It is said that it is always hardest for the fish to describe the aquarium it swims in. Whether that is so, being at a distance away from Australia, I am able to see my adopted country through different eyes. In northern Europe, the image of Australia is typically one of dangerous wildlife and the foolhardy larrikins who laugh in the face of such danger, pop open another beer can and throw another shrimp on the barbie. It may be one of bronzed, muscular surfers on white sandy beaches and it may involve red dirt and Aboriginal people living in harmony with country. It is a happy-go-lucky place where people speak English, the climate is warm and nature is stunning.
It is part of the Australian identity that we love sport. We love a good stouch. We support those who have a go – we even applaud those who cheekily bend the rules to win the game.
So it is probably no wonder that Australia’s leader has called for Australians to join Team Australia. That was in the context of abandoning proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 which would have watered down the racial vilification provisions in the name of free speech. “You are entitled to be a bigot” was the policy rationale. While claiming to be a staunch supporter of free speech, our leader abandoned the proposal because of the risk it might cause national disunity.
‘‘I want the communities of the country to be our friend not our critic,” he said.
That is a promising position – after all, ‘the communities of the country’ are the communities who make up Australia. However, who is the in-group – the ‘our’ – that Australia’s Prime Minister was referring to? Clearly it is a group HE belongs to, but one is left wondering what communities in Australia are outside that group. He clarified by continuing:
“I want to work with the communities of our country as Team Australia.” Still not clear? Luckily for the slow Australians, he clarified even more:
“[Y]ou don’t migrate to this country unless you want to join our team,” he said.
Ah, thank you, Mr Abbot, it is about migrants! Oh… but isn’t he a migrant himself, born in the UK, staunch supporter of Queen Elizabeth, to the degree that he has reintroduced the archaic British system of honours to the colony, eh… country? No matter, our Prime Minister is clearly on Team Australia – it is his ‘we-group’ he is talking about here. It turns out Team Australia is about the Australian stance against terrorism. And, sadly, it is about muslims, too, because terrorism too often confused and conflated with Islam. The corollary to this, which our leader might understand, is to conflate paedophilia with christians, in particular catholic christians, is it not?
The notion of Team Australia is engendering divisive patriotism and nationalism. The Prime Minister’s call for ‘moderate muslims’ to speak out against radicalism is superfluous: they already are – the problem is that ‘moderate muslims’ simply cannot be heard in mainstream media. The response of the twittersphere to Team Australia is #TeamHumanity. That is promising, if embarrassing that Australia is pitted against humanity.
I wonder why none of his advisers told our leader about Team America: World Police, the puppet movie from 2004, which parodied American foreign policy and the war on terror. The best bit is where the officers in combat scream in horror: We have no intelligence!
But maybe the Prime Minister realises the fact that, apart from sport and competition, Australians love the arts and hence deliberately put Australia on the international comedy stage?