It’s been an awful week in sport and politics. Yesterday Justice Minister Jason Clare hauled the boss of every major sport to Canberra to tell them and the nation that graft and corruption was rife in sport.
Drugs, physicians, trainers, players, gaming, organised crime gangs - the lot. As we heard of match fixing in multiple sporting codes we shook our heads in disgust. Steve Blocker Roach, who was no on-field-angel in his day, summed it up pretty well on the front page of the Illawarra Mercury “if there’s 100 players, entire teams, whatever, found guilty .... we don’t want them in our game. “ “Throw them out.”
Meanwhile in Sydney the ICAC examined its bevy of reluctant star witnesses: Eddie, Moses and Paul Obeid and Greg (no relation) Jones. The evidence - gut turning - made worse by the arrogant, evasive demeanour of those caught in the snare.
Now it’s true that Labor true believers cringe when we hear the words “don’t you know who I am?” That statement, like the surrounding event, is abhorrent because it contradicts everything we stand for. Labor stands for equality and fairness not hierarchy and privilege. No true Labor person, in fact no decent Australian, would ever think that way, let alone say it. But this week Obeid the elder, the first of the Two Amigos to give evidence, smashed through the grubby ceiling of repugnance when he turned on the Council Assisting the ICAC to boast “I’ve spent more money than you will ever earn in your life.” True Labor people turn their heads in disgust. If only this was the worst of it.
The Commission heard evidence of alleged “gifts and payments” to Amigo number 2 - former Minister Ian McDonald. The payments arrived at about the same time he was awarding valuable consultancies to his mate Greg Jones. McDonald, it is alleged, was promised $4 million when a mine was approved. No doubt more evidence will be heard of grubby cheating behaviour when the ICAC takes evidence from McDonald himself.
It’s hard stuff for Labor people to take. Like when thousands of sports fans are crushed by news that their club and its players may be involved in systematic cheating. It leads us to ask ourselves, is this a blight on me as well? Can I wear my club jumper in public, or am I tainted by association? Is it true that the behaviour of disgraced former Ministers like the behaviour of some players reflects a broader culture in the sport and in politics?
These are the right questions to ask, but I for one refuse to accept that we are all to blame. This defiance has a used by date. If we do nothing to weed out the grubs and the cheats, if we do nothing to change the culture, then we are culpable. As fans, as members, as leaders we have a responsibility to state and defend the values we stand for– wherever that may lead us.
Labour like most of our great sporting clubs traces its origins to struggling communities at the turn of the last Century. The Labour Movement formed a political party to run for office so that government would make laws to improve the lot of working people. When that office is used as a tool for the betterment of the office holder it defiles that founding purpose. It is a disgrace.
When players engage with criminals to corrupt the sport, when they cheat, they defile the trust we place in them as inspirations for our kids and our community. In the words of Blocker Roach “We don’t want them in our game .... throw them out.”