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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 500


Senator MICHAEL BAUME (4.54 p.m.) —I strongly support the great bulk of Senator Lees's motion. I think the chamber would be unanimous in congratulating Cathy Freeman on her gold medal performances and commiserating with her on the most unfortunate result in the relay.

  I congratulate her on being the first Aboriginal woman athlete to win individual Commonwealth games gold medals. No-one would disagree with that. I commend Cathy Freeman for her pride in her Aboriginal heritage and for the inspiration and encouragement that she provides to young Australians, particularly young Aboriginal Australians. I think everyone would support that.

  The problem is the next sentence. It was intriguing to hear Senator Coulter let the cat out of the bag. He said that this motion does two things, and then he raised the name Tunstall. In other words, he has, by his own admission, recognised that there is a controversial element to this motion.

  The purpose of formal motions is for them to be non-controversial. By definition, Senator Coulter has put his foot in it again. I commend Cathy Freeman for carrying the Aboriginal flag with the Australian flag. That is my personal view. I personally strongly commend her for carrying both flags.

  However, it is improper for the Australian Democrats to come in here and use—as the minister says—the wrong word. Where we are supposed to have a non-controversial measure, we have instead the deliberate introduction of controversy and conflict over a matter on which this Senate should be overjoyed and unanimous. I regret what the Australian Democrats have done because, unfortunately, it will reflect on our whole appreciation and recognition of Cathy Freeman.

  As I said, I totally support the proposition that she should have carried the Aboriginal flag, but I know many people in Australia who do not. I know some people in my party, for example, who do not. I have seen letters to the editors of newspapers where there is a controversy over it.

  All I am saying is, for heavens sake, why could not the Democrats have found another word and made it something that was not a controversial, political issue where they are clearly, on their own admission, having a go at Arthur Tunstall. That is the simple uncomplicated thing. This motion is deliberately aimed at having a go at the head of mission. If the Democrats want to do that, they should do it in a separate motion. They should not tie it in with a great young Australian woman athlete who has done her community, her nation and herself so proud at these Commonwealth Games. It is regrettable that the Australian Democrats should tarnish what should be a moment of joy for us all with this controversial issue which is unnecessary, unkind and unwelcome.

  I would like to recognise the remarkable achievement at these games of representatives of many of the minor sports who receive little support from anyone, except groups like the Rothmans Foundation—and it has been wiped out by this dopey government. I am very impressed—as are most Australians—by the enormous achievements, the great achievements of representatives from the minor sports. I refer to the shooters, for instance, who have to deal with the fact that they cannot get weapons and so on. The wonderful achievements in these minor sports is something that should be specifically recognised. The glamour sports get the great bulk of the publicity. Fancy our winning a badminton title. That was an extraordinary and outstanding achievement. There is very little federal money involved in that sport.