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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2637

Mr BARRESI —My question is directed to the Minister for Sport, Territories and Local Government. As the Atlanta Olympics are due to open in three weeks time and Australia is sending one of its largest and most competitive world-class teams, and as my electorate of Deakin is proud to have three Olympians—Cathy Freeman, Kyle Vander-Kuyp and Lauren Hewitt, from the Ringwood Athletic Club—can the minister advise the House what representation the federal government will have at the Olympics and what steps are in place to recognise the efforts of our successful Olympic performers?

Mr WARWICK SMITH —I thank the member for his question. I did not realise until just before question time he had three Olympians in his electorate. I am sure that he, along with other members of the House, would be pleased to know that a record number of Australians are going to Atlanta, some 427 at the present, and many of them have left already to pre-position for the games.

The games will formally open on 19 July and there will be a team assembly slightly before that when all the Australian team will gather together. I am pleased to say that I will be able to attend the assembly.

Mr McGauran —They want you. They need you.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —I thank members for their encouragement.

Mr Howard —And me for sending you.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —Especially, can I thank the Prime Minister. I understand that the shadow minister for sport may well be present also. I do not know if he has any Olympians in his electorate, but he does not have too many in his team over there. In all seriousness, the government has been supporting a program called the Olympic athlete program.

Mr Leo McLeay —How did you go on the rowing machine?

Mr WARWICK SMITH —Leo, you should listen. You need a bit of help in the sporting area. The government is committed to funding the Olympic athlete program for a six-year period.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr WARWICK SMITH —We talked about special bikes, Leo, the other day, remember. The Olympic athlete program does enjoy strong support of the parliament. The funding will be $135 million from 1994 until the year 2000 to support our athletes. Some 900 members of national teams have been involved in the program and will be involved in the program up to the year 2000. Apart from the $135 million, as I mentioned, another $52 million will come from the Australian Olympic Committee to support our Australian Olympic team.

There have been intensive training centres set up around the nation in combination with the state institutes of sport—I take this opportunity to thank all the states for their contribution to supporting our Olympic athletes—for preparing those athletes not just for the Atlanta Games but also when they come home to prepare again for the Sydney 2000 Games. I am sure that all members of the House would want to wish them well, and I do thank the member for Deakin for his question.