Our nation’s becoming a fair dinkum disgrace
HAS Australia lost its moral compass? On Thursday, when I heard that Labor Senator Sam Dastyari had been called a “terrorist” and a “monkey” and told to go back to Iran, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
In Australia’s current climate, why wouldn’t a group of far right thugs feel emboldened to harass, belittle and racially vilify an outspoken politician in a Melbourne university bar?
That’s free speech at its basest level, folks – the kind that’s championed by right-wing politicians and commentators and carried out by men who stage mock beheadings and drape Aussie flags over coffins. God bless Australia.
From Manus Island, we know that cruelty has long been sanctioned as a necessary evil in bipartisan Australian immigration policy. True, it’s one policy that’s actually working for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull right now, by stopping boats that might bring brown people (and maybe even terrorists) to our shores.
Never mind that, in the process, we’ve condemned hundreds of innocent men to interminable misery and have now even cut off power, food and water in their detention camp in the hope that they sod off and become Papua New Guinea’s problem.
Despite the horror on Manus, I disagree with politicians like the Greens’ Adam Bandt labelling IN THE wake of our 99th Remembrance Day, I want to share something I learnt at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. When the last Anzacs were leaving Gallipoli in the December 1915 evacuation, they covered their boots in cloth to muffle the sound of their footsteps from the Turks.
To divert the Turks’ attention from the evacuation, our troops also held a cricket match near the shore but it was abandoned Immigration Minister Peter Dutton a “terrorist” because it makes the highly provocative word free game for everyone.
Back on home soil, we have Senator Pauline Hanson using Parliament as her personal burqa test-drive chamber and LNP candidates in Queensland trying to out-Hanson One Nation with leaflets that claim minority groups are attacking Australian values.
What Australian values would they be, I wonder? Bullying? Opportunism? A fair go if you’re white? And, of course, we’ve had the same-sex marriage survey in which 10 per cent of the population has been forced to endure a “civilised debate” about whether their right to civil marriage in a secular society will lead to bigamy, poor outcomes for children and sick when shells landed nearby. It’s fitting then, that RAAF Edinburgh personnel are taking part in a charity cricket match at Payneham Cricket Oval from 10am today. All money raised will help to fund the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation and its Victor Harbor Beach House project for terminally ill children and their families.
Entry is by folded-currency donation, so head along with a picnic to support a great cause. stuff being taught in schools. The marriage equality conversation that Australia had to have didn’t merely sanction intolerance, at the highest levels our politicians have encouraged and endorsed it: “Speak your mind people – it’s OK to say NO!”
So forgive me if I roll my eyes at Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rushing to condemn Wednesday night’s racist verbal attack on Mr Dastyari.
These men have presided over the most dysfunctional, divisive and disheartening era that I can remember in Australian politics, an era that began with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard (with the heavy involvement of Mr Shorten) and continues with Turnbull and Tony Abbott. We hear that the dualcitizenship issue is a crisis in Australian politics. I actually think that’s the least of our problems.
Our country is being led by a man who doesn’t appear to believe in half the policies he sells us, and the leadership alternatives on both sides go from “meh” to downright miserable. Self-serving. Manipulative. Power at any cost. That’s how our political class is viewed today.
How can these people expect tolerance from us when they’re so quick to be partisan or divisive or combative when it suits them?
So here we are, seemingly rudderless and increasingly intolerant about everyone and everything except the freedom to say what we want, even if it hurts other people who don’t have the power to defend themselves.
Who knew the price of free speech in a democracy was empathy? So I come back to my original question: Has Australia lost its moral compass? No, not yet.
Our politicians might be letting the team down but most Australians still know right from wrong. Hopefully, on Wednesday, we’ll see that in the results of the same-sex marriage survey.
But let’s look on the bright side. We’re not led by a man who tweets instead of sleeps. And in Australia the right to free speech isn’t paired with the right to bear a semiautomatic rifle.