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February 13, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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Ruddy brilliant

– Acknowledging the damaging effects of the outputs from excess human consumption, by signing up to Kyoto.

– Pointing Japan out on their ludicrously weasel-worded defences of “scientific” whale harvest.

– Not standing in the way of the Central Territories’ Civil Union legislation as Howard had signalled he would.

– Giving up the cruel paranoia of sending refugees to fester on small islands.

– Apologising for the deceitful, arrogant racism of Australia’s past social planning to her stolen generation.

Kevin Rudd seems determined to inaugurate his rule by withdrawing all the worst facets of Australian political life. Howard succeeded in holding onto power by hiding the nastiness of his historical ignorance under the sheen of boring middle-of-the roadness. He bought into Keith Windschuttle’s myth that White Australia’s genocide of Tasmanian peoples cannot be called genocide, because it wasn’t properly recorded with exhaustive lists (the way the Nazis recorded and filed their genocide). The ex-cons who colonised Tasmania simply chased down and shot their victims, so no, we only have a large number of eye-witness accounts to prove this tragedy.

John Howard said he would not work with anyone who called themselves a “chairperson” instead of a “chairman/woman”, thus winning brownie points among the pedestrianly bigoted. Now, opposition to overly-controlling politically correct legislation is one thing; pig-headed obnoxious opposition to people’s word preferences is another.

When he lost not only his overlordship but his seat in parliament to boot, I was surrounded by Australian historians at a conference, and watched their great cheers of relief as a decade of depressing conservative apathy was lifted. It felt like they’d got their country back from exile. Sure, Rudd will likely prove just as human, just as fallible and, at times, condescending as our Helen – and the rest of those who seek power. Sure, pulling refugees out of their island prisons has the unfortunate side effect of hurting those islands’ economies. But that is a price worth paying. And since nations are judged by their leaders in the eyes of the world, which do not have time to read up on and visit every nation’s complexities, Australia’s shine just got a whole lot brighter.

Which brings us on to the New Zealand media and public’s weird opposition to Australian emigration. Bright young people travel. They spend years working in different lands, broadening their minds. Some of them don’t return – but very, very many do. And this is a bad thing? Yay let’s all sit in our houses singing along to Dave Dobbyn until our ears are blocked to wider knowledge of, well, the world. Let’s stop trading while we’re at it and go back to living off possum meat, I think not.

To get back to Australia – we may get freaked out by the fact that, as in the 2005 Cronulla Riots, thousands of racists will turn out to chant the Australian national anthem and beat up Australians with a different accent and colour (When that happens in Wellington, the racists get beaten up by larger crowds of anarchists). We may get freaked out that their national day, Australia Day, is about flag waving and more obnoxious “born here” shit, propagated by a Howard government which was busy helping invade other people’s countries and showing a general disregard for other nation’s borders. Sheriff complexes. Whereas, of course, our national day has been for years an occasion of puritan self-flagellation and arguments, only now being broken down by, of all things, reggae.

We may be frightened by all these things – but the Australians are our fellow humans, trapped here with us at the bottom of the world. We owe it to ourselves, and to them, to work with them to improve shit. And at least now they have a PM who isn’t blatantly standing in the way of things like understanding, dialog and historical responsibility.

Cheers mate.

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Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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