1971 Springbok Tour

FORMER Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen brokered secret deals with police in the lead up to the controversial Springboks tour of Brisbane more than 40 years ago, according to a new book.

Fearing riots and public violence, Bjelke-Petersen told the powerful Queensland Police Union that officers would “not be penalised for any action they take to suppress” the demonstrators during the tour in July 1971.

Then Police Commissioner Ray Whitrod attended the Sydney match between the Springboks and NSW a few days earlier and saw demonstrators hurling smoke bombs, fireworks, fruit, beer cans and balloons onto the playing field. About 100 people were arrested, raising concerns the same mayhem would descend on the Sunshine State. I was recently back from Vietnam when they played on 31 July 1971 at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, Brisbane, defeating us 14-6.  As the players were just that, rugby players and not politicians, I had no problems with the tour other than they beat us.  Joh and Ray Whitrod did what they should have done- protected the citizens of Brisbane and our sporting visitors. I did however have a problem with rioting anarchist leaders of the anti apartheid demonstrations. From Solidarity Online

The mostly white student left, Aboriginal activists and the union movement united to make the Springboks unwelcome and to disrupt the games as best they could, given the massive police mobilisation by State Liberal governments. Henry Bolte, the Victorian Liberal Premier, declared the protests a “rebellion against constituted authority”.

Fairly easy to organize- just redirect the anti Vietnam War pro-communist mob to anti South African sporting teams for a month odd and use the same anarchist tenets. Get the anti then Liberal government unions to close down  society with strikes everywhere and anarchy rules.

At first, there were only very small committees organising in the early and mid-1960s against Apartheid in sport. After the struggle against the Vietnam War took off, racism in Australia began to be more seriously challenged.

Solidarity – commo bastards – they stand for everything I stand against.  It wasn’t racism they were seriously challenging – it was our liberal democracy they really hated.  


  • I was one of those “Commo bastards”, Kev, participating in the demonstrations six months after my RTA in December 1970. I’ve never regretted it, believing that it was part of a series of actions which eventually led to the demise of Apartheid, a system which challenged everything that our liberal democracy stood for.
    The police took Jo at his word. They went apeshit on the slope below the Tower Mill, removing their badges and clobbering anyone within reach. Any respect I had for the QPS went out the window that day. They were a bunch of out-of-control thugs.
    Jo’s behaviour when he later shafted Whitrod by appointing the criminal Terry Lewis as Assistant Commission against Whitrod’s advice, was also the action of a political thug. We all know where that ended.
    The players may not have been politicians, but seven of them (Called “The Magnificent Seven” at the time), boycotted the tour, putting their personal values before an opportunity to be capped as Wallabys.
    They were Tony Abrahams, Jim Boyce, Paul Darveniza, Terry Forman, Barry McDonald, Jim Roxburgh and Bruce Taafe.

    See: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/union-news/rugbys-magnificent-seven-turned-their-backs-on-ugly-face-of-apartheid-20110820-1j3l9.html#ixzz2MEaSVk39
    By the way, in the interests of historical accuracy, are you sure you were on R & R in 1971? The second tour for 7RAR would have been over by then. I would have thought your R & R (like mine) would have been taken in 1970.

    • Obviously I wasn’t on R & R in 1971 – my mistake.  I was more interested in checking the day of the month rather than the year.  I will edit it.

      I always differentiate between the people leading these protests and the troops in the ranks. I had friends in the moratorium marches – some because they swallowed the communist propaganda espoused by Monash etc but later matured, some because they were sheep and easily led and always would be and one “because that’s where the women were” on the day.

      I would have no objections to a protest march when peaceful and not disruptive to the commercial and social ebb and flow of a city.  Trouble is, the leaders, the anarchists/communists etc don’t want that. They want confrontation with the authorities, they want to physically attack the police and force them to respond, they want to disrupt the city.

      I do have objections to this.  You might have attended for altruistic reasons but many where there just to riot and attack authority.  I too found apartheid untenable but I wouldn’t be seen within cooee of the agitators.  Remember I was regular army charged with maintaining the status quo, not bringing it down by anarchy and rebellion.

      So the police responded – their job is to keep order and if attack is the only way to break up the anarchist thugs and communist agitators then good on ’em. Any reasonable protester would not have confronted the police.

      Like all of us, police are human so I don’t blame them for responding to the vitriol, abuse and missiles thrown at them.




    • I was one of those “Commo bastards”, …..goes without saying 1735099 aka Watermelon man”. 
      The magnificent Seven like most of the peaceful protesters failed to note that a protest march is only as peaceful as the least peaceful attendee.  The minority of troublemakers and their hangers on were recruited by the unions to cause as much disruption as possible and the pyramid method of ringing around the unis to get the numbers to do was well known.  As an attendee at a number of these “protests” I saw first hand the problems the Police faced and understand how when it hit the fan, a number of persons not involved suddenly found themselves in the thick of it.  By the seventies thinking people should have noticed that the rabble attending were actually destroying the method by which lawful, peaceful protest could be held. Even today protesters revert to what was done then and still have not learned that the violence detracts from the goals of the day.  Police are human and in the face of being out numbered by thousands of perceived rioters react, in the same way you were trained to react to ambush,….ATTACK.  in the heat of the confrontation bystanders become involved and especially so at close quarters.  Perhaps you can relate to that. 

  • I won’t doubt your sincerity 1735099 in opposing Apartheid but back then, where you a useful idiot or a Marxist operator? I’m guessing a useful idiot, you would not be alone, lots of my now Liberal voting friends screamed hell at Apartheid unaware of what White South Africans were up against.
    In late 1960s’ and early 1970s’ apart from a rump of absolute bigots ALL white South Africans knew Apartheid had to go and that they held power against the majority illegitimately. The problem was how to dismantle it? Problem NUMBER 1 ““Commo bastards” who had mass influence in the ANC and those who didn’t even bother to hide who they were in the South African Communist Party. In a mass election the communists (who believe in one vote once) would have won the election and created a One Party State straight away, aligned with the then powerful Soviet Union.
    Then behind what would have been effectively a Soviet Satellite bloody revenge against whites for all wrongs, real or imagined would have come about in the form of lynch mobs, not to mention all assets owned overseas lost, all trading lost etc. The USA would have raged against the consequences of open elections in the early 1970’s but in the end they would have stopped short of going war.
    Simply put, had the anti- Apartheid, Anti-Springbok protestors like yourself 1735099 actually succeeded at that time you would have handed the Soviet Union a massive victory over the West and didn’t they know it! They had their operatives entrenched in the Anti-Vietnam and anti- Apartheid movements. The Hard Left knew dam well the very reason Apartheid could not be dismantled was because of the Hard Left but managed to rope in every useful idiot screaming that it be dismantled NOW! Knowing open elections would hand the Soviets a new state.
    All White South Africans could do, even those who held Apartheid as offensive and un-democratic (which it was) was just keep waiting till something came along.
    Something came along for South Africa. The leftist narrative has it that all those brave protestors throwing things and generally behaving like a rabble, finally got Governments together to pressure South Africa to dismantle Apartheid even though those bigoted South Africans didn’t want to (in the Leftist mindset all White South Africans are bigoted) and so they won their noble battle. It was of course nothing of the sort!
    The first that happened was the Evil Empire (Which it truly was) the Soviet Union collapsed so the One Party state alignment risk from elections was gone. It’s just gobsmacking when people don’t link the fall of the Soviet Union to the end of Apartheid as if it were some kind of coincidence!
    The second thing that happened was Nelson Mandela and others re-captured the ANC from “Commo Bastards” and the open “Commo Bastards” like the South African Communist party declined in power and influence. By his stature Nelson Mandela convinced the world that free and open elections would not constitute Sovereign risk in South Africa and for once a Nobel Peace prize was richly deserved.
    “Commo Bastards” may not have created Apartheid but they were the reason it couldn’t go during the Springbok Tours and every protester was either a “Commo Bastards” trying for Communist State or a useful idiot unknowingly trying for a Communist State.
    The outcome for South Africa has been mixed, it has some dreadful crime problems and far too many of its brightest White and Non White emigrate not seeing a future there, but that said, by African standards it’s prosperous and at least basically democratic with the rule of law.             

    • A good summary Ian.  The Left still insist everything was for altruistic reasons never admitting the Soviet influence during those years. Commo bastards and useful idiots generally sums up the crowds but if they were neither then they were guilty of not thinking it through.

    • “where (sic) you a useful idiot or a Marxist operator?”
       Neither. I was a young Australian with a commitment to justice and fairness. Now I’m an old Australian with the same commitment.
       I don’t see the world as a binary division of Left and Right. I do recognize injustice. I have no regard for ideology. 
      “In a mass election the communists (who believe in one vote once) would have won the election and created a One Party State straight away, aligned with the then powerful Soviet Union.”
       That is conjecture, and has no basis in factual history. It comes from looking at the actuality of events though those binary glasses, dividing the world into baddies (commos) and goodies (the rest). It’s at best a juvenile and simplistic perspective.
       To quote Nelson Mandela – “There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us. But who is to say that we were not using them?”
       “The leftist narrative has it that all those brave protestors throwing things and generally behaving like a rabble, finally got Governments together to pressure South Africa to dismantle Apartheid even though those bigoted South Africans didn’t want to”
       Hardly a “leftist narrative”.
      The boycotting of sporting events by international teams had a severe and profound effect on white South Africans who loved their sport (and had the means and time to play it).
      Many would argue that these boycotts had a stronger influence than the trade embargoes did. South Africa’s hosting and winning of the Rugby World Cup in 1995 was seen as a major triumph by South Africans of all races.
      The demise of the Soviet Union had about as much to do with the end of Apartheid as the sinking of the Titanic with Harriet Quimby becoming the first woman pilot to cross the English Channel. These events were contemporaneous, and they both had to do with the ocean. Similarly, the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of Apartheid were broadly contemporaneous, and they both had to do with politics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.