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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2066

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) (2:00 PM) —On indulgence, as I think many members of the House will be aware, we have with us today one of Australia's great athletes, Betty Cuthbert. Betty has been in Canberra as the guest of honour at the launch of a campaign by MS Australia to raise some $30 million over five years to tackle the causes of, and hopefully find a cure for, multiple sclerosis.

At a very well attended launch of that campaign which I conducted this morning—attended by the member for Brand; Senator Lees; a number of other members of the opposition shadow ministry; and a number of members of the parliamentary committee for MS, including the member for Deakin, who has taken a very active role in this campaign—there was very strong support expressed for the aspirations of this very worthy cause. I announced on behalf of the Commonwealth government a contribution of $250,000 to the campaign. That is in addition to support over quite a period of years—I expect embracing governments of both sides of politics—towards MS research through the National Health and Medical Research Council.

It was a real honour to have the inspirational words of Betty Cuthbert to help launch the campaign. She has suffered MS since 1981 and for her to have retained her wonderful bright outlook on life and her cheerful disposition in the face of that disability is an unqualified inspiration to all of us and an example that makes all of us extremely humbled.

This launch occurred on the eve of the Olympic Games, the 28th Olympiad, commencing in Athens. In fact, I think the first event in which Australia participates is soccer, and that is today. The formal opening will be at the weekend. I take this opportunity to express on behalf of all members of the House our very good wishes to the Australian team. We congratulate all of those who have been chosen, Australia being one of a limited number of countries that has contested every modern summer Olympic Games since 1896. It is a mark of Australia's standing on the international sporting stage that we have sent our largest team ever to an overseas games. I know that this will be a very successful games. We wish the Greek government well in the conduct of the games. Having Betty Cuthbert on the floor of the House this afternoon is a wonderful reminder of the Olympic spirit because no living Australian better embodies the Olympic spirit than Betty Cuthbert.