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Cricket: Foreign Minister wants team to cancel Zimbabwe cricket tour.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

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AM

 

Friday 11 May 2007

Cricket: Foreign Minister wants team to cancel Zimbabwe cricket tour

 

TONY EASTLEY: Well, the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the Government is dead against the tour going ahead. 

 

Mr Downer good morning, is this an open and shut case for Australia to pull the plug on the tour of Zimbabwe? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, personally I think there is. I think if the Australian cricket team goes and the Australian cricket team is the greatest team in the world, then the message that it will, inadvertently of course, be sending to the Mugabe regime is that it's not isolated, that the world's greatest cricket team is quite happy to go and participate in a sports festival there in Zimbabwe. 

 

And first of all, I don't think that is the right message, and secondly I know from talking to so many Zimbabweans, that they don't want to see the tour because it will be seen as a propaganda victory to President Mugabe. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Now, if Australia doesn't go, it will have to pay fines. Won't those fines end up with Robert Mugabe's cronies? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, they'd end up with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. What of course would happen to the money then would be another question, unless of course the Government could find a way of cancelling the tour itself rather than Cricket Australia cancelling the tour. 

 

So, that's what we're looking at. We're looking at whether there would be any legal basis for the Government, if you like, banning the tour. If that happens, then under the contract Cricket Australia has, it wouldn't have to pay a fine. Obviously, the onus would fall on the Government, but there would be no fine paid at all. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Now as you say, you believe it's quite a cut and dried argument. But were your arguments listened to and taken on board by Cricket Australia last night? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Very much so. I mean you know, I'm not going to go into the privacy of the discussion excepting to say that I put my case in terms of the Zimbabwean regime, not only as human rights abuses, but the catastrophic impact President Mugabe has had on the economy and on life expectancy in Zimbabwe. 

 

And they, in Cricket Australia, understand that only too well. Being a cricket association and being cricketers, they obviously have certain responsibilities and obligations under their contract. So, a lot of the discussion focused very much on the legality of it all. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: But Cricket Australia's CEO James Sutherland was very non-committal to reporters after your meeting last night.  

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well yes, and in terms of his discussions with reporters, I'm not surprised. They have certain contractual obligations and they're obviously very sensitive about those. 

 

If the Government were to find a legal way of banning the tour of Zimbabwe - and that's what we're exploring - then from Cricket Australia's point of view then, that wasn't a breach of their contract. 

 

If on the other hand, the Government tries, and the public, tried to persuade Cricket Australia to breach their contract, then that would of course bring with it not only a fine, and you quite rightly asked where the money would go. The money would go to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. 

 

But also of course, it would be in itself a breach of a contract, and I don't think anyone feels comfortable about doing that. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.