, athletes and their families, have given an enormous commitment, particularly over
the past few months, to prepare for the Games. Of course, the athletes have been preparing for much longer. A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending breakfast at Camperdown with the Australian Society of Sport Administrators - ASSA. At that breakfast Perry Crosswhite detailed the enormous task of bringing together the Australian Commonwealth Games team. Unless one is directly involved it is hard to comprehend the amount of detail that goes into getting a team of that size, our biggest team ever, to the Commonwealth Games. I acknowledge the work done by Perry and many others to ensure that the team was well prepared.
Australia will be represented in a whole range of sporting events and many athletes will be well known. Of course, others who are less well known may become well known in the next few days. This is the last major sporting event - and is certainly of Olympic proportions - to be held in this region before the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It is a wonderful, exciting opportunity for the athletes to take part in a competitive environment and to prepare themselves for the massive event in Sydney in two years. A number of different sports have been introduced into the Commonwealth Games. Some team sports include cricket, the rugby sevens, netball, men’s and women’s field hockey, tenpin bowling and squash.
It is hard for people who are not athletes to understand how athletes at the top level of their sport think and apply themselves. A few weeks ago I attended a New South Wales sports federation luncheon at Royal Randwick Race Course. I was fascinated to hear two new sports representatives addressing the audience. One of them was Glenn McGrath, who will be representing Australia in cricket at the Commonwealth Games. Glenn spoke about his excitement at representing Australia for the first time as what he called a real athlete, that is, he would be at the Games with other real athletes. I sat in the audience thinking how could he ever conceive of himself as not being an athlete. It was beyond me.
Many top athletes are humble. It is wonderful that Australia will be represented in a broader range of sports at the Games and that more top athletes will have the opportunity to take part and try to win a gold, silver or bronze medal. We wish our cricket team the best of luck. Recently I watched the Australian netball team play during the series against the Americans. For many years Vicki Wilson, Kathryn Harby and Liz Ellis have played at the top level of their sport, netball, but have not had the opportunity to win a gold medal. That makes it more exciting for such people to attend these Commonwealth Games. I suppose I should have referred to all the members of the Australian netball team but I will not do so. The Minister can do that if she wants to.
I congratulate all the teams that are taking part in the Games. Another interesting speaker at the federation luncheon was Michelle Martin, who has been playing squash at the top level in the world for some years. She is a superb athlete and she is humble. She talked about this marvellous opportunity possibly to win a medal for her country at these Games. She also spoke about how she had played in some wonderful venues and most unusual court arrangements in other parts of the world. Indeed, she referred to the wonderful experience of playing on one squash court that was literally on an island - it may have even been a Greek island. The court had all sorts of special arrangements which were wonderful for the spectators. However, Michelle said that nothing compared to representing her country at the Games.
The Games are a wonderful opportunity for all the Australian athletes, whether they play one of the team sports included in the Games for the first time or whether they compete in a traditional sport such as swimming and athletics. All Australians recognise their marvellous contribution. Some of Australia’s more well-known athletes will be competing at these Games, including Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and Nova Peris-Kneebone in the track and field events and Susie O’Neill and Samantha Riley in the swimming events, and many other superb athletes. Many younger athletes are also in the Australian team. Recently during a sports program on one television network I discovered that one young member of the team is Jennifer Reilly from Geraldton. I wish her well. Jennifer is only 15 years old and is making her first trip overseas.
With our magnificent sporting tradition it is wonderful to see such young swimmers joining Susie O’Neill and Samantha Riley, who were described as the grandmothers of the sport in a recent newspaper article. The Games are a wonderful opportunity for us to share their great successes. In the time remaining I shall refer to some of the other athletes. Traditionally and historically, Australia has produced some great athletes who are known worldwide, such as Dawn Fraser who won gold medals in swimming at the 1958 and 1962 Empire Games.
Mr Fraser: She was a member of this House.
Mr HAZZARD: The honourable member for Coffs Harbour rightly says that Dawn Fraser was a
member of this House. The young athletes on the team are following in the path of many wonderful Australians. On behalf of all Australians I express my disappointment that some of our well-known athletes and excellent representatives will not be competing at the Games. One person who springs to mind is Cathy Freeman, who having suffered an injury will not be competing. I would have loved to watch her take part in the track and field events early next week but, regrettably, I will be denied that pleasure. One member of the track and field team is a local boy from the north shore, Matt Shirvington. Matt is a resident of Davidson, which is close to my electorate of Wakehurst.
I mention also Damien Marsh from Queensland, Kyle Vander Kuyp in the 110 metre hurdles, Rohan Robinson from Victoria in the 400 metre hurdles, Jai Taurima from the Australian Capital Territory in the long jump, Tim Forsyth in the high jump, Louise McPaul from Mount Keira and Joanna Stone from Queensland in the javelin, Nicole Boegman from Emu Ridge in the long jump and Debbie Sosimenko from Doonside in the hammer throw. Honourable members had the pleasure of welcoming Debbie to the Parliament only a few weeks ago. We wish Debbie all the best as she tries to win the gold medal in the hammer throw. Emma George is synonymous with the pole vault these days. Earlier I mentioned some of the female swimmers.
Some of the male swimmers are incredible: Michael Klim from Victoria, Ian Thorpe who is a local from Milperra, Kieren Perkins and Grant Hackett from Queensland, and Daniel Kowalski from Victoria. Less well-known sports at the Games in terms of public recognition include synchronised swimming and shooting. Representing Australia in shooting is Phillip Adams, the athlete with the highest number of medals accumulated at one Games. Phillip Adams was born in 1945 and is no spring chicken but he is one of Australia’s great shooters. He is a country boy from Forbes in New South Wales and he is a farmer - an occupation that is the backbone of the country. Phillip’s major event is the pistol competition. The Australian women’s hockey team is competing at the Games for the first time. Recently the team won the World Cup, an event second in prestige only to the Olympic Games. An amazing number of athletes come together in that team under the direction of their formidable coach, Rick Charlesworth.
The Australian women’s hockey team includes people like Alyson Annan, a local girl from Campbelltown, who I believe teaches in the northern part of Sydney. Our gymnastics team comprises athletes who compete at incredible levels, including Bret Hudson from Campbelltown and Andrei Kravtsov from Queensland. Queenslander Rodney Eyles, a member of the squash team, is currently ranked fourth in the world. Shane Kelly from Victoria, Bradley McGee from Wentworthville and Stuart O’Grady from South Australia are members of our cycling team. Our diving team includes Robert Newbery from South Australia and Chantelle Michell from Victoria, who won silver at the Goodwill Games, but recently has been outperformed by Loudy Tourky from Eastwood.
Australia will be well represented at these Games by its lawn bowls team. The team captain, Rex Johnston, a local boy from Bondi Junction, won gold in the 1994 Commonwealth pairs and is our strongest hope to achieve a medal in the fours this year. Karen Murphy from Sydney and Willow Fong from Merrylands are also members of the lawn bowls team. Tenpin bowling is appearing for the first time as an event at the Commonwealth Games. Currently the Australian women bowlers dominate world events. Cara Honeychurch from Victoria, who is ranked as the number one amateur bowler in the world, and Maxine Nable form part of that formidable team. Australia is fielding weight-lifting, badminton and Rugby sevens teams. Many athletes and the people supporting them have committed so much of their lives to representing Australia at world events. The New South Wales Opposition remains committed to fully supporting those athletes throughout Australia and certainly joins with the Government in supporting this excellent motion.
Mr KNIGHT (Campbelltown - Minister for the Olympics) [3.51 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the motion of my colleague the Minister for Sport and Recreation. The Commonwealth Games are cherished in a special place in the heart of every Australian sports fan. They are known as the friendly Games because that spirit pervades when Commonwealth athletes compete. Of course, the Commonwealth Games are an extremely serious sporting competition. Every Australian athlete is proud to wear the green and gold. That pride was obvious from the reaction of our hard-core cricket and rugby professionals when they were selected for the first time as part of the Commonwealth Games team.
Some of the most memorable sporting moments in Australian sport history have occurred at the Commonwealth Games. Who can forget Kieren Perkins in Victoria, Canada, in 1994 breaking the 1,500 metres world record and in the same event breaking the 800 metres record? Or Rob de Castella’s magnificent marathon duel in Brisbane in
1982 that culminated in his winning gold, which was described so eloquently earlier today by my colleague the Minister for Sport and Recreation? Or the 1954 miracle mile race between the only two men to break the four-minute mile barrier at that time, Englishman Roger Bannister and Australian John Landy? Unfortunately, John Landy looked over his left shoulder as Bannister stormed past him on the right!
Who could forget Raelene Boyle’s multiple medal winning performances or the 17 medals won by Phillip Adams? Of course, the Commonwealth Games should not be mentioned without acknowledging the sporting success of former members of this House competing at Commonwealth Games - Michael Cleary and Dawn Fraser. The Commonwealth Games have often been the launching pad for Australia’s next generation of sporting heroes. Who can forget the feats of Hayley Lewis in Auckland in 1990 when, as a young girl, she won our hearts and brought home gold? Dean Lukin came to prominence in 1982 by winning the super heavyweight weight-lifting gold medal in Brisbane and went on to win at Los Angeles in 1984 an Olympic gold medal, which to this stage remains Australia’s only gold medal in weightlifting.
Who can forget Glynnis Nunn going from Commonwealth Games success to win gold in Los Angeles? I have no doubt that new champions will rise from the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur for us all to cheer on. Australian swimmers will build on their success at the Perth World Championships and use Kuala Lumpur as a stepping stone to ultimate glory at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Cyclist Michelle Ferris will show those outside the cycling community what a talented athlete she is and has been all year since the world cup. The hockeyroos make their first appearance in a Commonwealth Games and should continue their gold medal winning ways.
They will be joined by many other heroic performances of our Australian team athletes. I wish all our athletes, from whichever State they come, the very best when they represent our country in competition in Kuala Lumpur. I am sure that they will return home knowing that their achievements have done Australia proud. Our athletes who are already competing in cricket and hockey are doing well for Australia. I note that I am not the only member of this House with bleary eyes today after watching the hockey on television late last night after the House rose.
The Commonwealth Games not only offer great sporting feats but provide an opportunity for Sydney Olympic organisers to learn valuable lessons about planning for a multisport event. No doubt there will be significant differences between the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, but with 15 Olympic sports included on the Commonwealth Games program, important knowledge can be obtained from transport arrangements, ticketing, village operations, catering and other areas. As well as wishing our athletes the best, I extend good wishes to everyone in Sukom 98, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.
Finally, I share with the House a story from the book Commonwealth Games - The first 60 years, which epitomises the spirit of the Commonwealth Games. The story is about a runner in the 1950 Auckland Commonwealth Games - not an Australian but an Englishman with a great Australian name. Jack Holden, a 43-year-old Englishman, contested the marathon - a fine example to many of us in our middle age decline. He battled not only encroaching middle age but also a few other obstacles along the route. Before the race be pointed to his backside and told his competitors to take a good look because that was all they were going to see of him.
He was right. He was hardly superstitious and gleefully wore the number 13 shirt, but it may have turned out to be an omen. Holden easily cleared the starting field, which included Olympic silver medalist Tom Richards of Wales and Olympic sixth place finisher Syd Luyt of South Africa, but they were the least of his problems. A battering downpour waterlogged his running shoes and they became so difficult to run in that he took them off with about eight miles left in the race. Water was six inches deep along the road in some stretches as Holden slogged his way towards the stadium while as many as 50,000 people lined the streets, standing on street corners or watching from the safety of their porches.
Then came the dog, either a great dane or poodle depending on whom you believe. About three miles from the finish the dog began nipping at Holden’s ankles as he tried to shoo it away. At one point the dog almost tripped him up. Officials, who originally went looking for a gun to perhaps do more than just scare away the dog, finally got the pesky critter to the side of the road to allow Holden to reach the stadium in relative peace. His naked feet had abrasions and cuts from the road and were heavily bleeding when he finally entered the stadium - to at first a gasp from the crowd and then a huge roar. Holden had completed his eventful Games odyssey in two hours, 32 minutes and 57 seconds, which is quite remarkable considering all
he had to put up with. He might have been an Englishman, but in that fine Australian tradition he celebrated by quaffing a beer!
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove) [3.58 p.m.]: I have pleasure in joining with the Government in congratulating and offering our best wishes to the members of the Australian Commonwealth Games team. One of the most galvanising powers of this country is the commitment of its people to sport. I suspect that like many other Australians over the next few days I will be somewhat weary after watching on television a number of sports being played at the Kuala Lumpur Games. I suspect, like a number of other Australians, I will be sitting in front of the television cheering on our athletes as they compete for gold, silver and bronze, and cheering them on merely for competing. It is an honour to be competing for one’s country in the XVI Commonwealth Games.
Today I would like particularly to congratulate and encourage the women who are competing in the Commonwealth Games, not because I am sexist or because I am a screaming feminist, but because too often we overlook the contribution of women in sport in this country. That is disappointing, given the fact that for so many years they have been such outstanding competitors at international level for this country. The record books and lists of medal winners in Commonwealth Games contain female names that are household names in this country. Dawn Fraser has already been mentioned. There has been mention of Hayley Lewis. I would like to add Lisa Curry-Kenny and Tracey Wickham, outstanding swimmers who have represented this country with grace and style and great success over many years.
I remind the House of the great names in track and field such as Marjorie Jackson - now Marjorie Jackson-Nelson - and Debbie Flintoff, and no-one should forget Raelene Boyle, who was and still is very dear to the hearts of all Australians for her successes in the Commonwealth Games. We all know that Raelene has gone through some personal struggles in recent times but her inspiration to athletes today is something that should be placed on record in this House, as she was a great sprinter and is a great lady.
The XVI Commonwealth Games will include team sports. That is good news for Australians, because Australia has two world-class teams competing. Our netball team are world champions and our women’s hockey team - the Hockeyroos - are absolutely outstanding in their field. As the shadow minister for sport, the honourable member for Wakehurst, has already said, the Australian women’s team recently won the World Cup, an event second in prestige to the Olympic Games. The team holds a staggering record: 167 matches, 137 wins, 16 draws and 14 defeats. That is an amazing record for any sporting team and one I am sure the team will add to in these Games. We wish the team the best of luck. Our netball team will find it a tough competition because two outstanding teams will be playing against them - South Africa and Jamaica - but I have no doubt that the success shown by the women’s netball team in the past few years will stand them in good stead at the Commonwealth Games this year.
A number of other women will be competing. I would like to draw the attention of the House to some of those women. It is a great shame that Cathy Freeman will not be competing, but Australia will be ably represented on the track by Melinda Gainsford-Taylor. Tania Van Heer Murphy will also be there, and I hope those two young women, as they always do, will give their all in their events, particularly young Tania, who has had a particularly difficult preparation for these Games. She has had some pressure on her so we wish her particular luck.
Mr Hazzard: Melinda is from North Balgowlah.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: As the honourable member for Wakehurst points out, Melinda Gainsford-Taylor is a northern beaches girl.
Mr Hazzard: And her poster is in Rocky Carlino’s Plaza Barber Shop in Manly.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: Is the honourable member telling me that Melinda Gainsford-Taylor is the pin-up girl for Rocky in his barber shop?
Mr Hazzard: Yes, absolutely.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: I am sure she is the pin-up girl for a number of men in this country but I do not think that is her only attribute. She is an outstanding athlete and we are looking forward to her success.
Mr Hazzard: She is the pin-up girl of Manly.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: I also point out to the House that Emma George is the outdoor world record holder for the pole vault. If I were to put my money on anyone I would be putting my money on Emma George, as she is going to win this event. The women’s pole vault event is being held for the first time, and I would wager any money that Emma George will win. Over the years Australia has had a
number of outstanding swimmers. I look forward to Susie O’Neill continuing the great form she has shown. I think she was a little disappointed to find she had not broken the record for the highest number of Australian titles held by an individual. I am sure she will break that record next year. Again, we expect great things from Susie. She has a heavy program but she will cope with that. Samantha Riley is also in very good form. The tipsters have her at very short odds to win her events, but she will be looking at some competition, and I suspect some of our younger swimmers will be giving her that competition.
The Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur will provide some challenges for our athletes. It will be hot and we are a bit concerned that it will be wet. Nevertheless, I am sure they will cope with all that. Previous contributors to this debate have said - absolutely correctly - that the Commonwealth Games are the friendly Games. They provide opportunities for Australians to excel and to show that we are competitive on the world’s sporting stage. These Games, being held only two years before September 2000, provide an opportunity for our athletes to compete in preparation for our own Sydney Olympic Games.
Many Australians will be watching these Games. Many Australians feel a part of the Commonwealth Games, and many young people look to our athletes for inspiration. We all hope that our team will not only do well but will, in the Australian tradition, compete in good faith, in clear competition and as clean athletes, untainted by many of the problems that have beset competitors from other nations of the world. We do not want our athletes to be seen to be part of the drug scandals that have encompassed other international competitors. Our athletes do not have that reputation and we hope that continues to be the case at these Games.
The athletes competing in the Commonwealth Games are an inspiration to us all. They are particularly an inspiration to young people. It is often said that one of the problems in our community is that young people do not have heroes any more. I am sure a number of heroes will emerge from these Games. All competitors are heroes in their own particular way. Some of them will be stars, and we hope that those people will become the heroes our young people are looking for. I am sure that some will provide inspiration to a particular young lady I know. I hope our diving team does wonderful things at these Games. I hope the team comes home with medals.
I have a young niece competing in Queensland at the moment. She is the under-12 diving champion of Queensland. Alice Young is a bit young for the Olympics in Sydney and she will probably be a bit young to compete in the next Commonwealth Games, but she is looking forward to representing her country at the Olympic Games in 2004. I know that the inspiration the diving team will give her by bringing home a couple of medals will encourage her to pursue her very time-consuming sport. She is only 11. Training for diving at her level takes up a lot of her day. I hope that by watching the athletes competing in Kuala Lumpur she will be inspired to continue with her training so that she too will have the opportunity to represent her country in the years to come.
I join honourable members who have already spoken in this debate in wishing our team all the very best. We in Australia are very proud of what our athletes do for this country. We look forward to our team’s success both in terms of medals that are brought home and, more important, in the way our athletes represent our nation in Kuala Lumpur.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [4.10 p.m.]: As Minister for Police I am proud that two police officers have set an outstanding example not only in the Police Service but also in the sporting arena. Constable Louise McPaul of the Sutherland Local Area Command will compete in the javelin throw in Kuala Lumpur. Louise already holds a Commonwealth Games gold medal and won a silver medal for her performance at the Atlanta Olympic Games. When I reminded the Minister for the Olympics of this, he told me that one of his proudest moments in the stadium was when Louise won her Olympic silver medal. I am equally proud that parking patrol officer Minh Do from North Sydney will also go to Kuala Lumpur to complete in the fencing event.
The dedication of those two officers to the competing demands of their work and their sport is an inspiration and they have the complete support of the whole of the Police Service. I personally wish them all the very best for success. I extend that wish to every other competitor in these very worthwhile Commonwealth Games. I have been interested to listen to the contributions made by honourable members. It is clear that women athletes have made outstanding contributions to our country. Often at times when contributions are made people mention only great names. I am sure that was not the intention of any honourable member. There have been great Australian performances at both Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. I have
never forgotten the great performances of Betty Cuthbert; Shirley Strickland, also known as Shirley Strickland de la Hunty; and Pam Kilbourne, who won a gold medal for hurdling.
I think also of great swimmers such as Dawn Fraser. Of course, I must also mention Lorraine Crapp, Ilsa Konrads and Jon Konrads. Kids who trained at Bankstown swimming pool have certainly reaped rewards. Those people have gone on to represent Australia with great pride. Their achievements make every Australian understand that our athletes are world class and have world-class facilities. I wish every participant, particularly the two fine police officers Louise McPaul and Minh Do, every success. I look forward to greeting them on their return, hopefully with gold medals for their country and the Police Service.
Mr SCHIPP (Wagga Wagga) [4.13 p.m.]: As a representative from a country electorate I pass on my congratulations to the Commonwealth Games team. I note from the Commonwealth Games booklet that approximately 30 country towns are represented as the places of birth of our athletes. I am sure that honourable members who represent the towns of Yass - the honourable member for Burrinjuck is not able to be in the Chamber at present - Swansea, Ivanhoe, Narromine, Narrabri, Wagga Wagga, Casino, Gosford, Wollongong, Lismore, Ballina, Bowral, Dubbo, Barham, Albury, Parkes, Grafton, Tamworth, Taree, Tumut, Coffs Harbour, Queanbeyan, Young, Forbes, Lithgow, Orange, Leeton, Bourke and Barraba will be cheering on their area’s home-born sons and daughters as they compete at the Commonwealth Games.
What a difference the modern days have made. I grew up in an era when one relied on the radio for a few snippets of news about what was happening at Games being held in far-off places. Sometimes one went to the Sunday matinee and saw news clips, about three weeks late. Television has brought Games into our lounge rooms and has made them much more personal for the lounge-room spectator. People of today have a greater affinity with the Games, although I point out that many of the names we have heard referred to in the House today were household names in our era. There is no doubt that they were our heroes. In my time sport was virtually one’s only recreation. One played tennis or cricket or ran around a football field. There was not a great deal else to do. I believe that we were just as dedicated in our sporting endeavours as are today’s young athletes.
One retains a closeness with athletics and other sports throughout life. I have kept a close connection with sport, having watched and participated in sport - although at nowhere near Commonwealth Games level - and have had some success in the local environment. I also ran a sports store, which kept me in close contact with the sporting fraternity. I spent a year as Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing. I know how today’s Minister is feeling. In her position one gets a feeling of the build-up towards an event such as the Commonwealth Games. People go about their preparations in a very serious way. They are about to represent their country and they put their heart and soul into that. Many personal sacrifices are made, and we should recognise that there is a monetary cost as well. Not all sportspeople get the big money we read about in the papers.
I wish the whole Australian team well and I extend special congratulations to the three Wagga Wagga representatives in the team. Brennon Dowrick, the gymnastics representative, was born in Wagga Wagga. Our athletes need to go to larger centres for more intensive training and competition at a higher level. It is important to recognise, though, the sporting talent funding from the Department of Sport and Recreation that allows young people with sporting talents to pursue higher levels of competition and stretch themselves as far as they can go. Adam Commens, a member of the hockey team who has represented Australia in hockey previously, is a proud addition to Wagga Wagga’s stable of well-known sporting people.
Wagga Wagga is the city of good sports, of course. I could spend a long time this evening giving a resume of all the young and not-so-young sports people from Wagga Wagga who have reached high goals, but, as the Minister says, we do not have time for that today. Patrick Dwyer, a member of 200 and 400 metre men’s athletics team, also comes from Wagga Wagga. It has already been said in this debate that these Games are a build-up to the Olympic Games. They are a very important stepping-stone and testing ground for many young people who are really applying their minds to the event in 2000. The Commonwealth Games are important in their own right.
I am not sure whether the President of the Commonwealth Games Association chose particularly good timing for the statement that the Commonwealth Games need a revamp. That statement would seem to act as rather a dampener at this time, although there may be some background
to it. Nevertheless, the statement seemed to come from out of the blue and it did not seem quite right for someone to be talking about the Games as if they did not have as much merit as they might. Surely the President of the Commonwealth Games Association should be promoting the Games.
I pass on my personal congratulations to Arthur Tunstall on his 30 years as secretary to the Games and his involvement with them. In my opinion, we should not dismiss his contribution lightly. The fact that Mr Tunstall has not been as politically correct as some may think he should have been is not something I hold against him. Perhaps I have a rural sense of humour, but I think he has been a bit of good fun in certain circumstances. He certainly has put his heart and soul into his job. I wish him well for the future. Having been in Darwin last week for the trials between Australia and New Zealand, I feel a closer affinity to some of the athletes. A large crowd turned up for the trials. I saw Nova Peris-Kneebone, who is obviously a local heroine. I do not know what would have happened if she had not won but it was great to see her win well. My granddaughter, Erin, had her photograph taken with Melinda Gainsford-Taylor. I know Erin’s mother has her sights set on Erin being a replica of Melinda later in life. She has declared her a future athlete.
The trials in Darwin gave a big lift to the Darwin community. It now has a closer affinity with the Games. I hope every one of the athletes achieves a good result. Medals are not everything. Often the success of the Commonwealth and Olympic Games is rated on the number of medals won. Generally if athletes come home proud of their team and their performance and, as the honourable member for Lane Cove said, clean of any involvement with certain substances, they can hold their heads high. Heading towards 2000, Australia is proud of its athletes. Australia has a reputation for doing extremely well in the Games, bearing in mind what might be expected on a pro rata basis of population. From a rural point of view I extend my good wishes to all athletes, no matter where they come from. I wish the three athletes from Wagga Wagga well. I notice that quite a number of athletes on the list were born overseas but now proudly represent Australia.
Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [4.22 p.m.]: I add my brief congratulations to the Commonwealth Games team that will soon proudly represent Australia in Malaysia. I particularly congratulate Heather Turland on her selection. Heather lives at Bowral in my electorate. I wish her well. She is a marathon runner and an amazing woman. She is the mother of four children. She became involved in athletics later than many others. About two years ago Heather competed successfully in the City to Surf, winning the women’s division. The following year she competed in Athens. Heather has overcome injury, including a broken leg.
Heather is now ready to represent Australia in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games. She has the support of her husband Gary and her four children. A week ago I spoke to her at Bowral when she was given a send-off party. She told me that to try to replicate the environmental conditions in Malaysia she has put a running machine in her garage, turned on all the heaters, and filled the electric frypan with water to generate some heat and steam. She runs on the treadmill to get in shape for the Commonwealth Games. I am sure all honourable members join with me in wishing her the very best in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games.
Ms HARRISON (Parramatta - Minister for Sport and Recreation) [4.23 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their thorough contributions to the debate. There will be a great deal more to talk about during the next few weeks. Stuart Rendell, who works for the Senate, has high expectations in the hammer throw, and I wish him luck. I will summarise some of what has been said about women and their tremendous performances in the history of the Commonwealth Games. Statistics are available from 1911 to 1990. One statistic sums up how well women have done. Women have made up 20 per cent of the team, yet have won 35 per cent of gold medals. I cannot let the occasion go without stating that statistic.
Of the 450 athletes who make up the 1998 national team New South Wales provided almost 100 athletes. The athletes extend across the entire range of sports which will be on show at the Games this year. Those local athletes, along with their team mates from around the rest of the country, will follow in the footsteps of many of our Australian sporting legends, some of whom have been mentioned individually today. Almost half of the athletes from New South Wales have come from programs run by the New South Wales Institute of Sport. New South Wales Institute of Sport athletes comprise: track and field team, 16; swimming team, nine; cycling, three; diving, two; gymnastics, three; hockey, six; and weight lifting, three. In addition, five coaches and an administrator complete the New South Wales Institute of Sport complement, which is a great return for a relatively new facility.
The Games will provide all our athletes with a great opportunity to test themselves on the
international stage in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics. I hope the experience and success the athletes gain in Kuala Lumpur will be a real confidence boost for many whose focus after 21 September, when the Games come to an end, will sharpen on to the Sydney Olympic Games, which are only two years away. I am sure all honourable members will join with me as I send a message on behalf of the New South Wales Parliament to the entire Australian team, and to the New South Wales competitors in particular. I congratulate each and every one of them on their selection. Our thoughts and best wishes will be with them for the next few weeks as they strive for victory for themselves, their teams and their country.
Motion agreed to.
Peter Collins QC MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION