SA premier defends hosting Saudi-backed LIV Golf, calling critics ‘establishment monopolist forces’

SA premier defends hosting Saudi-backed LIV Golf, calling critics ‘establishment monopolist forces’

The South Australian premier has attacked “establishment monopolist forces” in golf as he defended his state’s willingness to host the controversial Saudi-backedLIV Golf tournament.

Peter Malinauskas said it was an “unparalleled” opportunity for the state, but the former senator Rex Patrick, a critic of the Saudi regime, said taxpayers’ money should not be used to “assist foreign leaders wash away unconscionable acts such as the murdering of a journalist for doing his job”, referring to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

LIV Golf, which is led by the golfing great Greg Norman, has reportedly received US$2bn from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Norman has been heavily criticised for skating over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and the Khashoggi murder in particular.

Malinauskas has not revealed how much it cost to lure the tournament to SA, but said it would bring an economic benefit to the state.

Patrick said: “While this will bring activity to SA, it will also bring a stain.”

The SA Greens MLC Tammy Franks said in parliament earlier this month that the tournament was a “large-scale effort to sports wash Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and improve its global image”.

“Human rights organisations have accused those in power in Saudi Arabia of sports washing – that is, using top level sports to distract from their human rights violations,” she said.

After announcing that SA had secured the deal, Malinauskas was asked why he was happy to back the tournament, a breakaway from the dominant US PGA Tour, when he had been critical of investment with Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

Malinauskas said that was “an entirely illegitimate comparison” because Saudi Arabia was Australia’s trading partner and there were defence agreements between the two nations, and said people shouldn’t be “instantly buying” the arguments about the country.

“I’m very conscious of the arguments that the establishment monopolist forces in golf try and push around for their own benefit. I’m more interested in the facts,” he said.

“I think what Australians are focused on is having an internationalist view of the world which maximises the economic benefit in an appropriate way for the people of our country and our state but … I encourage a moment of pause, of caution and a rational analysis of basic facts.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for our state and our country in a way that is utterly appropriate, and one that we’ve got an obligation to pursue, rather than the opposite.”

In May Amnesty International declared Norman “wrong and seriously misguided” over comments he made about the murder of Khashoggi, the US-based journalist, who was killed and dismembered in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.

Amnesty UK’s head of campaigns, Felix Jaken, said the Saudi regime’s human rights record was “an abomination” and that the LIV Golf series was “yet one more event in a series of sports-washing exercises that the Saudi authorities are using to clean its blood-soaked image”.

Norman said on Monday he considered a range of courses across Australia, but South Australia’s The Grange ticked all the right boxes for the three-day tournament in April.

“There is massive potential for Australia to play a bigger role in this great sport, and I couldn’t be more excited to showcase Adelaide for our League’s debut year,” he said.