Politics Analysis

Australia slides from world’s greatest country to pariah – in just ten years

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Cartoon by Mark David/@mdavidcartoons

A decade ago, Australia was lauded worldwide for its accomplishments and today it is condemned for its racism, selfishness and corruption, says Alan Austin.

THERE WAS NO question which the world’s most admired country in 2011. Australia’s achievements included:

  • The world’s highest median wealth, according to Credit Suisse;
  • The greatest economic freedom in the OECD, according to the Heritage Foundation;
  • 20 years of continuous GDP growth, alone in the developed world;
  • Triple A credit ratings with all three global agencies for the first time in history;
  • A jobless rate down to 4.92% in June, among the lowest five in the OECD and a level not achieved since;
  • The Australian dollar hit a 30-year high of 1.095 U.S. dollars;
  • The world’s best Treasurer, according to other global finance ministers;
  • Australia’s first carbon pricing scheme was enacted, thereby joining the world on climate action; 
  • Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech to the U.S. Congress was interrupted six times for standing ovations, ten times for seated applause and received a record three-minute standing ovation at the end; and
  • Australia was nominated at the 2011 G20 leaders’ summit to chair the G20.

That’s the top ten. There were plenty more. ANU astrophysicist Brian Schmidt won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics; Samantha Stosur won the U.S. Open; and Sally Pearson was named IAAF world athlete of the year. It was a great year for global recognition. It's a pity that so few successes were reported in Australia.

Fast forward one decade and Australia is now condemned globally for its abject failures on more than ten substantial issues.

Rape in the national Parliament

The New York Times headed its report, ‘Parliament rape claim roils Australian Government’The Independent in the UK declared, ‘Australian parliament rape accuser calls out PM’s office for briefings and “victim-blaming”'.

Similar reports ran in the British The Guardian, the BBC, Argentina’s La NacionThe Japan Times, The New Zealand Herald and elsewhere.

Morrison dumps Australia’s problem on New Zealand

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison took devious advantage of the fact that an Australian in Syria had been born in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Herald quoted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explaining that the woman:

... left New Zealand at the age of six, [was] resident in Australia from that time, became an Australian citizen, left from Australia to Syria, and travelled on an Australian passport. Our very strong view ... was that this individual was clearly most appropriately dealt with by Australia.


I raised that issue directly with Prime Minister Morrison and asked that we work together on resolving the issue. I was then informed in the following year that Australia had unilaterally revoked the citizenship of the individual.

Morrison’s stance on this was reported in The Times of India, The Jakarta Post, the BBC, Canada’s Toronto Star, FR24 in France, Deutsche Welle in Germany and widely elsewhere.

Killings and cover-ups by Australian special forces in Afghanistan

Thus began a feature titled The Killing Field in Qatar’s Al Jazeera:

"We investigate explosive revelations about killings and cover-ups by Australian special forces in Afghanistan." 

The prestigious New York Times headed its report, ‘Blood Lust and Demigods: Behind an Australian Force’s Slaughter of Helpless Afghans’.

Similar damning reports ran in Indonesia’s Kompas, The Indian Express, France 24, the BBC, NPR and CBS.

Australia isolated on climate change

With the U.S. under President Joe Biden rejoining the global community on climate action, Australia is again the conspicuous international pariah. 

A lengthy essay in the Washington-based Foreign Policy analysed Fiji’s response to:

'Australia’s continued recalcitrance towards climate change creating significant friction at the most recent in-person Pacific Islands Forum meeting.'

Similar condemnations of Morrison’s regime appeared in The Straits Times in Singapore, the Japan The Japan Times, South China Morning Post, Klimareporter in Germany and Japan’s Nikkei Asia.

Australians stranded abroad

Many countries now host Australian travellers who can’t get home because of the Morrison Government’s failed pandemic border policies.

Le Figaro in France wrote:

‘... tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded abroad. Those who return must pay around 3,000 Australian dollars for their hotel quarantine.’

Negative reports have run in Argentina’s InfobaeThe New Zealand HeraldThe Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Continuing abuse of asylum seekers

A scathing report in The New York Times quoted Dr Nick Martin, a former chief medical officer on Nauru, claiming the Morrison Government was intentionally detaining people 'to make an example of them'.

The report read:

'The Government is sending a message because it has gone hard on refugees and asylum seekers. Many will have severe mental health issues after being kept offshore for upward of eight years ...'

Similar condemnations of Australia’s inhumane refugee policies have run in many countries.

Facebook’s news ban

According to Professor Jeff Jarvis of New York:

“Facebook called the bluff of [News Corp boss Rupert] Murdoch and his politicians [after the Morrison Government attempted] blackmail on behalf of media companies who are cashing in their political capital to try to get money out of Google and Facebook and they are using politicians in the process.”

Virtually all major news outlets worldwide are reporting this saga.

Ongoing Indigenous oppression

Indigenous Australians ‘on average die up to 17 years younger than non-Indigenous people’, according to a recent news story in Al Jazeera. Equally damning reports run routinely in journals worldwide.

Australia Day protests

A New York Times essayist wrote:

‘On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people marched through Australia’s major cities in opposition to the holiday, which they instead refer to as Invasion Day. It is a blunt reframing of the legacy of the arrival of the British 233 years ago, which set in motion centuries of oppression of Indigenous people.’

Other reports of Australia’s violent conflict over Australia Day ran in The Huffington Post,  The New Zealand Herald, the BBC and elsewhere.

Deterioration of the relationship with China

Le Figaro in France reported that:

‘Relations between China and Australia have deteriorated in recent months, especially after Australia requested an international investigation to determine the origin of the coronavirus pandemic ...'

Journals to have reported the Morrison Government’s failure to maintain cordial relations with its trading partner include Indonesia’s Kompas, Washington-based The Diplomat and, not surprisingly, the China Daily.

Several other scandals and failures have been reported globally, including Australia’s failure to plan for electric cars, the marginalisation of migrants and the conspiracy theorists inside the Coalition parties.

Can Australia recover the world’s favourite nation status again? Of course. It’s just one election away.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read the latest update here and contribute to the crowd-funding campaign HEREAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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