George Megalogenis has a very sensible article in this weekend’s Australian, even if he is kinder than I would be to John Howard. After reviewing reaction to the Mel Meltdown, in the course of which he puts “some columnists” (read “Miranda”) in their place, he goes on:
Every prejudice needs a conspiracy theory to sustain it. Like the one about the Lebanese-Australians that John Howard has been forced to confront in talkback land during the past few weeks. “I’m fed up with people living overseas on dual citizenship and the minute they get into trouble they call on our government to bail them out,” Kate, a fifth-generation Australian, told the Prime Minister on Perth radio. This wasn’t the redneck part of the spectrum talking; Kate was calling her local ABC station. Howard replied that there are “five million Australians – an unbelievable figure – who have two passports”.
He explained that the two largest groups of dual nationals are the British and the Greeks. “I think, from a practical point of view, it’s not something that we should, or would seek to alter in any way,” Howard said. “I do understand how you feel, though.”
He wound up with a slap at “self-appointed spokesmen” in the Lebanese-Australian community who have criticised, unfairly, the Government’s efforts to evacuate people fleeing the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
It is the classic Howard response to xenophobia when expressed by an Australian voter. Kate could have been forgiven for thinking the Prime Minister shared her frustration with Lebanese-Australians, when he was, in fact, politely disagreeing with her.
The dual citizenship discussion is not worthy of the title “debate”. It has become just another excuse for a belligerent section of the commentariat, and public opinion, to flex their intolerance. It was funny a couple of months ago, when the forces of patriotic correctness, as Noel Pearson has dubbed them, were demanding that local Greek, Croatian and Italian soccer fans barrack for Australia. Strange that the same test of loyalty was not applied to those who rooted for Manchester United when the Red Devils came here to play Australia in 1999.
I suspect the PM does share Kate’s “frustration”, but otherwise, well said, George!
But then in the same paper there’s Christopher Pearson, that gay (no secret that) enigma, manfully going into bat for the Catholic Church against Christopher Hitchens. Yes, this is a Christopher thing obviously. Not everything Pearson says is bad, mind you; he does make some good points. But I am amused at the selective smear “Hitchens is an ex-Trotskyite controversialist”: so is P P McGuinness; so is history warrior Keith Windschuttle. Mind you, it could be that all ex-Trotskyites are more than a bit demented…