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September 14, 2015

Australian Liberal party change leader, Prime Minister

Australian Liberal party change leader, Prime Minister

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Monday, September 14, 2015

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Malcolm Turnbull is Prime Minister-designate of Australia.
Image: Eva Rinaldi.

The federal party room of the Liberal Party of Australia has voted to change its leader this evening local time (UTC+10). Malcolm Turnbull has been elected over incumbent Prime Minister Tony Abbott 54 votes to 44.

“This has been a very important sobering event”, Turnbull told the media an hour after the ballot. Turnbull had requested a leadership ballot at about 4:30pm. The meeting, in which the ballot was held, started about 9:15pm with the announcement of the result at about 9:55pm.

“Malcolm Turnbull has been like the sword of Damocles hanging over Tony Abbott’s head ever since he was defeated by Abbott in the leadership ballot in 2009 by just one vote”, Zareh Ghazarian, Social Sciences Lecturer at Monash University, wrote in reaction to the result. “Tonight the two Liberal Party heavyweights faced off again and Turnbull exacted revenge.”

The leadership spill came just under a week before the Canning by-election.



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May 28, 2015

Joe Hockey agrees to lobby states to ditch tampon tax

Filed under: Archived,Australia,Oceania,Politics and conflicts,Tony Abbott — admin @ 5:00 am

Joe Hockey agrees to lobby states to ditch tampon tax

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

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Australian treasurer Joe Hockey has agreed to reconsider the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on tampons and other hygiene products after being confronted about the issue on Q&A Monday night. Mr Hockey was responding to a question from student activist Subeta Vimalarajah.

“I started a petition against taxing the sanitary products under the GST. It now has over 86,000 signees and 11,000 submissions to the Better Tax Review. Mr Hockey, do you think that sanitary products are an essential health good for half the population?” she asked.

“Do I think sanitary products are essential? I think so,” Mr Hockey responded “Should the GST be taken off them? It probably should, yes. The answer is yes.”

He said that he will raise the issue with the next meeting of the state treasurers in July.

“I understand there’s long been a push to take the GST off goods, which are one way or another regarded as health products,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. “It’s certainly not something that this Government has a plan to do.”

He said he interpreted Joe Hockey’s remarks as meaning it was a matter for the states.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said the matter deserved serious consideration.

“Why did it take till Mr Hockey was asked a question on live TV for him to acknowledge this was an issue?” he asked.

“I understand the concerns with taxing sanitary products — concerns that go back to the introduction of the GST by the Coalition.

“These are in effect health products and aren’t simply a matter of choice for women.”

The GST was introduced in Australia in 2000. The then Prime Minister John Howard said the tax on tampons was not a woman’s issue.

“I mean, of course if you look at tampons in isolation – just as you look at something else in isolation – you can mount an argument to take the tax off it,” Mr Howard said at the time.

“I could mount an argument to take the tax off children’s clothes. I could mount an argument to take the tax off old people’s clothes, I could mount an argument for a whole lot of things. But we’ve had that argument and if you start doing that, you will have no GST in the end, and the whole system will begin to unravel.”



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May 26, 2015

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten moves towards legalising same-sex marriage

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten moves towards legalising same-sex marriage

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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Image: Nick-D.

Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten announced today, they will present a private bill to Parliament next Monday to legalise same-sex marriage, with the support of deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

This move towards same-sex marriage follows the Greens‘ initial announcement this morning, saying they planned senate debate of a marriage equality bill in June.

Bill Shorten announced his plan to bring same-sex marriage to Australia through a statement, saying, “I have given notice that I will move a Private members Bill in the House of Representatives on Monday which will finally bring about marriage equality in Australia”.

The Irish referendum which saw a majority of voting citizens support same-sex marriage over the weekend has brought the issue back to the front of public debate In Australia.

On the possibility of a similar process in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “Referendums are held in this country where there’s a proposal to change the constitution […] I don’t think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect.”

In order for the bill to pass through Parliament, votes are not only needed from the Labor party, but also the Coalition MPs. Tony Abbott has said it is up to the Coalition party room whether MPs will be permitted to have a conscience vote, rather than being required to vote their parties’ position.

Talking about the effect the private bill will have, along with the freedom to vote, Bill Shorten says, “It will challenge the deeply held personal beliefs of MPs and senators on both sides of politics. This is why Labor members have the freedom to vote their conscience, a freedom Tony Abbott is currently denying his party.”



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August 8, 2014

Australian government prepares legislation to restrict travel of Australian fighters overseas

Australian government prepares legislation to restrict travel of Australian fighters overseas

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Friday, August 8, 2014

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On Tuesday, the Australian Cabinet approved the “Counter Terrorism Foreign Fighters Bill” which is to be introduced into the Australian Parliament between August 26 and September 4. The bill follows after the “National Security Legislation Amendment Bill” which was introduced into the Parliament on July 16 and is now before the Australian Senate.

Attorney-General George Brandis mentioned at a joint press conference in Canberra on Tuesday, he has “been asked to develop — in consultation with relevant stakeholders, in particular, in the telecommunications sector — a system of mandatory data retention. That legislation has been approved in principle and is in development from today and is to be introduced into Parliament later in the year”. As Tony Abbott mentioned, “the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act […] are now off the table”.

The proposed legislation would change the “Commonwealth Crimes Act“, to include provisions currently found in the separate “Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act”. It would expand the definition of armed hostilities, to keep up-to-date with the current terrorist activities, from “The Terrorism, Incursions and Recruitment Act” of 1978. An important provisions of the proposed laws would make traveling to places with active terrorism an offence, as defined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. With stated intention of “preserving national unity”, Tony Abbott cancelled controversial changes to section 18C of the discrimination act which George Brandis had promoted.

“Not everyone who goes to the Middle East is a bad person”, cautioned Labor Party leader Bill Shorten. “I think we have to be very careful in this complex situation about demonising Australians of Middle-Eastern backgrounds […] So I think we need to be balanced in our approach, maintain our national security but also not try and blame everyone or tar everyone with the same brush.”

“There’s no question that Australia needs to be vigilant against terrorism but we must insist on ways to protect Australians from terrorism without overturning the fundamentals of our justice system”, said Greens Senator Penny Wright. “Clearly we would need to see the detail of any legislation but as it’s been described so far, it seems that this legislation could see Red Cross and other humanitarian workers in declared zones having to face court to prove they’re not terrorists. This law could also see Australian journalists reporting from countries like Syria or Iraq presumed guilty of terrorism.”

Penny Wright also warned against removing the legislation’s sunset clause. “The Australian Greens would be very concerned about any legislation that further restricts civil liberties and removes scrutiny and oversight. There’s a very important balance to strike between security and freedoms, and we would not want to see very legitimate security concerns be used to permanently erode human rights.”

There has been a significant increase in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) cancellations of Australian passports over the last year. To make it easier for ASIO to complete security assessment of suspected individuals, the government-announced proposals include the power to temporarily suspend an Australian passport, or foreign passport of a dual national, on ASIO request, a change recommended by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.



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June 15, 2014

Abbott open to possible Australian assistance in Iraq

Abbott open to possible Australian assistance in Iraq

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott allowed for potential Australian support in any military action the United States may take in resolving the current conflict in Iraq, during and after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday.

File photo of Tony Abbott in 2010.
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy).

The President had said all options were on the table for dealing with the Al-Qaeda splinter group of Sunni militants who have violently overrun many areas of the war torn county.

A major Al-Qaeda foodhold in Iraq “would be a humanitarian disaster for the people of Iraq, quite apart from being a very serious problem for the region and the wider world” said Abbot to ABC Radio, emphasising the consequences this conflict could have on the already unstable region.

Whilst the United States has not requested Australian aid, Abbott expressed concern the situation could become a problem for Australia and the rest of the world. In remarks to Sky News, he said, “I want to do what we reasonably can to protect Australian citizens, Australian interests and Australian values, and there is a very strong community of interests and values between the United States and Australia and our other principal allies”.

Abbott advised this conflict in Iraq would allow terrorist organisations to gain a stronger position globally, as the war in Syria allowed terrorist groups to hoard large amounts of weapons and money.

Abbott’s position on this issue in Iraq has been met with criticism from different members of parliament. Opposition leader Bill Shorten warned “Australia always needs to weigh up the use of our highly professional and dedicated soldiers as to whether or not it is in the Australian National interest”. Greens leader Christine Milne said Australia should focus efforts on diplomatic solutions through nonviolent action and the United Nations to bring about long-term stability and reconciliation in Iraq.

However Peter Jennings, head of think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, supported Australia’s offer of support, though acknowledging Australia could do little as a main player in this conflict. Jennings also advised that providing intelligence via surveillance may be a way for Australia to help in a supporting role.

According to recent information from the Australian federal government’s service Smartraveller, at least 90 Australians were on holiday in Iraq despite a no-travel warning for that country.



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December 14, 2013

Council of Australian Governments agree on reduced environmental regulation

Council of Australian Governments agree on reduced environmental regulation

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

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At a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments yesterday leaders of the Australian states and territories agreed to a deal with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott which would delegate more environmental decision-making powers to the states and territories about projects that might affect the environment. The “one-stop shops” policy would mean that the states would do more of the assessments for projects with the intention that eventually some states would have the full authority to make the decisions.

File photo of Tony Abbott in 2010.
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy).

Two states, Queensland and New South Wales, have agreed with Abbott a policy of “assessment bilaterals”. Abbott described them as follows: “Under those assessment bilaterals the states will do all the assessment work and we hope that in the not-too-distant future we will have approvals bilaterals in place which will mean the states will not only do the assessment but will also do the approvals.” All of the states and territories signed memoranda of understanding with the federal government on the issue of environmental regulation.

Tony Abbott argued it would not harm the environment and the “same high standards of environmental approval” would be used, but decisions would be quicker. The Australian government would still hold the power of veto over projects they deem environmentally problematic.

The Business Council of Australia welcomed the move, saying the regulation changes were a “long overdue breakthrough”.

The Australian Green Party has condemned the policy. Senator Larissa Waters, environment spokeswoman for the Greens, told reporters: “These deals pave the way for Tony Abbott to abolish a 30-year-old federal safeguard for our most precious natural places and wildlife, established when Bob Hawke stepped in to save the Franklin from being dammed […] Labor governments in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT are trashing Bob Hawke’s legacy and contradicting federal Labor’s position”.

She continued: “Tony Abbott wants to put states and territories in charge of approving environmentally destructive projects that impact our World Heritage Areas and nationally endangered species.”

Jess Abrahams from the Australian Conservation Foundation also expressed opposition to the changes: “The memoranda of understanding signed today paves the way for the undoing of 30 years of national protection for places and species of national environmental importance”.

The Council also discussed truancy by indigenous students and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.



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October 23, 2013

Australian Capital Territory legalises same-sex marriage

Australian Capital Territory legalises same-sex marriage

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) yesterday legalised same-sex marriage, the first time a jurisdiction in Australia has done so.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher
Image: ACT Government.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell
Image: Graeme Bartlett.

ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury
Image: Champion Blue.

The ACT Legislative Assembly passed the legalising bill 8–7, with seven Australian Labor Party members being joined by the ACT Greens‘ Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Shane Rattenbury. It was opposed by six Liberal Party of Australia members. Two of the Assembly’s seventeen members, one Liberal and one Labor, were absent.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell made a series of last-minute amendments to ensure that the bill would survive a possible court challenge. The legislation allows same-sex couples from all over Australia to marry in the ACT.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the government would strive toward treating everyone equally and fairly under the law depite the threat of legal challenge. Gay Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr spoke with feeling about the impact the legislation would have on same-sex couples.

Local Federal Member of Parliament Andrew Leigh, a strong supporter of rights for same-sex couples, applauded the bill, but Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott has indicated his government will challenge the bill in the High Court of Australia. Abbot’s sister Christine Forster, a Liberal Party Sydney City Councillor, who is gay, called for Liberals at the federal level to be allowed a conscience vote.

The ACT previously passed a bill providing for civil unions in 2006, which was disallowed by the Governor General of Australia on the advice of then-Prime Minister John Howard. The bill was passed again after Howard lost office in 2007, but marriage-like provisions were removed from the act under threat of being disallowed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Rudd now supports same-sex marriage.

This avenue for disallowing ACT legislation was closed in 2011, when Greens Senator Bob Brown initiated a reform bill taking away the Governor General’s ability to disallow territory bills. At present, Tony Abbott does not command a majority in the Senate, so a High Court challenge is an easier option than legislation. The Constitution of Australia, Section 51(xxi), gives the Commonwealth government — federal government — power to make laws with respect to marriage. The Howard government amended the Commonwealth Marriage Act in 2004 to exclude gay marriages.


 
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See High Court strikes down Australian Capital Territory same-sex marriage law, December 14, 2013
 

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September 11, 2012

Tony Abbott competes in Wagga Wagga fun run

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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Wagga Wagga, New South Wales — Sunday, Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott competed in the 2012 Lake to Lagoon fun run in Wagga Wagga, alongside with the Member for the Riverina, Michael McCormack, amongst over 2000 runners and walkers.

Tony Abbott at Lake Albert Oval, heading to the start line for the Lake to Lagoon.
Image: Bidgee.

Workout Wagga girls warming up the competitors before the start of the Lake to Lagoon.
Image: Bidgee.

Lake to Lagoon competitors warming up, including Tony Abbott and Michael McCormack.ogv

Lake to Lagoon competitors warming up, including Tony Abbott and Michael McCormack.
Video: Bidgee.

Lake to Lagoon competitors at the starting line, including Tony Abbott and Michael McCormack.
Image: Bidgee.

2012 Lake to Lagoon fun run begins.
Image: Bidgee.

Tony Abbott nearing the finishing line.
Image: Bidgee.

Tony Abbott being interviewed by Master of Ceremonies Leigh Spokes.
Image: Bidgee.

(From the left) Caleb Noble (Third place), Matthew Ho (Second place), James Davy (First place), and the City of Wagga Wagga Mayor, Kerry Pascoe
Image: Bidgee.

Rachel Stanton (First place) and the City of Wagga Wagga Mayor, Kerry Pascoe.
Image: Bidgee.

After the warm-up by the Workout Wagga girls, Abbott started at the front of the pack but was quickly overtaken by the faster runners, crossing the finishing line at position 234 with a time of 46 minutes 49 seconds. After crossing the line Abbott mingled and posed for photographs with the public. Abbott was interviewed by Master of Ceremonies Leigh Spokes; when asked about the event, he stated that it was a “great community event” but found the course “hard going”. Shortly after the interview and talking to people, Abbott and his advisors left the event due to his tight schedule.

A total of 2988 people competed, with 788 bicycle riders and 2200 runners and walkers, a 20 per cent increase from last year and making this year’s fun run the largest since the first Lake to Lagoon was held in 2006.

In the open men’s category, first place went to James Davy who finished across the line at 30 minutes 15 seconds, second place went to Matthew Ho finishing in 31 minutes 16 seconds, and in third place was Caleb Noble at 31 minutes 50 seconds.

In the open womens category, first place went to Rachel Stanton who finished across the line at 36 minutes 39 seconds, second place went to Carmel Kahlefeldt finishing in 40 minutes 1 second, and in third place was Jessie Wythes at 40 minutes 9 seconds.



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Tony Abbott competes in 2012 Wagga Wagga fun run

Tony Abbott competes in 2012 Wagga Wagga fun run

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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Wagga Wagga, New South Wales — Sunday, Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott competed in the 2012 Lake to Lagoon fun run in Wagga Wagga, alongside with the Member for the Riverina, Michael McCormack, amongst over 2000 runners and walkers.

Tony Abbott at Lake Albert Oval, heading to the start line for the Lake to Lagoon.
Image: Bidgee.

Workout Wagga girls warming up the competitors before the start of the Lake to Lagoon.
Image: Bidgee.

Lake to Lagoon competitors warming up, including Tony Abbott and Michael McCormack.
Video: Bidgee.

Lake to Lagoon competitors at the starting line, including Tony Abbott and Michael McCormack.
Image: Bidgee.

2012 Lake to Lagoon fun run begins.
Image: Bidgee.

Tony Abbott nearing the finishing line.
Image: Bidgee.

Tony Abbott being interviewed by Master of Ceremonies Leigh Spokes.
Image: Bidgee.

(From the left) Caleb Noble (Third place), Matthew Ho (Second place), James Davy (First place), and the City of Wagga Wagga Mayor, Kerry Pascoe
Image: Bidgee.

Rachel Stanton (First place) and the City of Wagga Wagga Mayor, Kerry Pascoe.
Image: Bidgee.

After the warm-up by the Workout Wagga girls, Abbott started at the front of the pack but was quickly overtaken by the faster runners, crossing the finishing line with a time of 46 minutes 49 seconds. After crossing the line Abbott mingled and posed for photographs with the public. Abbott was interviewed by Master of Ceremonies Leigh Spokes; when asked about the event, he stated that it was a “great community event” but found the course “hard going”. Shortly after the interview and talking to people, Abbott and his advisors left the event due to his tight schedule.

A total of 2988 people competed, with 788 bicycle riders and 2200 runners and walkers, a 20 per cent increase from last year and making this year’s fun run the largest since the first Lake to Lagoon was held in 2006.

In the open men’s category, first place went to James Davy who finished across the line at 30 minutes 15 seconds, second place went to Matthew Ho finishing in 31 minutes 16 seconds, and in third place was Caleb Noble at 31 minutes 50 seconds.

In the open women’s category, first place went to Rachel Stanton who finished across the line at 36 minutes 39 seconds, second place went to Carmel Kahlefeldt, and in third place was Jessie Wythes at 40 minutes 9 seconds.



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June 28, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard farewells athletes at Australian Paralympic Team Launch

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Canberra, AustraliaAustralian political leaders Prime Minister Julia Gillard; Minister for Sport, Senator Kate Lundy; and Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott wished the Australian team every success at the Official Australian Paralympic Team Launch in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra on 25 June 2012. The London Paralympic Games commence on 29 August 2012.

‎Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaking at the Australian Paralympic Team Launch at Parliament House, 25 June 2012
Image: Aussiesportlibrarian.

A contingent of current Paralympians from eleven sports were present and amongst them were multiple gold medalists from previous Games – swimmer Matthew Cowdrey, track sprinter Evan O’Hanlon, and wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley. Sitting with the team contingent was Elizabeth Kosmala who is to compete at her eleventh Games.

Politicians from both sides of politics were in attendance including Jenny Macklin, Minister for Disability Reform, Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Luke Hartsuyker, Shadow Minister for Sport. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was also in attendance. Rudd’s wife Thérèse Rein‘s father John Rein competed for Australia at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960.

Greg Hartung, President of the Australian Paralympic Committee, set the scene by highlighting that the Australian team of 304, including 161 athletes, would be the largest ever to attend a Games outside Australia. Hartung acknowledged the great support provided by the Australian and State Governments and corporate sponsors and partners. Hartung told the audience that the London Games will be the largest ever with 4,200 athletes from 160 countries competing in front of a global television audience of 3 billion. Hartung said “the Paralympic Games has become an iconic event. It is the highest level achievement for athletes with a disability”. Hartung highlighted the value of the Paralympics by stating besides inspiring people “it has the power to change lives and enrich the community”.

Prime Minister Gillard told the athletes that today they became a ‘team’ as they will now wear the green and gold and to compete for Australia. She told the athletes that they were “the fastest, the strongest, the best”. She jokingly told the athletes that they would have to put up with bad weather and bad food but acknowledged that Paralympics were going back to the home of the International Stoke Mandeville Games. Gillard stated that the Australian Government had provided A$13 million in team funding in the last year and that she didn’t think there would be “a single tax payer out there who would begrudge a single cent”.

Senator Lundy’s brief speech focused on how sport unifies the nation and how the Paralympians are “epitome of inspiration” to current and future generations. Tony Abbott told the athletes that “you are best of the best. In fact you are better than that because each one of you has mastered a significant disability to be in this team”. Abbott said that the Paralympians embodied the Australian characteristics of ‘a fair go’ and ‘having a go’.

Bridie Kean and Kathryn Ross speaking about their Road to London Paralympics
Image: Aussiesportlibrarian.

Wheelchair basketballer Bridie Kean, rower Kathryn Ross and wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnely gave the audience an insight into their road to London. Kean, the Glider’s team captain thanked the Australian Paralympic Committee for their support and increased professionalism since Beijing. Keen told how watching the wheelchair basketball at the Sydney Paralympics inspired her to take up the sport.

Kathryn Ross, a Beijing silver medallist, highlighted the funding support from the Australian Paralympic Committee, Australian Sports Commission, and Australian Institute of Sport allowed her to devote the last four years to her goal of competing successfully at her second Games. Special mention was given to her home town of Warrnambool for their support on her journey.

Kurt Fearnley speaking about his Road to the 2012 London Paralympic Games
Image: Aussiesportlibrarian.

Kurt Fearnley, who is aiming to be the first athlete to win the gruelling men’s marathon at three successive Games, said he was ‘feeling happy’ going into the Games and had done the work required. Fearnley said he was looking forward to the Poms singing Australia’s national anthem. Finally, Fearnley thanked the support of both sides of politics and the community. He said that the “Australian Paralympic Team was as good as an export as any team and any people we send abroad”.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme was raised by Greg Hartung and Tony Abbott during their speeches as an important government priority. Hartung highlighted the fact that 36 members of the team were high support needs athletes and this Scheme would lead to more people with a disability being able to participate in sport.

At the end of the launch, Jason Hellwig, London 2012 Chef de Mission, presented Julia Gilliard, Kate Lundy, Tony Abbott, and Luke Hartsuyker with team tracksuits.

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