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.

Why does Gina Rinehart sponsor water sports?

EXCLUSIVE: Billionaire Gina Rinehart has revealed why she donates so much money to the federations and athletes of water-based sports in Australia. Rinehart’s company, Hancock Prospecting, is one of the major sponsors of sports such as Swimming and Rowing and has funded many of the Olympic gold medals Australia has won in recent years.

“Australia will soon be underwater,” Rinehart revealed in an exclusive interview.

“And I am largely responsible for that.”

Most of Australia’s major cities and towns hug the coastline and could soon be threatened by sea levels rising as a result of the climate crisis. Hancock Prospecting is devoted primarily to livestock farming and mining, which are driving climate change and forcing ice caps to melt. Furthermore, Rinehart wields enormous political power in Australia and has helped prevent the nation from making the transition to renewable energy.

“It is so important for all Australians to be competent swimmers, and to know how to manage a water-based vessel as sea levels rise,” Rinehart continued.

“As sea levels rise, most Australians will have to travel by water and deal with more extreme storms and floods, unless people like me stop using traditional farming methods and stop burning fossil fuels. This is why I pour so much money into sports like swimming and rowing – aside from the PR benefits and the opportunity to distract everyday Aussies from the damage my businesses do to the planet.”

“I don’t sponsor sports such as Cycling, Athletics or Hockey because you can’t play Hockey underwater (except at Uni games) and you can’t run, jump throw or cycle underwater.”

Hancock Prospecting is the major sponsor of Swimming Australia and a major partner of Rowing Australia, and is called the “matriarch” of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team. 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’.

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.

Asked if she would donate some of her considerable wealth to other countries even more directly threatened by rising sea levels, such as Australia’s neighbours in the South Pacific, Rinehart replied:

“No, I’m a patriot.”

Image: Patrick Hamilton

Pacific Island players boycott the NRL and Super Rugby.

Players with Pacific Island heritage have boycotted the National Rugby League and Australian Super Rugby competitions to protest Australia’s inaction on climate change and the damage to the homes of their ancestors.

Players whose families come from Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have thrown the competitions into disarray and are refusing to play until the Australian government and the Australian people take real action to combat the disastrous effects of the climate crisis on low-lying islands.

“Pacific Island nations are under threat, and Australia is largely to blame” began a joint statement from the players. The climate crisis is already having a devastating impact on island nations throughout the South Pacific. Rising sea levels carry saltwater into fresh water lakes and onto farms where crops are destroyed. Unpredictable seasons make farming more difficult and more severe weather causes human and economic damage throughout the region. Natural disasters are an increasing threat and entire nations could be underwater as sea levels continue to rise. Australia is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It has the highest per-capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, due largely to a dependence on the fossil fuel industry, land clearing and traditional agricultural practices. It is lagging in the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and incentives for household solar installation are being removed. Alternative transport is not being embraced, and new coal mines are being proposed, even on the fringes of world heritage listed national parks. “When this country starts acting at a day-to-day level and a national level to reverse the effects of the climate crisis, then we will return to the NRL and Super Rugby competitions.” The NRL and Australian Super Rugby teams have been left scrambling to find elite players since the shock announcement, as their teams rely heavily on talented players with Pasifika heritage. Both codes are desperately searching reserve grade teams, country teams and overseas competitions for players before fans, media networks and sponsors desert the codes. “The only people who are happy about this are commentators like Ray Warren who can’t pronounce our names, but otherwise it will decimate the sports at the elite level.” The players are adamant that this decision was not taken lightly. “We love our sports. We love the competition and know how lucky we are to make a living out of the game we love. We are sacrificing a lot personally with this boycott, but that is how serious and desperate the situation is in the countries where some of us were born, and where all of us have family.” The players will continue to play their respective sports, but not for their existing NRL or Super Rugby teams. “Most of the boys will keep playing at local club level, to stay sharp and fit. A lot of us are also thinking of playing in New Zealand, because the travel bubble just opened and at least the Kiwis are trying to do something to protect the environment. That means we can play for NZ-based Super Rugby teams, or for the New Zealand Warriors. Looks like the Warriors will finally win a premiership.” Indigenous Australian players have joined the move, as the farms and mines driving climate change sit on their land, and Aboriginal people witness the destruction first hand. The boycott of the NRL will also include the State of Origin competition. This means that NSW and Queensland will be without male players such as Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Xavier Coates, Jack Bird, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Tyson Frizell, Junior Paulo, Jarome Luai, Jayden Su’A, Stephen Crichton, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Payne Haas, Daniel Saifiti and Josh Papali’i.” Australia must now take decisive action to protect the natural environment, if it wants to see the best players competing in the NRL and Super Rugby competitions, as Pasifika players have promised to stand firm. “We are prepared to do this in order to save the lands of our families and ancestors.” Image: Stephen Tremain