Monday, 18 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Sport, Senator Lundy. With the Olympic Games only 39 days away, and the Paralympics only 72 days away, can the minister inform the Senate how the Australian government is supporting our athletes in their journey to London?
Thank you Senator Thistlethwaite for your question. I know you are a big supporter of our athletes. The Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, and our athletes are putting the final touches to their efforts and preparations as they either are selected or become selected for the team going to London.
Each year the federal government contributes more than $170 million to high-performance sport in Australia. Of this $170 million more than $103 million is directed to sports that will be competing in London. The Gillard government understands how important this funding is to athletes' success. Within the $103 million, $8 million is provided to our athletes under Direct Athlete Support. This support ensures that our athletes who are not yet household names and who do not have the big sponsorship deals will have the means to support themselves during the intense training regimes required if they are to succeed on the international stage.
In addition to Direct Athlete Support the federal government, through the Australian Institute of Sport, has established a European training base, the European Training Centre, in Varese, Italy. This training centre has been going for some time now. The facility is for Australian athletes, with sports science and sports medicine capabilities, access to the best facilities in the region, and athlete career and education support, all within close proximity to the vast competition opportunities that exist in Europe. This AIS European Training Centre aims to replicate the training environment of the Australian Institute of Sport and provide athletes with a European home away from home. The centre enhances Australia's ability to maintain its competitive advantage when athletes are training or competing overseas—and we only need to look at the results from the Rowing World Cup over the weekend to see how the European Training Centre assisted them in their preparations.
I again thank the senator for his question. I am very excited about the news from Munich yesterday and would like to extend my congratulations to Australia's Paralympics crews who won two very impressive gold medals. With only 72 days to go till the Paralympics start, it is an exciting prospect with so many medals on offer and such a strong performance. Before his retirement my predecessor, Mark Arbib, announced the Green and Gold project, which would provide $4.5 million—
Opposition senators interjecting—
I would have thought senators opposite would have been interested in this. The whole country is waiting on tenterhooks in advance of the Olympics and Paralympics. But I was talking about the Green and Gold project, which provided $4.5 million in additional funding to boost our athletes' prospects of success in London. The aim was to invest in the nation's top performers, to turn the potential of fourth, fifth and sixth places into gold, silver and bronze medal chances. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Over the weekend the Australian Olympic Committee president, John Coates, said 'Australia has a chance at a top five placing on the medal tally'. How does the minister think Australia will perform in London? And does she have anything riding on our performance—a little wager, perhaps?
I, like John Coates, believe we have every chance, and all the faith in the world, that our Olympic team's performance in London will achieve their goals, and certainly achieve a top-five position. Just to give you a couple of examples: Australian sailors won four gold medals and a silver on the final day of the most recent regatta in Weymouth, and our cyclists picked up six gold medals and a total of 15 medals at the April world track championships in Melbourne. And I have already mentioned the strong results of our rowers over the weekend world cup in Munich. London is going to be one of the closest Olympics ever, but we have full faith in our athletes—and, when it counts, they will lift for our country. I know many of you will be glued to your television sets as we watch them.
I have made the traditional friendly wager with my counterpart sports minister in Britain, Hugh Robertson, that, should Australia beat Britain in the gold medal count, Minister Robertson will do a lap of Australia House wearing the Kookaburra's team kit with a hockey stick; and should Australia not beat Britain, I will be rowing down the Olympic course wearing a Stella McCartney UK team top. So, as you can see, there is a lot riding on this—and may we all wish our athletes the best!