Bert Kelly, “The sporting camel in the tent of the taxpayer,” The Australian Financial Review, September 16, 1977, p. 3.
Mavis is feeling her political oats. She always gets on edge and starts to sniff the political wind as each Parliament approaches its second birthday.
From now on, as election day comes relentlessly closer, she will be out and around the electorate hoping to spot a popular cause which will bring in a few votes.
After one such expedition she returned proudly carrying a splendid book called A White Paper on the Financial Plight of Sport in Australia.
“Here is a fine flag to fly, dear,” she chortled. “The whole case has been predigested for you in this splendid document. You won’t have to do all that ‘research in depth’ which you’re always moaning about. So get on the sporting bandwagon while there’s still room and then you can really toot your trumpet.”
I read through the White Paper on sport and it is certainly a powerful document.
For instance, in this one simply splendid sentence it pleads for Federal Government to pay for sport: “Sport is a way of life for Australians; they must not be denied this way of life.”
It would be hard indeed not to be moved by such a poignant plea.
After I had read the White Paper and marked some of the purple paragraphs I took it to Fred to try it out.
It is unfortunate that he was in one of his nasty moods. His tractor had broken down and he had just received a bill for the spare parts.
But that was no excuse for him behaving as he did.
He didn’t actually hit me, but as I was quickly sitting inside my car with all the doors locked it wasn’t easy for him to get at me.
He then started shouting at me through the windscreen, but I calmed him down after he had prowled around the car for an hour or so and eventually he even sat in the car with me.
But he was still seething. He agreed that sport was indeed a way of life of Australians, but he didn’t see why the taxpayer should be asked to pay for it.
He thought that if Australians were fond of sport, they should be prepared to pay for their pleasures.
He reminded me how, if we wanted a cricket pitch or a tennis court in the bush, we would work for it or at it until we had it and certainly didn’t contemplate asked the taxpayers to dob in.
When Fred read what the White Paper said about the goodwill that sport is supposed to engender the steam started to come out of his nostrils again.
He reminded me of the wonderful rows that international sporting events caused. “What about the trail of destruction left behind when a British soccer team goes to Europe?” he asked angrily.
“Do you think that this is fostering international goodwill and understanding? And what about the rows over South Africa’s participation in sport? What is going to happen at the Commonwealth Games and what about the assassinations at the Olympic Games? And the fights in Perth when Victoria play WA at football?”
So what Fred will say now that the Government has agreed to contribute nearly $1.5 million to sport in the Budget I hate to think.
I know that all Governments are inclined to give their milk down if patted nicely because they think that’s how they become popular.
They do not seem to realise that it will be almost impossible to cut back this amount, but instead it will almost certainly grow.
These welfare State items are like the camel who begged the right to put its nose into its master’s tent to shelter from a sandstorm, but finished up lying down inside the tent with the owner outside in the storm.
If the Government thinks that giving money to sport will make it popular, it is kidding itself.
There will be more sporting bodies that don’t get money than those that do, or else they will all have to be satisfied with very small slices. In either case, we will lose more votes than we gain.
Going back to the refining influence of sport, I am reminded of how our sporting parson, in the middle of a football season, persuaded the local football team to attend a football service.
The team captain read the lesson which came from Mark, Chapter 4, in which is told the story of the Gadarene swine. Then the coach prayed, as coaches are wont to do.
Then the parson, determined to show that he understood our sporting ways, announced that he was taking his text from portion of the 13th verse of the 4th Chapter of Mark, which read in splendid stark simplicity, “Into the swine.”
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