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Thursday, 20 September 2012
Page: 11501


Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (10:52): We are honouring today the achievements of the Australian Olympic team at the London Olympics and Paralympics. I want to make note today of the achievements of some of the current and former residents of my electorate of Wentworth, which is a very sporting electorate because it is on the peninsula of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, with the ocean on one side and the harbour on the other. So it is not surprising that we have some very strong performances on the water, and none stronger than that of the men's K4 1,000-metre canoe sprint team, which won a gold medal at Eton Dorney.

Murray Stewart is a former Scots College student, and the other three of the four are Dave Smith, Jacob Clear and Tate Smith. They were part of that great team, and Tate is a member of North Bondi surf club. That is my own surf club. I regret to say I have not been even remotely as distinguished as him at any time, in or out of the water. But it was a good Wentworth contribution there.

They went into the final as the fastest qualifiers and they kept a cracking pace right through the final, leading the whole race. It was our sixth gold medal for the Olympics and the team, as we remember, clinched victory ahead of Hungary and the Czech Republic. Tate's grandmother Lorraine Smith, who has been proud to call herself a Bondi resident for more than 40 years—and, as we all know, you can take the girl out of Bondi but you cannot take the Bondi out of the girl—said: 'I did not stop screaming. I rode that boat all the way home.' Murray Stewart, the former Scots College student, is obviously a keen kayaker but he has also represented his school in water polo, swimming and cross-country running. He has been an outstanding role model for the other students, whether it is in the sports field or in the classroom, and he is regarded by all who know him as a very modest young man. He is someone who will go a long way and set a great example to young men and women in our community.

Staying in the water, I also offer our congratulations to another Australian Olympian who began her life in Wentworth. This is Olivia Price, who was born in Darlinghurst and attended St Catherine's School in Waverley. Olivia skippered the Australian sailing team, progressing to the semifinal of the women's Elliott six-metre class event and going on to win silver. This was a gripping final against the Spanish, with both teams fighting hard for gold and with rough conditions and wind speeds of more than 25 knots. The Spanish managed to stave off an ambitious attack from the Australian team when Olivia fell overboard after being hit by a wave. But, in race three of the best of five final, her crewmates—Lucinda Whitty and Nina Curtis—had to circle around to get her back on board. Despite the score being level at two all, the Australia team won silver after receiving a penalty, sadly, in the deciding race.

While the Elliott six-metre event will not be in the next Olympics, Olivia Price is hoping to represent Australia again as skipper of the Australian team in the new women's 49er class. That is a spectacular sailing class, as we know. We see the 49ers on Sydney Harbour and she will do very well there, I am sure. She has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to her sport, that is typical of our Olympians. In 2009 she made the decision to complete her HSC through distance education so that she could travel to all the various regattas. She attended the distance education high school in Woolloomooloo so she is a graduate of both St Catherine's in Waverley and the distance education high school in Woolloomooloo, both in the electorate of Wentworth.

I will just say a little bit about the distance education high school in Woolloomooloo. It is a public school. It is committed to excellence and equity in distance education. They provide courses and education for those students, like Olivia, who are not able to attend a regular school on a full time basis. The flexible learning arrangements of the school allow people like Olivia to pursue their sporting careers without having to sacrifice their education. They do great work.

St Catherine's is also very proud to have had three members of their staff attend the Olympics and to have a St Catherine's old girl win silver in the Paralympics. Old girl Sarah Stewart claimed a silver medal in the women's basketball grand final against Germany. The Gliders hoped to improve on their Beijing bronze medal and return with gold, although they lost to Germany in a nail-biting final. Stewart contributed two points to the 58-44 score, in front of a crowd of nearly 13,000. St Catherine's coaches Joel Dennerley and Richie Campbell also represented Australia, competing in the men's water polo, and coach Andrew Tanitsas provided valuable support to the team as the men's water polo science coordinator and coach. The Australian men's water polo team, the Sharks, finished seventh after defeating the United States 10-9. It was Dennerley's debut appearance at the Olympics, while Campbell has previously represented Australia in Beijing.

Emerging from the water, we are all so proud of the achievements of Steven Solomon. I am sure that everyone who was watching the Olympics closely will be aware of the young Steve Solomon, the 19-year-old from Vaucluse who ran in the 400-metre final. While he finished eighth in the final race, it was his personal best and it is, as his father Dr Michael Solomon says—and it is a comment we can share—the feelgood story of the Olympics. Steven was a former student of Cranbrook and, as I said, he ran successive personal bests in both the heat and semifinals and broke the 45-second barrier for the first time. The boys at Cranbrook closely follow Steven's career and, on the day, 100 students packed out the school hall at 6.30 in the morning to cheer on their old boy in the 400-metre men's final. Steven has come a long way since running his first 400-metre sprint event only 2½ years ago at the under 16 National Championships. He then went on to win a bronze medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona in July, also running a personal best. Like many athletes, Steven is naturally gifted, having already excelled in soccer, rugby and other athletic events. He captained the Australian Junior Football side at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, and is well known in the Jewish community for his sporting achievements, having been named the Maccabi NSW Junior Sportsman of the Year. He has only recently turned his attention to the 400-metre race and his accomplishments have been very well deserved. He gained very valuable experience at the London games. He is a very young man, and we were all very excited to witness his progress and look forward to witnessing his progress at Rio. As another athletic star, David Culbert, tweeted, Steven is pretty fly for a white guy—very high praise. Not shy of taking on a challenge, he is planning to follow in the footsteps of his father and go on to study medicine at Stanford University.

I want to congratulate all of the athletes from every electorate who took part in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, especially those from my own electorate—and I have identified a number of them. I would also like to say that I was fortunate enough, with my wife, Lucy, to be at the Olympics for the first five or six days, and I want to pay my respects and offer my congratulations to the organisers of the London games and to the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, surely the funniest political speaker I have ever heard in my life. All of us try to be amusing but Boris Johnson is a nonpareil in terms of his charisma and good humour. It was a very well organised games. Mitt Romney came over and made some criticisms a week or so before the London Olympics, which was not a very smart thing to do. I remember David Cameron, in referring to Romney's experience in organising the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, saying that there is a big difference between organising the Olympics in a global city as opposed to organising an Olympic Games in a city in the middle of nowhere, which was probably a bit tough on Salt Lake City. But the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom made a good point there in reminding everyone that London is a gigantic city, a much bigger city than Sydney, obviously, where our Olympic Games, I think, are still the benchmark against which all subsequent games are measured. I could never suggest—as the former Lady Mayoress of Sydney—that Sydney's Olympic Games were anything other than the very best, but London came very, very close; it was extraordinarily well organised. The public transport system worked brilliantly. The Jubilee line, which is the main subway line that connects the two big sporting events—Wembley at one end and Stratford at the other—was running around 33 trains an hour, so they were running at less than two-minute intervals. The sheer efficiency of public transport was a great reminder, actually, for all of us as we consider the problems of congestion in our cities—that there is really no way to ease congestion in big cities other than by investing in mass transit, and it worked so well in London.

I never would have imagined that beach volleyball could ever be more entertaining than it was on Bondi Beach in the Sydney Games, but to have the beach volleyball courts set up on Horse Guards Parade with all of the great buildings of the British Empire, Whitehall and Downing Street surrounding it—the venue itself, regardless of what was happening on the court was absolutely hilarious and a really good spirit embraced it. I think the British did a remarkable job with the games. They have lifted the British spirit. That country is struggling with a very severe economic recession and the games lifted their spirit and showed them and the world that they could carry off an enormous logistical challenge, and do so with very good humour. I will tell one story: the mayor gave a speech where I was present. As you know there have been some issues with Barclays Bank and the rigging libor. The bank has been, in fact, a part of fixing the libor rate, together with some other banks. It is not very edifying. The 'Boris bikes'—the public bikes—are sponsored by Barclays. Johnson gave this deadpan speech about how the people of London were much more honest than the people of Paris because only a handful of the Boris bikes had been stolen whereas in Paris thousands had been stolen. And then, still deadpan, he said, 'Of course, that just indicates the very deep respect the people of this city have for Barclays Bank'. He was really brilliant—absolutely brilliant.

I will just make one final comment about the London Games and that is the incredible contribution made by Westfield. A Westfield shopping centre—the largest in Europe—is at Stratford, and was committed to prior to London winning the games. This is in what was a very, very run-down—desolate, really—part of East London; old railway yards and so forth. They had committed to this enormous shopping centre and it became effectively the portal through which most of the people who attended the games at the main venue went. It is a great tribute to Frank Lowy, who we heard speak so well yesterday. His contribution to so many cities has been formidable, and none more so than in London. That shopping centre, with all of its facilities, was a really big part of the success of the games. So that was a great Australian contribution.

I must say that it is reminder of something we did not get right with the Sydney Games. I just note this because the great criticism of Homebush has always been that after an event there was nothing there, and all you could do was file off to the railway station and go back home. The great thing that that Westfield centre and Lowy have done for the London Olympic precinct, is that when it is used after any event in the future there is life: there will be restaurants, bars and shops, and things for people to do. They are not going to walk out into a huge concrete void with nothing to look forward to other than a long ride home. I will concede that that is one respect where the British undoubtedly did a better job, but with Australian assistance. On that note, I am proud of our Australian athletes and our Australian entrepreneurs and I am really delighted to speak about the Olympics.