Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Just who is un-Australian?

It's the new term of chastisement, but what exactly does it mean, asks Hugh Mackay.

"The melancholy truth is that it has, indeed, been Australian to persist with a policy of indefinite and even brutal mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Our Government has been doing it for years with broad community support, so we might as well accept that it is a characteristically Australian act. In fact, it's so characteristic of us that some other countries, including Britain, are now examining ways of adopting the "Australian" model of mandatory detention."

Now, why should we be surprised that we have race riots in the suburbs? Perhaps, like our apathy toward the suffering of asylum seekers, racism is Australian too. Certainly I can confirm racist values figured large in my experience of growing up in Australia's colony, Papua. I've often wondered how the Australian polity would have responded to our indigenous population if they were in proportionate numbers to the blacks in South Africa. Would we have had 'apartheid' or something worse? What would have been the Australian thing to do? I suspect I know what our Aboriginal citizens might say....

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