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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2100

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (17:47): For me, it was not what put Mandela in jail or the man he was before he was arrested and it was not the 27 years he spent in jail. It wasn't the Special AKA singing Free Nelson Mandela; it wasn't Jim Kerr and the Simple Minds singing about Mandela Day; and it wasn't even Steven Van Zandt from the E Street Band singing 'I ain't gonna play Sun City' in defiance of the apartheid regime. It was not how abhorrent apartheid was. It was not the Springboks tours—I am old enough to remember them—and the state of emergency in Brisbane declared by Joh Bjelke-Petersen. He had the field ringed by police so that the game could go on. The students who protested at the time by blowing whistles and trying to get onto the field—I would have been nine or 10 at the time and they were a bunch of long-hairs creating trouble when it was just a game of football. It was far more than that. I will note that the Vice-Chancellor of Queensland University at the time was none other than Sir Zelman Cowen. If you want to talk about truly great men of peace, Sir Zelman Cowen was one of the best of them.

For me it was all about how Mandela conducted himself from the moment he was released from Robben Island Prison after 27 years. He could have been bitter. He could have gone all out for payback and we would have forgiven him. He could have evened up old scores, but he chose not to. He set to work with FW de Klerk—the forgotten man in this story, because without him it would not have happened—to dismantle apartheid. I heard a quote from FW de Klerk just recently where he said that both men walked out of their first meeting saying, 'There's a man I can deal with; there's a man I can work with.' So it was both men's ability—Mandela's and de Klerk's—to get there and say, 'We can end this; we can do the right thing.'

So they built a new nation, they got a new anthem and they got a new flag. And the symbolism of the flag, being divergent lines coming together and forging one way ahead, is I think a truly amazing thing—to the point where people, not too far from now, will not even remember the old South African flag and what it stood for and what was on it. More than all that—more than everything—was that he forgave. And that, for me, is just the most amazing thing: after what they had done to him, he was able to forgive.

A division having been called in the House—

Proceedings suspended from 17:5 1 to 18:05

Mr EWEN JONES: As I was saying before the suspension, more than anything, Nelson Mandela forgave. The ability to forgive when every fibre of your being is screaming for retribution is what truly sets Nelson Mandela apart from all other people. I still hold grudges from primary school and I can walk you through them. I still hold grudges from my first marriage. But the ability to get over it, to see the bigger picture, to be able to stand back and see what is best for other people—that is what truly sets Nelson Mandela apart.

The normal thing to do these days when someone dies is to put something up on Facebook. When Nelson Mandela died, some people came back and said that he was flawed and said some negative things about him. This may come as a surprise to my wife, but no man is not flawed—not even Ghandi. Every man is flawed. Some say South Africa is a mess and that it faces huge challenges. That is true on so many levels. But, equally, to fix all the problems of South Africa is not one man's job—and certainly not Nelson Mandela's job. To right every wrong, to fix every problem, is not his role. Racism still exists—everywhere. Sadly, it probably always will. But his job is complete. His job was to forge a new nation, an inclusive nation.

No image instils the message—and other speakers have spoken about this—better than the one from the 1995 World Cup. Mandela got out of prison in 1990. Australia won the 1991 Rugby World Cup. In 1992 we played the Springboks in South Africa and we beat them. In 1993, they came to Australia. They had a new national anthem and the singing of the previous national song, Die Stem, was forbidden. I was sitting in the northern stand at Ballymore when Australia played the Springboks in 1993. We were sitting right next to a big group of South African tourists and they stood as one and sang Die Stem that day. So to see Nelson Mandela, at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, walk out with what was to many South Africans the symbol of apartheid—the green Springbok jersey with its gold collar and the jumping springbok on the breast—and embrace the team, embrace the nation, was truly a great moment for absolutely everyone. It was the moment that crystallised in everyone's mind that this was one nation. That was the last bastion of apartheid and they were very proud.

They are now one nation. They are what they want to be as one nation. They have a lot of problems to fix up, as do we all. Vale, Nelson Mandela, a truly great man.