Wallabies great David Pocock has joined the chorus of athletes hitting out at Scott Morrison for controversial claims made about Australia Day and sport’s role in debating the significance of the date.
After consulting with Indigenous leaders, Cricket Australia decided to omit any reference to Australia Day ahead of its Big Bash League games on Tuesday, instead referring to them as “January 26” matches in promotional material.
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That prompted an angry rebuke from Morrison, who called it a “pretty ordinary” decision from cricket’s governing body.
“A bit more focus on cricket, a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told Queensland’s 4RO Radio on Thursday.
Morrison also angered many when he said: “You know on Australia Day, it’s all about acknowledging how far we’ve come. When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”
Cricketers Usman Khawaja, Dan Christian and Megan Schutt were among high-profile athletes to criticise Morrison, while Olympic icon Cathy Freeman and boxer Anthony Mundine also hit out.
Now rugby star Pocock has joined in, posting photos of Morrison on Twitter in an attempt to point out what he says are double standards.
The 78-Test veteran, who retired from rugby last year, uploaded pictures of the Prime Minister wearing his Cronulla Sharks hat and polo shirt at a public event, talking to the Australian cricket team, posing with the Prime Minister’s XIII rugby league team and running drinks out to the Prime Minister’s XI cricket side.
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Pocock said on social media it was unfair for political leaders to tell sport to stay out of politics, when they regularly use sport for their own gain.
“If you’re a young or aspiring athlete: here in Australia we hear a lot of talk — often from our Prime Ministers — that sport and politics shouldn’t mix,” Pocock wrote on Twitter.
“That’s just not true and politicians know it — that’s why they use sport for their own political agenda.
“Australia even uses it for diplomacy.
“Politics is about our shared life together, about who we are and who we want to be. You have as much right as anyone to be part of the conversation, many issues at hand will affect your life and future more than the politicians making the decisions
“The issues our generation faces are real and serious and the decisions our politicians make today will affect what kind of future we have. We all have a role to play.”
Morrison later tried to dispel criticism of his Australia Day comments after the fierce backlash, saying it was “false” to suggest he was comparing the experience of Indigenous Australians to that of the first settlers.
“I’ll simply say this — Australia is more than 25 million stories,” Morrison told reporters in Brisbane.
“Each of us can trace our stories back into our own Australia, Indigenous Australia, First Nations Australia. All the stories are important. All stories should be respected.
“Australian stories are unique in this country. But the thing they celebrate most about Australians, despite the hardship, whether that be that of dispossession and the terrible disease and destruction faced by the First Nations or whether it was the convicts who came, all those stories are important.
“They’re not competing with each other. They’re just part of who we are.”