WAR ON TERROR
They used to say politics and sport don't mix. When I ran for Prime
Minister Bob Hawke's federal seat of Wills in 1992 as an independent,
my political opponents were full of derision. "Stick to football,"
they'd say. It escaped them that I had a degree in politics and
was a teacher of history and politics by profession.
Over the years, the reluctance of sporting heroes to take a stand
on political questions has always disappointed me. So I was surprised
when Mick Malthouse told his daughter and thousands of viewers on
Channel Ten before the Brisbane versus Collingwood game on 2 July
he wanted to take a stand against terror. When he mentioned the
dead in Iraq I waited for him to state his position on the invasion.
The wait was in vain. The only Iraqis Malthouse mentioned in the
press were those who "had their throats cut" in recent
times. He obviously wasn't referring to the more than 100,000 innocent
men, women and children killed by cruise missiles, shot at checkpoints
by uniformed men or claimed by starvation and disease.
Like hundreds of thousands of Australians and millions around the
world, I marched against the invasion of Iraq. My four children
and their friends were there, too. I didn't believe the invasion
would make the world a safer place or was the best way to bring
human rights to that country. My position hasn't changed. Malthouse
has every right to take a public position on the war on terror.
But why didn't Brisbane and Collingwood consider the diversity of
views on the origins of terrorism and the solution to it?
After I spoke against the first Gulf War at a public rally outside
Prime Minister Bob Hawke's Coburg office in 1991, the president
of Coburg Football Club asked that I make a public statement confirming
that my views weren't those of the club. He supported the war. I
refused to make any such statement.
Unfortunately, politics is not as simple as Mick Malthouse would
have us believe. Winston Churchill for example, who Mick described
as one of England's greatest statesmen and someone he admires, is
no hero of mine. What he did in sending Australian troops to their
death at Gallipoli in 1915 was inexcusable, self-serving and callous.
And of course, I also have an Irish heritage and in that heritage
they remember Churchill as the man who tricked them into signing
a treaty that created a civil war in Ireland in 1921 and helped
create Northern Ireland. So why would I want to stand in a v- shaped
configuration in tribute to him? I'm sure that Irish born Brownlow
Medallist Jim Stynes, whose relatives fought against the British
in the Irish War of Independence, would feel the same.
Why didn't the Collingwood and Brisbane football clubs gather for
a minute's silence in the interest of world peace rather than the
war on terror? That would have been something we could all embrace.
There can be no justification for the killing of innocent people
in the London Tube, and we shouldn't cower in the face of terrorism.
About that Mick Malthouse is right. However, unless we cry for all
the innocent men, women and children killed by invading armies,
not just the ones we're told are on our side, we just don't look
all that courageous