Nick Place
at the Crikey sports desk

It’s lucky Australia
is not a racist country, as the Prime Minister has assured us, because
otherwise we’d be concerned about the latest charges of Australians using
racist taunts against “people who aren’t like us.”

Full credit to South Africa’s Makhaya Ntini, along with Garnett Kruger, Shaun Pollock, Justin
Kemp and Ashwell Prince, for complaining loudly and officially about racist
taunts from the crowd during the First Test in Perth.

While it no doubt remains a minority within
the crowd that descends to such levels, we need to be embarrassed as a nation.
We need to face up to the fact that the majority sits on its collective hands
and allows such blatant racism to occur. And that starts with a Prime Minister
who appears to have his head buried in the sand.

Maybe cricket-loving Howard should ask
himself why the world’s second-best ever spinner, Sri Lankan Muttiah
Muralitharan, has chosen not to compete in Australia.
Perhaps he could phone anybody from Brian Lara to former English fast bowler
Gladstone Small and ask if they’ve had any comments about their race while
lucky enough to be enjoying Australian hospitality.

Ricky Ponting did exactly the right thing yesterday by
striding onto the front foot and declaring categorically: “There is no room in
sport for racism, whatsoever.”

He was supported by members of both the Australian and
South African teams who pledged their united dismay at such boundary line

The AFL has worked tirelessly,
to its credit, to stamp out on-field racist taunts, but you only need to stand
behind the goals at the MCG on a day when an indigenous player like Jeff Farmer is
having a big day to see how depressingly quickly elements of the crowd decide
the best way to heckle is by combining skin colour and unsavoury language.

With a wider racism agenda running in Australia, can
we really hope that athletes from different cultures or non-white skin
colouring will receive the human respect they deserve?

Wouldn’t it be nice to think Australia was
capable of that. Then again, isn’t it lucky that the Second Test isn’t being
played in Cronulla.