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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 464

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, refers to the phenomenal performance by Australian athletes at the Commonwealth Games just concluded today in Victoria, Canada. I ask the minister: what do these results indicate for the performances of Australians in forthcoming world championships and for the 1996 Olympic Games? Can the minister indicate to the Senate how the government intends to consolidate and support this tremendous sporting success by Australian athletes?

Senator FAULKNER —I am sure that all honourable senators would agree that the performance of Australian athletes at these Commonwealth Games has been truly outstanding. I believe that it is genuinely a tribute to those athletes who were involved, both our disabled athletes and those athletes without disabilities. It is also a credit to their sports and to the commitment of our national sporting bodies in Australia. Along with other senators, I would like to express my warmest congratulations to all the athletes in the Australian team.

  I believe that Australian athletes have been genuinely successful at the Commonwealth Games in every way. It does not matter how one measures it—whether by medals, by records, by personal bests or, perhaps much more importantly, by the sort of spirit that the athletes have shown throughout these games and in all the events in which they have participated. The medal count obviously shattered the previous best record performance at the Auckland games, and I think it is fair to say that it certainly exceeded all expectations in Australia. It confirms Australia well and truly as the leading sporting nation in the Commonwealth. It continues our excellent efforts in a whole number of sporting events. At the moment we have a record number of world champions. Australians broke 26 games records as well as two world records, which were set by Kieren Perkins in the 1,500 meters freestyle swimming event.

  I particularly want to express my pleasure at the performances of our disabled athletes at these games. The seven medals which they won and their recent achievements in the world championships are proof that Australian disabled athletes are at the forefront of their sports.

  I made this point in Canada, and I reiterate it today in the Senate: the Australian government's policy is to provide strong support for our disabled athletes and certainly to encourage the integration of elite disabled athletes in mainstream sporting events. That is a position that I will not be resiling from as the Australian sports minister.

  Through the programs developed and implemented by the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Institute of Sport, our elite athletes, I believe, have been provided with the support structure which is essential for international success in the sporting arena. For instance, some 80 of Australia's 170 athletes involved in AIS scholarship sports represented us at the games. Many of those athletes have received assistance in some form or other.

  I really believe that the results at this Commonwealth Games show that Australian sport really is in excellent shape. I am sure other senators would agree that the performance of our athletes has been magnificent and they deserve congratulations and support from all Australians. I think their performances stand for themselves. (Time expired)