I’ve been told that a photo of me giving the finger to 1981 anti-tour protesters is to be auctioned in Auckland and that this non-event made television news. For God’s sake; that’s news!
Apparently it’s among a collection of photos from the 1981 Springbok tour protest, led by some of the worst hypocrites in our post-war history. But first, let’s get some facts right about the photograph.
The 1981 election was the last one up until the 2014 election when I voted National. That year the Nats came up with a fund-raising idea called “The Night of the Jones”. This comprised MP Norm Jones, one of Parliament’s great characters at the time, MP Dail Jones who’d become famous after being stabbed by a madman upset over a traffic fine, and me. We toured the country presenting a light-hearted comedy act (which was actually a bit corny) to fun nights black tie National Party dinners.
The photo shows me arriving for the Auckland function where I found a huge mob of anti-tour protestors. Why? Because they’d heard Rob Muldoon would be attending and they were there to give him a round of abuse.
When I emerged they decided to have a practise run on me. I did not take kindly to that and as in those days I wasn’t averse to banging the occasional left-hook on the deserving, I advanced on them. Like all mobs they were cowards and retreated. The photo shows me telling them that and giving them the finger. Thereafter the pic’ was used in their various post-tour “weren’t we wonderful” self-congratulatory books, albeit having nothing to do with the issue.
But apart from that photo deceit why do I say they were hypocrites?
Because 6 years later another coward, the thug Rabuka, a Fijian military flea with the brains of an oyster, marched into Fiji’s parliament with a bunch of his balaclava clad so-called soldiers, bearing guns and took over and formed a dictatorship. His sole target was the majority Indian population and the newly elected, predominately Indian supported Party led by Tim Bavadra, a Fijian. Rabuka then introduced anti-Indian legislation. Today as a result Indians are a minority in Fiji as so many fled, mainly to New Zealand.
A few months later a Fijian rugby team toured here. But where were the 1981 protestors? Not one made a single protest at this neighbouring nation’s now racial apartheid system and it’s rugby tour here. But I’ll tell you who did. Me.
The Fijian Embassy was in one of my buildings. I told them to bugger off as the lease was with the legal government which they no longer represented. This led to an injunction on me to desist, pending a (then) Supreme Court decision on the validity of my assertion.
The issue was clear-cut nevertheless the Court ordered Foreign Affairs to make a declaration. They asked the British Foreign Office for advice which provided no relief, the Brits basically taken a pragmatic approach of each case on its merits.
All of this dragged out over several months during which once each month TV news showed me presenting Tim Bavandra, the now exiled to Wellington, deposed Prime Minister with a cheque representing the embassy’s rental, this to support funding his protest. Meantime Rabuka kept threatening to sue me for libel for repeatedly saying he’d failed School Certificate three years in a row, but despite my saying bring it on, he never did.
It all came to a head when I found myself sitting with our Foreign Minister Russell Marshall at the cricket in Christchurch. Russell is a good bloke, indeed I’d happily participated in a fund-raiser for him about 1980 in Wanagnui where I debated with some unionists.
I gave him a bollocking about the stalling over the Fijian Embassy occupancy and reminded him of his Red Reverent (as he was known) days speaking out against apartheid and such-like.
He was honest, admitted the inconsistency and said, as so many idealists have found once in office, that it’s easy to advocate things when you don’t have to execute them, but a different story when you’re responsible and must give consideration to other aspects.
Anyway, that settled things and I decided to resolve things the Fijian way. So back in Wellington I told the Embassy personnel they represent a government that believes in violence. Accordingly, if they’re not out in a fortnight I will deliver some in the form of some very large Samoans. They went.
But I say it again. The leaders of the 1981 anti-apartheid protestors here were the most appalling hypocrites given their non-appearance on the streets with the identical Fijian situation.
Where was John Minto, otherwise known as the Screaming Skull during the Fijian tour? He certainly hadn’t hung up his megaphone for out it came regularly thereafter with his ragtag group of hanger-ons. He reached the pits when he stood outside Auckland’s wonderful annual tennis tournament screaming abuse at a 16-year-old Israeli girl player, she apparently being single-handedly responsible for the woes of the middle east.
That was the final straw and I went for him with well-justified ridicule. He wasn’t used to criticism and whimpered some protests before eventually running off to Christchurch. There he’s resumed, with predictable failure, his attention-seeking, only now through local government office.
One of the ironies of the 1981 protest were the number of maori rugby fans angered by it, something the media knew but were terribly dishonest in ignoring.
Here’s an example. Committed to being the speaker for a Saturday night charity fund-raiser dinner in Hamilton, the organisers asked whether my wife and I would like to go to the Waikato-Springbok match that day. With nothing better to do we agreed and witnessed the protester pitch invasion and so on. When it was called off we left and emerged into the protestors rioting outside, tipping over buses and so on. The police tried to resist but were hugely out-numbered. All of this was led by a bellowing megaphone blow-hard. Abruptly he shut up whereupon a minute later a policeman grabbed me saying his boss wants to speak to me and I was duly taken to him.
“Jonesy, get your mate out of here. We saw nothing”.
“Who?” I asked.
“Kahu Mahunga”, he said pointing to a respectable looking chap.
Bloody hell! I hadn’t seen Kahu in two decades. He was a former professional middleweight boxer and beyond question, the hardest punching boxer in our history, even moreso than Tua. Apparently with one blow he silenced the megaphone blow-hard and the protestors, fearful of being next, went into retreat.
But here’s the salient point. On Monday morning we drove down to Turangi for a week’s fishing in the Tongariro.
Reaching Tokoroa we came to a halt before a massive disturbance in which seemingly the whole population of that mainly maori town were marching in protest about calling off the Saturday match.
The media totally ignored this as it didn’t fit their sympathies but it had a funny denouement for a few months later on election night, along with Sir John (Jack) Marshall and then Labour Party President Jim Anderton I was a panellist commentator.
Unsurprisingly it soon became clear that a huge shift was underway and a change of government about to occur as National’s marginals were falling to Labour.
Jack loathed Muldoon and waxed on about his awfulness being responsible while Jim was in full smug, laid back mode. Then it was my turn. I predicted National would hang on as against the trend they’d actually win a seat from Labour, namely Taupo.
This seemed ludicrous as the Labour incumbent was a good bloke. But the Taupo seat then comprised two components, specifically Taupo and Tokoroa and I knew from what I’d seen that normally Labour voting Tokoroa would turn on Labour, as they did, giving their vote to the Social Credit nutter. Had the media not dishonestly supressed news of the Tokaroa protest Labour would have campaigned hard there, held the seat and won the election.
Did the world-wide protests and boycotted help end apartheid in South Africa? Of course.
My complaint though is that much of it was simply fashionable behaviour, as in New Zealand borne out by the hypocrisy re Fiji.
And so too elsewhere. Mass protests are common-place these days but invariably about the protester’s own self-interest. Protests such as against Israel always involved a relatively small number. What occurred here in 1981 was not the great historic virtuous action as its ring-leaders try and represent it, such as with the sale of photos of the tour, including one of me that had absolutely nothing to do with the issue. Turning a blind eye to the Fijian rugby tour proved that.