House debates

Wednesday, 26 August 2020


Olympic Movement

7:35 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I get into my contribution, I'd like to associate myself with the words from the member for Blaxland. He has walked the track with the Prime Minister, which would have been an extraordinarily moving experience. I thank him for sharing that with the House.

I rise to speak tonight on the incredible contribution that the Olympic Movement has made to the Australian people and society. While I do not want to give members of this place a history lesson or put them to sleep, I do want to acknowledge Edwin Flack, an accountant and Australasian champion runner, who is considered not only Australia's first Olympian but our first Olympic champion. Edwin Flack competed in the first modern Olympic Games, in Athens in 1896, where he won the 800- and 1500-metre events and a bronze medal in doubles tennis. We should be so proud of Edwin Flack's achievements, as they paved the way for Australia to make a mark on the world both on and off the sporting field.

Ever since that very first Olympics, Australia has sent athletes to every summer Olympic Games of the modern era, including champions such as Dawn Fraser and great Queenslanders such as Cathy Freeman, Sally Pearson, Anna Meares and, of course, Chilla Porter, the Attorney-General's father, who sadly has passed away. Chilla Porter heralded from Brisbane and competed in the historic 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, where he took home a silver medal in one of the most dramatic high jump competitions in Olympic history.

The Melbourne Olympic Games were historic because they were the first to be held outside of Europe or the United States, the first to be held in the Southern Hemisphere, the first to be televised live and the first in which all athletes walked together as one at the closing ceremony. It was our nation's opportunity to showcase our talents both on and off the field and marked a coming of age, of sorts, for Australian sport. We would go on to host the Sydney Olympics and, if all goes to plan, we will host the 2032 Olympics in the city of Brisbane and the great state of Queensland.

I'm passionate about sports and the Olympics because I think they contribute so much to Australian society. Earlier this year, I was honoured to be joined by the member for Moreton to launch, with the AOC, the Parliamentary Friends of the Olympic Movement in Australia, which currently boasts a membership of 32 members and senators from all parts of the country and is reflective of the diversity of the Olympic Movement itself. I thank those members and senators for joining us in their support of the Olympics and I thank the member for Moreton, who agreed to co-chair the parliamentary friendship group with me.

The Olympic Movement has tremendous potential to boost local economies and local communities. We've seen that before, with the incredible investments made by both the public and private sector during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, contributing some $6 billion to $7 billion to gross domestic product and creating over 100,000 new jobs. Research has found that the direct economic productivity and volunteering benefits from sport create a total economic value to the national economy of approximately $50 billion annually. I'd also like to give a shout-out to the success of the recent Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast.

There is also great social benefit from sport and the Olympics. It captures the imagination and participation of all genders, ages, aspirations and skills, and draws representation from our multicultural and Indigenous communities. Perhaps one of the greatest legacies of the games are the countless stories and memories that have been made there.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Tokyo team, who have had their hopes and dreams deferred for 12 months. They have worked tremendously hard to get to the position that they are in, and I know that the expected 480-plus-strong team will serve our nation proud in Tokyo in 2021.