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It's back - with not one but many un-Australians of the Year

Date: December 29 2012


Ian Warden

Tremble, ye blackguards, hypocrites, toadies and sycophants. As the days of the year dwindle down to a precious few I have decided to renew, on a whim, this column's award to the un-Australian of the Year.

Readers (throwing their hats in the air and breaking into spontaneous dancing): ''Terrific news, Warden! We've really missed it. We feel sure it used to help improve the tone of the nation because people were so afraid of winning the award. It put the nation on its toes. National standards have certainly declined in the years you've not been doing it. Look at Julia Gillard's sycophancy towards the US. She'll give them Julian Assange on a plate if they ask for him.''

Yes, the annual column was certainly very popular and all because, methinks, there are so many good, decent, first-rate Australians who feel it acutely when people in public life let our potentially wonderful nation down by behaving like loathsome, slithering, third-rate things.

Also - and I am announcing it now to have Canberrans wake up to themselves throughout our centenary year - there will be , a 2013 un-Canberran of the Year award, to be handed out about this time next year to bring a blush to the cheek of the Canberran or Canberrans who in their miserabilist NIMBYism or Talibanism (the two tend to substantially overlap) have most offended against the bold, new, bustling, metrosexy, change-welcoming, diversity-appreciating temper of our grand little city.

If awarding it this year, I might perhaps have given it to all the Canberra Taliban who rattled their jewellery in righteous indignation when children laughed and played at the otherwise cheerfully informal Voices in the Forest. Although, too, Canberra's NIMBYs, the most dynamic and imaginative in the world, would have jostled for the award. NIMBYs in the running would have been the opponents of the Gungahlin mosque, although even they were outNIMBYed by the landed gentry of Yarralumla fighting the spectre of the possibility of having the embassies of uncouth Third World African nations built anywhere within a cruise missile's range of their mansions.

This has been a sour, rancid year in the life of our nation and it has not been easy to award the un-Australian of the Year gong.

Australian country singers have continued to irritate by putting on fake Texan accents the moment they break into song. How pathetic this seems when, in conversation with an interviewer, they talk in their usual voices before, invited to sing, they suddenly turn into beings from Nashville.

This matters most when, as they increasingly do, they sing songs about Australia and its story but put on this funny foreign accent.

The Americans, who for all their failings do have some cultural self-esteem, would laugh off any stage a US performer who put on a fake accent (Australian perhaps, or Scottish, or Finnish) to sing songs written in the US about US history and life. Shame on you, Australian country singers, for yodelling like rootin' tootin' yankee cowpokes and cowgirls of the tumbleweedy Wild West when you are from Carlton, Cronulla and Conder. Your extreme cultural cringeing lets Australia down.

But the yodellers are not consciously wicked and my award of un-Australian of the Year has to go to evil people.

And so I award the gong to every Australian in public life who, so contrary to what goes in the hearts of good Australians, has contributed to treating asylum-seeking boat people as criminal scum. The award goes specifically to every Australian in public life who, knowing he or she is lying, has this year called measures against asylum seekers ''border protection'' (as if boat people are arriving in millions in armadas of warships) when it's nothing of the sort.

We know that politicians do this to pander to the voting intentions of the worst and nastiest ignoramuses in the most marginal seats (especially Sydney's ignoramus-infested west) but the ignoramuses are not to blame. You cannot educate a mug. In their xenophobic fearfulness and idiocy (which Gillard told us in the last election is a perfectly rational response) they believe, surveys show, that asylum seekers are cascading down on us, taking our jobs and changing our perfect way of life, in their hundreds of thousands. But then these people, superstitious and suggestible, believe in a whole suite of irrationalities. Without them astrologers, psychic charlatans and broadcasters like gibbering Alan Jones would have no business model.

But the un-Australianness consists of educated people who know better and who know what's true framing our asylum-seeker policies, and the debates about them, in ways that suit these few unrepresentatively stupid and unkind Australians. All of us brought up to tell the truth, and who simply don't know how to lie about big things, marvel at the slitheriness and shiftiness of the ''border protection'' mongers who know they are lying but do it with such enthusiasm. In a better world their pants would always be aflame and for their brazen embezzlings of the truth they, not the unhappy refugees, would be serving terms of imprisonment on a vile camp on Nauru.

They let Australia down, these cunning, self-aggrandising xenophobiamongers, and they are this column's un-Australians of the Year.

What a sweet country we could be with leaders who appealed to what's good about the best of us.

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