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Australian Government directs Cricket Australia not to tour Zimbabwe.

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The Australian Government has directed Cricket Australia not to proceed with the Australian cricket team’s tour to Zimbabwe planned for September this year. This action follows extensive discussions with Cricket Australia. Those discussions also involved the players’ association.

Under the disastrous rule of the Mugabe regime, ordinary Zimbabweans have borne the brunt of famine and near-total economic collapse brought on by the regime’s destructive and callous policies. President Mugabe has trashed Zimbabwean democracy, enriched himself and his cronies, subverted the rule of law and presided over the systematic and brutal oppression of that country’s civil society and political opposition.

In response to these developments and its concerns about serious violations of human rights, Australia has imposed targeted sanctions on key regime members since 2002. These sanctions impose visas restrictions on, and freeze the assets of, senior regime members.

The Government is under no illusions that cancelling the Australian national cricket team’s 2007 tour to Zimbabwe will significantly hurt the regime. It is also the case that in less extreme circumstances, the Government would not wish to penalise cricket lovers in Zimbabwe or Australia. However, a tour by the World Cup champions to Zimbabwe would inevitably be used as propaganda by this appalling regime. I know that Cricket Australia understands this.

The security situation in Zimbabwe is also of concern. There is no rule of law. As we have seen, police and security forces are likely to act indiscriminately and violently against perceived opponents of the government. We have little expectation they would be capable of providing appropriate security for the tour. We are also aware of reports of harassment and violence against peaceful protestors following Australia’s 2003 World Cup match in Zimbabwe.

The Government acknowledges that Cricket Australia has contractual relationships with its international counterparts which govern the conduct of matches. The Government has encouraged Cricket Australia to explore fully options available to it to avoid playing matches in Zimbabwe. The Government has also offered to reimburse Cricket Australia for any amounts it is ultimately unable to avoid paying under the terms of its agreement with Zimbabwe Cricket for not proceeding with the tour.

The International Cricket Council’s approach to this issue has not been helpful. The Government has previously called on the ICC to change its rules to allow teams to forfeit tours to countries where serious human rights abuses are occurring. Regrettably, the ICC has declined to do so. While normally sport and politics should not be mixed, the international community cannot be blind to the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe. The appalling situation in Zimbabwe makes it a clear exception that requires exceptional measures.

13 May 2007