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December 13, 2005

Time to go, John Howard

The current second top search on Technorati right now is for Cronulla, the beachside suburb where the escalating racial tensions and violence first broke out two days ago. Earlier today it was the top search subject. This reflects the significant impact of and interest in this story in the blog world.

Meanwhile, Google News, which tracks stories in mainstream online media, has this as the second top story in the world, with over 900 stories in most of the major world newspapers and organisations. Bigger than the explosions in London, the political assassination in Lebanon.

And what does our Prime Minister have to say after three days of consideration, and ensuing violence and tension, the worst we have seen here for decades?

"He said the riots would have no long-term effect on Australia's international reputation."
"I would earnestly encourage and ask people to not take any notice of that sort of nonsense"
smh online

That's it? "Ignore it and it will go away!" Characterise it as "domestic dischord", and stick your head in the sand. Fine fine leadership. Especially as it now appears to be spreading to other cities in Australia.

Howard has never been a leader. He is a craven self serving politician, willing to sacrifice the best in our country for his personal ambitions, to lie repeatedly, take Australia to an illegal war, increasing the risk to all of us, here and abroad, and pander to the baser instincts in our society.

None of which esteems him for the role of leader of this country.

But the denial in the face of the obvious reality that a decade of winking at and pandering to xenophobia in this county has lead to ugly ugly violence, on all sides, is too much. Howard must go - both for the decade long lead up to this result, and to his complete lack of responsibility now it is occurring - given he's again off overseas while parts of the biggest city in the country burn, and racist violence spreads to other parts of the country.

Oh, and if you think I am a Howard hater, you are right - I hate what his "leadership" has done to this country. What a wasted decade.

Sadly, we have no alternate leadership, no vision waiting to step in and replace this corrupted, tired old lot. That's a genuine national tragedy.

And, if you think I am overreacting, read this eye witness account, then try and spin this as domestic dischord, a law and order problem, or some other nice way of avoiding the term "racist mob".

Technorati tags Racism Cronulla Sydney

December 13, 2005 in things I believe | Permalink


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As always John, you have hit the nail on the head. Since education in this country has been devalued financially and is no longer promoted as an essential part of growing but instead a privilege, true leadership (ie leading by good example) is needed more than ever. The 15 year olds who participated in the violence would have no real knowledge of any "government" except this mean-spirited and small-minded one. And let's not forget the role played by the media, in particular little Johnny's little parrot, Alan Jones.

I look at the photo in today's Herald of the mob with hands unanimously raised in what look awfully like Nazi salutes and think that, without proper leadership and education, these kids are the SS of the future.

Let's replace horrible little Johnny with a better John - I nominate John Allsopp for the job! (Sorry Bare...)

Posted by: Deb Lander | Dec 13, 2005 9:27:11 PM

Let's see.

John Howard actually stated more than two lines about the 'race riot'. You only need to pick up a newspaper and see for yourself.

The eye witness account proves nothing except there was racist behaviour at Cronulla. It does not disprove any other cause suggested by many others besides John Howard.

You're failing to address the issues that are causing these riots and are just providing a biased, simplistic opinion. These posts are like a broken down record, repeating the mantra of 'I hate Howard', and then making disconnected claims.

Posted by: Dale | Dec 13, 2005 11:41:30 PM


Posted by: Sean Hogan | Dec 13, 2005 11:42:03 PM

I saw a news report over here on Sky and watched some guy say, without even the vaguest sense of the irony he was displaying, about how these people should "go home where they came from" and "leave our land". Perhaps that oh-so eloquent person should ask himself his his white-skinned body got there and then question why he has more right to be there than a Lebanese person who probably had to jump through hoops to justify his right of abode, rather than just being born lucky.

I have to say, John, that as much as I love Australia (spent enough time there), the patriotism of some of the people there really does leave a nasty taste at times. And you're right, John Howard is a fool to only pay it lip service. Take a look at what happened in Paris recently - problems like this *don't* go away by themselves.

Posted by: Ian Lloyd | Dec 14, 2005 3:36:21 AM

Good post, and the eye witness account was extremely disturbing.

I'm just trying to research some of the quotes. Do you have a source for "I would earnestly encourage and ask people to not take any notice of that sort of nonsense"

Posted by: Jordan Brock | Dec 14, 2005 9:50:38 AM


sorry, the attribution was actually there, but I screwed up the HTML - its fixed now. That's what 20 0hours without sleep will do to you :-)


Posted by: john Allsopp | Dec 14, 2005 10:16:38 AM


I am genuinely confused. I can understand Howard and the liberal party spinning this, afterall, its their political heartland.

But could you explain to me, without resorting to the liberal party talking points, what's ok about a group of several thousand people, idenifying as "Aussies" gathering together for the specific pupose of "bashing Lebs" (quotes from a widely distributed and then published SMS doing the rounds LAST WEEK). What's ok about these people appropriatginjg the symbols of our nation - the flag, the national anthem "Australians ALL", psuedo anthems like Waltzing Matilda, and rather ugly sporting chants like "Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi" - reminiscent of skin head chants. What's OK about declaring because you are from a certain ethnic group that you own a suburn or aboveall a beach? And what's ok about our Prime Minister, pretending to be critical, but in reality legitimating this behavior - recognising "greivances" (but then claiming not to know what they are)?

Geniunely interested


Posted by: john Allsopp | Dec 14, 2005 10:34:08 AM


I don't know what the "liberal party talking points" are, so I'll just reply.

I can't explain what's OK about the race riots that happened in Cronulla. They're not OK. I haven't stated or suggested they are OK. Nor has anyone else of any consequence.

I'm just not impressed by your need to blame this entirely on John Howard, ignoring other causes that have been quoted in the media. For example, a large number of Australians probably are racist and are happy to participate in an alcohol enhanced riot with large numbers of other Australians, or that ethnic gangs may have intimidated people and this was why the general community were at Cronulla until the mob arrived, or that State authorities like the Police haven't done enough to control gang intimidation in these areas over time, or other reasons as suggested in newspapers over the last few days.

I don't agree either with your or Maxine's theory that John Howard is encouraging this behaviour by being vague in criticising the riots. Yes, politicians are vague about things to avoid committing to something. I know that. But I don't believe that's the case here. He has stated the riots are wrong, he has stated that he doesn't believe Australia is an entirely racist country, and that Cronulla residents may have actual grievances (newspaper reports suggest so).

The supposed vagueness you and Maxine criticise is Howard's attempt to recognise both sides faults in this situation without inflaming the situation, and to condemn the violence and racism.

I don't believe Howard could make a specific statement about the grievances in this situation. It is essentially a State issue over which he has no direct control. As well, specific allegations at this time would only inflame the situation.

I'd be interested in reading the public statement you'd make in this situation given you're not the State Premier and have no power/authority, you're trying to calm Australians, condemn violence, not inflame either the ethnic community or racist Australians or aggrieved parties, and let our non-Anglo Saxon neighbours know we're not all like the mob they're seen and read about.

Posted by: Dale | Dec 14, 2005 4:17:47 PM

"And, if you think I am overreacting, read this eye witness account, then try and spin this as domestic dischord, a law and order problem, or some other nice way of avoiding the term "racist mob"."

I don't think you're over-reacting, but I think pulling out the race card and blaming John Howard without stopping to think about what's really going on is a little simplistic and dismissive of the communities' problems.

I once saw a documentary on a Venezuelan 'beautician' that groomed the Venezuelan contenders for the Miss World Contest. When asked questions he didn't like, he said to the film crew, "Be careful or I'll call you ugly". It's a bit the same in Australia, "Be careful or I'll call you racist."

When I think of racist, I think of skin-heads, who are not anti any particular race, but are very much for a white Australia, and thus against all non-caucasian races. Skin heads see it as an 'us' and 'them', with the 'us' as the elites. They are very carefully defined down to the last detail, to the point where they even have a uniform, of who 'us' are.

Now the mob at Cronulla can't be defined in the same way. They didn't have a uniform, and they didn't have this elitist view. They weren't chanting against the Tongan, the Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Africans. They directed their anger solely at what they termed the 'Lebs'. And I'll go further than that, I think they were also directing their anger at a certain age group amongst that particular section of the community, of the 15-30 year olds 'Lebs'. We're not seeing pictures in the news of 60 year old Lebanese men and women being targeted. People aren't complaining of 'nanna Lebs' are they?

I think the mob at Sydney see a problem within the community, but have difficulty expressing the problems they see. Their behaviour certainly suggests a very low IQ. They don't know how to express what they see as the problem.

Now the Lebanese have been successful immigrants to Australia at the latest since the 1890s, and have done very well within the Australian community.

These 15-30 year old 'Lebs' are what SBS terms 'hybrids'. A hybrid is either a child of an immigrant or had been immigrant children themselves, but have grown up in Australia, surrounded by Australian culture, yet brought up by their parents that have retained a snapshot aspect of the culture from their origins.

When people leave their culture and journey elsewhere, they take their culture with them, as it was when they left. The culture from their origin evolves and develops, but they are not there to evolve and develop with it. So they retain a 'snapshot' of that culture as it was when they left.

A hybrid is an issue of culture, not race. I am a hybrid. I am a Danish Australian. Most of my friends through High School and today are hybrids, Latvian Australian, Dutch Australian, and so forth. Hybrids recognise that they are not completely Australian, yet at the same time, when visiting their parents former countries', they clearly don't have that culture either. It's not easy growing up as a hybrid. It makes you more different from those around you, and makes you feel more isolated.

So why is the mob targeting the current round of Lebanese hybrids? What's so special about them?

The problem is one of long time making. It goes back beyond John Howard's ruling government. It's at least two decades old.

Gough Whitlam came up with his definition of the idea of 'multiculturalism'. And successive governments supported this idea, from Malcom Fraser, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. What they did was to build ethnic communities that ended up segregating those communities away from other Australians. That isn't multiculturalism. I would say that segregating each ethnic group together and separate from other Australians is racist. And it's an experience that has been repeated across the globe. If you concentrate any particular group of people, no matter how they are defined (class, income, race, culture), you get problems.

Now the children of those immigrants placed in this ethnic communities are growing up, have little education, and high unemployment. And live together in an area with other members of the community that have the same experience. They recognise this segregation and feel isolated and poorly treated by the Australian community.

Look at the SBS comedy Pizza that parodies the current Lebanese hybrid experience, with the all the 'bling', the rap, and the hotted up cars. That's not the culture of their parents, and it's not culture of other Australians. The current disenfranchised hybrids are relating to a more African American experience, of being discriminated against. And some members are behaving badly, in accordance with this 'rap culture', where women are known as b*tches.

This is a difficult issue to resolve, and involves many factors. Their parents would at first be denying that it was their son/daughter, and then, inwardly, realising it was their son/daughter, feeling shamed and embarrassed and lost as what to do. This affects everyone in the community, from their families, to friends, neighbours and community leaders.

This kind of violence on both sides must be condemned and each perpetrator should have his day at court. But not all members of the communities' behaved in such an appalling way. Don't tar them all with the same brush.

We need to allow others to express themselves freely, to find a way to describe what they think the problem is, without name calling, to resolve conflict within the community.

Somehow NSW needs to find a way to give their current Lebanse hybrids a voice, a way to sing their own songs about their own experiences in their own style, pride in themselves and hope in their future.

Posted by: Kat | Dec 16, 2005 11:12:42 AM

That was a considered comment by Dale and even more so by Kate but with due respect they're avoiding facing reality. Howard did not make Australia racist yes (racism did and still exists), there is a behavioural problem among a number of young Lebanese males yes (and any other group of young males for that matter), multiculturalism has problems yes (what social system doesn't?), obviously some ethnic groups are having greater difficulty finding a place in Australian society (not all the reasons for that can be attributed to them). None of these issues detract from Howard's responsibility for what has occurred he may not be premier of NSW but he is the Prime Minister and in Australia today there is no more influential politician than John 'Winstin' Howard.
Australia made a miraculous transformation from the nation enslaved to the ‘White Australia Policy’ to one that seemed at ease with the disparate ethnic groups that came to call it home. It did so not because the population suddenly woke up to its bigotry but because the political leadership realised the country needed to change its attitude. It took great courage and foresight to attempt this task and was a shining example of what good leadership can achieve. One should never underestimate the need in the human animal for leadership or its capacity to follow where ever it leads Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Ghandi and there respective movements were excellent examples. And the process of weeding Australians from their racist attitudes didn’t begin with Whitlam but under Menzies and the referendum that gave Aboriginal people the rights of full citizenship. Howard by his populist and racist policies and pronouncements is undermining the good work of previous governments. Have we forgotten the statement “We don’t want those sort of people here.” Straight out of the culprit’s mouth in the wake of Tampa, we could go on with so many other examples; so called border protection (from desperately weak asylum seekers??), Asian immigration, the so called black arm band view of history, refusing to condemn the use of the national flag at the Cronulla riots etc but what’s the point for those who won’t face the truth.
Racism will always exist but the power it exercises in society is heavily influenced by those in a position of leadership. Racism is not a state issue it’s a national issue and requires an equivocal position to confront it and not the sort of mindless parroting of an ideologically blind philosophy we got from ‘Winstin’. Many over the years of the Howard leadership of this country have warned that his behaviour and actions will breath new life in to this bête noire of Australian society, Cronulla is an indication of many things and one of them is where ‘Winstin’ is leading the country.

Posted by: Cristos | Jan 14, 2006 2:03:08 AM


you put my ideas more reasonably, and far more eloquently than I could.


Posted by: john Allsopp | Jan 15, 2006 1:10:20 PM

Well John you already understand, I’m far more interested in the position of those on the other side of this idealistic divide, will my pessimism be confirmed or not?

Posted by: Cristos | Jan 16, 2006 1:41:12 AM

Blow the bastard's brains out!

Posted by: Llort | Oct 29, 2006 4:39:02 PM

John Howard has taken the term 'thrown onto the scrap heap' to new levels for the over 50's unemployed age group. There's no lower than homeless! When will Australian voters do the right thing?

Posted by: spider | Apr 15, 2007 12:18:23 PM

Well, John Howard is a shady character. The longer he stays, the more damage Australia's image will take. I'm a Sri Lankan living in Melbourne. I've met quite a few racist white Australians. Most of them were drunks or lower class people. In a typical setting most white Aussie racism is subtle and negligible. Generally white racist Aussies are racially intolerant.

Lebanese racists also look down on the aborigines, Indian sub-continentals and Africans. A lot of Lebanese Muslims in Melbourne are also religiously intolerant, incase you haven't noticed. They have no respect for Buddhism, or Hindiusm for that matter, and keep vandalizing a small Buddhist shrine near our house. The reason?:- It's supposedly an idolatory religion and therefore shouldn't exist.

And here's the fun part, when Lebanese Muslims(and most other Muslims) pass the temple they spit on the wall and say that someday they'll destroy it.

So when choosing the lesser of two evils, I'd say I prefer racially intolerant white Aussies to Lebanese Muslims who are both racially and religiously intolerant. Just my opinion. I'm just an observer.

Posted by: Wipul | May 1, 2007 6:20:07 AM