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Speech at the release of the sports policy "Backing Australia's sporting ability" Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra.



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24 April 2001

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP ADDRESS AT THE LAUNCH OF SPORTS POLICY -BACKING AUSTRALIA'S ABILITY

AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF SPORT, CANBERRA

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

Well thank you very much Jackie, Peter Bartels, ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased first of all to report to you that early this morning I had my regular 6.30am walk in the misty rain of Canberra wearing an Australian Institute of Sport tracksuit which was given to me when I was last here. And I am delighted to have this opportunity of launching, Backing Australia�s Sporting Ability here at the Australian Institute of Sport which has done as an institution so much to enhance the sporting talent of young men and women and, indeed, Australians of all ages and to well and truly maintain and expand the international respect of Australian sportsmen and women around the world.

We are mainly as Australians quite unapologetic about our interest in and passion for sport. It is one of those things that undeniably binds Australians together. It is something that pushes away barriers. It is something that provides so many of us with a common ground, a common sense of involvement, a common pride and a common sharing of goals and long term objectives. Australia has passed through a remarkable period of sporting achievement and we are as a people who have devoted so much time and energy and talent to sport, we are entitled to take very legitimate pride in what our athletes and our participants in so many sports have achieved and continue to achieve over the years.

You will all be aware that towards the end of the Olympic Games in Sydney last year I gave certain, broad undertakings on behalf of the Government. And as a consequence of those undertakings I established a task group involving a number of very prominent sports administrators and leaders all of who are here today. And the purpose of that was to give flesh and substance and advice as to how best the Government could implement the broad commitment that I�d given in the wake of the Olympic Games. And the product of that work and what I launch today is the document entitled Backing Australia�s Sporting Ability, A More Active Australia.

It has two goals. It has a goal of providing sustained, further financial support at a record level for excellence and high achievers in sport, elite sportsmen and women. And it also has, as a twin, an equally important aim to expand the grassroots participation, not only of young Australians but Australians of all ages in a more active life, which will repay in very handsome measure in terms of better health, greater enjoyment of the unequalled lifestyle of Australia and a more contented and harmonious community. We are going to do this by injecting an additional $161.6 million into Australian sport over the next four years. And this will bring the Government�s total commitment to sport to a record level of $547 million over that period, which is the largest amount ever committed to sport by an Australian Government.

It delivers on the commitment that I made after the Sydney Olympic Games. It has, as I said, the two objectives - to build on the foundations of our sporting system to allow our best athletes to continue to compete successfully and also to achieve greater participation in grassroots sport. This is a policy which is designed to provide opportunities for all Australians. And in putting it together we have drawn very carefully on the consideration of our strengths at the Sydney 2000 Games, and in putting it together we have very widely consulted.

Backing Australia�s Sporting Ability provides athletes with the systems and backup needed to enable them to continue to compete successfully at international sporting events. The new Sports Excellence Programme for High Performance Athletes will replace the Olympic Athlete Programme, which finished after the Sydney 2000 Games. A number of sporting organisations urged the Government to, in putting together this new programme, include a wider number of sports, for example, netball, which is a Commonwealth Games sport but not an Olympic Sport. And I am pleased to announce today that the new Sports Excellence Programme does include support for sports that were not part of the Olympic athlete programme.

The programme will support our athletes attending the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and the Paralympics and competing in other international championships. It will be an Australian athlete programme. And, importantly, this programme will support Australian athletes competing at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane being held from the 29th of August to the 9th of September.

In preparing athletes for the peak international sporting events the role of coaches, as you all know, is quite crucial and the new programme recognises this. We�ll utilise world class coaching techniques through the Australian Institute of Sport. Backing Australia�s Sporting Ability will provide an additional allocation of $122 million over four years for Australian athletes, taking Government funding for high performance sport to an unprecedented level.

The Government, as I said a moment ago, believes that we should convert Australia�s passion for sport into greater numbers of people participating at the grassroots level, right across Australia, including in rural and regional communities. We�ll support a fresh approach to grass roots participation involving partnerships between the Federal Government, national sporting

organisations, local sporting clubs, schools and the business community. We�ll build on the legacy of the Sydney Games by implementing in partnership with the Australian Olympic Committee an Olympic Youth Program to provide through our Olympians an enduring message of sports participation and healthy drug free lifestyles to school children and local communities.

The package of measures in Backing Australia�s Sporting Ability includes an additional allocation of $32 million for the more active Australia initiative. And this package includes $4 million for the Olympic Youth Program. The additional funding means that total government resources for increasing grassroots participation will be worth $82 million over a four-year period. In addition I�m pleased to announce today that we will continue our support for national water safety organisations by providing, separate to the sports funding package, $1.6 million for grants to continue their excellent work in saving lives and preventing water accidents for the benefit of all Australians.

The philosophy behind this policy is a belief that just as it�s important for governments to back the intellectual, scientific, and technological excellence of Australians, so it is important that we back the sporting prowess and sporting excellence of our elite athletes. And it is also necessary to expand that passion and that commitment as far as possible into the grassroots of the Australian community.

The final element in Backing Australia�s Sporting Ability is Tough on Drugs in Sport. Australia proudly has been a world leader in the fight against drugs on sport. We took a tough on drugs approach in the lead up to and during the Sydney Olympics. And this determined approach meant that athletes were subjected to the toughest anti doping program ever undertaken at the Olympics. We�re therefore going to provide an additional allocation of $7.4 million for new anti drugs research, additional testing, and to meet international obligations. This additional funding brings total government funding for Tough on Drugs to nearly $24 million over a four year period.

Ladies and gentlemen, in concluding this short presentation can I thank a number of people. Can I warmly thank and commend my colleague Jackie Kelly, the Minister for Sport, for her tireless and persistent advocacy of the cause of increased government financial support for all sporting activity in Australia. She has been a constant, energetic and very effective advocate for your cause and her efforts have certainly not gone unrewarded. I do want to thank Peter Bartels and all the other members of the Australian Sports Commission for the leadership they �ve shown and the counsel they�ve given me.

The Sport 2000 Taskforce headed by Ross Oakley that presented the Shaping Up Report to the government. To John Coates and the Australian Olympic Committee for assisting in the establishment and the consultations of the working group which I established after the Sydney Games to make recommendations on new policy. To Greg Hartung and the Australian Paralympic Committee, to Sam Coffa and the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, Sport Industry Australia, and the heads of the National Sporting Organisation.

But finally and of course most importantly can I thank the young men and women of Australia who through their sporting prowess have brought such pleasure and pride and sense of national identity to us, not only at the Olympic Games last year but on the cricket fields, the tennis courts, the rugby league and rugby union playing fields, on the golf courses and I could go on endlessly. In netball and basketball, and all the other achievements that thrilled millions of Australians and have made us very proud.

And allied with that expression of thanks can I also express my thanks to the hundreds of thousands and indeed millions of sporting volunteers who without any reward other than the satisfaction of doing something good for their own children and for their children�s friends and for their local community turn out each weekend rain hail or shine to keep the sinews of local sport going. We�ve always been better than any other country in the world at doing that. We are a great nation of volunteers and the real infrastructure that sustains Australia�s sporting capacity is to be found in the voluntary efforts of those hundreds and thousands of Australians week in and week out. And in a sense this policy is dedicated as much to them as it is dedicated to the high profile elite performers that bring such pride and sense of happiness and satisfaction in being an Australian.

I think it�s a great policy. You expect me to say that but it really is. I think it will give great hope and great inspiration and encouragement to all those who participate and administer sport, and I wish all of you the very best of good luck in the future. Thank you.

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