Straight-talking the Aussie way

County View

Straight-talking the Aussie way

Australians, to put it mildly, don’t mince their words and the trait of shooting from the hip is much admired in public life down under.
The present Prime Minister, John Howard, was returned to office for a third successive term three years ago, totally against the odds and contrary to all predictions.
His success was put down to a shameless playing of the racist card. A month before his election, his government risked international outrage by preventing two boat-loads of refugees from landing on Australian soil. Their boats were left adrift on the high seas while for two weeks the Howard government prevaricated about the outcome; finally, it was decided to despatch the asylum seekers to the remote Kiribati islands of the Pacific.
Whatever about the ethics of the decision, it did wonders for Mr Howard, who was returned to office on a tidal wave of support.
Now, with another general election in the offing the question is whether the same tactic will work all over again. Mr Howard clearly thinks it will. A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged their loyalty to Australia in a special meeting with the Prime Minister, he made it clear that those with extremist views could look to some tough treatment.John Howard
The country’s Treasurer and Howard’s heir apparent, Peter Costello, wasted no words in his call to radical clerics.
“If our values are not your values; if you want a country which has Sharia Law or a theoretic state, then Australia is not the place for you,” he said on TV.
“I say to those clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian Law and the other the Islamic Law, you have it wrong. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts and democracy, but would prefer Sharia Law, then it would be a better option to go to another country where Sharia is practised,” he explained.
The Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, was even more concise. “Basically, people who don’t want to be Australians, and who don’t want to live by Australian values and understand them, well they can basically clear off.”
As a gauge of Australian public opinion, the Ministerial comments seem to have got it just right. The media and the internet have taken up the case with gusto, with a torrent of calls – many of them prompted by the terrorist attacks on Bali – for discontented Muslims to take their leave of the country.
“This is our country, our land, and our lifestyle, and we will give you every opportunity to enjoy it,” said one, “but when you are done complaining, whining and griping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs and our way of life, then I advise you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom – the right to leave.”
“We didn’t ask you come here,” said another. “If you’re not happy here, then leave. You asked to be here, so better accept the country that accepted you.”
“We will accept your beliefs, and we won’t question why, as long as you accept ours and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us,” went another comment.
“Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian right wing political push, but a fact of life. Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home. Because God is part of our culture.”
The traffic, however, has not all been one-way. Civil Rights campaigners across the continent have been warning of a racist backlash in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and now agree that the Government is deliberately stoking the fire in its own electoral interest. Moderate Muslims, as well as other immigrant groupings, are being targeted in what they say is a cynical political exercise.
They may well be right. But anybody who has observed the way John Howard plays the political game knows well that they are wasting their time.

UNAMBIGUOUS
Australian Prime Minister, John Howard