Springbok tour

There’s a few standard questions that seem to get asked of any Prime Minister and party leader, like have they smoked cannabis. And what was their view on the Springbok tour. Bill English has been asked that.

Newshub: Bill English was pro-1981 Springbok Tour

Prime Minister Bill English admits he was “probably for it”.

“I was keen to see the tour happen – thought sport shouldn’t be mixed with politics.”

“It helped persuade me particularly as a politician to be committed and spend time on the Maori related issues in New Zealand and I’m pretty satisfied about where that’s got to,” Mr English says.

When Mr English’s predecessor John Key was first asked about his stance on the tour he couldn’t recall, saying: “I can’t even remember… I don’t even know.”

While the comments attracted some controversy, Mr English says it’s feasible someone could lack an opinion on it – despite how divided the country was at the time.

“New Zealanders aren’t always motivated by arguments, political issues, they like a quiet life,” Mr English says.

Some in social media have been quick to ridicule English, both for supporting the tour and for being a bit vague. It is something Key was often criticised for, by a few people who thought something that happened about 35 years ago is of great importance.

The tour is a distant memory for many people, and more than half the population have no memory of it – they weren’t born then, or where very young.

I’m not surprised that English is not totally clear and succinct when asked about the tour off the cuff.

People who went on every protest march they could, or who watched every game they could, they may have very clear memories of their tour stance. Many more people were somewhere in the middle.

I have to stop and think through my views on the tour.  The Springboks arrived in New Zealand on 19 July 1981. My first daughter was born two weeks later. I certainly noticed some of what was going on through the tour but it wasn’t my highest priority.  I was living just about as far from the tour as one could, so it was only something in the news to me.

I was a keen rugby fan and in general supported the right of sports teams to tour. I would have opposed it if the visiting team had tried to dictate who could and who couldn’t play for New Zealand teams due to their race. But that wasn’t an issue.

So I thought the games should be able to go ahead.

But I also supported the right of protesters to make their views known.

I was strongly against apartheid, but I wasn’t convinced a ban would help. I thought sporting visits to a non-apartheid country might help by pressuring South African rugby and the South African government.

I was dismayed about the more extreme things that happened.

I was against the more extreme protests, the hijacking of protests by what appeared to be anarchists or people that just used it as an excuse for violence and mayhem.

I was against the extreme and violent reactions by tour supporters.

And I was against some of the very heavy handed tactics of the police.

For me it was a complex situation, and although the cause of the problems were black and white the issues for me in New Zealand were much less clearly delineated.

Regardless of what I thought about the tour over half a lifetime ago (for me) it is ridiculous that my views or anyone else’s views should be some test of goodness in 2017.

And I think that those who try to make a political issue out of it now are at best wasting their time, or more likely will be acting counter-productive to advancing their cause.

Trotter still promoting riots

Chris Trotter continues to promote riots and other actions in another suggestive and provocative post at The Daily Blog, while trying to build blame of the police in advance.

A “Menu” Of Protest: Confronting Riot Police shouldn’t be the only protest option on 4 February


He suggests some non-violent alternatives but first details a number of Springbok tour protest actions.

For the most militant, there were “Special Ops”. Some of these involved small bands of protesters taking out the television signal relay-stations essential to broadcasting the games live. Other groups blocked motorways, ran onto airport runways, and immobilised the public transport services essential for getting Rugby fans to the match venue.

This could be seen more as suggestions for the next week or two more than reminiscing about the past.

Perhaps the most famous of these “Special Ops” came on the final day of the Tour when a light aircraft made repeated runs over the Third Test, at Eden Park, dropping flour-bombs on Springbok and All Black alike!

Participants in these operations knew and accepted the risk of being arrested, tried and convicted. The flour-bomber of Eden Park, Marx Jones, spent eight months in prison for his spectacular protest. John Minto was sentenced to six months jail for blockading Rotorua Airport. Special Ops were not for the faint-hearted!

Trotter may think it was spectacular but it was also illegal and quite dangerous. There had been attempt to crash a light plane earlier in the tour.

The most militant opponents of the Tour were able to plan and execute radical protest actions of which HART remained entirely ignorant.

There is probably insufficient time for the anti-TPPA movement to develop a similar menu of protest actions against the signing of the TPPA on 4 February. “It’s Our Future” appears to be a much less structured organisation than HART, which boasted its own National Council for determining the anti-Apartheid movement’s strategic and tactical priorities.

There seems to be quite a bit of signalling and promoting here of ‘radical protest actions’.

Some consideration should, nevertheless, be given to the problem created by the Police’s announcement that it has been engaged for some time in “Public Order Training” – a.k.a. Riot Control. There will be many “Middle New Zealanders” reconsidering their level of commitment to the anti-TPPA cause in the light of this information. Very few will want to risk either themselves of their families by participating in a demonstration where that sort of heavy-handed policing is in prospect.

It only takes ‘very few’ to do something stupid and dangerous.

And Trotter along with others appears to be trying to build blame of the police for anything violent that might occur, while trying to promote an opportunity to “execute radical protest actions”.

Something for Jane Kelsey and her comrades to think about. Because, this time, it’s not the rights and freedoms of Black South Africans that New Zealanders are fighting for – it’s their own.

The TPPA is nothing like apartheid – although some are trying to promote a racial divide.

Trotterski appears to long for protests of the past to be rise again and precipitate his revolution. Even mild writers can provoke dangerous actions, or try to.

The TPPA protests are quite different to rugby supporters versus apartheid protesters.

Discrimination against blacks in South Africa was seen as vile by many people – even by many rugby supporters.

A trade agreement is hardly going to provoke the same emotions, despite the provocations of old campaigners like Trotter.

My tour views – for and against

John Key is reported as saying he was strongly against apartheid and mildly pro-tour but was more interested in other things in 1981.

Similar for me. My first child was born at that time and that took most of my attention. I didn’t protest nor did I attend any games (I was living in Central Otago then, far from any of either).

  • I strongly opposed apartheid.
  • I supported the right of a sporting tour to proceed.
  • I supported the right to protest and supported some of the protest.
  • I opposed some of the more extreme aspects of the protest.

The fact is that strong support and strong opposition made for the most effective anti-apartheid message. If the tour had simply been quietly dropped or of it proceeded with minor protest only it wouldn’t have been significant.

That South Africa rugby supporters saw the degree of protest and division here made far more difference than a non-event would have.


Poneke – those were the days

I haven’t seen Poneke commenting in mainstream social media for some time, but he has popped up on a Standard thread Protest at sea. The post compares Labour’s Mururoa protest in 1973

and National’s legislation restricting protest at sea in 2013.

Poneke reminisces:

Ah, those were the days when there was still hope for this nation,
before we were reduced to profit and loss signs on a desperate
gimlet-eyed accountant’s balance sheet;

Those were the days when people still cared about ideas, and were
prepared to put their bodies in the way of Police batons on the street;

Those were they days when advanced weapons posed existential
problems for humanity – to quote Netanyahu mangling Sartre;

Those weapons still exist, but are no help in a civil war, or in
resolving human complexities;

We can still draw inspiration from those days – which made
NZ what it is today, a legacy mined by quick-buck merchants from
fantasy factories and trading floors.

Protest has certainly changed from the days of Manapouri, Mururoa and the Springbok tour.

Now protest seems to have been overwhelmed by party politicking, and crying wolf over and over is taking it’s toll.

I can’t see any massive taking to the streets over a safety zone being legally imposed on protest at sea. It seems little more than just another political ploy to attract votes.

The Mururoa protests were very effective and didn’t have to get anywhere near as close as 500 metres to the atoll test zone.