Sunday, 19 April 2009
This horror is brandished as proof of the country’s ancient fears about boat people. We are reliving ugly history.
David Marr SMH 18 April 2009
Don’t we just miss the Howard Years! Not the TV series, that was boring, but the old man himself.
At least that’s the impression given by the eagerness with which cultural warriors from the left have put on their shining suits of armour, saddled up the moral high horse, and gone riding off to battle once again the Evil Liberals as they stir up another Tampa campaign.
Except they aren’t. They may have been tempted but within a few hours, the federal coalition was backing away from what they had been saying, as well as what Barnett had been saying, who was doing a half-hearted job of trying to back away from himself. By the end, Turnbull seems to be saying something about lack of funding being the problem which, before everyone gets too chuffy, was not that far off what Beazley was saying at the time of Tampa.
While not being too fussed if Marr is slandering the coalition, it would be nice if he didn’t include the rest of us as well. The tone running through Marr’s article is that the politicians are playing dangerous games given the depth of latent racism in Australia (from which enlightened individuals like Marr are fortunately immune). The trouble with that view is that it doesn’t explain why Australians normally don’t give a stuff about boatloads of refugees, even some of the times when politicians and the media try to make a big deal of it. Presumably that is why we have to have the ‘tinderbox theory’, i.e. that sure, the Australian public may normally look passive, inert, but actually is ready to explode into racist flames should an irresponsible politician (you know who) light the match.
There is no doubt that race plays a role in Australian political discourse both in international and domestic affairs. But that is the consequence of a weak state and a political class that habitually has to employ the tricky (especially these days) tactic of posing issues on racial lines, rather than because of any deep-seated ‘ancient’ (eh?) fears in the Australian public. It is why any pol sci student out there who really wants to understand the Australian state should first get to grips with the indigenous question. Since we are talking about the state, the assumptions behind this run deep in the political class and its commentators, and, as we saw with the child abuse beat-up in the NT two years ago, can catch out even our brightest intellectuals, some of whom thought there was a problem in other regions as well. Anyway, if it so easy to exploit anti-refugee feeling for political gain, why don’t the coalition just go for it and turn around their lousy poll ratings?
Actually, if one wants to nit-pick, Rudd’s response about the evils of people smugglers isn’t that great either. Let’s be up-front to the Australian people here: no-one really thinks people-smuggling is evil. It’s just a way of saying shame about all those refugees coming over, but in a right-on way while they are lying in hospital with third degree burns. After all, it is quite easy to put an end to people smuggling and send them out of business. Simply despatch the Australian Navy to Indonesia, pick up the refugees and bring them safely back to Australian shores where they can be quickly allowed to enter Australian society. Sorry. Silly suggestion.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Sunday, 19 April 2009.Filed under Media analysis