Former Prime Minister John Howard spent a good part of his time from 1996-2007 magisterially decreeing this or that idea or group or attitude or (frequently) the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be UnAustralian.
Are You UnAustralian ?
An immensely grateful legion of underemployed Australian Humanities professors were thus able to justify their sickly, parasitical existence by producing screeds of books and articles examining just what Mr. Howard actually meant by UnAustralia(ns), what it could mean for decent Australian society to cohabitate the wide brown land with the filthy-ne’er-do-wells of UnAustralia and how to prevent more boatloads of UnAustralians from blackmailing us into accepting their cancerous and arrogant presence into our peaceloving, tolerant and uniquely egalitarian
Where Is UnAustralia ?
I recently found this corker of a website devoted to the whole subject of UnAustralia. Its a funny and serious examination of John Howard’s UnAustralia and its political/cultural implications. Many thanks to the pinkos and bludgers at The Cultural Sudies Association of Australasia who devoted their 2006 Annual Conference to this subject while woofing back hogsheads of taxpayer-funded Chardonnay.
Since I too am a pinko taxpayer funded bludger I’m gunna blog their entire flamin’ conference here. It’s too funny and good not to.
Someone with the obviously made-up name of Dr James Arvanitakis provides some education about the history of the term “UnAustralian”. In his(?) crackingly good essay “…why I am an internally displaced person” he informs us that the first recorded use of the term “UnAustralian” was in 1855 and was then used as a compliment to mean “British”, popped up again in 1925 as a perjorative to describe militant labour, in the 1930’s to tar and dehumanize wogs and communists and latterly under John Howard to demonize (and here I am being quite serious) anyone who wasn’t John Howard.
Meet The Proprietor Of UnAustralia
UnAustralian is really John Howard’s word. Prior to 1995, Media Monitors recorded only 86 usages of UnAustralian ever, soaring to 406 usages in 2000 and 571 usages in 2004, John Howard being personally responsible for fully one-third of the 2004 output. I think it is fair to speculate that most of the remaining usages were discussions of what Mr Howard meant by UnAustralian, rather than new Market entrants attempting to snare a piece of the UnAction.
Thus entering 2005 with total domination of the UnAustralian discourse, Mr. Howard then delivered his most screamingly funny utterance ever. The then Prime Minister told the UnABC:
“I think the word un-Australian is used too indiscriminately by people who disagree with what somebody else is saying or doing.”
Yes, Virginia, he really said that.
Continuing, oblivious to the gut-busting insane laughter of journalists chewing their own legs off in hysteria he THEN said
I think we should treat the description of our country and our national identity with a bit more common sense…
AAARGH STOP IT STOP IT (pounds own head with concrete block)
It’s not an expression I would use carelessly
MERCY! MERCY!! I’M BEGGG BWAHA-HA-HA AAAARRR (the revolver quick hand me the revolver)
and I think people who want to criticise the government should find a rather more appropriate, a rather more genuine expression that that
HE’S STOPPED Ah He’s Stopped. ah ah ah … (the heaving silence of exhausted hysteria fills the night)
I Am You Are..No Scratch That… I AM, I AM I AM Oztrayliun (and you’re not).
At this juncture let us remember how Mr. Howard thinks of himself:
Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. As a person somebody very much with quintessential Australian values.
John Howard, interviewed on ‘Four Corners’, “An Average Australian Bloke”, broadcast 19 February 1996
John Howard thinks HE is quintessentially Australian. This is why HE can correctly determine who is UnAustralian and others can not. John Howard, according to John Howard, is the embodiment of Australian-ness. Those who disagree with him are thus, by definition, UnAustralian.
It is amazing to think that anybody could be so arrogant and misguided to believe that they can infallibly define what is and isn’t Australian. To have such a person as the Prime Minister is a social and cultural disaster waiting to happen. A Prime Minister who is prepared to identify, as Howard did, various groups and ideas as hostile to Australian runs the risk of inflaming mob sentiment against those groups and those who express ‘UnAustralian’ ideas.
As Robert Manne puts it, Howard was comfortable with allowing a hostile populist wind’ of bigotry and chauvinism to blow up through the gullies and suburbs of Australia. I once lived near a Brewery. When the wind blew across the fermentation tubs, a very sour odour filled the district. By giving Pauline Hanson Prime Ministerial protection for the ignorant and bigoted comments she espoused, Howard allowed sour air to fll the lungs of the Australian people, much to the pleasure of many. Yet Australia did not descend into a maelstrom of race hatred. How did we avoid it ?
(see Robert Manne, “John Howard” in ‘Left Right Left: Political Essays 1977-2005’. Original in Age/SMH March 2002)
Avoiding Sour Fruit
Carol Johnson argues that Howard de-emphasised race, particularly Aboriginality, in the 1998 elelction campaign as he had already secured his anti-Aboriginal-Industry bona fides by the passage of the Wik legislation. This legislation, which drastically curtailed or extinguished Native Title claims in favour of Pastoral and Mining interests, along with Howard’s public comments on Wik and Native Title, provided ‘[reassurance] to potential Hanson supporters of the government’s credentials on Aboriginal isues’ and allowed Howard to move on to campaign on economic issues, specifically the GST and its associated tax reforms.
Howard, in his masterful cunning, claimed he was not interested in arguing with One Nation about race (why would he ?- he agreed with them on these issues). In this way, he could allow One Nation to run his racial agenda for him while pretending to be morally above it, or more specifically, engaged in addressing deeper issues that would dissolve racial distrust.
Howard knew that the underlying reason for Hanson’s support was the general feeling of economic insecurity felt by her support base. (The Weekend Australian 13-14 June 1998, cited in Johnson) . So he ran the GST as the central plank of his economic management electoral pitch, confident the Hansonites would recognise his racial credentials and hopeful they would support him on economic management. Howard claimed his strategy to defeat One Nation was ‘to offer the Australian people something better (i.e. in providing economic prosperity and protecting jobs)’ (Howard, Transcript of Press Conference, Parliament House, 30 August 1988) . Kim Beazley and the ALP had decided on a ‘small-target startegy’ for the 1998 election and thus conceeded the agenda-setting role to Howard. In this way, the 1998 election became an election about GST and the economy rather than race.
see Carol Johnson, “John Howard and the Mainstream”, in “Howard’s Agenda: The 1998 Australian Election”, Simms M. and Warhurst J., (eds), UQP, St. Lucia, 2000
Beyond Here There Be Dragons
It is interesting to speculate how far Howard would have allowed race to develop as an issue in the absence of Pauline Hanson whom Howard used to do his dirty work for him.
Howard would not have allowed racial invective to become the overt message of his campaign. Had he done so the electorate would have deserted him in droves except perhaps for 23% or thereabouts of the voters in Queensland and somewhat less in the other states.
But Howard is not about race hatred, just 50’s Anglo bigotry. His denigration and defunding of multiculturalism, his head-in-the-sand approach to the Stolen Generations issue, his opposition to the ‘Aboriginal Industry’ and Native Title and his denial of any moral element to the question of Aboriginal Reconciliation mark the limits, I believe, of his racial thermometer.
Furthermore these beliefs of Howard’s are driven by identity issues, not race per se, along with hip-pocket considerations (feared compensation payouts), economics (future of the Pastoral and Mining Industries) as well as a genuine philosophical commitment to an overarching Australian Nationhood as opposed to a Federated nationhood. Howard thinks that even the Australian States are irrelevant and that they both obscure and dilute the effectiveness of our national effort; so for him the concept of Aboriginal self-determination and Land Rights is a travesty, hindrance and offence against Australian national action, identity and interest.
As Judith Brett has demonstrated, Howard is a genuine member of the Australian mainstream and he does possess its virtues as well as its vices. Beating up Asians with four-be-two may have been part of the Eureka Goldfields, but it no longer has any place in the Bell Curve of the Australian Psyche within two (non-)standard deviations of the Manuka cafe district. Howard has done many morally retarded things as Prime Minister but I can’t imagine him inciting race war…except for that matter of the Cronulla riots.