Photo comes back to bite Scott Morrison amid Australia Day debate

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Scott Morrison and Steve Smith, pictured here ahead of the 2019/20 summer of cricket.
Scott Morrison speaks with Steve Smith ahead of the 2019/20 summer of cricket. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Scott Morrison’s suggestion that Cricket Australia should “focus more on cricket and less on politics” hasn’t gone down well in the cricket world.

Cricket Australia is standing firm on a decision to drop the term ‘Australia Day’ from Big Bash matches this weekend, despite criticism from Prime Minister Morrison.

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As well as doing away with the ‘Australia Day’ wording, three Big Bash clubs will wear Indigenous jerseys and one game this weekend will have a barefoot circle, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony.

The initiatives come from CA’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee (NATSICOC), in a bid to normalise conversation about January 26’s history.

However the decision to remove the term Australia Day for marketing around their three BBL games on the day has not pleased the government.

Morrison on Thursday told CA to stick to cricket, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton labelled it a “token attempt” and urged the sport to reverse the call.

“It's not cricket. That would be my reaction,” Morrison told reporters in Central Queensland.

“Australian cricket fans would like Cricket Australia to focus a lot more on cricket and a lot less on politics.”

And while many agree with the Prime Minister, a number of journalists and cricketers have taken issue with his suggestion.

Sports writer Daniel Jeffrey re-posted a photo of Mr Morrison with Aussie cricket star Steve Smith from 2019 ahead of the Australian summer of cricket.

Morrison was widely criticised for his comments at a time when bushfires were ravaging the country, saying Australia’s cricketers would give bushfire victims “something to cheer for”.

“I like the part where Scotty is allowed to focus on cricket (during a horrific bushfire season) but Cricket Australia isn’t allowed to focus on politics,” Jeffrey wrote on Thursday.

ABC Grandstand’s Damien Peck also called out the PM, tweeting: “OK, but can we now ban all politicians from sport?”, while Aussie cricket star Megan Schutt wrote: “Maybe you should focus more on politics and less on cricket.”

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd went as far as to call Mr Morrison “gutless”.

Cricket Australia stands firm on divisive call

CA has since confirmed they will not budge, acknowledging some blowback is inevitable but the message of support was more important.

“Not at all (will it change),” CA director and NATSICOC co-chair Mel Jones told AAP.

“Everyone is going to have an opinion on this as they do for a variety of different things.

“The recommendations put forward we know is a value-driven thing about making cricket as inclusive as we can.

“This isn’t a tokenistic let’s grab a headline.

“This is just our day-to-day workings. There are so many things we have put into place for a number of years now.”

The Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat, pictured here in action in the BBL.
The Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat in action in the BBL. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

CA have been clear they see it as their responsibility while operating under a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan to lead on key issues and begin conversation.

Jones believed the sport’s approach benefited all, keeping the sport on TV during the public holiday while welcoming the Indigenous community.

“It's about how we can do something that makes people feel safe on the hardest day for Indigenous people in Australia,” Jones said.

She also insisted it was not meant to be seen as a divisive or political move, with the decision to refer to January 26 as Australia Day just one of several recommendations taken.

with AAP

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