Athletics: Aussie sprinter gets posthumous apology

Peter Norman, left, stands during the US national anthem as American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos extend their gloved hands skyward in racial protest. Photo / AP
Peter Norman, left, stands during the US national anthem as American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos extend their gloved hands skyward in racial protest. Photo / AP

Federal parliament has apologised to late Australian sprinter Peter Norman for the way he was treated after participating in a "black power'' salute at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh said it was disappointing that it was not until after Norman's death in 2006 that Australia had realised the impact he made toward racial equality.

At Dr Leigh's insistence, the lower house on Thursday moved a motion recognising Norman's athletic prowess, his bravery and that apologised for his exclusion from the 1972 Munich Games and his treatment in years afterwards.

After winning silver in the 200m in Mexico - in 20.06 seconds, which remains the Australian record - Norman stood in solidarity with his fellow medallists, US athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, at the medal ceremony as they gave the "black power'' salute.

All three were widely vilified at the time for using the Olympic arena to make a political statement.

But Dr Leigh said Australia now recognised Norman's inspirational role.

The motion was seconded by independent MP Rob Oakeshott, who backed talks to commission a statue in Norman's honour.

It could potentially replicate the statue in San Jose, California, where visitors can stand in Norman's place on the dais.

"That would be a fitting tribute somewhere in Australia,'' Mr Oakeshott said.

The independent MP had a say in a number of private member motions on Thursday, although his own - calling for the states to get more GST revenue for roads - got shut down, even with the support of ex-Labor MP Craig Thomson.

On a motion recognising Australia-Serbia relations, Mr Oakeshott got to his feet to praise everyone who was involved at a function for the Serbian ambassador on Tuesday.

It was hosted by Peter Slipper in the Speaker's courtyard the day the besieged parliamentarian stepped down from the role.

"That could have very easily gone off the rails,'' Mr Oakeshott said.

"But to the Serbian ambassador and to everyone in the chamber who made that work, I say: hats off to you all.''

- AAP

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