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From pugilism to politics: will Mundine will stand at the next election?

The World Today - Friday, 11 August , 2006 12:42:00 Reporter: Conor Duffy Reports on Anthony Mundine and the Rally on the Block.

ELEANOR HALL: Will he or won't he take the plunge? Champion boxer Anthony Mundine last night did everything but confirm that he wants to stand at the next New South Wales election.

The former rugby league player tested the political waters by showing up to a protest over the future of the inner Sydney indigenous housing area known as "The Block".

Mundine says he's so angered by a State Government move to limit Aboriginal development of the area that he's considering acting on his objections by running as an independent.

Conor Duffy went to the protest last night for The World Today.


CONOR DUFFY: Traditional sounds rang out around the Redfern Police Station last night as about 400 people gathered to fight for what's known as the block.

To some it's a ghetto, plagued by problems with drugs and rioting, but for Mick Mundine, the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company, it's been home for 30 years. He says the block won't be surrendered.

MICK MUNDINE: I think they'll fight tooth and nail because it's not even a black and white issue anymore, it's a people issue its the community that's really struggling and we got to really, you know, all stand up together and treat one another as human beings, because it's a community issue now.

CONOR DUFFY: The Aboriginal Housing Company which owns the land says the Minister for Redfern Frank Sartor and the State Government are trying to block a community development known as the Pemulwuy project.

Director Peter Valilis says the development will include business and housing opportunities that will turn the area around.

PETER VALISIS: It will be 62 homes, 20 of those for rental, 42 of those for Aboriginal home ownership, the first time available in Redfern.


CONOR DUFFY: He says if the State Government controls the future of the site it will be the end of an experiment in self-determination that began under Gough Whitlam.

Time may be running out though as the New South Wales Government is expected to make a decision opposing the development within the week.

The protestors say they want to make the Government pay at the next State election and they've enlisted the high profile help of Anthony Mundine.

ANTHONY MUNDINE: As I've showed you and I'm going to continue to show you, we can be the best of the best and we just need a little light, and what this project is going to bring a lot of good for the community and now they're saying they can't do it.

CONOR DUFFY: After walking through back alleys and around park fires, Mundine rose to address an appreciative crowd.

ANTHONY MUNDINE: Obviously there's a lot of racism and despicable acts going on within the Government, especially with Frank Sartor, I'm not afraid to say it. I feel he's a racist bigot and I'm going to tell him how it is.


CONOR DUFFY: The World Today contacted Frank Sartor's office, but a spokeswoman said the Minister wouldn't comment on the allegation.

Anthony Mundine though didn't hold back, telling the crowd the future of Aboriginal self-determination is at stake and promising the development would be stopped.

ANTHONY MUNDINE: We purchased this land and now they want to try and come into our home and our place and say what we can and cannot do with it, and kick us out. Well, how would they like it if me and a few of the boys from The Block went to their place?

(Laughter and applause)

CONOR DUFFY: While he was talking tough, the boxer appeared less certain about a political future. He'd been widely tipped to announce he would run at the next election as an independent.

He was introduced to the rally as a civil rights leader in the mould of American Malcolm X, who was also a Muslim and was viewed as more inflammatory than leaders like Martin Luther King.

Uncharacteristically shy, Anthony Mundine failed to confirm his political candidacy in his speech and refused to do so afterwards.

ANTHONY MUNDINE: Oh I'm not sure man, my passion you know, obviously is fighting for my people's pride and Aboriginal affairs. I'm heading down that road but I don't know what's going to happen, you know.

CONOR DUFFY: The man behind Mundine's campaign, Peter Valisis from the Aboriginal Housing Company, says the boxer wants to talk to other political parties before running as an independent.

Mr Valisis is adamant the famous sportsman will soon announce he's entering the world of politics.

PETER VALISIS: Anthony will announce it when he's ready, but he didn't say he wasn't going to run for Parliament, as you heard Lyall Munro is supporting him for Parliament and I think it's going to happen, mate, I've got it from the horse's mouth, it's going to happen.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Peter Valisis from the Aboriginal Housing Company ending that report from Conor Duffy.

And we'll know for sure whether Anthony Mundine is serious about politics early next year, with the New South Wales elections to be held on the last weekend of March. But Anthony Mundine says at this stage his next fight will be a boxing bout in November.