WENDING his sorry way back from Singapore, after having been roundly snubbed by the International Cricket Conference after his bid to become the vice-president was rejected, former Australian prime minister John Howard is now trying to paint his rejection as a snub for Australia and New Zealand.
There is a one-word answer to this claim: bullshit.
It was the Australasian region’s chance to nominate a candidate and it was time for New Zealand to have a chance considering that, in the past, on both occasions when it was the region’s chance, an Australian took up the job – first Malcolm Gray and then Malcolm Speed. New Zealand had an excellent candidate, Sir John Anderson, a man who has worked with the ICC and shown remarkable aptitude as an administrator.
Howard claims that the cricket board of Australia approached him. This seems highly unlikely. What seems more likely is that Howard pulled a few strings in order to get his name put forward. He is a person who never wanted to leave public life; indeed, well before the 2007 elections, there were more than enough indications that if Howard continued to lead the coalition, it would meet with electoral disaster.
But Howard did not care; he hung on and suffered the ultimate ignominy. A sitting prime minister, he lost his seat to a political novice, former ABC newsperson Maxine McKew. If he had not been defeated, he would no doubt have hung on as an MP – the fact is he has no other skill other than being a politician. He has no administrative skills, no inter-personal skills, he can only manipulate public sentiment based on the lowest common denominator. And he has the imagination of a dry cucumber.
If any person other than Howard had been put forward as the nomination for ICC vice-president, there would have been no issue. But consider:
- Howard did not support sporting sanctions against apartheid South Africa but was willing to back sanctions against Zimbabwe, leading to the obvious conclusion that it did not bother him when discrimination against blacks was being practised;
- he used the military to board a ship full of asylum-seekers – Afghans and Iraqis – which was moving into Australian waters
- he made no secret of the fact that reconciliation with Aborigines was not a priority of his, despite the fact that Australia has given its first people the raw end of the stick;
- he has been known as someone who discriminates against people of colour
- he never did a thing when Pauline Hanson was spreading the message of xenophobia across the country;
- he was a staunch supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003, a gross injustice against a Muslim country;
- he has been the greatest fan of shock-jock Alan Jones who, on more than one occasion, has been guilty of backing racist thugs. most notably those who were responsible for the riots in Cronulla.
These are just a few of the things which make it clear that Howard has a distinct problem dealing with people of colour. He would have been a disaster dealing with an organisation where the majority of the members are non-white – and the ICC is just that.
If Mark Taylor had been nominated would he have been rejected? Allan Border? Steve Waugh? Bill Lawry? Ian Chappell? Dennis Lillee? Jack Clarke, the current president of Cricket Australia? Damien Fleming? Paul Reiffel? Was Malcolm Speed or Malcolme Gray rejected? Howard is the problem, not any competent Australian.
Howard can continue to make brave noises about not withdrawing his nomination. In truth, he has nothing to do with it; only the boards of Australia and New Zealand can advance or withdraw it. By wheedling his way into contention, he has put the two boards in an awkward position.
Given that India is among the countries that has given Howard the thumbs-down, there is little chance that he will succeed in becoming the ICC vice-president. Had India not objected, Howard would have been accepted. But given all the reasons above, it is no wonder that Asian and African nations feel uneasy about accepting him as the chief of world cricket.