Honest History list: boozing cricketers/boozing Anzac

Australian cricketers’ booze-soaked celebrations (here, here) after winning the World Cup provoked some commentary. Michael Thorn, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, noted not only the focus on alcohol-fuelled celebration by team members and by commentator and ex-cricketer, Shane Warne, but also the unfavourable reaction that had followed.

Our children deserve better [Thorn said]. They deserve to aspire to stand on a podium that’s not soaked with alcohol and emblazoned with alcohol logos. They deserve to be inspired by sporting role models who are more than walking, talking alcohol billboards.

Ian Webster, an emeritus professor of health, wrote of how the game of cricket had been ‘subverted by money and alcohol’. John Menadue wrote about the gracelessness of the current Australian team and their high salaries.

April 2015 is a good month to be looking at the ramifications of alchohol in Australia. Booze and Anzac have always been closely connected – dawn service and remembrance in the morning, two-up (if anyone knows the rules) and plenty of beer in the afternoon – and commercial interests have taken advantage. Among others, Carolyn Holbrook noted the current Governor-General’s 2012 efforts on behalf of commemoration, charity and a multinational brewing company.

James Brown in his book Anzac’s Long Shadow (chapter 6) juxtaposed Cosgrove’s Raise a Glass involvement in 2012 with the Hamilton Report from the year before, which concluded that ‘there was a high prevalence of drinking at hazardous levels [in the Australian Defence Force driven by] the use of alcohol in rituals and celebrations’, as well as the use of alcohol in response to the ‘pressures, stress, trauma and grief associated with Defence activities’. The Hamilton panel concluded that it

is very aware of the significant value associated with the promotion of any product associated with the ADF; especially in context of iconic national symbolic events, people, days or operations such as “Anzac” associations, and strongly urges extreme care with allowing this to be used by a voracious/rapacious industry that is extremely experienced in positioning alcohol products with high-status Australian icons in promoting their products.

Brown went on:

The high-profile military figures, war widows and charities supporting the Raise a Glass campaign did so for honourable reasons, including the rare opportunity to raise so much money for veterans. But at what cost? The campaign is a clear and concerning attempt to tie a commercial brand to Anzac Day.

Suzy Freeman-Greene in The Age had also criticised the Cosgrove advertisement in 2012. No-one seems to be listening. There is an Anzac advertisement for Victoria Bitter to show during National Rugby League games and, no doubt, an Australian Football League one coming. A week ago, Carlton and United Breweries launched its ’emotive television commercial’ for this year’s Raise a Glass effort. The commercial was filmed at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne with a cast of 338 men representing the dead of the 16th Battalion at Gallipoli.

CUB this year is giving $1 million from Raise a Glass to the RSL and Legacy. CUB’s owner, SAB Miller, the world’s second largest brewer, had revenues of $US 22 billion in the year ended March 2014.

The booze industry-sport-Anzackery. Join the dots. There are other dots, too, such as teenage binge drinking, domestic violence, misogyny and obesity. What are the connections? Perhaps some of the public and private money going to the centenary of Anzac might be diverted to an effort to find out.

5 April 2015

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