The truth about Cate and Bronte Campbell.

Cate and Bronte Campbell are darlings of Australian sport. The sisters won multiple world and Olympic medals for Australia and endeared themselves to the public with their dedication and wholesome image. Since retiring from the pool, however, they have tarnished their impeccable reputation.

In 2021, Cate and Bronte signed an open letter calling on Australia’s leaders to take bold action on climate change to protect “our Australian way of life, including sport at every level.” The initiative is called The Cool Down and is headed by former Wallabies captain David Pocock. In particular, The Cool Down has backed scientific calls for the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 and reach net zero emissions before 2050.

In a statement during the release of The Cool Down, Bronte said:

“…sport has given me everything I dreamed of and more. And it’s given me a platform. A chance to join my voice with others and advocate for change. Signing up to The Cool Down was a way to say I care, we care, and you should too. We should all care about how we’re treating the planet and how we’re going to fix it. We should all care about emissions, and not just because of the planet. We’re not just fighting for nature, we’re fighting for our way of life. Climate change will impact every aspect of how we live, including how we play sport – the thing that has told so many of us that we are Australian.”

Less than 12 months later, the truth about Cate and Bronte has been revealed. The sisters appear in TV commercials promoting Hancock Prospecting during the Commonwealth Games, where Cate is working as a poolside interviewer. The corporation makes millions of dollars from cattle farming and coal mining and Gina Rinehart is a proud climate change denier.

How can someone support action on climate change and support coal mining?

Hancock Prospecting is not a small player in the mining or agricultural industries. It describes itself as:

“…a diversified company group with interests in iron ore, coal, beef, dairy as well as continuing mineral exploration and development.” Coal mining, beef and diary farming are three of the biggest drivers of climate change. Meanwhile, Hancock Prospecting also owns Queensland Coal Investments, which is currently focused on coal exploration in Queensland, as well as Minerals Australia, which is focused on oil and gas exploration in the Beetaloo Basin, Northern Territory. Critics argue Rinehart’s proposed mine in the Beetaloo could be even more destructive than the infamous Adani mine. Rinehart dominates mining in a country with the highest per capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth.

Were the Campbell sisters aware of this when they agreed to appear in the TV commercials? If so, how were two environmentally-conscious athletes persuaded to appear in the ads?

During their swimming careers, the sisters had no choice. They were obliged to pose for photos alongside Rinehart as the mining magnate has long been a very generous sponsor of Swimming Australia. Furthermore, the swimmers received direct financial support totalling about $32,000 per year as athletes on the top tier of Swimming Australia. Cate acknowledged this support in The Financial Review in 2021.

“I don’t say this lightly, but Gina Rinehart saved swimming. Gina Rinehart stepped in [after sponsors had withdrawn funding in 2012]. She made funds available that went directly to athletes. This allowed many athletes – myself included – to see that there was a future career in swimming for us.”

Very few full-time athletes would reject this amount of financial support, but the Campbell sisters are also environmental advocates – apparently.

As retired athletes Cate and Bronte are now autonomous and free-thinking citizens of Australia able to make entirely independent choices about their career choices and professional partnerships. It appears the champions of Aussie swimming now have a choice to make.

Image: AAP

Why Manly players should boycott the NRL.

Manly players of Pasifika heritage should boycott the NRL and should encourage other players to do so.

Several Manly players recently announced their refusal to wear a pride jersey promoting LGBTQIA+ rights because it conflicts with their strict religious beliefs. The incident has sparked massive controversy and is set to distract from the Women in League round which is designed to praise and promote the women who make a massive contribution to rugby league.

Critics have blasted their homophobic stance and their decision to potentially destroy the team’s finals hopes, while others have defended their right to express their personal religious beliefs and to stay true to those convictions. The incident even drew a response from the only openly gay NRL player, former Manly forward Ian Roberts.

Manly players should boycott the NRL, but not because of a rainbow jersey. They should boycott the NRL, and encourage other rugby players to do so, to protest Australia’s inaction on tackling climate change.

Australia has the highest per-capita rate of carbon emissions in the world. Countries such as Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, from which so many NRL and Super Rugby players descend, face an existential threat from rising sea levels. Rising sea levels are the result of the climate crisis and the climate crisis is being driven by traditional agricultural practices and fossil fuels.

Australia relies heavily on cattle and diary farming, and on fossil fuels. It also relies heavily upon Pasifika rugby players at the top level. For this reason, Pasifika players are in a unique position to advocate for action to tackle climate change.

At the time of writing, 16 of the 34 players in the Wallabies squad were of Pasifika heritage, and about 50% of NRL players share the same ancestry. That’s just the men’s game. Pasifika players are powerful ball runners, powerful tacklers and powerful advocates for action on climate change – they just don’t realise the latter.

If every player of Pasifika heritage boycotted one round of the NRL, or the Super Rugby Australia competition, it would throw those competitions into complete disarray. Not only would clubs struggle to field a team, but they would struggle to field a competitive team considering the talent and influence of Pasifika players. Put simply, you can’t win a game of NRL or Super Rugby these days without Pasifika players. Even European nations are ‘acquiring’ this talent for their national teams.

Pasifika players should unite and boycott one round of the respective competition, or even an entire season considering the urgency of climate action. They should widely publicise the reason for their stance and make clear demands for improved action to tackle climate change. They should demand no new fossil fuel projects, and improved farming methods which would reduce the carbon emissions, as well as reductions to land clearing, and other measures. This could be done in conjunction with similar formal requests from the leaders of Pacific Island nations – requests which have already been made, and ignored, by successive Australian governments.

If Australia takes meaningful action to tackle climate change, the players would return to their respective teams.

The technology, resources, expertise and willingness exist to transition away from fossil fuels and traditional agricultural practices. All that is needed is a change in the behaviour of governments and corporations.

Pasifika players are in a position to advocate for this change because of their importance to the two codes. Every club fields a large number of Pasifika players; Queensland and NSW also rely on their talent during State of Origin; and the Wallabies are increasingly ‘multicultural’. Such is the depth of talent that the last time the Kangaroos played in 2019, they lost to Tonga.

In the case of Super Rugby Pacific, two teams are made up entirely of Pasifika players: Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua. They were introduced to the competition in 2022 in recognition of the prevalence of Fijian, Samoan and Tongan players at the elite level. Removing two entire teams from a round of Super Rugby would have an even greater impact on the competition, and send a very clear message.

Pasifika rugby league and rugby union players are also in a unique position to reach two specific audiences. NRL fans are traditionally working class people who are likely to work in the fossil fuel or farming industries, and are more likely to consume the Murdoch media which is denying climate crisis and stifling action to address it. Super Rugby fans, meanwhile, traditionally emerge from the private school system and are likely to join the political parties which sustain agriculture and mining (with massive subsidies from Aussie taxpayers) or to own or manage the corporations at the top of those industries. NRL and Super Rugby players are in a unique position to communicate with NRL and Super Rugby fans to change their attitudes towards tackling climate change.

Perhaps a substandard round of rugby, or a severely depleted Wallabies team, will jolt Australians out of their climate apathy.

Individual players do assume a great risk. Like any ‘strike’ or protest action, the participants stand to lose. Players could lose match payments, their contracts or their place in the first-grade team if they sit out for one game or more. Each player would have to assess the risk to their career and their income, and weight that up against the risk to their ancestral lands.

Players would also face significant criticism. They would face criticism from their teammates, coaches and clubs, as well as fans and the media. The Murdoch media would no doubt manipulate the action for their own benefit and the players would be the ones to suffer reputational damage. That said, the situation facing is so desperate and the consequences so serious that Pasifika NRL and Super Rugby players should consider boycotting their respective competitions to force Australia to tackle climate change.

Are Australia’s Olympic medals tainted?

Aussies screamed at their TV screens as yet another Australian athlete strained for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Aussies cheered and wept for joy as athlete after athlete collected gold, silver and bronze medals while wearing the green and gold.

Most of these medals were won in Swimming and Rowing.

Most of those medals are tainted.

Most of those medals were funded by Gina Rinehart. Swimmers won 21 medals and rowers won 4 medals, making them our two most successful sports.

Rinehart is one of the world’s richest people and amassed her enormous personal fortune through two of the most destructive industries in the world – mining fossil fuels and farming livestock. Rinehart’s mines and farms are not small. Some of them are the size of small countries, and she owns or has a financial stake in businesses scattered throughout Australia.

Rinehart’s business interests are contributing greatly to the climate crisis which will harm the standard of living of people in Australia and throughout the world in the near future – including swimmers and rowers. She also wields enormous political power in Australia and has helped prevent the nation from making the smart environmental and economic decision to transition to renewable energy.

Rinehart’s businesses, operating under the banner of Hancock Prospecting, have helped earn Australia a reputation as one of the world’s worst polluters. Australia has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world and the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world. Australia’s contribution to, and inaction on, climate change has made it an international pariah in recent years. Rinehart’s businesses are central to Australia’s environmental destruction.

Hancock Prospecting is the major sponsor of Swimming Australia and a major partner of Rowing Australia. Rinehart is swimming’s patron and is openly called the “matriarch” of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team. She was pictured front and centre among the PODS (Parents of Dolphins Swimmers) during Channel 7’s coverage of the swimming events in Tokyo, and ran her own long ads during the games. She has sponsored Australian swimming since 1992, and her ‘generous direct financial support’ is described as ‘especially critical to Swimming Australia’ for it allows athletes to ‘focus on their on their training and performance and not be distracted by financial pressures that most athletes face.’ With Rinehart’s assistance, several swimmers were also granted private scholarships to attend Bond University.

In recognition of the amount of money Rinehart has given to sports such as rowing and swimming, she was awarded an Order of Merit by the Australian Olympic Committee (interalia), and is described as an ‘inspiration’ to Australian swimmers.

Rinehart’s sponsorship appears to be central to Australia’s record medal haul in swimming at the Tokyo games, and to the impressive results of the country’s rowers. The ebullient language of Swimming Australia cleverly praises their largest sponsor, and implies a dependency on her funding.

The question must be asked:

Would Australia win as many Olympic medals without financial support from Hancock Prospecting? Would Australia win any medals in swimming and rowing without Hancock Prospecting? Are Australia’s medals tainted?

A more pressing question is:

What is more important to Australia, Olympic medals or a livable planet?

Image: Charles Deluvio