Question Time: Sports diplomacy

  • Transcript, E&OE
12 November 2015

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (14:42): My constituency question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This weekend my community will celebrate the fifth annual Hyundai Bennelong Cup, welcoming some of the world's top table tennis players to our locality for a sports diplomacy initiative. Will the minister please update the House on the government's sports diplomacy program and how this is delivering benefits to local constituencies like mine in Bennelong?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:43): I thank the member for Bennelong for his question and acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to sports diplomacy over a number of years as a tennis icon and as one of the world's great tennis players, and the role that he has played in using sport to promote better relations between Australia and other countries. I am also delighted that the member asked this question for today I launched the fifth Hyundai Bennelong Cup, which was established by the member for Bennelong–

Mr Albanese interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Grayndler will cease interjecting.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: and brings together table tennis teams from a number of nations, including China, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia. For the first time, New Zealand and Australia play as an Anzac team in the Bennelong Cup, quite fitting for the 100th anniversary of Anzac.

Earlier this year the Australian government launched what we call a sports diplomacy initiative, and this is using our unique capabilities in sport to promote further investment, trade and economic ties and cultural, education and tourism links. Sport plays a unique role in Australia's history. It has helped shape our identity as a nation. It is how we showcase our values, our strengths and our character on the world stage. Some of Australia's sporting heroes have been our very best ambassadors in building bilateral, regional and multilateral relationships. The sports diplomacy agenda is focusing particularly on our region–on the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific. Any members of this House who have visited the Pacific, particularly Papua New Guinea–where Australian sport is a part of their way of life–will know that we can use sport to transcend divides. It transcends language barriers, cultural difference, religious differences and racial differences. We are using our capability and our ability in sport to build stronger relationships.

Indeed, 11 Australian national sporting organisations–many of them will be based in the electorates of members here–are connecting with their counterpart sporting organisation in countries in our region to promote programs to support young people, to support women and girls, to support people from lower socio-economic areas and using sport as a means of positive engagement.

We have put together the Pacific Sports Partnership program. We are spending about $2 million in ensuring that some of these initiatives can get under way immediately. We see sports diplomacy as a positive part of our agenda in developing closer relationships in the region.

I am delighted that the member for Bennelong is using sport to develop stronger relationships with China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and, of course, our friends in New Zealand. I congratulate him on this initiative.

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