Thursday, 2 September 2021
Questions without Notice
Tokyo Paralympic Games
I thank Senator Scarr for his question. Australia sent a team of 179 athletes and 168 support staff to the Tokyo Paralympics. As we have seen, they have represented our nation with distinction and with pride, and their performances on the world's greatest stage have brought immense joy to many Australians over recent weeks in what has been a very challenging time. Australia's para-athletes put in significant effort in preparing for the Paralympics, just like their Olympic counterparts.
The Commonwealth government is currently the major funding source for Paralympic sports. In the five years leading to the Tokyo Paralympics, the government provided $88.8 million for para-athlete high-performance programs. The government recognises, however, that there is a disparity in the payments available to Australian medal-winning athletes in the Paralympics compared to the medal-winning athletes in the Olympic Games. Medal incentives are currently paid by the Australian Olympic Committee to Olympic medal-winning athletes. The governing body of parasports Australia, Paralympics Australia, does not have the financial capacity to do the same for Paralympic medal-winning athletes.
That is why I am absolutely delighted to advise the chamber that the government has decided to make available funding to Paralympics Australia which would allow it to make payments to medal-winning athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics equivalent to the payments made by the AOC to medal-winning athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.
How have Australians reacted to the performances of our para-athletes in Tokyo, including the wonderful Queenslander Grant 'Scooter' Patterson, who, after winning a medal, said, 'I'm living proof that if you follow your dreams long enough, they might come true.'
Senator Scarr, there have been some absolutely wonderful stories out of the Paralympics and I'm sure over the coming days there will be many more to come. Australia's medal tally to date is 13 gold, 23 silver and 24 bronze—a total of 60 medals thus far, and I'm sure there will be more over the next few days. Importantly, our team has competed with the pride that you've expressed and has represented our nation with so much pride and capacity. Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin put it perfectly when she said earlier this week:
The culture of the Australian Paralympic Team is shining through at a time when it's been severely tested. I couldn't be prouder of the way everyone has risen to the occasion.
I echo her comments, and I'm sure the rest of Australia would do exactly the same.
I am excited to say that Australians are taking to the Paralympics like never before. Host broadcaster Channel 7's comprehensive coverage has been met with absolutely record ratings. The coverage has reached 2.39 million viewers a day nationally, which is quite extraordinary. To hear the goalball girls say that they were proud to see their sport on free-to-air television is saying something. I thank Channel 7 for its ongoing commitment to the Paralympics.
In terms of social media, Australians have engaged with our para-athletes like never before. There Paralympics Australia has reported record levels of social media engagement and presented some truly inspiring stories about our para-athletes, their journey to Tokyo, their journey beyond and their journey towards Brisbane 2032.