Football, meat pies, kangaroos and political storms


Last weekend, we saw the grand finals for both the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL). Coincidently it was also a long weekend in the Eastern States which probably allowed those with a particular allegiance to return to some semblance of normality before they had to go back to work on Tuesday.

There has been a week for all those who know something about football to comment on who won the finals, how well (or badly — depending on your opinion and if you supported the winners or the losers) they played and how this will translate into the 2018 season. Given that this is a political blog, rather than a sporting one, apart from not having a clue, the decision has been taken not add to the hysteria.

Over the years, there has been an increased amount of glitz and glamour at both codes’ end of season celebrations. A cynic could suggest that in part the additional ‘inducements’ such as half-time entertainment, aircraft flyovers and so on attempt to justify the high prices of admission to the MCG or Stadium Australia on the respective Saturday or Sunday.

It was hard to ignore that an American rap singer named Macklemore was booked to sing at the NRL grand final last Sunday thanks to self-appointed Prime Minister in waiting Tony Abbott again making a comment before putting brain in gear. Abbott’s twitter comment was ‘Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport’. Abbott was supporting a Change.org petition by a former NRL player Tony Wall (with a record of 12 NRL games) asking the NRL to re-consider their ‘political’ position.

The reason for the petition was that ‘half-time’ NRL final entertainer Macklemore released a song in 2012 called ‘Same Love’. Apparently it is about same sex marriage, and it was announced that he would sing that plus a couple of other songs in front of 80,000 people at the 2017 NRL grand final. It seems obvious that the NRL have some statistic to link Macklemore and those that are either attracted to (or the NRL would like to attract to) watching Rugby League on a regular basis. It would be standard practice that Macklemore was booked by the NRL after contract negotiations and some agreement on what each party (Macklemore and the NRL) would bring to the day and the decision was made a considerable time ago to fit the artist’s commitments. Considering Turnbull only called the plebiscite (oops! Survey) a few months ago, it stands to reason that the NRL booking was made considerably earlier than Turnbull’s announcement of the survey process.

So when Abbott was on the medal presentation dais (getting booed by the way) at the end of the 2014 NRL grand final he wasn’t politicising sport? OK, we’ll give him the exception that proves the rule. But on second thoughts, how about media interviews in football stadiums, at AFL presentations, at the cricket with then NZ Prime Minister John Keys, with the Australian Woman’s Cricket Team, the Indian Cricket Team, the Australian Soccer Team, when the Australian Rugby Union gave him a named jersey, or in the ABC Cricket commentary box. All of these ‘exceptions’ are lovingly detailed by Buzzfeed here, along with pictures and a link to Macklemore’s subversive and political song which was released five years before Abbott probably knew who Macklemore was.

Abbott’s problems don’t end there. As Attorney-General George Brandis pointed out, Macklemore (as well as the rest of us) have an implied right of free speech, while calling Abbott’s comment ‘bizarre’. Even Abbott’s daughter, Frances (who has appeared in pro same-sex marriage advertising) bought into the discussion
I still remember the first time I heard this song. I was sitting in my car, about to get out and go to work ... but stopped and listened. And that same day I went and bought the album and kept it in my car and listened to it over and over again.

I can’t think of a better song for all the hundreds and thousands of people to listen to on Saturday. This is what we need right now.

Go harder @macklemore.
Go harder’ is another Macklemore song performed last weekend and Frances Abbott’s sentiment was supported by the NRL and the singer
Macklemore himself and the NRL also refused to back down. The rapper said he would “go harder” as a result of the criticism.
The myth is that a gold fish has a three second memory. The myth is wrong but Abbott must think that Australians can’t remember when he was trying to remove Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act a couple of years ago. The problem came about when fellow ultra-conservative and media commentator Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Act. Abbott claimed:
Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous,” he said as opposition leader.

If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.
The Guardian article linked above also reports a speech made by Abbott to the Institute of Public Affairs in 2012, while still Opposition Leader
[freedom of speech] is not just an academic nicety but the essential precondition for any kind of progress

A child learns by trial and error. A society advances when people can discuss what works and what doesn’t. To the extent that alternatives can’t be discussed, people are tethered to the status quo, regardless of its effectiveness, he said.

Going further, Abbott added that without “free speech, free debate is impossible and without free debate, the democratic process cannot work properly.

Freedom of speech is part of the compact between citizen and society on which democratic government rests, he said.

A threat to citizens’ freedom of speech is more than an error of political judgment. “It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the give and take between government and citizen on which a peaceful and harmonious society is based.

Abbott in 2012 would not only support things being said that he agreed with:
“It’s human nature of course, to support free speech, as long as it’s agreeable. The trouble is deciding which opinions can be censored.”
Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked on Channel 10’s The Project for his opinion on the call to ‘ban’ Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’.
The Prime Minister described the American as a "great artist", who should be allowed to sing all his hits at Sunday's NRL grand final, despite calls for one song to be banned.

"He should perform whatever he wants to perform, I mean for heaven's sake, it's the half-time entertainment at the grand final," Mr Turnbull told the Ten Network.
Conservative Tasmanian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz was on ABC News Breakfast last Sunday making the case that because the Australian Parliament couldn’t make the right decision (i.e. repeal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act), it can’t be trusted to make the decision on marriage equity. What Abetz and Abbott, to name two, don’t get is that the discussion should be about equity, not equality or the current reality.


As the graphic demonstrates clearly, there is a large gap between the concepts. Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, colour, ethnic or national origin. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with Senator Abetz because you have a different view of the necessity for the words ‘offend ‘and ‘humiliate’ to be in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, but it isn’t acceptable in the eyes of the law to disagree with Senator Abetz solely because one of his ancestors had links to the Nazi Party in World War 2 Germany, and nor should it be. Abetz claimed that some of his Senate colleagues were discriminated against in 2016 as they were labelled with a number of uncomplimentary terms including ‘angry white males’ in a Fairfax media report written by Mark Kenny. They weren’t as it was the opinion of the writer being expressed based on facts (the Senators in question are male with white skin) — not a criticism of the respective Senator’s beliefs based on their race, colour or origin.

At least the conservatives are consistent on this. Both the marriage equity and Section 18C debates have been about equity — the concept that not everyone is equal and we as a society should attempt to redress this. The debate (thankfully lost at the moment by the conservatives) was to make it legal to humiliate or offend people solely because they had a different skin colour or came from a certain ethnic or national group. The current debate is to refuse to allow two people who love each other to marry, despite the couple not necessarily fitting into the traditional concept of marriage. In both cases, they are arguing for the entrenchment of the rights of ‘the angry white men’ to continue as the dictators of what is right and acceptable in our society. This is not equality, it’s certainly not equity and it’s also not fair to the people in our society that are not ‘angry white males’.

Not everyone is the same. If everyone had the same aspirations and beliefs, General Motors and Ford would still be rolling Commodores and Falcons down the production line and making squillions, there would only be three or four television channels and only the well-off would be able to travel overseas. Instead we have a large number of vehicle importers, there are numerous options to use various forms of electronic media for education and entertainment and there are full aircraft bound for New Zealand, Bali (volcanos permitting) and beyond daily attesting to the change in demographics of people that can afford to travel overseas.

It is easy to argue that Abbott and Abetz are wrong — the Parliament did actually comply with the wishes of the Australian people on the proposed removal of Section 18C and, based on the opinion polls, the Australian Parliament would have been correct in believing that the majority of Australians either want or don’t care about the removal of gender stereotyping in the Marriage Act. Should there have been a vote without wasting $122 million of your and my money in a non-mandatory, non-binding survey of voters? While the two gentlemen concerned are entitled to an opinion (and for the record I won’t be marrying someone of the same gender any time soon either), none of us have the right to attempt to restrict equity of our society as Abbott, Abetz and their fellow travellers seem to want to do.

Abbott said in 2012 while Opposition Leader, ‘without free debate, the democratic process cannot work properly.’

The NRL (and AFL) have declared that at a corporate level, their respective sports favour marriage equity and according to Abbott in the past, they have the right to proclaim that publicly. While he has the right to proclaim the concept that allowing marriage equity will result in a Pandora’s box of atrocity (which is factually wrong based on experience in any other jurisdiction that allows marriage equity such as New Zealand, the USA and Ireland), Abbott according to his own statement, doesn’t have the right to criticise anyone for publicising an opinion different to his.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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