Saturday, November 21, 2015

Global opinion is against Australia. Do we know how far we've fallen?

Paola Totaro The Guardian November 19, 2015

A change of leadership has calmed things down at home, but abroad Australia is still seen as the lucky, rich, cruel country. Perhaps it’s time to revisit our history

There was a time, not so long ago, when being Australian brought with it a frisson of pride and, dare I say it, quiet superiority.

Young, modern, proudly multicultural, we saw ourselves as a nation of free thinkers, open minded and open hearted about sexual orientation and race.

As travelers to Europe and the UK, there was a sense of great freedom and smugness being an Aussie: class differences? Pfft, not us. And have you seen the size of Sydney’s Mardi Gras? Migrants brought the best food and coffee in the world – from Italy to Vietnam, Greece to Iran. You name it, we’ve got it. (OK, sport hasn’t always been a source of national pride.)

If you were an immigrant kid growing up in Australia, life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses but you could be sure that someone would quickly take your place as the underdog in the playground. First it was the Chinese then the Italians and Greeks, then came the Vietnamese and Cambodians who were followed by the Lebanese and Pacific Islanders who were followed by … well, you get the picture.

A nation built on wave after wave of immigration, Australia was quick to acknowledge and respond to the roadblocks of systemic discrimination. It’s easy to forget that in 1978, the New South Wales became the first state to launch a Commission of Inquiry (disclaimer – led by my dad) to root out built-in obstacles and replace them with policies to promote harmony and diversity…………

Australia’s human rights policies were last week singled out for criticism by no fewer than 100 countries, 61 of them focusing on Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum. Among them are key allies including the US, the UK, Germany and France…….

Perhaps it is time not only to remind ourselves of the stultifying effects of our geographic isolation but to demand an end to the kind of expedient foreign and immigration policy that allows both sides of politics to wreak such damage on society itself.

In 2015, the inescapable fact is that there are close to 60 million displaced men, women and children seeking a home. Of course as Australians, it matters how we are perceived by the rest of the world. But what we choose to do matters much, much more.

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