Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (11:49): Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this, our parliament’s recognition of our athletes’ tremendous performance at the Olympics. I, like many Australians, was astounded by how good these Olympics were. I give full credit to the UK and London for hosting a tremendous games from the very start. The opening ceremony was one of the best opening ceremonies you could ever have witnessed, demonstrating the full breadth of creativity and ingenuity within the London organising committee and within the UK. It was just tremendous to see them put on that opening ceremony.
I had an opportunity to see Lord Coe when he was here in Australia. He visited Parliament House and gave an update to parliamentarians on the progress of the games, and he has been here a number of times. He is a truly impressive individual and deserves full credit for how well those games went. He is a fantastic individual. I do not think there has been an Olympic Games in living memory where there has not been something that has potentially been a dark cloud on the horizon. It really is a test of how you recover from that, and certainly I thought Lord Coe managed it magnificently and was able to demonstrate that these are not insurmountable hurdles; they are things that you just have to deal with and move on from.
So it certainly was a pleasure to be able to see over the course of those great days back in July and August how well the games were run. In particular, they gave a platform and venue for our athletes to shine. I want to pick up on the comments from the member for Wide Bay, because it was a subject of discussion about our performance relative to years gone past. This is a discussion that could have changed in a nanosecond. In some cases the difference between gold and silver—and that is what we are talking about here—was only a matter of milliseconds. But those milliseconds need to be taken in the context of the huge amount of time that our athletes dedicate—not just themselves and the people around them but their families too—to ensuring that they are at their peak performance. It is a huge contribution that is made.
Like other members who have spoken through this debate, I also want to celebrate some achievements of locals who have been able to participate in these games. In particular, I want to talk about Olympian Beki Lee from Mount Druitt, in the electorate of Chifley. She is 25 and grew up in Mount Druitt. She smashed her personal best at the London Games. Then, on top of that—you could not get any better—she accepted a marriage proposal to boot from her boyfriend, Dan Smith, at the finish line. So it was a fantastic string of events for her. As an Indigenous woman representing Australia at the games, she occupies a special place in the hearts of many, particularly in my electorate, where so many people are proud of their Aboriginal ancestry and history. It was just fantastic to see how well she did at these games and particularly all the things that she can look forward to in married life. Beki had identified with former Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman as someone who had inspired her, and now she will in her own way inspire others to do great things. So congratulations from all the residents of the Chifley electorate to Beki and Dan on their future life together.
I would not be able to speak in this special moment within parliament without recognising the efforts in a sport that I have a particular passion for, basketball. Both the Boomers and the Opals in these games were up against exceptionally tough competitors but excelled themselves magnificently. I want to quickly run through, in particular, some of the efforts of both teams, the Boomers and the Opals. The Boomers in the end went down to Team USA, the Dream Team, the team that Kobe Bryant said would have bested the 1992 team, the original Dream Team. I think there is a degree of merit in Kobe Bryant’s sentiments there, though I have to say that at the time I was a bit sceptical. But the Boomers held their own against the team that had devastated so many other national teams. The undefeated Americans led through the course of the game, but the Boomers kept going. In particular, in the second half there was some inspiring play from ‘Patty’ Mills, an Indigenous player who has been a representative of our country in the NBA in America, playing for Portland, and who shows the world how good the depth of talent is in the Australian basketball community. Patty Mills, I might add, had the opportunity to meet President Obama last year and, on walking towards him, President Obama exclaimed, ‘Now this is a man with speed!’ So even President Obama has recognised the explosive talent Patty Mills has. And it is not just talent that is directed on the court but talent that is mindful of what needs to be done in the community. Patty Mills is an absolute role model for others in the community, and he is trying to be a role model not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids across the country but also for those who want to follow in his footsteps in the game of basketball.
While they went down to the US, we saw some fantastic games from the Boomers. In the game with Great Britain, Patty Mills scored 39 points. There were some tough games against Spain. The Boomers won in an upset against Russia, a team that, particularly in Andrei Kirilenko, had some pretty seasoned athletes. Then they went on to face some pretty tough talent in the US team.
The Boomers have a stack of great players but I want to point out in particular the efforts of an up-and-comer in Matthew Dellavedova, who is the next great thing on the horizon for Australian basketball. He plays in college basketball in the States. I saw him play in the qualifiers against New Zealand. He has incredible defensive skills, being able to shut down opponents, and he stepped up in the Olympics. The great thing about the Olympics is that they give players the opportunity to shine at unexpected moments, and he certainly took up that opportunity. Coach Brett Brown is an assistant coach in the NBA in America, with the San Antonio Spurs, so again we have Australians excelling over there in one of the prime basketball competitions in the world. We need to thank Brett Brown for all his efforts with the team.
I have a soft spot for the Opals, as many people do. We saw Lauren Jackson rightfully being the flag bearer for our Olympic team in the opening ceremony. She is humble off court but a fierce competitor on court. Lauren Jackson has been recognised as one of the world’s best players. She hit the record books by breaking the Olympic scoring record for women’s basketball. She hit a jumper, with three minutes 46 remaining, in the team’s win over China that gave her an impressive 536 points scored in Olympics, one more than former Brazilian star Janeth Arcain in her Olympic total. Lauren Jackson finished London on a 575-career-point high. That is a tremendous recognition of effort. We saw another up-and-comer in Liz Cambage, who has played for Tulsa in the WNBA in America and has come back to Australia to play with Bulleen. She became the first woman in an Olympic event to slam dunk, causing a sensation by doing so. She has just celebrated her 21st birthday and has a huge future ahead of her.
In that talented Opals team I want to pay particular attention to coach Carrie Graf. In Australia, she coaches the Canberra Capitals and has been tremendous in guiding the women’s team. I have huge admiration and respect for her. She is not afraid to make some tough calls, particularly when she feels that players could be doing better. That is a sign of a true leader. I want to congratulate her and the Opals on the way they have performed.
While the Boomers and the Opals did not get to where they wanted to, they held their heads up high on the world stage. It is worth noting that in a sport that is No. 2 globally, played in 213 countries, we are in the top three. Within Australia a million men and women play the game, and they would all be proud to see the way our national team performed. While talking about the Olympics here I cannot overlook the performance of two special Paralympians that I am exceptionally proud of, and I think a lot of others would share the sentiment. I know we did have an opportunity to talk about the Paralympics earlier but I want to make special reference to these two people as I did not have an opportunity to speak in that earlier debate. In particular, I want to recognise Kylie Gauci from Rooty Hill. Kylie was on the Aussie Gliders women’s basketball team in the Paralympics. They went down in the gold medal match. They claimed the silver against Germany, and Kylie was an inspiration for the Gliders. She led the scoring charge with 15 points and five assists, and through Twitter she was getting a lot of feedback from excited fans about her efforts over there. She was an absolute credit to us and I am looking forward to catching up with Kylie on her return and personally congratulating her for her efforts with that team.
The Rollers, the men’s basketball team, also went down but charged all the way through the competition. Again, they can also hold their heads up high. It is worth noting that here in Australia we have both the National Wheelchair Basketball League and the women’s WMBL. The National Wheelchair Basketball League has been going for quarter of a century, and the women’s competition for 13 years. They have become an incubator for the Rollers and Glider players, and they have strong state and national programs providing young athletes with access to expert coaching and training facilities. I just want to give a shout out to both the Rollers and the Gliders for making us all proud of their incredible efforts.
The final person I want to recognise is someone that I have had a lot to do with, and whom I think is an absolute credit to not only the local community but also to our nation, and that is Jayme Richardson-Paris, a cyclist from Quakers Hill. I got to see a truly moving video of Jayme. Her first moments of life were some of her most challenging. She really had to put on a brave battle to be able to get through. Her family rallied around her and have been a constant source of support. She won bronze in these Paralympics after getting into the sport, from my recollection, only in 2004. She was able to show with determination matched with her own innate skill how far she could go. She is a graduate of the Doonside Technology High School. She went back to her high school and I was able to be there with her back in late July before she set off for London. She attended Doonside Technology High from 2002 until 2008. Jayme was born with Cerebellar Ataxia which is a disorder that basically impacts on the coordination, balance and eye movements. She is able to overcome that and participate in cycling in a way that stands her in fantastic stead. She suffered a bout of ataxia during her first two laps at the velodrome, which sent her arms into uncontrollable spasms and shook the bike, but again, demonstrating that fighting ability, she overcame that and went on to take bronze in the C1. This is someone who broke her second C1 world record in as many races with a time of 40.476 seconds. She was recently married to her husband Ashley, and her family and all her supporters have been just overwhelmed by her successes. I would like to give the chamber a sense of the humility of this athlete.
She thanked her fans, in the local Blacktown Advocate, for all the support she received. I would like to read her moving comments into the Hansard:
‘I can’t wait to get home so I can share it with all of you and don’t forget it’s not my medal or my result, it’s our medal and our results,’ she said.
‘It’s Blacktown’s, it Woodcroft Plaza’s, it’s everyone I run into in Blacktown Westpoint, it’s all my nan’s friends at the Blacktown Workers, it’s Doonside High School’s, it’s Jasper Road’s, it’s postcode 2763.’
She is just a truly humble athlete. Again, a lot of our athletes are so humble and so willing to give of themselves, but they are also fierce competitors, showing the rest of the world that the Australian teams and athletes who play on the world stage cannot be taken for granted, because they have such a huge fighting spirit.
I commend all the athletes for their efforts. I want to pay particular attention to their families and friends, who also give of themselves, and while they might not be on the podium they have a right to share in that success.