18:02, 26/03/2018: I hope I can match that passion. I’m very grateful to speak today about the Commonwealth Games and the wonderful opportunity they present for people across the Commonwealth to come together and celebrate the best our sports men and women have to offer. This year’s game will be held on the Gold Coast, which is pleasantly close to home for our team, who have been training tirelessly for years. We will be represented by 473 athletes across 275 events in 19 sports—an absolutely incredible array of talent, skill, determination and sportsmanship.
The Commonwealth games have a long and rich history, which, I’m proud to say, Australia has done particularly well in. The games started in 1930 and, with the exception of 1942 and 1946, they have occurred every four years since. This year will be Australia’s fifth occasion hosting the Commonwealth Games, but it is the first time the games will be held on the Gold Coast. Australia has an extraordinary record in the history of the Commonwealth Games. Indeed, we are one of only six nations to have attended every single games, and, unsurprisingly, given our reputation on the track and in the pool, we have the highest medal tally of any nation, which includes 852 gold medals.
The Commonwealth Games are particularly important to my electorate of Bennelong, which has produced a number of Commonwealth Games legends, including the late Betty Cuthbert AM MBE, who won gold in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, and Karen Moras OAM, who won triple gold in swimming at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games. We have every faith that our current team will live up to the reputation and achievements of these fine women.
I think it’s also important for our parliament to acknowledge that, in addition to the 473 regular athletes attending, the team will also be joined by an honorary addition, 99-year-old swimmer George Corones. Mr Corones not only finished the long-course 50-metre freestyle trial in the 100 to 104 age bracket, which at his age is an incredible effort by itself; he also managed to knock 35 seconds off his previous best record. Mr Corones first started his Commonwealth Games career in 1938—the year Donald Budge won the Grand Slam in tennis—as a 19-year-old when he attended the third games, then titled the British Empire Games. He is an exemplary Commonwealth athlete and embodies so much of what the games are about.
In Bennelong we just recently awarded another round of Local Sporting Champions grants. This excellent program runs through the Australian Sports Commission grants fund to young sports men and women who are competing in state, national and international competitions, to aid in their personal and sporting development. The program has helped dozens of high-performing athletes to reach their potential. If it weren’t for wonderful programs such as this, we would scarcely be doing as well in the Commonwealth Games as we now do.
As the opening ceremony date soon approaches, I would encourage all of us to consider how we can support our Commonwealth athlete stars and rally around them as much as possible. The skill required to perform at the standard of the Commonwealth Games requires years of dedication and sacrifice. The early morning rises, the thousands of dollars invested in sports dreams, the tears, the sweat and the heartbreak make this a truly wonderful competition to behold. Often years of preparation amount to only a few glorious minutes in the spotlight, but, irrespective of the outcome, I would like to congratulate our wonderful men and women in green and gold and have no doubt you will make us proud.
On the other hand, events in South Africa do not make us proud, in that all international sport has the Olympic tradition, which was commenced as a way of forging goodwill between countries. Our cricketers have conspired to cheat, thinking it would be all right if they didn’t get caught. This is not a good thing at all. Furthermore, though, the real crime is against those who have preceded them, the great Australian sports men and women who have been Australia’s best ambassadors and who have promoted goodwill and Australia in their efforts. Conspiring to cheat is not a good thing, but the damage that they have done to our international reputation will take a long while to mend.