Saturday, 13 October 2012

At Bali bombing ceremony, Gillard lets Australia down

Julia Gillard at Bali bombing memorial ceremony.
It's all rather sad and tired. While the mainstream media saturates the public space with stories and images covering the Bali bombing's 10th anniversary memorial ceremony, life goes on for ordinary Australians. The situation yesterday was especially comic. On the ABC the News 24 channel ran the telecast showing the memorial ceremony, so I switched over to ABC1 to watch another program, but after that one finished the ABC1 channel immediately rolled the intro sequence for the same Bali bombing memorial ceremony telecast that the News 24 channel had earlier run. This program had screened earlier in the day as well. In addition, all of the broadcaster's news programs featured sequences showing scenes from the memorial ceremony. Then there were the stories on the newspaper websites, and those stories are still running today. Total saturation coverage, where Julia Gillard is shown extracting maximum political advantage out of a really quite depressing and also totally misunderstood event that took place ten years since in a couple of nightclubs on a small island in Indonesia.

From listening to Julia Gillard's words presented at the memorial ceremony it is clear that she has learned nothing about the reasons for the bombings in those ten years. And John Howard, who was also at the ceremony, evinced as little comprehension. So you just wonder what Gillard and Howard think Indonesian people think about either the bombings or Australia's reaction to them. My feeling is that Indonesians think that Australians are totally out of touch with the realities that exist on the ground in Indonesia, since there was nothing in what Gillard or Howard said that demonstrated the slightest appreciation for the cultural, political or religious realities that obtain in Indonesia. Instead of reaching out to Indonesians, these two Australian politicians merely played to a domestic audience, and in the most crude fashion. I guess it's hard to blame them. After all, Indonesians don't vote in Australian federal elections. But if Australia wants to begin to more fully integrate with Asia our politicians must start thinking in a less parochial, and in a more inclusive, fashion.

After all, people like Gillard have a responsibility to ordinary Australians to reflect their international aspirations. Given this reality, I have to say that Gillard utterly failed me as an ordinary Australian who cares about how my country is viewed in Asia. Gillard has elsewhere shown that the way Australia is seen in Asia is important to her, as the upcoming Henry white paper on Australia's role in Asia this century demonstrates. But Australia has to use more imagination in its interactions with Asian neighbours so that we are able to faithfully represent the values that make Australia truly unique. There are some things about Australia that Asian countries can profitably study, and even emulate, but narrow-minded, parochial vote-seeking is not one of these things.


Anonymous said...

OK, Matt, what should she have said?

Matthew da Silva said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you ask and I hope that you are notified of this response so that you can see what I have written very recently, on Friday in fact, about the Bali ceremony media coverage:

Yes, that Friday post was written with a bit of heat, but then my blog posts are always the product of only as few minutes as it takes to put the words down. Feel free to continue the discussion if you have an inclination to do so.