Remembering the victims, not the perpetrator, of the Port Arthur massacre - Transcript, 2SM Mornings


SUBJECTS: Funding for Brisbane Games; IOC ban on racial protests; anniversary of Port Arthur massacre.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: The International Olympic Committee are punishing racial protests at the Olympics this time round. Let's talk about it. Andrew Leigh MP, Member for Fenner - hello, Andrew. How are you, mate?


PAUL: Yeah, you too. Just before we get into this issue, the Prime Minister announced late last night that the Federal Government will be supporting the Palaszczuk Government in Queensland's bid for the 2032 games. Is this the right move? I mean, the IOC need to ensure that financially we can afford to pay for the Games, so the Prime Minister has jumped on board, saying 'yes, the Federal Government will ensure the money is there.' Is this the right move?

LEIGH: Absolutely. As I understand it's a 50/50 split of costs there, and I think it's the right thing to do for what will be a great celebration for all Australians. The idea that Australia gets to have the Olympics twice in a lifetime - three times in a lifetime for those who were alive for the Melbourne Games - just speaks to Australia's prowess as a sporting nation and our ability to host a big event like this. It's a huge tribute to Anastasia Palaszczuk for bringing home the Games, and Scott Morrison stepping up to 50/50 funding is terrific.

PAUL: I mentioned before, I just think it's too dangerous, given what's going on around the world, to hold the Olympics this year, but nevertheless they are expected to go ahead. Tell me about the IOCs decision to punish racial protests at the Olympics.

LEIGH: Well, the IOC has said that it's going to punish what it calls ‘racial propaganda’, which it extends to things like the athletes taking a knee or raising a fist. I think that fundamentally misunderstands, Marcus, the fact that so many sportspeople want to take a stand on political issues. In 2012 I moved a motion in the Australian Parliament to recognize Peter Norman, who stood with an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the dias along with sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos to celebrate the work that they had done. So, he was standing by them, supporting them as they raised a fist against racial injustice in America. You think about Cathy Freeman draping an Aboriginal flag along with an Australian flag around her shoulders in-

PAUL: -Hang on, Cathy Freeman was hardly a protest. I mean, I think that was just her way of showing her Aboriginality. See, what I get concerned about, and maybe this is where you and I will have our first disagreement, Andrew, 70 percent of 3,500 athletes that were quizzed about this, 70 percent of the respondents said, or a clear majority if you like, believe that it's not appropriate to demonstrate or express any views on the field of play and, you know, this gets into the whole whether sport and politics should mix situation. I don't think they should, to be perfectly honest. I mean, why should anybody, athlete or otherwise, use a platform like the Olympic Games or the NRL or the AFL or rugby for that matter, to espouse their political views, considering most of us watch sport and like to be involved in sport to get away from politics.

LEIGH: Well, Marcus, I think you're right to raise that survey. There was an interesting survey done by the Australian Olympic Committee which just asked the Australian Olympians their view, and there's a huge generational divide. Older Olympians were very opposed to sport in politics mixing, newer Olympians very open to it. I think the racial protests in the United States reflected the fact that many African Americans sportspeople thought that it was appropriate to raise the issue of police killings and racial injustice in America, and taking a knee was a quiet, respectful way of doing that, just as the Black Power salute in 1968 was a way of those athletes recognizing the struggles that were taking place in their home countries. Now, we're not talking about people who were disrupting the events themselves. This is things taking place at the end of an event or in a medal ceremony. I don't think that tarnishes the Games. I think it recognizes the political nature of what so many athletes do.

PAUL: Alright mate, let's agree to disagree on that. Again I just, you know, I go to football games and I want to watch football and I want to watch the Olympics and not have to see somebody making a political statement, but then again that's just me. Alright, what about Port Arthur? The 25th anniversary of that horrific massacre, I won't mention the man's name, there are some who suggests that we should never utter this man's name ever again. What do you say?

LEIGH: Yeah, I think that's absolutely right, Marcus. We need to make sure we keep the focus on the victims of Port Arthur. I was a junior lawyer at the time and my mentor at the law firm I worked at, Minter Ellison, was a woman by the name of Zoe Hall, she was down in Port Arthur on holiday and tragically killed when she was there. She was just one of 35 victims. I worry that media reports will focus too much on the murderer, rather than on those extraordinary lives cut short. People like Alannah and Madeline Mikac, young girls were killed along with their mother, Nanette. We need to talk about the courage of the spouses who stood up in the Broad Arrow Cafe and stood between their partners and the gunman, and laid down their lives for their partners. They're the stories we ought to be telling, not the stories of the deranged killer who has never expressed remorse for his action.

PAUL: No, he hasn't. I nearly threw up a few months ago when I saw that some media organization thought it might be a good idea to run some sort of pictures and story on this bloke, on how he looks all these years after his horrific massacre, and I thought to myself, 'who cares he looks?' I don't care how he's doing. I don't care how his life has changed or how his appearance has changed. At least he has a life. A lot of people don't because of his actions. Maybe, also, what we can perhaps reflect on, too, Andrew, is all the changes that made Australia are much safer place following the massacre at Port Arthur.

LEIGH: Absolutely. You look at us compared to the United States. As I wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Daily News, we have about a tenth as many guns and about a tenth as many gun deaths per head. It's been pretty clear that the gun buyback was a success in terms of reducing gun deaths. You simply look at that period before Port Arthur, we were having on average a mass shooting every year, and we didn't have any in the decades since. It's quite clear that that gun buyback had a big impact, and I don't often give credit to John Howard and Tim Fischer but they took a real political courage in reducing the stock of Australian guns by about a fifth, saving by now thousands of lives through averted homicides and suicides.

PAUL: Absolutely. Good to have you on, Andrew. We'll talk next week, mate.

LEIGH: Thanks, Marcus. Take care.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.