There is no place on the globe to escape the opprobrium and embarrassment generated by Australia's uniquely hamfisted prime minister, writes IA's French correspondent Alan Austin. Mon dieu!
SHAMELESS, insensitive, outrageous, incredibly racist, intransigent, shameful, disrespectful, lacking humanity and completely disconnected from reality. These are just some of the loathsome labels attached to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as the world’s media again shakes its head in collective disbelief and mild abhorrence.
The Gulf News in Dubai was typically blunt:
‘Australia’s increasingly controversial Prime Minister Tony Abbott has blundered into yet another self-inflicted disaster with a deeply insensitive and racist comment about Australia’s Aboriginals when he defended his government’s decision to remove subsidies from more than 150 remote communities.’
Le Monde opened with this:
‘The latest outburst from Tony Abbott, already troubled by catastrophic polls, caused uproar in the country, including within the government.’
It quoted Aboriginal Affairs minister Nigel Scullion admitting Abbott’s comment was “a mistake.”
Le Petit Journal was equally direct:
‘A new blunder of the Prime Minister, criticized even in his own camp on his intransigence and lack of humanity.’
Abbott’s consistently bad press since his multiple embarrassments at Davos in January last year continued across Europe.
Portugal’s Expresso labelled Abbott’s statements as ‘ofensivas e inapropriadas’ — offensive and inappropriate.
It noted that Australia’s Constitution
‘... does not recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait islands people as the first to inhabit the country.’
The story in Germany’s Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung claimed Abbott's ‘outrageous’ remarks about Aboriginal Australians ‘einen Sturm der Entrüstung ausgelöst’ — triggered a storm of indignation.
Spain’s Radio Intereconomia reminded its audience of some pertinent history:
‘More than two thirds of Aborigines, representing 1.6 percent of the population of over 23 million people, live in poverty and were victims of discriminatory policies for decades. Only in 1962 was their right to vote recognized. It took many years to achieve other claims, such as the 2008 apology by the State for past official policies which separated tens of thousands of Aboriginal children from their parents.’
Switzerland’s German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung quoted Amnesty International’s objections to the community closures on the grounds that this:
‘... was not only a breach of international law, but also counterproductive.'
NZZ also highlighted the hypocrisy of Abbott’s public relations trips to remote communities:
‘Apparently his intent to govern Australia for one week each year in the bush, has not led to Australia's indigenous people feeling better represented.’
‘"These people live on their original lands. This is their life, their essence, their culture," Mundine said.’
Britain’s Telegraph described Abbott’s comments as shameless and insensitive, and quoted indigenous leaders Mundine and Noel Pearson and various MPs.
It added that:
‘Mr Abbott, a London-born no-nonsense conservative, has become known for his propensity for embarrassing gaffes ...’
Pearson and Mundine expressing ‘shock at the tone of Mr Abbott’s words’ appeared also in The Irish Times.
Elsewhere across the world, similar dismay was expressed loud and clear.
In Mexico, Contacto Hoy quoted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, saying that community closures would provoke an exodus to the peripheries of cities and only worsen "the situation [which] is already bad".
Hoy Venezuela reported ‘una ola de críticas’ – a wave of criticism – following Abbott’s comments.
‘Australian Indigenous peoples are the poorest in the nation, with shorter life than other citizens, and who suffer disproportionate levels of incarceration and social problems such as unemployment.’
New Caledonia’s French-language Nouvelle Caledonie quoted film director Rolf de Heer saying Tony Abbott:
“... demonstrated such ignorance that he is no longer legitimate as prime minister.”
It also referred to ‘criticism in his own camp’ and Bill Shorten’s accusation that Abbott is “left in the 1950s”.
New Zealand’s media highlighted support for the remote Australian communities from Māori leaders.
Māori Television’s website quoted Māori MP Peeni Henare saying:
'... that if Aboriginal people are ripped from their communities they will lose their identity.'
‘He says he feels for the Aboriginal people in Australia and moving them out of their communities will be detrimental for them, just as it was for the identity of many Māori who are thrust into cities and lost among the masses and eventually forgotten.’
In Malaysia and Indonesia, articles pillorying the hapless Australian PM and equally inept Foreign Minister have become almost daily fare.
Malaysia’s Sin Chew Daily headed its report ‘Fury as Australia PM calls Aboriginal communities a “lifestyle choice”.’
It reported extensive criticism of the PM, ‘including that he was unfit to be leader’.
Similar pieces ran right across Asia, including in The Malaysian Insider, Free Malaysia Today, The Malaysian Digest, Indonesia’s Kompas and Viva, Tribun Pekanbaru, The Japan Times, New Delhi TV, International Business Times and elsewhere.
Even Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal in the USA felt obliged to report the
‘... furor over [Abbott’s] comments suggesting people living in remote Outback communities are making a “lifestyle choice”.’
Naturally, this piece emphasised Abbott’s admirable intentions and his wonderful history of direct involvement with the communities.
The WSJ concluded:
'Mr Abbott, who last month survived a challenge to his leadership brought on by slumping polls and policy gaffes, said people should look at his record on indigenous rights, including a week spent last year running the country from a remote aboriginal community in the Northern Territory made famous by the Crocodile Dundee films.’
Well, of course they should.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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