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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 996


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (12:46): Today we join with many others in recognising Basil D'Oliveira, a recipient of the CBE, the OBE, the 2004 announcement that games between South Africa and England would, in future, be fought for the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy and the subject of a resolution in the House of Commons which stated:

That this House recognises the passing of Basil D'Oliveira; and records its thanks for the dignified and courageous role he played in helping to do away with apartheid in South Africa and the important and critical part he played in changing history.

Of course sport has always had a connection with racial issues. The famous 1868 Aboriginal tour of Britain was followed the next year by a decision of the Victorian authorities that it would not occur again because they decided that, in future, Aboriginals would have to get permission from the Protector to leave the state. Eddie Gilbert was famous in this country and, if he had not been an Aboriginal,—and if he had not been a Queenslander as well, quite frankly—would have been selected in the Australian team.

When we look at people who have been involved in these issues around the world we look to Lloyd McDermott, the first Aboriginal Australian to play rugby for this country who, with other players, made himself unavailable for the tour of South Africa in 1963 as a matter of bringing these issues to the fore. On another front Peter Norman from Australia became famous for his role in 200-metre final in the 1968 Olympics.

The genesis of this was that John Arlott, the famous commentator, received a letter from D'Oliveira who, like most South Africans of coloured or mixed background, faced non-access to first-class amenities, lack of opportunity, lack of training et cetera. Arlott, obviously knowing that D'Oliveira had great potential and having a feeling for the discrimination he faced, approached a Lancashire club, and D'Oliveira went on to play for Worcestershire. He accomplished five centuries, 44 test matches and played in county cricket until the age of 46. The Guardian, my weekly edition of the Bible for the last 25 years, commented that:

Anyone who would swallow that—

The decision that he should not be in the team—

would believe the moon was a currant bun.

That was the ridiculousness of the decision by British authorities to not make him available for the original team.

The umpire, Charlie Elliott, was very prescient when D'Oliveira scored 158 runs for England against Australia and said to Dolly:

Oh Christ, you've put the cat among the pigeons now

because he, obviously, perceived that they had to select D'Oliveira if they were doing it on merit. He was Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1967. Interestingly, I note that the people who initiated the House of Commons resolution came from the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, who are very much on the conservative spectrum of British politics. That is the way in which D'Oliveira has become so recognised. I notice that his son said that he was not only very reticent about telling his true age throughout his life but he was also disinclined to ever discuss the situation that he faced in South Africa. Even amongst family he was not really keen to cover these issues.

Along with many other sportsmen in rugby, tennis and cricket, D'Oliveira was part of a process that led to the dismantling of apartheid. Not only Lloyd McDermott but also other Sydney-based players refused to go on that campaign. We know that the New Zealand and Australian tours by the Springboks in that period were widely disrupted. Two games had to be abandoned on the rugby front in New Zealand because of crowd activity. D'Oliveira has been recognised on many fronts since then. He did play a central role in dismantling a racist regime. It was typical of that regime that they did actually discuss at cabinet level the possibility of bribing him, of paying him significant amounts of money to avoid this issue coming to the fore, because they could see that processes like that—the selection of people like D'Oliveira—would eventually cause major headaches for the regime. I commend the previous speakers for this important motion.