Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games
Debate resumed from 12 October.
Mr ASHTON (East Hills) [9.41 p.m.]: I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the success of the great Paralympic Games that have recently been held in Sydney. Contributions to this debate commenced in this House some weeks before the Paralympics began. After the success of the 2000 summer Games in Sydney—which Juan Antonio Samaranch declared to be the greatest ever held—we were all hopeful that the Paralympics would be as successful, and of course they were. I can recall reading that the community of New South Wales were hopeful that perhaps 650,000 people might turn up to watch the Paralympics. Of course, we now know that 1.2 million people attended the Sydney Paralympic Games. That is a tremendous achievement. Many people are aware that, unfortunately, the Paralympics in Atlanta were just not up to scratch. I do not suggest that we achieved the best Paralympics ever held because we beat the Paralympic Games held in Atlanta. The Paralympic Games held in Barcelona and other countries were also a great success. It is clear that the Minister for the Olympics, Michael Knight, and other members of SOCOG who attended the Atlanta Games learnt not what to do but what not to do to make the Paralympics in Sydney successful.
There was a commitment on both sides of this Chamber to ensure that the Paralympians received recognition for being elite athletes in their own right, without maudlin comments such as, "Aren't they doing well because they have some disability?" I wish to place on record my appreciation of the Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee, which organised the Paralympic Games here, obviously under the control of the New South Wales Government. I also pay credit to Michael Knight, who supervised overall the program of Paralympic events. Some of those events proved to be so much more popular than anyone could have imagined. Wheelchair rugby, for example, previously sometimes referred to as murderball, absolutely enthralled people. People were amazed that these athletes would use battering rams and tanks to play wheelchair rugby. Unfortunately, Australia lost to the United States in the gold medal match, but it was an incredible event to watch. In the swimming, so many different classifications were provided to give every athlete a reasonable chance to compete in an event that his or her disability allowed them to compete in.
I had the opportunity to watch many gold medal events on the last night of the swimming at the Aquatic Centre, and it was just amazing. A young American swimmer called Erin Popovich made me look like a giant of a person; she is a very small lady. She won the silver medal in her 50 metre race, and she was beaten by a lady with a similar disability. The person who beat her is about six feet tall and Erin is about four feet tall, and she was literally beaten by 0.2 of a second. What was so interesting was that there was a great harmony amongst the athletes. In the summer Games in September we saw a fair degree of rivalry. Honourable members will remember Michael Klim and our relay team strumming the guitar because Gary Hall had said that he was going to smash the Australians like guitars. In a sense that was probably just a bit of fun. These athletes genuinely enjoyed each other's company, they enjoyed the experience, and the crowd absolutely warmed to them.
I had the privilege of sitting down the front on one of the nights at the swimming. It was incredible to turn around to look behind me and see 15,000 people right at the back of the Aquatic Centre. Probably the view was not very good for some of them, yet the people were there. They enjoyed it and I am sure found the whole experience uplifting. As members know, many of the athletes who compete in the Olympics go on to have quite successful careers in sport, they end up being quite well paid for it and achieve a degree of fame. And good luck to them too, because they put in so many hours. A couple of weeks ago two Paralympians addressed this House of Parliament. Unfortunately, Hamish MacDonald's event was cancelled because there were not enough competitors and he was then unable to compete in his favourite event. However, those athletes perhaps have not received due recognition until now. I am sure that with 1.2 million people going to the Paralympics, as well as the millions who watched the events on television, it was so obvious that people really did enjoy it.
The idea of organising schoolchildren to attend the Paralympics was a great one. My daughter was involved in going along on one of the days, and she was so excited to come back and tell me that she had seen Mexico play Germany in wheelchair basketball, as well as some of the other events including the athletics. While I was not there on that day, I am sure every kid in the athletics stand knew how to sing the Australian national anthem, which is great. I am told that that also gave the athletes a lot of inspiration. Obviously there were some disappointments for our athletes—for example, Louise Sauvage in the 800 metre wheelchair event. Louise was beaten by a better wheelchair athlete on the night, by Petitclerc from Canada, but Louise took that like a real champion. Those athletes handle their disabilities very well.
Mr R. W. Turner: Your electorate agrees.
Mr ASHTON: Exactly. Who could not admire the efforts of Siobhan Paton, who won six gold medals? I read the story of her background, that she was brought up in the Wollongong area where she suffered not only her disability but often the abuse of other kids. Kids in school can be incredibly cruel to anyone who is even slightly taller or shorter than the rest of the class. Siobhan overcame that, and she went out and competed. She was tremendous in her interviews. She said she would be happy if her victories had done just a little bit to enable kids to see that a person can have a disability, overcome that disability, and get out there and compete and be judged as a great athlete.
I attended the closing ceremonies of both the Olympic Games in September and the Paralympic Games last Sunday. I had the privilege of being down towards the front, and the party atmosphere amongst the athletes and the crowd was incredible, with many people dancing and singing to the music. I know that the Premier has been taken by the success of the Olympics and the Paralympics, and we now know that the Paralympians will receive recognition in the major capital cities of Australia, as they deserve. I am sure the other States will recognise the Paralympians, as we did in Sydney, for the great success that they have brought to themselves and to Australia. In Atlanta we came second in the medal count. While medal counts are not everything—
Mr Debnam: Yes, they are.
Mr ASHTON: I agree with the interjection of the honourable member for Vaucluse in a sense. I have said this here before. Whether it be elite athletes, people with disability, second-grade players or my daughter’s 14C netball team from Revesby Workers Club, it is about playing as well as you can. But if you win you feel a bit better than if you lose. I do not want to say anything offensive about how you feel when you get home after having won, but you certainly do not have to kick the dog. Our topping of the medal count at the Paralympics reflected not only a home ground advantage but also the fact that we took these Games seriously from the day we won the bid to host the Sydney Games.
I want to comment on a theory I hold, although I may be wrong. Interestingly, some of the countries that did well in the summer Olympic Games did not do so well in the Paralympics. In comparing the Games, the United States of America and France did all right, the Chinese did okay and the Russians did not do as well. Countries such as Spain and Australia did well by comparison. I believe that has something to do with the way that countries exist. Australia exists generally as a country that respects egalitarianism. We sit and argue across this Chamber about our view of politics, but there is a general view that volunteerism and egalitarianism are at the heart of Australia. There will always be people who are well off financially, physically and intellectually and others who are not. But most Australians would agree that we should try to lift people up and not drag others down to achieve that end.
Some countries performed much better in the Paralympic Games than in the summer Olympics. I believe that is because in countries that achieved well in the summer Olympics there is an attitude that it is great to be a winner but if you are not a winner they do not want to know you. I do not want to be seen as being critical of the United States of America, but I do not feel that country has the same respect as we do for people with a disability. That was shown at the Atlanta games. Australia has been put on the map by our young people and our athletes. We have shown that we are competitive. But, more importantly, we have a respect for people with a disability. That has been shown not only during the Paralympics but also through government policies from both sides of this House and federally.
I re-emphasise the pride I feel that our State hosted this event and that the Paralympics did not suffer in comparison to the Olympic Games. The speeches that were made at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics were tremendous and the entertainment was excellent. The athletes enjoyed themselves as they bounced balloons and marched and paraded. At the Paralympics we were able to see new sports. I consider that wheelchair basketball is more interesting than real basketball. In basketball nine-foot people take three steps, jump up and slam dunk the ball. Then the other mob get the ball and they do the same. We may not see a slam dunk in wheelchair basketball, but we see more movement. We see passes and an ability to hold the ball. It is a tremendous game. I also enjoyed the tennis at the Paralympics. How many of us would be champions if we were allowed two bounces before we hit the ball? The reality is that the rallies were more interesting and the placement of shots was better. It was more enjoyable than watching gigantic people serving a ball at 210 kilometres an hour, knowing that they earn a couple of million dollars a year.
I congratulate all the athletes and I congratulate the 15,000 volunteers who turned up again and did not walk off the job. In this State, and in Australia generally, we can be very proud of the athletes, the organisers, the Government and the Opposition who all played a part in making the Paralympics the greatest Paralympic Games ever held. The officials did not make that statement to make us look good. They were fair dinkum!
Mr GEORGE (Lismore) [9.54 p.m.]: I, along with my colleagues in this House, am very proud of the success of the recent Olympic Games held in Sydney. I recognise the success of our athletes and also the contribution of the volunteers and students who came from my electorate to help in the opening and closing ceremonies and the conduct of the Games. Also, I acknowledge the efforts of the police who came from the electorate of Lismore to take part in the Games and also the police who stayed at home to carry out the extra duties because of the decrease in numbers. I also acknowledge the bus owners and operators who travelled from country and regional areas such as the electorate of Lismore.
Mr Nagle: And the ones from Byron Bay.
Mr GEORGE: And the ones from Byron Bay. They came from up and down the eastern coast of Australia and the inland areas. I thank all those who made the trek to Sydney to help transport our visitors to and from the Games. I also mention the Rural Emergency Services personnel from country areas who contributed to the success of the Games, and I must not forget the ones who stayed at home to carry the extra burden. On 23 August the torch came into the Lismore electorate from Tenterfield. It travelled through little towns such as Tabulam, Mallanganee and Mummulgum into Casino and on to Lismore where the cauldron was lit by Don Whitelaw, a well-respected person in the Lismore electorate.
I know that Don felt privileged to be given the honour of lighting the cauldron. While expressing my gratitude that the torch relay passed through the Lismore electorate, I pay tribute to John Bancroft, a council employee, and his willing team of volunteers who organised a wonderful day in Lismore. School students travelled from afar to witness the lighting of the cauldron in Lismore. It was a memorable day in everyone’s life who attended. I had the pleasure of accompanying Councillor Reg Baxter in the magnificent replica chariot. It was a pleasure to ride along with Reg Baxter and it was an experience that I will always treasure.
During previous debate on the Olympics 2000 the honourable member for Lachlan, the Hon. Ian Armstrong, highlighted the contribution of rural Australia. He referred to the contribution of Australian stockhorses, the superfine wool of our sheep and the Royal Agricultural Society [RAS]. The North Coast National, which is a typical country show that is held in Lismore each year, was run only two weeks ago. An event was organised to pay tribute to all the volunteers from the far north coast in recognition of their involvement at the Games. As special guests at the North Coast National the volunteers paraded around the showground. I compliment John Gibson and his willing team at North Coast National who organised the tribute to those volunteers.
In my electorate I had the pleasure of sponsoring a photograph competition through the local newspaper. All the photographs taken were entered by individuals, not professionals. The quality of the entries was such that the competition was well received and became very popular throughout the area. I also had the pleasure and honour of accompanying other honourable members of this House in welcoming the Lebanese Olympic team to Australia. It was an honour to see members of that team taking part in the Olympic Games. It was a highlight not only for me but also for members of my family and other relatives.
I join with all honourable members of this House in thanking the people who have been mentioned previously. There are too many names to mention individually so I will simply endorse the comments that have already been made in respect of those people. As the honourable member for Lismore, I simply say thank you for Sydney 2000. It has been an experience to witness the Olympic Games and the success of those Games being continued in the Paralympics. All honourable members and people of this State feel very proud of the contribution made by Paralympians and congratulate them on their recent success.
Mr NAGLE (Auburn) [10.00 p.m.]: When the announcement was made that Sydney would host the Olympic Games I was in the Sheraton Hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting seminars for the Parliament of Bangladesh on parliamentary practice and procedure and other integral items of parliamentary debate and activity. When I heard the news that Sydney had been awarded the Games I was very disappointed because of the cost. I was also concerned about whether we could host the Games without incurring a great deal of ancillary expense. My opposition to Sydney getting the Games is recorded in this House, but after the final decision was made I accentuated the positives and eliminated the negatives. From that point on I decided that I would do everything and anything I could to ensure that the Games were a success for the State of New South Wales. I admit that I was in error, I was wrong.
The electorate of Auburn played a major part in hosting the Games. Homebush Bay is located in the electorate of Auburn. The Games were a huge success, not only for me personally but also for the people of New South Wales, the Government of New South Wales and the Minister for the Olympics, Michael Knight. My opposition was an error, and I accept my error in judgment in opposing the Olympic Games. Having said that, I pay a tribute to all the people who worked for the Olympic Games, particularly the volunteers who gave up enormous amounts of time and contributed an enormous effort to the success of the Games. All I can say to them is, "Thank you very much".
At the Olympic Games I had the opportunity to talk to volunteers who were drivers and who worked 14 hours a day. I also had an opportunity to talk to volunteers who were working around the Olympic site on most days when I attended the Olympic Games. I was made aware of the hours they were working and their dedication to the Olympic Games. I offer my thanks also to all the police officers and army personnel who spent hours away from their families and made a great contribution to ensuring the security of the Olympic site. I could go on for hours listing all the people who should be thanked for making the Olympic Games such a success.
I recognise that Sydney's hosting of the 2000 Olympic Games began with establishment of a committee under the auspices of a former Premier, Nick Greiner, and was carried on by his successor, John Fahey. Although their vision got the Games started, the success of the Games was achieved by the dynamic work, strength, courage and determination of the Minister for the Olympics, Michael Knight.
When the announcement was made that Sydney would be hosting the Games, I was sceptical about how it would all work out. I was fortunate to be invited to the first meeting of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [SOCOG], which was attended by all the organisations involved in the Olympic Games, including those that came from the Auburn electorate. At that meeting, one of the main speakers made a comment which he probably now regrets: "This is a licence to print money." I immediately thought that the project would get out of control. As everyone knows, the Olympics did not get out of control. It was kept under control and the costs were kept under control to produce the greatest event in the history of the Olympic Games, as acknowledged by Juan Antonio Samaranch. The "best Games ever" tag has also been applied to the Paralympic Games.
Instead of simply enjoying great events that would last for 16 days in the case of the Olympic Games and 11 days in the case of the Paralympic Games, I decided upon a more personal commitment. I asked myself what my electorate, which was carrying the burden of the site for the Olympic Games, would get out of these events. In February 1996 and in order to find ways and means of educating the people who live in the electorate of Auburn—which includes the suburbs of Silverwater, Homebush Bay, Lidcombe, Auburn, Berala, Regents Park, Chester Hill, Sefton, Yagoona and Birrong—in February 1996 I travelled to Atlanta to examine the community programs associated with the Atlanta Games.
During that week I met Danne Stone of Decatur and Kimberley Goff of the Atlanta Olympic Co-ordinating Authority. They showed me around the site and educated me about the programs. I found it to be a very instructive experience. Later in 1996 when the Olympic Games were being held in Atlanta, I returned with my wife and two children. Again I met Danne Stone but, unfortunately, not Kimberley Goff although I spoke to Kimberley on the telephone. During that visit to the Games I was able to observe the programs they had devised and put into place.
In January 1997 both women came to the electorate of Auburn and conducted a series of seminars which were attended by various organisations and groups in my electorate. Their visit was made possible by donations from people who attended seminars in this Parliament and by fundraising carried out by other people who were keen to obtain an insight into the Games experience. Information conveyed by Danne and Kimberley will never be forgotten by me and is still remembered by many other people who live in my electorate. Kimberley Goff spoke about an athlete who was African and spoke French. When people spoke to him in French it appeared that he could not understand what they were saying to him. It was discovered that when he was a soldier he had been captured and burning oil had been poured into his ears, damaging his eardrums. He was taken to hospital in the United States of America where an operation was performed to restore his hearing.
Another athlete from Africa had experienced a terrorist attack on a school at which he was a student. The school was burned down and he was the only survivor. He said that he had survived by running away. He continued his running until ultimately he became a champion runner of his country. The story of those athletes is reflected even today in the Sydney 2000 Games—a story which, for each athlete who attended the Olympic Games or the Paralympic Games, is the stuff of which human drama is made. Each athlete who participated in the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games could tell a true story of his or her journey that led to participation in the Games.
I thank all the organisations whose support and financial contributions made possible the visit to my electorate by Danne Stone and Kimberley Goff. A project in which they were involved resulted in money being raised to send poor and disadvantaged children to the Olympic Games, and I decided that I would launch a similar project for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Together with some organisations such as the Arab Bank, Westpac, Raads Development, Allied Couriers, Phil Gilbert Toyota, J. McMillan Press and people who made contributions by attending functions held at Parliament House and elsewhere, I was able to raise enough money to provide 10 primary schools in the Auburn electorate with $3,000 each to enable some poor and disadvantaged children to attend the Olympic Games. We raised sufficient funds to provide tickets for the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Barnados, the Islamic Cultural Trust and the Turkish Welfare Association. By the provision of those tickets, poor and disadvantaged people were able to attend the Olympic Games.
They were there to enjoy something that they would never have been able to experience had it not been for organisations such as the Arab Bank, Phil Gilbert Toyota, et cetera. We also decided that we would do the same for the Paralympics, but, unfortunately, we were not as successful. Pat Pignatario from the Royal Oak Hotel held a series of functions in his hotel during the Olympic Games and so the Salvation Army, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Barnardos, the Islamic Cultural Centre, the Turkish Welfare Trust, Probus, the Gambouya Club and various organisations sent up to 1,000 people in my electorate, including various schoolchildren, who did not attend the Olympic Games to the Paralympic Games.
I am indebted to the organisations that participated, particularly the Royal Oak Hotel. The Olympics and the Paralympics are the stuff human drama is made of. It was an exciting experience to attend the Olympic Games and watch the world's best athletes competing. Everyone clapped the athlete who ran last in either the 5,000 or the 10,000 metres. A journalist asked him, "What does it feel like to be last?" and the athlete said, "I don’t feel as though I am last. I came here to achieve what my country asked me to achieve, and that is to finish. And I have finished."
Mr NAGLE: If you want to have a caucus meeting, have it outside.
Mr Hartcher: You can bore someone else—bore Hansard. You're boring enough anyway. Tell us—
Mr NAGLE: You are one of the most vile human beings I have ever met in my entire life. I hope Hansard records that, because, mate, you are going to end up in gaol.
Mr Hartcher: Keep going.
Mr NAGLE: I have not even started.
Mr Hartcher: Keep going. Time is running out.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Gosford will restrain himself.
Mr NAGLE: I ask for an immediate apology. That comment is offensive and insulting, but it is indicative of this big-mouthed unthinkable human being. I demand an apology from him.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I am not sure that is appropriate at this stage of the evening.
Mr NAGLE: I cannot help it if he comes into this House drunk and misbehaves.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Unless the honourable member for Auburn insists upon an apology, the honourable member for Gosford should remain silent for the remainder of the member's speech. If he does so, other speakers will have an opportunity to take part in the debate.
Mr NAGLE: Less chardonnay and a more intellectual pursuit for him would be a great advantage to this Parliament. His resignation would be even greater. The most important thing about the Olympic Games, which is being spoiled by this clown, is the effort people put in and their great achievements for the State of New South Wales. I thank them. I thank the athletes, particularly the Paralympic athletes, for their efforts in promoting this country. They did this country a great service and they did this country proud. I commend them all, and I thank them for their support in the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games would not have been successful without the tens of thousands of people who helped us out. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills) [10.13 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the motion. It is now a matter of history. It is some weeks since the Olympics finished and only more recently since the Paralympics finished on a very glorious, successful and victorious note. Both the Olympics and the Paralympics were certainly a highlight in the history of New South Wales, as indeed they were in the history of the Australian nation. As the previous speaker said, the fact that New South Wales was successful in obtaining the Olympics goes back to the Premiership of Nick Greiner, who had the original vision and dream that we might be able to win the Olympics for New South Wales. That work was carried on very diligently by the incoming Premier, John Fahey.
Let us not forget the role played by the Minister for the Olympics, Bruce Baird, who, with his wife Judy, worked extremely hard and tirelessly night after night to ensure that the Australian case was put in the best possible way and to make certain that we had a very good chance of winning the Olympic bid. It is now a fact that the Olympics were awarded to Australia on that victorious night—which seems almost an eternity ago, but it was actually 1993. We must not, of course, underestimate the contribution made by Mr Rod McGeoch. Immediately the Games were announced in Sydney, a Hills Olympic Committee was formed. We had a number of meetings of enthusiastic residents who were anxious to share in the Olympic action. As a result I am pleased to say that many Baulkham Hills residents became involved in the home renting program. I also understand that Baulkham Hills is one of the areas that registered the largest ticket sales of Olympic tickets.
A colleague greeted me in the corridors and said that when she was at the Games most of the people she encountered seemed to come from Baulkham Hills. The people of Baulkham Hills have been very actively involved in the Olympic Games, and that includes the torch relay. The relay went up Old Northern Road. People gathered outside my electoral office at 27 Old Northern Road, complete with the plastic chairs that we supplied, and celebrated as the torch went by. I did not carry the torch but I was very pleased to pat on the back the person who did carry it.
One of the gems of Baulkham Hills was the outstanding young hurdler, Jana Pittman, who did particularly well. I have known Jana Pittman and her mother, Jackie, for some years. It is an example of the family training together staying together and finally succeeding. This family exemplifies commitment in the pursuit of elite athletic victory and success. I believe that since the Olympic Games Jana Pittman has done very well in Chile. She has broken junior records there and has been extremely successful. Jana has a tremendous future.
I am proud, as is the honourable member for Auburn, of the contribution of the people of my electorate in the event. Mr Haydon Fox from Winston Hills participated in the soccer and was a great credit to himself, his family, The Hills area and the Australian people. Trish Fallon participated very successfully in the women's basketball. The people of Baulkham Hills were right up the front. As I indicated earlier, one of my parliamentary colleagues stated that many of the people she met were from Baulkham Hills—people like Geoff and Heather Cossart, former district governors of Lions, who were actively involved as volunteers. Rhonda Close also participated as a volunteer in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Brian and Anne Fogarty worked tirelessly as volunteers, as did former Parramatta and Carlingford resident John Plowman, who came all the way from Tasmania at his expense to ensure that he could play his part as a volunteer. It takes spirit, commitment and a concern for others to become a volunteer. At the end of the day those volunteers were gratified and elated. They were swept up with the emotion of the activities.
The Olympics really brought Australians together. It is very important that we are brought together as Australians, even if only to give us something to talk about. The man or woman down the road are often stuck for conversation; they do not know what to talk about. But we could talk about the Olympics, and it brought people together. The added bonus was that the local electrical retailers did very well selling television sets. They say that televisions went out the door as they do on Christmas Eve; the number of television sets that were sold is amazing. Unfortunately, all too often it takes a tragedy to bring the Australian people together. But on this occasion it was the Olympics, which was a successful occasion, and a feeling of elation and happiness, that united us in a common purpose.
I am pleased that the Games went beyond all political parties and philosophies and that they were truly bipartisan as they were intended. That that is the way they ended up is a credit to every member in this Chamber. Dollars could never pay for the goodwill extended to overseas visitors and the promotion of Australia by the volunteers and those who attended the Games. The interaction of Australians with visitors was priceless and went beyond what could be spent on advertising Australia overseas, which I commend and encourage. It would be difficult to create the same atmosphere again. I congratulate the Government on the important part it played in continuing the dream that Greiner and Fahey had of bringing the Games to Australia. The dreams were well executed and the Australian people can hold up their heads with great pride and distinction knowing that Australia had, to use the most often used expression, not only the best Olympic Games but the best Paralympics.
One could never underestimate the conviction and the commitment required by the Paralympians. They overcome obstacles that many people would say were all too difficult. But nothing was too hard for a lot of them. They just went the extra mile. Their tenacity, resilience and real drive to continue was a great inspiration to all Australians. So let me congratulate everyone who was involved_the participants, the organisers, both sides of politics, the many thousands of volunteers who brought Australia the Olympic Games. Truly the period of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games has lifted the morale of the Australian people. They now know that they can do almost anything if they apply themselves. The Games have been a first-rate illustration of that. I say to all concerned: Well done. The people of Baulkham Hills proudly played their part in what has been a significant and wonderful part of the history of Australia and New South Wales.
Mr HICKEY (Cessnock) [10.22 p.m.]: It is great to speak in this Chamber of the Sydney Paralympics and the Olympic Games. Considering the wealth that the Cessnock electorate has derived from the Olympic Games, it was money well spent. At the beginning I and many other politicians questioned the benefits that would flow from the Olympics. But the addresses to this House of Hamish MacDonald and Julianne Adams about their sports put a whole new slant on the Paralympics for me. Everyone in Australia watched the participants try their hardest and do their best to overcome their difficulties. They were regarded not with sympathy but as they wanted to be_as athletes. Prior to the torch relay there was a lot of negativity in the community about the Olympics, but as the torch relay proceeded communities changed their tune.
When the torch relay came to the Cessnock electorate 15,000 people assembled in cramped conditions at the Turner Park sporting complex. It was a great night for all to see the schoolchildren performing and doing their little bit in the torch relay. When the cauldron was lit the change in community attitude towards the Olympics was even more apparent. To all the volunteers who worked on the Olympics and Paralympics all I can say is thank you, which is a very small thing to do in return for what they did for the country. They sold Australia to overseas countries and visitors, and their efforts will be paid back tenfold in time to come. I saw Paralympian Stewart Pike, the swimmer from Weston, perform. I saw his elation following his performance and winning medals. Australia did extremely well in the Paralympics, as it did in the Olympics. I had the privilege of taking my children to the Olympics to watch the basketball and the soccer. They participated with other children in chasing sportspeople, who were only too keen to sign their autographs. The praise that the Olympics and the Paralympics were the best ever can only show other countries what Australia can do, but the issue of selling this country went further than that.
The Media Centre in Sydney worked to sell the regions, including the Hunter region. Some of the overseas media were taken elsewhere, but the wine country stood out. The honourable member for Port Stephens had them in his electorate inspecting the trout and barramundi aquaculture farms. New South Wales will reap the benefits in time to come from the write-ups of the Olympic media on the wine country. The New York Times put out a full-page spiel praising the Pokolbin area. It was unbelievable to see the Paralympic wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. The athletes set a great example for all of us to overcome our disabilities. Australia did extremely well at the Olympic Games, and we ended up first in the gold medal count at the Paralympic Games, but the Olympics mean more than just medals. We saw our athletes competing and doing extremely well. The attendance on the Paralympics was 1.2 million_well above the hoped for 650,000. All I can do is offer congratulations to the volunteers, the athletes and the Australian public, because they sold Australia to the overseas visitors. We will reap the benefits for many years to come.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.