Quite frankly, what kind of country is this when its elected leader is not permitted to freely speak his mind and insult the countries from which his migrant constituents originate, without being met with howls of disapprobation (commonly in babblements other than English) by citizens holding dual citizenship and who by inference are possessed of questionable loyalty to this wide brown land? This unaustralian behaviour is enough to make you want to strip them of their Australian citizenship and send them back to where they came from or at least to a Pacific island for offshore processing. Surely this would not have happened if Mr Menzies was Prime Minister. Blame that Gough Whitlam for taking the wogs out of the factories and giving them a voice with which to create ideologically suspect ghettoes for themselves. For it is common knowledge that the Antipodes Festival, as its name denotes, is really a front for an extremist anti-podiatrist fringe group, bent on removing all foot-doctors from the world.
The singling out of Greece as a country that stoically endures terrorist attacks is an interesting one. On average, few terrorist attacks have occurred in Greece over the past twenty years and those that have taken place were the fruits of an ideologically demented, anarchic fringe group, 17N. Despite the fact that Greece is perched precariously upon the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, no noteworthy evidence of terrorism or violent plots linked to the situation in the Middle East have been uncovered in Greece. This is because unlike the clumsy attempts by the Coalition of the Willing to violently institute western parliamentary democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have plunged that country into chaos and encouraged the fanatization and formation of terrorist plots by minute numbers of muslims in Western countries, Greece has, for the past thousand years, commencing with St John of Damascus, been conducting a skilled and sophisticated dialogue with the Middle East, which is just as much a beneficiary of ancient Greek civilization as the West is. Having immersed themselves in the East and engaged themselves upon a path of mutual respect and dialogue, Greece is a haven of security, understanding and mutual tolerance, a skilled mediator in the Mediterranean region and a country that enjoys the respect of all Middle Eastern states. As a result, our terrorists, for what they are worth, are home-grown. They are not by-products of a failed and short-sighted policy to forcibly compel others to accept a particular status quo, plunging their country into chaos and an orgy of internecine strife as a consequence. Nor does Greece face the situation that say, Australia or the United States does; that they are labouring under a constant threat of an influx of extraneous elements that import terrorism.
One would therefore be forgiven for wondering why the Chief Mate and Head Shearer, John Howard would do us the honour of singling out Greece as an example of a democracy having to undergo terrorist attacks when there are other nations, in closer geographic proximity to Australia that struggle to deal with terrorism on a large scale. The most notable and obvious examples that come to mind commence with Indonesia, whose Bali bombings stopped the heart of the whole nation. Indeed if I were Indonesian, I would be mortally offended at the Prime Minister’s comments. By overlooking the most obvious example of a state having to deal with terrorism on an almost daily basis, is the Prime Minister tacitly implying that while Indonesia certainly does suffer from terrorist attacks, that it is not democratic? Other democratic states such as the Philippines, struggling with the Abu Sayyaf insurgency and Thailand, grappling with southern separatists could have similar cause for complaint as could Pakistan, which has to accommodate both Taliban elements and the often violently expressed nationalist aspirations of some Baluchi tribesmen. Unlike Greece though, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and a vast economy.
Moving further towards Greece, we note that since its foundation, Israel has been the target of innumerable violent attacks. By omitting to mention Israel’s predicament, is the PM suggesting that Israel is not democratic, or rather that the suicide bombers who assail its land are not terrorists? If so, this is a surprising turn of policy. The same could be said of Australia’s noble friend Turkey who for the past twenty years has suffered the attacks of the PKK and in which country Roman Catholic priests and Armenian journalists are mysteriously assassinated. We can therefore only assume that the choice of Greece for an example was not occasioned by mere chance.
Already, forthright members of Parliament, notably the Honourable Steve Georganas, Member for Hindmarsh have expressed their righteous indignation at the Prime Minister’s faux pas. In a press release, he boldly stated: “The Prime Minister compared the ongoing violence in Iraq to the isolated and infrequent attacks in Greece. This is a bizarre comment that has taken every one by surprise….“The Greek Government takes great pride in maintaining friendly relations with its neighbours and allies- including Australia. The words of the Prime Minister have no foundation and are only serving to damage our relationship with Greece. The words of the Prime Minster could potentially impact adversely on tourism to Greece and the extent to which both countries interact.” Such an analysis is correct Mr Georganas should be commended for his spirited stand. However, to employ the suspect non-English phrase, «πίσω έχει η αχλαδιά την ουρά.»
For months now, ever since the Cronulla riots in actual fact, a climate of fear and suspicion has been cultivated against expressions of non-Anglo-Celtic cultures to an extent where the loyalty of those who are seen ostensibly to have some sort of affiliation with countries other than Australia, is called into question. Consequently, John Howard’s statement is a masterstroke of a seasoned politician. He knows that except for the Greek community, which is so fragmented and divided as to constitute no electoral threat to him, no other vocal section of the wider Australian mainstream really gives two hoots about Australia’s relations with Greece and this is evidenced by the fact that the only people truly offended by his comments are Greek-Australians and the Greek ambassador. Mr Zois, who valiantly made his indignation known.
Steve Georganas felt compelled to condemn an unjust statement. However, Steve Georganas is also of Greek descent. By being provoked into a vocal protest which in effect is a defence of Greece, Steve runs the risk of being portrayed by malevolent others, as a self-interested politician whose loyalty lies primarily with his place of origin, not Australia and as a result, his credibility could suffer. On the other hand, if he did not vocalize his deeply felt opinion, he would also run the risk of being accused of moral complacency on this issue, especially by other Greek-Australians. By one simple statement, our august ruler has highlighted the Catch 22 situation politicians of ethnic origin find themselves in when the nation they represent has to deal with their country of origin and this makes Steve Georganas’ stand ever more so brave and praiseworthy.
Another thing that John Howard knows or should know is that spiteful words directed towards an innocent party do not have the potential to harm relations with Greece. The Greek people’s love of Australia, forged upon hosting the first Australian Olympic Gold medallist, looking after wounded Anzacs in Lemnos, hiding Australian soldiers in the mountains of Crete during the Second World War and giving Australia the best of her children, is unconditional. This is largely due to the glowing reports about Australia and its people that Greeks receive from Greek-Australians. Greeks do not forget a favour and are always willing to overlook or forgive a slight. After all, the Greek people have been the recipient of such slights for over four thousand years. John Howard’s pitiful attempt at political posturing, when viewed from such a temporal perspective is as significant to Greece as a mosquito bite. Attempts at insults regardless, Greece is forever Australia’s friend and it is hoped when Greek PM Konstantine Karamanlis visits Australia in May that he will provide the PM with valuable advice on how to deal with diversity as well as lessons on manners and deportment.
Returning however to the local context, the question remains: Given that this is an election year in which everyone traditionally courts the votes of ethnic communities, is the PM’s statement, which is bound to alienate at least some Greek-Australian voters from his party, an expression of his dislike of Greek-Australians or indicative of him not caring for our reaction at all? Most probably, he knows that by the time of the election, most Greek-Australians’ attention will be focused upon other, more pressing issues, such as Greek community elections or which community body should have organized an event and that they will have long forgotten….