Our na­tion’s be­com­ing a fair dinkum dis­grace

Sunday Mail - - OPINION -

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.

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