"Paying the price for the past"
by GREG BARNS , THE MERCURY, July 05, 2010
Australia and John Howard have only themselves to blame.
Their arrogant attempt to foist the former prime minister on the cricketing world as chairman of the International Cricket Council failed last week.
Don't believe for a minute the line being swallowed by journalists as eminent and normally sensible as Peter Roebuck who think that Howard is missing out because he took a set against the odious regime of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe when Howard was prime minister. Or that some nations like India did not want Howard as boss of cricket because he would be too difficult to control.
No, this is about Howard's past catching up with him and Cricket Australia's stupidity in trying to put up an unsuitable has-been politician when the best Antipodean candidate was New Zealand's John Anderson.
The power in cricket today lies not with the former colonial master England or its white satellite, Australia, but with India. Just as economic gravity is moving towards the developing world in this century, so is cricketing clout.
And India influences other nations which are part of the developing world -- Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the West Indies and Zimbabwe. All of these nations are acutely aware of claims of cultural superiority on the part of Australia and England, and they have suffered as a result of the racist politics of both countries over the years.
So when someone like John Howard comes along and is presented by Cricket Australia as someone to lead the game forward, is it any wonder that these nations turn their backs on him?
This is particularly given Howard's appalling record on race issues over the years. As Drew Cottle and Dawn Bolger noted in a 2008 paperback, in the 1970s and 1980s "Howard remained silent on the question of apartheid in South Africa and spoke out against the Liberal government's plan to ban all sporting links with South Africa until the end of apartheid.
"Moreover, in 1985, Howard argued against those who supported economic sanctions against South African apartheid," they noted.
Then there was Howard's crude dog-whistling political tactic of 1988 of opposing the rate of Asian immigration into Australia. In government, John Howard used race more than any other Australian prime minister in recent memory. He gave a wink and a nod to the ranting of Pauline Hanson, demonised asylum seekers, sought to delegitimise Aboriginal desires for recognition, and sought to use the disgraceful Haneef prosecution in 2007 for his own political ends.
It is all very well for the tin-eared officials of Cricket Australia and John Howard to claim that the former prime minister is now paying a price for opposing Robert Mugabe's excesses so vigorously.
This conveniently ignores that while this was happening, Howard was happy to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory so he could execute a military-style humiliation of Aboriginal communities.
And don't think for a moment that other cricketing nations are not aware of Howard's legacy of race politics. His various forays got plenty of international attention and did Australia's image as a supposedly tolerant, multicultural nation enormous damage.
"It's incredibly disappointing that a man of John Howard's stature has been knocked off from this job," Cricket Australia's chairman Jack Clarke said last week. No, Jack, what it shows is that you and your colleagues on the Cricket Australia board are just plain insensitive or dumb when it comes to recognising that Howard's record on race issues might be a problem.
Cricket Australia's other cardinal mistake was in thinking they could lord it over New Zealand by spoiling the chances of that nation having their candidate accepted to lead the ICC. No wonder the Kiwis find Australians to be bully boys.
Back in February this year, Cricket Australia and its New Zealand counterpart set up a committee to choose between Howard or Anderson -- the latter does not carry Howard's race politics baggage. But the committee was chaired by Rod Eddington, an Australian, and so the result was not in doubt. Anderson was dispatched and Howard got the nod. Big brother Australia got its way over little New Zealand.
If Australian hubris and hamfistedness had not been allowed to win the day, Anderson might well be the next chair of the ICC, and the Antipodean nations would have their man in the top job.
So let's not believe for a minute the nonsense being spouted by another so-called cricketing doyen, Gideon Haigh, who wrote last week: "Say what you like about the members of the International Cricket Council, they are utterly consistent. No matter how far you lower your expectations, they always find a way to underperform."
No, Gideon, it was Cricket Australia that underperformed and they rightly deserved to fail.