Huffpost UK uk

Wayne Swan, Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Uses Bodyline Series To Promote Republic

Posted: Updated:

When sport comes between England and Australia, fireworks - on and off the field of play - can often follow, so it's no surprise the two nations' sporting rivalries have been used to revive the cause of Australian republicanism.

Wayne Swan, Australian deputy prime minister, has pointed to England's infamous Bodyline cricket tour of 1933 to demonstrate the true Australian character and how the cricket series helped awaken a greater sense of national sovereignty that still runs deep today.

bodyline series

The Bodyline tour of 1933 was steeped in controversy

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald published ahead of Australia Day on Saturday, Swan claims that the Bodyline series showed the marked differences in the Australian national psyche compared to its then-colonial masters.

The 1933 tour was a brutal affair in which English bowlers were specifically tasked with directing balls at the Australian batsmen, in particular Don Bradman. Resentment at this unsportsmanlike behaviour reached its peak at the Adelaide Test, where after a particularly difficult day at the crease, Australia captain Bill Woodfull uttered the immortal words that while there had been two teams on the pitch that day, only one was playing cricket.

In his article, Swan writes: "The enduring impact of Bodyline is deeply rooted in Australian sporting folklore, but it was about a lot more than cricket.. from a British perspective, Bodyline was principally about teaching Australia 'a lesson in imperial superiority'."

He added that the Bodyline series showed that while a competitive nation, Australians are not a "ruthless, 'whatever it takes' people".

wayne swan

Wayne Swan hopes his comments will revive the debate on Australian republicanism

"Rather, we are a plain-speaking lot, who play hard but fair, and expect no less. Ours is not a gentleman's code; it is a democratic code," he continued.

"The democratic and egalitarian assertion of our national sovereignty provoked during Bodyline and the Great Depression continues to serve us well on Australia Day 2013.

"I believe that reflecting on those events will eventually hasten the approach of an Australian republic, even if it has fallen from the national agenda over the past decade. While England will always be our most respected cricketing foe, and among our very closest allies, I think our national conversation is sold short when it does not include a debate about our relationship with the Crown."

However, Swan's arguments have caused controversy, even amongst republicans. Former Republican movement leader and opposition frontbencher, Malcolm Turnbul, said that "pom-bashing" was not the way to promote their cause, insisting that "it has to be a thoroughly pro-Australian argument," the Telegraph reported.

Turnbul added that he didn't see any successful referendum for republicanism before the end of the Queen's reign. The last time Australian voters went to the polls over the issue, it was defeated by 55% in favour of keeping the status quo.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott who previously led the organisation Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, described Swan's comments as a "distraction".

"I think people expect the Treasurer of this country to be getting on with the job of running our economy instead of raising red herrings," he said.