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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2663

Mr BIRNEY (Phillip) - I would like to move away from politics to the field of sport. I draw the attention of the House to the present Australian rugby union tour of France and Italy.

Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How are they going?

Mr BIRNEY - The honourable member should have been reading the papers. It is common knowledge that the side has not fared well on the playing fields, having been beaten by France quite resoundingly in the 2 tests played to date. It is always an occasion for some remorse when an Australian side sporting the illustrious green and gold colours of the nation goes under. This side is now in Italy playing possibly 2 unofficial tests.

Prior to the departure of the Australian team one of its most seasoned test players who is also a constituent of mine mentioned a matter to me that gave me cause for great concern. What is not common knowledge, however, is that the Australian jumpers bearing the crest of Australia and of course coming in the fabled green and gold are being prostituted by commercial enterprise as a means of advertising its goods in an endeavour to boost sales. I was staggered to learn that this jumper the wearing of which is the dream of every Rugby player has sewn on to it down both sleeves the trade mark of the sporting goods manufacturer. I know that at club level in many codes of football manufacturers in recent times have profusely advertised their products on jumpers and other gear possibly as a quid pro quo for financial support. I do not criticise this. It is the sole prerogative of the clubs concerned. But when this trend spills over to embrace the national sporting scene and the Australian colours- and I emphasise the words 'Australian colours'- it becomes my business and I hope the business of all honourable members. Unless I am mistaken I sense here a deep injury to the national pride.

Of course I appreciate the awkward situation in which the Australian Rugby Union found itself. I am given to understand that because of poor finances it was either a matter of accepting financial aid or cancelling the tour. I think we would all appreciate that if a tour of that magnitude was in fact cancelled it would have been a tremendous setback to rugby union in Australia. I say as forcibly as I can that the particular company concerned has a confounded cheek and impertinence to degrade the colours of the nation in the manner in which I have just mentioned. How dare they endeavour to push the sales of their own product in this way. I believe that this is offensive to all Australians.

The Parliament has little or no control over who may or may not wear the nation's colours. In view of this despicable action I deem it appropriate to give a warning to any other commercial enterprises similarly minded to batten onto financially ailing national sporting bodies with a view to using the green and gold as a means of advertising. I suggest that they beware of any future encroachment in this area which I believe is sacrosanct to all Australians. Indeed the firm concerned should beware of this particular encroachment lest it incurs the wrath of the very people to whom they wish to project, with attendant consequences. I hope that I shall never hear of a similar happening again. In layman's language, I suggest: Do not act in this despicable manner. Hands off the national colours for ever.

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