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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4853

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (21:50): I rise in this chamber in the most important week we will see here in a long time. It is the week where we will see the first of three State of Origin games, which will surely result in Queensland winning the Harvey Norman trophy for a record seventh time in a row.

I grew up in the small border town of Texas. From year 7 we had the kids from Yetman come from across the border to continue their education. Things would be great except when the annual state rugby league games would be played. I would see great Queensland players such as John Brass, Rod Reddy, Johnny Lang, Rod Morris and Kerry Boustead, to name but a few, line up against the sky blue jumper of the likes of Bruce Astill, Ian Thinee, Norm Carr and Tony Obst each and every year. Brisbane had a great competition, but it was a feeder competition for the Sydney clubs.

Every year we would cop it from the New South Wales kids as we saw more and more Queenslanders play for New South Wales. Come 1980 and that great visionary for Queensland rugby league, Labor senator Ron McAuliffe, finally got the State of Origin going. We won the game with Chris Close scoring two tries and running around Graham Eadie like he was not even there, and Mal Meninga kicking the leather off the ball with a flawless display. It was also Wally Lewis's debut at that level. The great Norm Carr was supposed to play that night, but he played for Wests and Souths in Brisbane. He would have been the starting lock but for injury. Such is life.

But that was not what the game was all about. The game was about the great Arthur Beetson. He was playing reserve grade for Parramatta but led Queensland out that night. It was the great Arthur Beetson who showed what State of Origin was to become when he belted good friend and Parramatta team mate Mick Cronin. Time and again Beetson ripped into the New South Wales pack and showed the way for the young Queenslanders. If not for Arthur Beetson the State of Origin would not have properly succeeded. He had to convince all of us who had copped a lifetime of disappointment what it truly meant to the players to pull on a maroon jersey—to bleed for your state and for your mates. New South Wales will never have what we have as Queenslanders because they have never had to endure the years of being treated as second-rate. That is what State of Origin is all about.

I would also like to have a go at this House on behalf of Arthur Beetson and Rugby League. Arthur Beetson was born in Roma on 22 January 1945 and died on 1 December 2011. He was the first Aboriginal to ever captain any national team when he captained the Australian Rugby League team. He played for Redcliffe in the Brisbane competition, Balmain, Easts and Parramatta in the Sydney competition. He completed the circle when he returned to Queensland as captain and coach of Redcliffe. He revolutionised front row play after moving from the centres.

Every player who has played for Queensland idolised this man. They hung on his every word. He taught them how to switch on and off. He taught them that rugby league is a game first, an opportunity and an honour second, and a war for just 80 minutes. He was a great believer that in what happens on the field stays on the field. He gave as good as he got. Everyone who followed sport loved Big Artie.

Arthur Beetson played for New South Wales, Queensland, and Australia. He coached Queensland and Australia. He has been a talent scout and an advocate for players and their families. But more than that Arthur Beetson was an advocate for Aboriginal people. He stood up and was proud of who and what he was. He never played the race card but he knew what racism was and he fought it in his own way.

That this House did not honour Arthur Beetson's passing is a travesty. That this House did not move a condolence motion in his honour will be forever one of the saddest days in this place. That this House did not do this and yet the British parliament did is even more embarrassing. As a parliament we should all hang our heads in shame.

The thing is that Arthur Beetson would not have wanted it anyway. That is what a champion is all about. This man accomplished everything in the game as a player, coach, selector, scout, mentor and friend. He is one of the game's official immortals. But more than that, he was a great man and human being. When the mighty maroons run out in Melbourne on Wednesday night, they will carry Arthur Beetson with them. He is our heritage. He is Queensland. He is rugby league north, south, east, and west of the border. If Arthur Beetson was head of government business in this place, we would not be sitting during the weeks of State of Origin. Last year we sat during all three State of Origin weeks and during the Melbourne Cup. If Arthur Beetson were here, he would be wondering whether we would be coming back to sit in a special session on Boxing Day. It is unAustralian and Arthur Beetson would not have it. Vale Arthur Beetson—and go the Maroons.