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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - I rise this evening to bring to the attention of the House an event which is of some significance in view of what has been happening in England over the past few weeks. There has not been one Australian newspaper of note that has not in the past 15 or 21 days contained headlines such as Government acts on cricket tour'. I am referring to threats to cancel the English cricket tour by the South Africans. This subject has been -hotly debated in England. Probably it is the most contentious issue being discussed there at this time. I think this matter is significant because of prospective tours of Australia by South African teams in the near future. I refer to the proposed tour by the Springboks in 1971 and the South African cricketers in the season 1971-72.

T do not think there is any need for me to remind the House of my interest in and opposition to apartheid. I am sure all honourable members are aware of it by now. I mention this matter tonight because of an interview on this subject I had last night. A report of the interview was distributed to the Press gallery last night. This morning it was published intact on the centre page of the 'Australian'. It was an interview with 4 members of last year's Wallaby team - Bruce Taafe. Jim Roxburgh, Paul Darveniza and Barry McDonald.

I shall give a bit of information about the background of these 4 nien. They are not known for their radical views on politics. I understand they have never yet become involved in politics. They come from backgrounds that probably are more akin to those of honourable members on the Government side of the chamber than to members of the Opposition, f believe that three of them went to Cranbrook College and the other went to The Kings School. The significant thing is that, having gone to South Africa without any political views about apartheid, they have on their return made a stand which probably has never before been made in Australian sporting circles. They have stated that they will not now or in the future play sport against South Africa. The report of this interview was distributed to all other newspapers. Some saw fit to write it up. The 'Canberra Times' gave it a good run and I or 2 other newspapers gave it a small paragraph.

I am afriad that unless Australian sporting officials face up to the question of future visits to Australia by South African sporting teams we will have the same sort of controversy raging here next year. That is why 1 am glad this interview took place - so that people may examine this question now and we will not have threats of violence and of disrupting cricket and football matches when they are about to take place. There ought to be public debate and discussion now about whether we want South Africans visiting Australia in a sporting capacity and not 3 weeks before a tour commences. I am sure honourable members are aware that in recent months or years South Africa has been expelled from the Davis Cup, the Olympic Games, world boxing, basketball, soccer, fencing, volley ball, judo, weight lifting and table tennis. Cricket and rugby are now the only 2 sports played on an international basis with South Africa.

I had invited the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) to attend the interview last night, as he has been an opponent of my attitude on this question.

Mr Duthie - What about the honourable member for Boothby.

Mr COHEN - The honourable member for Boothby has not made any statement on the question of multi-racial sports, so 1 see no reason for having a shot at him.

Mr McLeay - Why not?

Mr COHEN - If the honourable member wants to be in it then I will be quite happy to have him brought in. I wilt say that the honourable member for Chisholm has been consistent in his attitude that we should not mix politics with sport. He has applied the same rule to Communist countries that he has to South Africa. I hope that what I have to say and the quotations I present will illustrate that this attitude is wrong. First I will quote what Bruce Taafe said when asked about his attitude to apartheid after being selected for the tour. He said:

As far as 1 was concerned we had been selected to play sport, and politics just didn't come into it. Before we left, the South African Embassy sent me a wad of tourist literature which was pretty impressive and made me feel that apartheid was a workable policy.

Barry Macdonalds reply, when questioned about an appeal by the Students Representative Council to withdraw, was:

It's no secret that Anthony Abrahams had a few qualms - he had studied the subject pretty carefully. But he decided against pulling out - which would have been pointless without support from other team members. At that stage I had no idea bow unjust Apartheid is and the Australian Rugby officials had warned us against discussing it during the tour.

Bruce Taafe's remarks, when requested to give specific instances of apartheid, were:

My worst experience in the early day? of the tour was a walk through Sharpeville with the local police chief. What came out was his utter contempt for blacks. 1 disliked the way he tossed a few coins into huddles of cowering natives, and stood back as they fought among themselves for possession of them. I was amazed that he really thought this would entertain us, by demonstrating the natives' humility.

All 4 then illustrated their disgust with the way Africans were treated at the grounds the team played at - -including the worst positions on the ground and an incident where, after the Australians took the lead in an exciting match, the blacks, roaring with excitement, edged on to the ground. Jim Roxburgh said this:

That was the signal for the police waggons to arrive, and for police to club several Africans. Police with alsatians patrolled the black sections for the rest of the match.

Probably the most damning part of the transcript is that part where Paul Darveniza describes his friendship with an Indian girl and a visit to her home. On returning to Cape Town he was handed a message, through the team management, that stated that his activities in relation to this girl had not passed unnoticed. The team manager carpeted him and told him that this sort of thing was to cease forthwith otherwise there would be a lot of trouble. The inference was that the South African secret police bad followed him, reported to the Government, from there to the South African Rugby Union Board and from there to the Australian team manager who thought-

Mr Kelly - Where did this happen?

Mr COHEN - Mr Speaker, would you ask the honourable gentleman to be quiet? He has not stopped interjecting ail the time I have been speaking.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I have already asked honourable members not to interject.

Mr COHEN - The team manager thought that it was a shocking thing to happen in a civilised country but was forced to warn Dr Darveniza for the welfare of the team as a whole. There was also a continual harassment by the police of Tony Abrahams. Jim Roxburgh gave the lie to those who cry that you should not mix sport with politics. He said:

Everywhere we went we were given civic receptions, and each time the local mayor would remark how South Africa and Australia were 2 great countries with so much in common, and how alike our ideas and policies were.

There is no doubt at all that South African officials made use of the tour on this propaganda level, and of course the infuriating thing was that we had lo stand mum. We were guests in the country, accepting its hospitality, so our tongues were tied.

As time is running out I want to conclude by mentioning one incident that makes me very proud of our. Austral ian team. It gives me great faith in humanity and in the basic decency of Australians. Jim Roxburgh said:

We went on a coach tour of Sharpeville, and after driving through' native slums the bus pulled up outside a couple of much better, European-style homes, probably given to influential Bantus and used as display pieces for tourists. The officials hopped out, and the idea was that we should just walk right through their homes, without asking their owners' permission. Well, out of 28 blokes on that bus, ib sat tight. We just were not going to degrade the occupants by barging through their home.

I am proud of these 4 men and the fifth, Tony Abrahams, who did not take part in the interview because he was in England. I think that the Australian sporting officials have to face up to this fact now and heed the warning bells that are sounding in England. If we do not, we will be faced with disruption. I will regret that because I am a lover of both rugby and cricket and a continual attender at games. I do not agree with the policy of spoiling cricket matches, but I am not sure that everybody else in Australia feels the same way.

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