Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 19, 2022



The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:46): I rise today to speak about sportswashing. Sportswashing is a deeply concerning practice of large businesses, countries and organisations using their sponsorship of sports and community events to launder their reputations. I want to bring sportswashing to the attention of this parliament because the impact it is having on our community is significant. Some have called 2022 'sportswashing's biggest year'. The Guardian, for example, noted that a year bookended by the Beijing Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar could be a high point of authoritarian regimes looking to cover up their dismal human rights records.

Large polluting corporations are not much better. Research shows that when companies sponsor sports events their brands become associated with atmospheres: intense experiences of shared emotion. These positive emotional experiences can, among other things, distract from the companies' problematic connections to a range of issues. Those issues can include climate change and pollution as well as human rights abuses.

I think what we are witnessing is the start of turning point in the community's awareness of these dirty tactics. We have seen just this week, for example, the staunch refusal of the Diamonds netball team to wear their new uniforms with the branding of their new sponsor, Hancock Prospecting. To quote Sharni Norder, who is a Sports Environment Alliance ambassador, players have 'put too much into our sport to give social license to a company who's profit at all cost attitude puts our future in danger'. Players do not want to represent a mining magnate infamous for seriously harming our climate and environment, and of course players do not want to represent the name of her father, who infamously held deeply offensive views about Aboriginal Australians.

Sponsorship dollars cannot and should not wash away the harms that have been caused. It is not just Netball Australia that have had a rather public reckoning this week and this year when it comes to sportswashing. Recently, for example, Tennis Australia ended their partnership with Santos after just one year. They were targeted in a petition and a campaign with regard to raising awareness of sportswashing. It was a coordinated campaign by 350 Australia to raise the public's awareness of just what was going on with the Santos sponsorship of Tennis Australia's events.

However, while community pressure can help stop sportswashing, it cannot always prevent it, and we are seeing that right here in our own state of South Australia. Despite protests and thousands of petition signatures, for example, we continue to see fossil-fuelled Santos sponsor the Tour Down Under. It is appalling that a major cycling event held in our state, which is a world leader in renewable energy, continues to partner with a polluting fossil fuel company.

Perhaps the only reason I can think of in which Santos' ongoing sponsorship of the TDU is appropriate would be so that we can all observe the cruel irony of these riders making their way along routes that in the past few years have seen significant bushfire effects. I think it is fair to say that there are still many people who are unaware of the reality of sportswashing in our stateā€”as was so ably, if unintentionally, demonstrated by our own Premier recently.

While the Premier has welcomed the LIV Golf International Series coming to South Australia, one has to wonder if he is aware of the controversy that surrounds it, given that LIV Gold Enterprises is majority-owned by the Saudi Arabian government's public investment fund. It is part of a disturbing pattern of behaviour from the sportswashing hands of that Saudi Arabian enterprise. They have been aggressive investors in sports events such as Formula One motor racing, boxing and the purchase of European football clubs.

With each purchase, with each encroachment, human rights considerations and a regime's brutality blur or even vanish before the sight of so much money flowing in. Do we want South Australia to be the new home for laundering the blood-stained reputation of the Saudi Arabian government's public investment fund?

We now recognise that it is unacceptable for cigarette companies to sponsor events, given the harms they enable. This should not be the year we saw sportswashing take off and be its biggest ever: this should be the year we win the race to end sportswashing.