Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
PRIME MINISTER: Please forgive my husky voice at this early time in the morning and thank you all for joining us this morning which enabled me to be here. And to Bridget and to all our distinguished guests, particularly the athletes, their families and supporters who are here with us today and all the officials from the Paralympic movement.
This is a very special day. Some years ago - and Kurt and I discussed this - it was 10 years ago in fact, I walked the Kokoda Track. Now for me, it was tough. But it wasn’t courageous. What you do is courageous. There’s lots of people who play sport, there’s lots of people who give everything they have. There’s enormous stories of great feats of endurance and physical performance of our elite athletes. And sure it takes determination and persistence and commitment and dedication. That’s the starting line for you guys. When you achieve, it’s more than that. It’s a courage that goes beyond anything I have seen in sport. Anything that I have seen.
So when Kurt got himself across the Track - and he told me he’s not going to do it again in a hurry, by the way - that was courage. I was down at the Australian Open this year with Bridget and we saw amazing performances. Ash Barty, we were there on that day to see Ash hit herself into the final round, and we saw the great Roger Federer, emerging new talents coming through. But I got to have a hit with Dylan Alcott, and not only is he cheeky as, but he is a five-time Australian Open winner. Again, it’s the difference between being an elite athlete and being someone incredibly special.
The reason I am announcing two elements of funding today - there’s $12 million in total for Paralympians today - $8 million to support the team to Tokyo and your preparation. But $4 million also down in Melbourne to support the ongoing training facilities and engaging people in Paralympic sport in this country. The inspiration that you provide to Australians is something this country needs.
Australians are a very special group of people and I saw that first-hand yesterday when I was up in the floods in Townsville and down in the fires in Tasmania the day before. But what you do demonstrates that spirit every day you train, every day you set your mind to that goal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing bocce or you’re playing wheelchair rugby out of Port Macquarie or whatever you’re doing. You are every day doing it, saying to the rest of Australians, regardless of what their ability is, their background is, you can do it. You can do anything you set your mind to. And all Australians need that message. Not just those with disabilities who turn them into abilities, all Australians need that inspiration.
And that’s why as a Government we are so pleased - I mean, they had me at hello when they came to see me last year, they really did. I already got it, and so I want to thank you for what you’re doing. This is our investment in an investment you’re already making in our country and a contribution you’re already making through what you do. My parents always taught me life is about what you contribute, not what you accumulate, and you’re living that principle.
So I’m incredibly proud of what you’re doing. I can’t wait to see when you’re there in Tokyo. It isn’t just about the competition, as you know. At the Paralympics, everybody cheers for everybody. Because everybody is a champion. But I’m pretty sure we’re going to have some champions beyond that as well with a lot of medals around their necks which will be your reward, your own personal reward and your own acknowledgment of the wonderful things that you have been doing.
So $12 million dollars, it is a contribution we’re pleased to make it out of the Budget. We took the decision towards the end of last year and I’m just so pleased that I could be with you today. I wish you all the best for your preparations over the next few years, I wish the movement all the best as you continue to raise your profile and you get more and more recognition. Whether it’s from the broadcast networks or others, that they see what is the amazing story that is Paralympic sport here in this country. We’re a world leader athletically and I think more than that, in terms of how we run the show here, and I think we have things to teach the rest of the world. But in Tokyo, I’m looking forward to you teaching them a few things as well.
Thank you very much.