Would My Family Pass an ‘Australian Values Test’

When I was growing up, there were times when my corner of Sydney did not feel all that Australian.

As newly arrived immigrants, my family got our start sharing the house of a Korean minister in Campsie, a working-class suburb with a large immigrant population. My parents set up their businesses in Eastwood and Chatswood, and served a predominantly Asian client base. On weekends, we shared the table with Korean friends and sang Korean hymns at church.

This was a fact that I, with a teenager’s allergy to outsiderness, resented. I measured our successful integration as migrants by our proximity and resemblance to the majority of Australians — and by this measure, we were failing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Advocates for refugees who are languishing in camps demand that the asylum-seekers are resettled in Australia.CreditSaeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Australia faces the global virus of xenophobia, the country’s early history provides a warning of the social and economic costs of isolation.

Australia was one of the richest settlements on earth when it was a British colony with open borders in the 19th century. But it retreated when it became an independent nation in 1901, and it endured almost half a century of economic stagnation before it opened its doors again to mass immigration after World War II.

The leaders of the main political parties continue to support an expansive immigration program and profess to abhor racism. But this cherished bipartisanship is in danger of fracturing.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘The prediction is that in two decades, half of all car trips in Melbourne at peak times will be congested, up from a third now.’ Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

I’m a citizen of Melbourne. That’s all. Not an economist, nor a politician, a property developer, a demographer. Just a resident with an affection for the city, with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies.

As a citizen, nobody has been able to explain to me clearly why Melbourne, and Australia for that matter, should be absorbing so many new people every year, at a rate far higher than the OECD average, faster than other developed nations, with no feasible plan to cope with it.

The epicentre of what former New South Wales premier Bob Carr calls Australia’s “weird experiment” is Melbourne, my town.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Australian Nationals party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, center, looks down while sitting in parliament in Canberra, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Joyce quit as party leader and deputy prime minister over a sexual harassment allegation. Credit Rod McGuirk/Associated Press

Australian politics these days feels like a story in People magazine. Political journalism, indeed Parliament itself, has been reduced to a forum for rumors about sex.

It all began in February with the sensational news that Barnaby Joyce, then deputy prime minister, had been having an affair with an aide, who is now pregnant. Eventually Mr. Joyce resigned from his leadership post and retreated to the backbench. But the government’s response to the scandal ensured it would linger on.

Having initially insisted that Mr. Joyce’s predicament was a private matter, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull swiftly changed his view and introduced a formal ban on sex between ministers and their staff.…  Seguir leyendo »

La nación de los canguros

El canguro rojo (el mayor de todas las especies de canguro) es el animal nacional de Australia. Hay canguros en el escudo de armas del país, en las monedas, en los uniformes deportivos y en los aviones de la aerolínea australiana más popular. Si salgo de excursión y veo a estos magníficos animales a los saltos por el campo australiano, no puedo dejar de sentir que estoy en un país único, provisto de una flora y fauna distintiva. Pero como demuestra un documental reciente internacionalmente aclamado para el que me entrevistaron, “El canguro: una historia de amor-odio”, la relación de Australia con los canguros tiene un costado mucho más oscuro.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Sydney, thousands of banned firearms were collected in 1997 as part of the Australian government’s buyback program after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, in which 35 people died when a gunman went on a shooting rampage. Credit David Gray/Reuters

The rampage at a high school in Parkland, Fla., has prompted calls for an Australian-style response, as have previous massacres in the United States. Australia introduced a comprehensive gun control regime after a massacre in Tasmania 22 years ago, and mass shootings here dropped to zero. Some experts regard it as the most effective gun control system in the world.

But the Australian model won’t work in the United States. Here’s why: We Australians have a profoundly different relationship with weapons. Americans love guns. We’re scared of them.

This difference explains why a conservative prime minister was able to confiscate some 650,000 privately owned firearms and ban semiautomatic weapons without a single reported act of violence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Barnaby Joyce, deputy prime minister of Australia, at a parliament session last year. Credit Lukas Coch/European Pressphoto Agency

Barnaby Joyce was probably the last politician average Australians would expect to be embroiled in a sex scandal. A comparison to Mike Pence isn’t so far-fetched: They’re both second in charge of a conservative government led by a flashy businessman, and standard-bearers for family values, tilled in the nation’s agrarian heartland. For most of the Australian public, Mr. Joyce was a bumbling farm boy who meant well.

Last week, though, a story broke that turned public sentiment against him. Following investigations by two small websites last year, the Sydney-based Daily Telegraph reported that the deputy prime minister was having a child with a former staff member, Vikki Campion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Beijing Is Silencing Chinese-Australians

On a September night in 2016, I took my seat at a theater in the heart of Canberra for a Chinese national day celebration organized by the pro-Beijing Chinese Students and Scholars Association. There was a commotion and all of the seats around me were suddenly filled by men in black suits communicating with walkie-talkies. They followed me into the bathroom and tried to have the theater’s security staff kick me out.

Earlier, I had reported for a student newspaper on Chinese government ties to the group and its efforts to censor anti-Communist Party material at my university. I later identified the men at the theater as members of the Chinese student association, and it was clear that the attempt to intimidate me was a result of my articles.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester holding a placard with a clenched fist on an Aboriginal flag during an Australia Day demonstration in 2017. Credit Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

When pollsters asked Australians a year ago to list three words associated with Australia Day — the country’s Jan. 26 national day — the most popular responses were barbecue, celebration and holiday. But among Indigenous Australians, the most popular words were invasion, survival and murder. That, in miniature, is why the country finds itself in the throes of an intense debate over the timing of Australia Day.

Jan. 26 is the day in 1788 when the first fleet of ships from Britain entered Sydney Cove. Put simply, the holiday commemorates the British colonization of Australia — and with it the dispossession of the indigenous population, a centuries-long story of subjugation and countless atrocities, like the Gippsland massacres in the 1840s, in which up to 1,000 indigenous people were killed by white settlers over the course of a decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

Is it okay to celebrate an act of genocide? Is it reasonable to hold neighborhood parties on the day that genocide began — opening crates of beer, cranking up the barbecue and staging colorful fireworks displays?

That’s the question being asked by Australia’s indigenous people ahead of the country’s national day, which falls on Jan. 26. It’s the day the British sailed into Sydney Cove, claiming the country with the purpose of establishing a penal colony.

That first British settlement was the starting point of what — just maybe — is one of the world’s most inspiring stories. The detritus of Britain were discarded on an island 10,000 miles from home, yet they prospered.…  Seguir leyendo »

As former Prime Minister Tony Abbott stood in Parliament this week complaining that the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Australia was somehow being rushed, it represented a moment of profound political defeat for him.

Mr. Abbott has been the most vocal and high-profile opponent of same-sex marriage in the country. In his tenure as prime minister, he tried everything to delay the inevitable, including denying Parliament a vote on the matter before insisting that the public give its opinion on it.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inherited Mr. Abbott’s plan: a voluntary, nonbinding opinion survey, conducted through the mail. Last month, the survey result revealed what every poll has been screaming for years: a strong public preference in favor of same-sex marriage that hangs around 60 percent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia’s recently released foreign policy white paper, the first to be produced in 14 years, tries to bring together two competing tensions. First, Australia’s region is in the process of being redefined by greater Chinese influence and decreased US dominance. That requires Canberra to assert its own agency in a contested space. Second, and more complicated, is the reality of Australia’s relations to these two major powers. Australia’s security is tied to an alliance with Washington, but economically China is by some distance its major trading partner.

The white paper states that ‘more than ever, Australia must be sovereign, not reliant’, but it understands that whatever stability can be achieved – whatever space for Australian agency – will be dependent on the relationship between the US and China.…  Seguir leyendo »

Social conservatism, as an international political movement, may have just scored one of its greatest-ever own goals.

Here in Australia — like in many parts of the world — social conservatives have long argued that they speak for the silent majority, for people silenced by “political correctness.” But on gay marriage in Australia, the silent majority was firmly on the side of inclusion. In the coming weeks, the Australian Parliament will finally legislate in favor of same-sex marriage — but only after a process which traumatised many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Australians, sent shock waves through families, and cost a small fortune.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nearly 400 men are languishing on Manus Island in the South Pacific because they dared to try to reach Australia by boat. A majority of them have been detained there for more than four years, and most are legally eligible for resettlement. Technically, the site is not a refugee camp but a “regional processing center,” which is a misnomer because it implies a process and an outcome, and there is little sign of either for these men.

This is the culmination of Australia’s oppressive refugee policy, under which asylum seekers who travel to the country by boat are prevented from ever settling here.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia thinks of itself as “the most successful multicultural society in the world” — to quote the oft-repeated phrase by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. But now that claim is being challenged in so many ways, all at once, it seems.

For a start, there’s the current political crisis, based on a half-forgotten section of the constitution forbidding those who have dual citizenship from sitting in Parliament. So far, eight parliamentarians — including the deputy prime minister — have been thrown out of office for no greater crime than having a father who was born in New Zealander, a mother who was Italian, or some other similarly unlikely “allegiance to a foreign power.”

Nearly all these parliamentarians were born in Australia.…  Seguir leyendo »

New Zealand is a small country, often wrestling for relevance in the world beyond “The Lord of the Rings” references and sporting success. (We are very good at sports). There’s a running gag about journalists interviewing celebrity visitors as they get off the plane, asking “what do you think of the place so far?”

So imagine the consternation when The Washington Post ran a column titled “How the far right is poisoning New Zealand.” Numerous journalists, commentators and politicians took to social media to express degrees of horror and ridicule. How could the “far right” have poisoned this country without any of us noticing, they asked.…  Seguir leyendo »

A shadow is poisoning Middle-earth.

On the surface, New Zealand’s new government sounds like a progressive dream: a young, energetic prime minister reminiscent of Barack Obama or Justin Trudeau who not only discusses the importance of feminism but calls people out for misogynistic comments on the spot; ministers for climate change and child poverty reduction; and the fact that the heads of the three branches of government are all women.

But for all the excitement around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new government, the real power lies with the far right. And, more terrifying: The far right seized power by exploiting the very system meant to be a fairer version of democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

No issue has been such a political graveyard in Australia as climate change. At least three prime ministers from the last decade have had their tenure buried there: John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard all lost their jobs, at least in part, for trying and failing to deliver polices to combat climate change.

To this list, you could add Malcolm Turnbull’s stint as opposition leader, which ended when Tony Abbott challenged him as party leader over his acceptance of the emissions cap-and-trade plan of the prime minister at the time, Mr. Rudd.

Today, of course, Mr. Turnbull is prime minister (a role he seized, in turn, from Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Papua New Guinea’s parliamentary elections took place June 24 to July 8, and there was significant controversy. During the election, officials went on strike in the capital city, Port Moresby, and violence broke out at polling stations in Enga province, where at least 20 people died.

Election officials worked slowly to tally the votes, delaying the announcement of results as a way to protest lack of payment. It wasn’t until late September that the last undeclared seat was filled.

Despite these and other setbacks, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill formed a new government in Papua New Guinea in early August. Here’s what you need to know about this country’s complex voting system.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nothing prepares you for your first sight of Uluru. Amid the vastness of Australia’s arid red center, there is something wondrous about this monumental slab of sandstone rising dramatically out of a flattened landscape. It is not difficult to see why Indigenous Australians saw it as a sacred place.

Uluru is not just a place of wonder and reverence. It has become, too, a political and historical battleground, a place through which Australia has tried to grapple with its relationship with Indigenous Australians.

It was the Anangu, the original inhabitants of the region, who gave Uluru its name. For more than a century, though, it was known to Australians of European descent as Ayers Rock, named after a 19th-century Anglo-Australian colonial administrator.…  Seguir leyendo »