Angry athletes hit PM up for more money
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a secret meeting with Olympic rowing champion Kim Brennan and former Wallaby Phil Kearns on Thursday to discuss their concerns over the funding crisis that is stifling Australian high-performance sport.
After previously saying he was too busy to meet with the pair, who are spearheading a growing campaign for extra funding to promote both high-level and community sports participation, Mr Morrison agreed to talk with them in his Sydney office.
Kearns said the Prime Minister spent more than 30 minutes listening to their concerns and while he disagreed that funding was too low and he didn't make any promises, he did agree to further investigation.
"He gave us a fair hearing and we had a robust discussion on a number of the issues," Kearns told News Corp Australia.
"There were some things that we begged to differ on but he's taken on board what we had to say and said he'll speak to the Treasurer and come back to us."
The meeting followed a private get-together between the athletes and Opposition leader Bill Shorten after the government had come under fire over the funding decreases with almost 300 current and retired Olympians and Paralympians signing a petition asking for more money.
A special investigation by News Corp Australia found that many athletes are battling depression and facing financial ruin and uncertain futures because they've been left to pick up the bill for the honour of representing their country on the international stage.
The Australian Olympic Committee has also called on the government to pump an extra $60 million per year into sport, not just for elite athletes but also to increase community participation and reduce obesity levels.
The government promised to commit a one-off payment of an extra $50 million to sports in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but last month the Australian Institute of Sport announced it was slashing funding to a number of sports, including athletics, sailing, table tennis, volleyball and synchronised swimming.
That prompted widespread complaint and an invitation from Mr Shorten to meet with frustrated athletes in Canberra.
"Bill seemed to get what we were talking about, the issues about national pride and the benefits to the national health system of having as many people as possible participating in sport," Kearns said.
"As far as our group is concerned, we don't care whether it's Liberal or Labor, that doesn't matter at all to us, we're just a bunch of concerned Australians who want the right thing for athletes."