Greg Barns, July 31, 2017 12:00am
John Lawrence is a barrister who lives in Darwin. More relevantly, he was one of the lawyers who courageously fronted the ABC’s Four Corners program last year and exposed the cruelty of the youth detention system in the Northern Territory.
And recently, speaking at the Castan Centre, based at Melbourne University, Mr Lawrence described better than most the decline of Australia over the past two decades.
Since the election of John Howard in 1996 as prime minister, Australia has descended into a society that is today racist, bigoted and mean spirited. It is now the case that when one is overseas it is with reticence that one admits to belonging to this country.
If only one could sport a genuine Canadian accent or spin the line that one loves living in New Zealand, two nations with a much more open and liberal view of themselves and the world.
John Lawrence’s speech nailed the descent of Australia in his speech delivered on July 21.
He reeled off the litany of awfulness that is Australia today starting with the “toxic, dishonest and destructive relationship between the media and politicians of both parties that exploits the issue of law and order” to the point where, he says, the local newspaper in Darwin “calls children “dirtbags” in front page headlines.”
Then there is the overt “racism that exists and is countenanced in Australian society [and which is] at a level not seen in recent times.”
The treatment of former AFL star Adam Goodes and the brilliant young commentator Yasmin Abdel-Magied “is living proof of that”, argues Lawrence.
Where 20 years ago, former Essendon footballer “Michael Long’s actions in combating racial vilification were, if anything, lauded by the Australian community,” Adam Goodes, “for outing racism, has been hounded out of the game.”
We are renowned across the globe for the cruel treatment of asylum seekers and we couple that, says Lawrence as “one of the world’s richest countries” continuing to reduce the foreign aid budget.A March 21, 2014 file image of ssylum seekers staring at media from behind a fence at the Oscar compound in the Manus Island detention centre, Papua New Guinea. Picture: AAP
But what is so troubling is that too many Australians actually think that the peddlers of cruelty and prejudice like Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Pauline Hanson are doing a good job. What does that tell us about Australians in 2017?
“Our citizenry have become less ethical than they were 20 years ago as a consequence of what has transpired during this period,” argues Lawrence, and he definitely has a point.