2008 Paralympic Games
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STEVE PRICE: Joining me on the line from Beijing is Bill Shorten, the , morning to you.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning, Steve.
STEVE PRICE: What a great effort we’ve seen right across the entire team there.
BILL SHORTEN: Oh, fantastic effort. Australia, the Paralympic team’s won 22 gold medals, 78 medals overall. We’re coming fourth in the world and I mean, the medals are only one indicator, to meet the team and the supporters and the coaches and the trainer, it’s just a great atmosphere, its sport as it should be.
STEVE PRICE: And the Chinese obviously, Bill, have gotten right behind the Paralympics, they haven’t just ran it as an also – ran after the main event.
BILL SHORTEN: No. In fact the Chinese have organised Beijing really well, you know, from public transport to building design and the crowds are phenomenal, I really enjoyed the Sydney Olympics, but when you’re in the Bird’s Nest stadium which I am just outside of now, I tell you, Chinese supporters would give football crowds a run for their money with their passion and enthusiasm.
STEVE PRICE: The highlights for our team are so many it’s almost impossible to go through but one of those, I saw last night the preview of course of the Rollers, the men’s wheelchair basketball team. Canada’s a formidable opponent, they’d won, I think they’d won in Athens, they won in Sydney and the Australians finally got them back.
BILL SHORTEN: Well, Canada has arguably the best wheelchair basketball player in the world, Patrick Anderson, but our Rollers beat the Canadians. It was – I had the privilege to watch the Rollers play, I’ve had the privilege to get to know them over the last few days, no, it’s fantastic. And as for wheelchair basketball, if people have never seen it, there’s nothing tame about this sport. These are elite athletes, they go in hard and they’re up… you know, clearly they’re upper body strength is just phenomenal.
STEVE PRICE: We’re fifth on the table which is a remarkable effort, isn’t it?
BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, well, we’re fifth on the gold medal table and we’re fourth overall. The marathon’s just being concluded and Kurt Fearnley is in that. Kurt Fearnley – get this for an athlete. He competes in every event from the 800 metres to the marathon.
STEVE PRICE: Gee.
BILL SHORTEN: The guy is just fitness incorporated. I mean, the real point about this is that this is about elite athletes. And when you talk to the athletes, they’re not hung-up about their disability, they’re there training as elite athletes should and when you go to the village the athletes village and you see people with different impairments, because there’s so many people and because they’re so fit it all looks pretty normal, it’s the way things should be, people with disability being given an equal go which is really what it’s about, these Paralympians are role models.
STEVE PRICE: Knowing you as I do, you would have been sitting there watching some of these people thinking how can you tap into their determination and how can you then, when they come back, use them to inspire other Australians. You got some ideas on that?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, the real challenge is these – when you look at issues around disability as I have in the last seven months after the PM gave me the job to be spokesperson in that area, what you realise is that there’s a lot of hard luck stories, and that’s legitimate. But these Paralympians, these are role models, they’re not just role models for people with disabilities, but I defy any group of Australians when they listen to Grace Bowman who’s an 18-year-old equestrian rider or they could listen to Kurt Fearnley, these people make you just want to get up and do something. They’re the most motivated – this is a giant mine of untapped human potential and I think every company in Australian would be smart to look at these people as well, to get them out to their workforces. If these people couldn’t motivate you to get out of bed in the morning, nothing will.
STEVE PRICE: Good to talk to you as usual, thanks for your time, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN: Good on you, Steve, cheers.
STEVE PRICE: Fifteen after eleven. Bill Shorten there. And if you are a company out there, I would take Bill’s advice on that, it would be a very smart thing to do.